I was particularly amused by VCU's win over Wichita State, which again got all of the RPI-loving dinosaurs in the media up and agitated. You see, the computer ratings all recognize the fact that Wichita State is a really good team. They just got upset. But no, since VCU passes "the eye test" then this game was proof that the Pomeroy & Sagarin ratings suck. Of course, those ratings gave Wichita State the same advantage over VCU that they gave Baylor over South Dakota State. South Dakota State nearly took out Baylor - it came down to the final 20 seconds. If South Dakota State had beaten Baylor, would that have been proof that any computer rating that had Baylor way ahead of South Dakota State was fatally flawed? Or would it just be "a big upset"?
Anyway, rant over. Let's move onto Friday's games. Thursday wasn't a particularly good day for me, but at least I'm back to .500 after those brutal First Four games. Let's hope for a good day on Friday:
Thursday ATS: 8-6-2
Total through thursday ATS: 9-9-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3
Texas (+2.5) over Cincinnati: I picked Texas to win this game. Cincinnati is going to have to clean up their offense and they're going to have to do a great job of defensive rebounding to escape with a win here.
NC State (-2.5) over San Diego State: NC State is the 11 seed, but they're the favorite. I agree that they're the favorite. Anytime you can pick a major conference team against a higher-seeded mid-major team that is rated as the inferior opponent by the computers? Take it every time.
Alabama (-1.5) over Creighton: I picked
Florida (-3.5) over Virginia: Virginia hasn't beaten a team as good as Florida since November. Their offense is just so limited, and Florida has the athletes to defend Mike Scott. Florida can always go cold on threes, but they're just a much more explosive offensive team. One spurt and this game will be over, because offense is such a grind for Virginia.
St. Bonaventure (+6.5) over Florida State: I picked Florida State to win this game, but it could end up being a very close game. Florida State tends to play to their opponent, and their offensive limitations mean that they generally struggle to blow teams out (except for North Carolina).
Belmont (+4) over Georgetown: Yes, I picked Georgetown to win this game, but I also said that I could see any of the four teams from that pod (these two teams + NC State + San Diego State) getting to the Sweet 16. No team is really much better than any other. Besides, Belmont has a clear scheme advantage that they will try to exploit: Georgetown doesn't like to run, and often turns the ball over quite a bit if they are sped up. If Belmont can turn this into an up-and-down game, Georgetown will probably lose.
Vermont (+15.5) over North Carolina: These 1/16 games are always hard to pick against the spread. However, John Henson might not play, and North Carolina is still struggling to find itself without him. Depth is an issue for them, and Roy Williams might go deeper on the bench than usual to try to save his players for later games.
Missouri (-21) over Norfolk State: I know that Missouri is not happy about the 2 seed, and they're motivated to immediately make their mark on this Tournament and establish themselves as a title contender. I think they're going to blow this game out early, and the only question is if their bench will allow a late backdoor cover like Kentucky did on Thursday.
St. Louis (+3) over Memphis: It pains me that these two teams have to play each other. These are two of the 20 best teams in the country... and they have to play in the Round of 64? It sucks. I picked St. Louis to win this game, though, so I'll take the points. My rationale is here.
Lehigh (+12) over Duke: For the infinity consecutive year, Duke and North Carolina are playing their first two games in North Carolina. It's not really much of a homecourt advantage, though, because all the fans of the other team are going to be rooting against them. So all the Tar Heels fans will be cheering for Lehigh. And honestly, Lehigh is a very good team, while Duke is the softest 2 seed. It's not inconceivable that Lehigh could actually win this game.
Michigan (-6) over Ohio: Michigan is a soft 4 seed, but Ohio is an excellent match-up for them. As I talked about here, Ohio is very dependent on creating turnovers, but Michigan is not going to help them out. Ohio's half court offense is just not good.
Purdue (+2) over St. Mary's: I picked Purdue to win this game here. St. Mary's is not a team that can take advantage of Purdue's lack of front court depth. At the same time, St. Mary's is a very good three-point shooting defense. If they can limit Purdue's triples, the Gaels can win.
LIU (+20) over Michigan State: The Spartans will win this game easily, but we have a very strong crop of 15 & 16 seeds this season, and they've been keeping games close. I picked Missouri to cover their game simply because I think they have something to prove and will be motivated. Michigan State just wants to get in, win, and get out. Even if they're up by 25 late, LIU can score quickly and can get the backdoor cover.
Xavier (+2.5) over Notre Dame: I picked Xavier to win this game outright. This game just has Tu Holloway's name written all over it. Particularly since Notre Dame's two best perimeter players, and their two key playmakers, are both players with very limited NCAA Tournament experience.
Temple (-3) over South Florida: Everybody is hyping up South Florida after California's clunker against them. Don't believe it. USF had the game of their season, and this will be their reality check. Temple is the better team. USF struggles to score if they're not getting turnovers - and I don't think they'll get many against Juan Fernandez, Khalif Wyatt and Ramone Moore. Meanwhile, Temple is a good three-point shooting team, which will allow them to put up points in spurts. I think they'll win fairly easily.
Detroit (+14.5) over Kansas: This is another game where it's really not inconceivable that the 15 seed could win outright. It wasn't until mid-to-late January that Eli Holman got into game shape so that he and Ray McCallum could take this team to their potential. They've looked great over the past few weeks, and could really give trouble to a Kansas team that can get turned over and that isn't a great outside shooting team. Kansas should win, but 14.5 points are a lot to cover.