We had one of the craziest gambling moments last night that I can remember. With Duke leading Utah by five and the clock running out, the players on both teams pretty much stopped playing and the refs chose to do the thing that they often do at that point, which is to just swallow their whistle and let the clock run out. At one point, a Utah player grabbed for the ball, causing either a foul, held ball or travel to happen, and the refs let it go. But then, after the clock ran out, they decided that a foul had actually happened with 0.7 seconds to go and called the players back onto the floor, giving Duke the chance for a cover. That is, frankly, bad reffing. If you're going to call a foul, you have to call whatever happened a few seconds earlier first.
We'll cleanse our palettes with what should be two fantastic games today. As I said yesterday, the Wisconsin/Arizona game is arguably the greatest Elite 8 game ever put together. It's the first time since the 2008 title game that two of the top three Pomeroy teams will have played in the NCAA Tournament, making it a higher quality game than even the last six national title games. And it's the first time in history that a pair of 34 win teams have met outside the Final Four. Throw in the fact that it's a rematch of a classic from last season, with almost all of the same players back, and you can't draw it up much better than that.
As always, feel free to shoot me a comment to this blog post, or tweet at me. I'll do my best to respond to everybody.
Yesterday ATS: 1-3-0
2015 Tournament ATS: 34-26-0 (57%)
2014 Tournament ATS: 40-23-4 (63%)
2013 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2 (46%)
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1 (61%)
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3 (58%)
Wisconsin (+1) over Arizona:
This is a hard game to call, as both of these teams match up well against each other. Both play excellent interior defense and protect the glass. Arizona is a more aggressive offensive rebounding team and draws more fouls, but Wisconsin led the nation in defensive FTRate and was 4th in DR%. To me, the difference in this game is in the depth of scoring options, and in the Frank Kaminsky/Kaleb Tarczewski matchup. Tarczewski was built to handle a guy like Matt Stainbrook, but Kaminsky will force him away from the hoop and drive on him. I wouldn't be surprised to see Brandon Ashley getting a lot of the work against Kaminsky for that reason, though that would make Arizona a significantly smaller team, and I'm not totally sure Ashley is big enough to defend Kaminsky in the paint.
If Arizona wins, it will likely be because Stanley Johnson had a monster game, particularly with outside jump shooting. Johnson has been the only reliable shooter in Arizona's starting lineup. That match-up with Sam Dekker, who was Wisconsin's best player against North Carolina, will be a crucial one for Arizona to win. But I think Arizona's defense, as great as it is, isn't the precise type of defense you'd build to stop Wisconsin's explosive offense. Arizona led the nation in DR% but was just 8th in the Pac-12 in defensive FTRate. Wisconsin rarely attacks the offensive glass, but they will draw fouls (4th in the Big Ten in FTRate) and hit at a 76.5% clip at the line. So unless Stanley Johnson is the best player on the court, I think the edge has to go to Wisconsin.
Notre Dame (+11) over Kentucky: It goes without saying that Kentucky is going to dominate the paint here. Even Northeastern managed to push around Notre Dame in the paint whenever Zach Auguste was off the court. Notre Dame has just one player in their starting lineup over 6'5" while Kentucky doesn't have a single starter under 6'6". That said, Kentucky has been winning games in this tournament by shutting down teams offensively. Cincinnati is the only team to even crack a putrid 33% effective field goal percentage against Kentucky in three tourney games so far. In comparison, the Irish have only had an eFG% under 42% a single time all season long. Kentucky's defensive length, of course, is something the Irish haven't seen this season. Even Virginia specializes most at preventing easy baskets around the rim, and will be happy to give you long two-point jump shots. Kentucky, on the other hand, led the nation by allowing just 28% shooting this season on mid-range jump shots.
But if the Irish can hit their threes, and they usually do, then Kentucky is going to have to hit shots at some point. For all their dominance, and as much as announcers talk about what great outside shooters Kentucky has, they've only hit threes at better than a 36% clip twice in their last 16 games. Certainly if Kentucky is forced to score by playing volleyball on the backboard while the Irish are hitting outside shots on the other end, it's going to be hard for Kentucky to pull away by 20-30 points like they did against West Virginia and Cincinnati.