Holy crap, what a Sweet 16. And since we’re SEC homers here at WCE, it could not have gone any better last night.
And if you missed it, here’s what you missed…
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 25, 2017
What a shot. What a game. Florida was up by 8 with about 2 minutes left, and Wisconsin found a way to hit a 3 with 2 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Wisconsin led for the entire overtime period, thanks to 59% free throw shooter Nigel Hayes hitting several free throws (including 2 that gave Wisconsin an 83-81 lead with 4 seconds left in the game), until that shot by Chiozza won the game.
So now we have an all SEC East Regional Elite Eight game for a shot at the Final Four. Pretty intense.
But we’ve already moved on from last night. It’s time for 4 games that will determine our Final Four! Chris and I both went 5-3 against the spread in the Sweet 16, and it looks like we have very similar outlooks on these games.
Our brackets may not be as good as our wives’ but we have an idea about these numbers.
Don’t forget, you can watch these games here: http://www.ncaa.com/march-madness-live
Gonzaga (-7.5) vs Xavier
Gary’s pick: Gonzaga -7.5
Chris’s pick: Xavier +7.5
This tournament has been all about underdogs covering. Seriously, in the Eight Sweet 16 games, 6 of the underdogs at least covered the spread (and several won outright, like – cough cough – Xavier). I was so mad when both of these teams won, because it turned into a game that I knew that most of the country wouldn’t give a damn about. You can’t pick sides in this, because both have played the underdog role for the last 15-20 years. The majority wants both teams to win. This tournament, Xavier was able to beat a flawed Maryland team, a flawed Florida St team, and a flawed Arizona team because of “superstar” players that wanted to play hero ball at the end of the game. Gonzaga doesn’t have anyone that plays “hero ball.” There’s no Steph Curry wannabes here. Just team basketball. And it’ll be too much for Xavier. I think Gonzaga roll em easily.
Kansas (-7) vs Oregon
Gary’s pick: Oregon +7
Chris’s pick: Oregon +7
Kansas has been rolling everyone by a SUBSTANTIAL margin in this tournament. Seriously, they’re clicking on all cylinders. And the fact that the game is in Kansas City will definitely help the Jayhawks… but Oregon has dealt with hot teams all year. Remember, gambling lines are about public perception – this one opened at 6 and has jumped up to 7, and could go higher before gametime. But that looks like a trap to me. According to KenPom, this should be about a 4 point line, and I think 7 is just too many. I don’t know that Oregon will win (not that it would surprise me), but 3 possessions in this one seems like too much for a team as balanced as the Ducks, that plays the exact same kind of lineup as Kansas. The matchup poses well for the Yellow and Green to cover 7.
Florida (-3) vs South Carolina
Gary’s pick: South Carolina +3
Chris’s pick: South Carolina +3
This is an early game on Sunday, and Florida’s overtime win came around 1am ET on Friday night. Not a whole lot of time to rest, and South Carolina won kinda easily, didn’t have to play their guys a whole lot of minutes, and, to be honest, got here by dominating Duke and Baylor. Florida dominated Virginia (who can’t score), and won on a miracle buzzer beater against Wisconsin (who hasn’t been able to score all year). I think South Carolina is playing better basketball right now. They’re ranked 2nd in defense at KenPom (Florida is 4th), and the offenses are close. Basically, this is a really evenly matched game (they split their games in the regular season) but I’m going to roll with the underdog and more rested team here.
North Carolina (-2.5) vs Kentucky
Gary’s pick: Kentucky +2.5
Chris’s pick: Kentucky +2.5
I don’t feel great about this pick. North Carolina has handled everybody, and they’ve been playing great basketball all year. And one of the major factors in rematch games is the mentality of the team that won the first matchup, which Kentucky won 103-100 back in December. But there’s something about this Kentucky that feels like they’re gelling both offensively and defensively at the exact right time. Not to mention the nagging injury to junior point guard Joel Berry for North Carolina. I saw both teams practice on Thursday at FedExForum, and Kentucky was the one focused on defense, which showed in their game against UCLA. I look for Kentucky to slow this thing down and cover the 2.5, if not win outright.