What else is there to say about what happened to Friday? Crazy day. Three very narrow non-covers for me, as well as that blown foul call at the end of the Alabama/Creighton game, which caused me to finish the day a brutal 7-9 against the spread.
Rather than talk about the upsets, I wanted to say a quick word about South Florida. One of the things I always find amusing is how we tend to be so race-oriented when we compare basketball players. When we talk about some up-and-coming white kid, we never compare them to a black player. White guy that is tall and can shoot? The next Dirk Nowitzki or Larry Bird. A tall black kid that can shoot? The next Kevin Durant. I don't think it's racism... it's just intellectual laziness.
Anyway, we do the same thing with teams. We compare mid-majors to other mid-majors. We never compare major conference teams to mid-majors. So when VCU went on their run last year, they were immediately compared to George Mason. They were from the same conference, after all. But there were many things different. Besides the fact that VCU's inhuman three-point shooting was different from how George Mason won, there was the reality that VCU came in as the worst at-large team. George Mason was a controversial at-large team in 2006, but the computers recognized that they were a quality team. VCU in 2011, on the other hand, was the worst at-large team in the field.
And that brings me to South Florida. I'm not saying that they're going to go to the Final Four, but goodness have their first two games in the NCAA Tournament been similar to VCU's last season. They're shooting out of their minds, they're forcing a lot of turnovers, and every time they take a big shot it goes in. And on top of that, while the computers don't rate USF as the single worst team in the field, they do agree that USF is one of the worst teams in the field and are worse than many teams stuck in the NIT.
If USF was a mid-major, every media analyst would be comparing them to VCU. But they're not... so they're not. Just a random observation.
Anyway, here are my picks for Saturday's games. Hopefully they go better than Friday:
Friday ATS: 7-9-0
Total through Friday ATS: 16-18-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3
Kansas State (+5) over Syracuse: I have to say, I don't understand this line. Pomeroy projects a 4 point win for Syracuse, and Sagarin projects a 4.5 point win. Fab Melo has to be worth at least a few points, and Syracuse played like crap against UNC-Asheville. So they're a 5 point favorite in Vegas? I don't get it. Both of these teams are good offensive rebounding teams and poor defensive rebounding teams, but the difference is Kansas State's poor ball handling. If Syracuse can turn them over 20+ times then they'll probably win. If Kansas State takes care of the ball then they'll probably win.
Ohio State (-7.5) over Gonzaga: Ohio State was underwhelming in their opening game while Gonzaga was dominant, but I wouldn't put too much stock into one game. Gonzaga had something to prove, while Ohio State was just taking care of business. The Buckeyes will present a defensive test like nothing Gonzaga has seen before, and they're very good at defending without fouling (Gonzaga's offense depends in a big way on getting to the line). I think Ohio State will win this game fairly easily.
Marquette (-5) over Murray State: Murray State managed to get past a soft Colorado State team, but Marquette is going to really challenge them with their athleticism. Marquette will fly up and down the floor and will crash the boards against a Murray State team that is bad at defensive rebounding (10th in the Ohio Valley in defensive rebounding percentage). The only concern for Marquette is if the Missouri loss causes them to look too far ahead and they don't focus on the task at hand.
Wisconsin (PK) over Vanderbilt: This is a clash of styles. Vanderbilt is an athletic team that is going to be very aggressive with their backcourt on both sides of the ball. Vanderbilt also depends heavily on three-point shooting - they've hit 39.1% of their threes this season. Wisconsin is going to try to take the air out of the ball, and are probably the best three-point defensive team in the nation. They allowed only 3.5 made threes against this season, which is tied with Savannah State for the national lead (Wisconsin's came against a slightly tougher strength of schedule). In general, when there's a clash of styles, Wisconsin is the team that enforces their style. But if Wisconsin goes cold and Vanderbilt can hit a few threes in a row (a la Iowa a few weeks ago), then the Badgers will go down.
VCU (+6) over Indiana: Indiana should win this game, but with Verdell Jones hurt there is just is a gigantic lack of point guard depth for Indiana. VCU is going to wear Jordan Hulls out, and who is going to handle the VCU press whenever Hulls goes to the bench? It's too worrying for me to be willing to give six points.
Iowa State (+11.5) over Kentucky: Kentucky should win fairly easily, but 11.5 is an awfully large line. Iowa State is athletic enough to hang on the floor with Kentucky, and Royce White will be a unique problem for whoever guards him. Iowa State also led the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage and defensive FTA/FGA ratio, which means that they're going to make Kentucky work for their baskets. They won't give up easy put backs and won't give up a lot of free throws. I don't think Iowa State has a real chance of winning this game, but it could be close.
Baylor (-7.5) over Colorado: Don't be fooled by that Colorado win over UNLV. Colorado shot the lights out beyond the arc while UNLV was ice cold. If the shooting was anywhere near even it would have been a blowout for the Rebels. Colorado's offense, in general, is not good. Baylor's length and athleticism on defense will make it really difficult for them to score.
Louisvile (-1.5) over New Mexico: I talked about why I was picking Louisville here. New Mexico's biggest problem is ball handling and turning the ball over, and Louisville's press has been tremendous the past few weeks. New Mexico was underwhelming against Long Beach State, and the Mountain West as a whole has been iffy in the Tournament. It's a limited sample size, but I believe that Louisville is the favorite, and I'm not going to worry about 1.5 points.