#1: Take Louisville Cardinals at -10 spread (Buy half a point) against
Oregon Ducks risking 3 Units (7:15 PM)
As impressive as Oregon was in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament,
the 12th-seeded Ducks will need to be even better if they want to have
a chance in this game as they are now facing who I believe is the team
to beat this year, the No. 1 seed Louisville Cardinals.
Oregon advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007 after
defeating No. 5 seed Oklahoma State and No. 4 seed Saint Louis last
weekend despite turning the ball over 36 times, something that has plagued them all season. Oregon was impressive
in those games but I am concerned that their inability to hold on to
the basketball is going to be their downfall in this game. As I stated,
The Ducks committed a total of 36 turnovers in their two wins in the
tournament; that could well be the difference in this game. Louisville ranks
#2 in country at forcing turnovers (28.2% of time) or just over 18 per
game while Oregon turns the ball over 21.5% of time or just over 15
times a game (#264 in country). The Cardinals use a swarming, pressure style defense to stifle opposing
offense and it has work for them thus far. In their first 2 games in
the tournament they only allowed their opponents to score 56 and 48
points respectively. The Cardinals' back-court of Russ Smith and Peyton
Siva are the driving forces and ranks among the best in the country.
Smith averaged 25 points and five steals in two games last weekend.
Also Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng could play a key role in neutralizing
Oregon senior forward Arsalan Kazemi.
Louisville is peaking at the right time in this tournament and has
gone 12-0 SU since their last loss back on Feb 9th. They have won their last 7 seven games by at least 12+ points each
and over the course of 12 games have outscored opponents by an average
of just over 17 points per game! Louisville, as a team, has been extremely sucessful in this round
of the tournament as well. Coach Rick Pitino is 4-0 SU AND ATS in the Sweet Sixteen
round winning their last 4 games by 14, 19, 39 and 13 points respectively!
Oregon has only played 1 game vs a Big East opponent and they lost by
11 to Cincinnati on a neutral floor.
Since 2001, #1 seeds are 8-2 vs spread in this round when facing someone
other than a 4-5 seed. Teams that won Pac-12 in this round are 1-4 ATS,
0-2 as underdogs and have lost by 13-14 points.
Everything is just clicking right now for the Cardinals. In the Big
East finals against Syracuse, Louisville was down double digits at the
half only to come out in the second and completely blow Syracuse out.
This team is on a mission right now and has showed that they are never
completely out of a game. Their defense will be the difference in this
game and I predict they win this game by double digits. It's always
tough in the tournament to lay these kind of points, but I feel it is
warranted in this rare case.
Some more trends to consider:
- Louisville is 20-3-1 ATS in the Month of March over the last 2+
- Louisville is 20-7 ATS in their last 27 games played on Neutral Court
- Louisville is 7-0 ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
#2: Take Duke Blue Devils at -2 spread against
Michigan State Spartans risking 3 Units (9:45 PM)
Duke earned its place in this high-profile match-up by beating Creighton
and Albany in the previous rounds of the tournament and they did so
convincingly. The Blue Devil are 18-8 all time in the Sweet 16, including a 12-8 mark under Coach K. Duke has won 4 of 6 games when
matching up with No. 3 seeds in the tournament, with wins in 4 of the
last 5 opportunities. Duke is 7-2 ATS on a neutral floor this season. The Blue Devils are
22-1 SU on the season when shooting better than 45 percent from the
field and they have won all 15 of their games versus non-conference
opponents. Duke is 7-2 SU all-time against Michigan State which includes
a 7-1 SU mark with Coach K on the sidelines. Offensively, the team is led by its starting 5, who as the group accounts
for 87 percent of Duke's scoring.
Defensively, Duke played their best defensive game of the season last
weekend against Creighton and if the Blue Devils can match that effort,
they will eliminate one of Michigan State's biggest threats -- rebounding.
The Blue Devils will need to limit Michigan State's second chance opportunities.
MSU averages 68 points per game and does not rely on a very high number
of three-pointers. Taking away those second chances underneath will
give Duke an immediate advantage. The Blue Devils' defensive effort
has to be evenly focused on the entire team, every player will be held
responsible for locking up their opposing man as each of MSU's starting
5 players average in double figures. Duke cannot afford to focus on
one player because they will get burned by four others.
Duke's other advantage will come from outside the arc. Duke currently has
5 players that are proficient in shooting the 3 ball. Their perimeter
offense is a huge threat to Michigan State and I believe will be key
in this game. When Duke is hitting their shoots, especially the 3 ball, they are
an incredibly hard team to stop.
The X-factor in this game and who I believe could be the difference
in this game is Rasheed Sulaimon. Sulaimon provides a threat that Michigan State may not be able to
stop. He can hurt you from both inside and outside. He is an extremely
versatile player and has the ability to go off at a moments notice. Sulaimon is averaging
14 points per game in the tournament this March and will need to make
his presence felt yet again for Duke tonight. Sulaimon connected on
3 of 5 from beyond the arc against Creighton and is shooting 57 percent
from downtown for the tournament. Michigan State is one of the better
defensive teams in college basketball this season so Sulaimon's ability
to stretch the floor and knock down threes will be critical to Duke's
chances of winning this game.
The Blue Devils are more than capable of getting the win here but
they will have to stick to their game plan. Duke hasn't lost two games
in a row all year long and boast a remarkable 20-1 record with senior
forward Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Kelly is due for a significantly better
game than he has played to this point in the tourney and if that happens
the Blue Devils will be at their best.
Michigan State has also shown a lot of inconsistency this season. State was in the
midst of a three-game losing streak just three weeks ago. They choked
on the road against Michigan, they were beaten both in the Big Ten Tournament
and at the end of the regular season by Ohio State and they were swept
by Indiana. Granted, they weren't blown out of any of those games but
they failed to come up big when the game was on the line and teams need
to win those types of games at this time of the year if they want to
advance in the tournament. Also there's a real question as to whether MSU's Keith Appling is
truly healthy or whether he has some problems with his shoulder that
will hamper him for the second straight game. Appling is a driving force of MSU's offense and a poor showing from
him will result in a loss for MSU.
This game is one that could really go either way but the fact is that
I feel Duke at its best is better than Michigan State at its best. I
would give the coaching edge to Duke as well even if both teams have
two of the best around. Michigan State lacks a true "go-to"
option that can outshine the likes of Kelly or Curry late in the game.
We have seen both Kelly and Curry "turn it on" an come up
big late in games. I think they do that again tonight and get the win
and cover for Duke late. Lay the small points.
Some Trends to consider:
Duke is 6-1 SU when playing Michigan State
Duke is 7-0 ATS in road games after a non-conference game this season.
is 7-1 ATS in road games in non-conference games this season
Michigan is only 6-16 in their last 23 games following a win by more
than 20 points
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