March 29th 2013 - Posted 5:50 PM Eastern Time

#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+ seasons
- 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.

Duke 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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