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March 25, 2017

There are two picks tonight. 

  

#1: Take Gonzaga -8 spread (buy the half point) against Xavier for 3% of the bankroll.

The Xavier Musketeers have been a great story during this tournament. They have defied the odds and have been labeled as the 'Giant Killers' in this year's tournament having upset Maryland, Florida State and most recently Arizona to make it to this point. They have been labeled as a 'Team of Destiny' and are just 1 win away from making their first Final 4 in school history. That being said, they have an extremely difficult task in front of them in the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

This is another matchup where we believe recent perception is going to influence the outcome. Xavier has been playing extremely well, exceeding expectations and somehow managing to win games despite being outgained on the stat sheet. Meanwhile the Gonzaga Bulldogs have looked far from dominant on their road to the Elite 8 and many believe could be primed for an upset tonight. Everyone loves an underdog and people are starting to rally around Xavier. That being said, it's a dangerous proposition in sports to jump on a bandwagon as the gambling gods have shown that they love to pull the rug out from sports bettors when a particular team is garnering an excessive amount of attention. We believe this is one of those instances.

Gonzaga came into this tournament as a dark-horse, despite nearly finishing the regular season undefeated. They stormed through their conference schedule, notching double-digit wins in all but one contest. Since the tournament started however, they have seemingly lost some of their momentum and haven't looked like the world-beating team that many had come to know. That being said, this is still an incredibly dangerous and balanced team. They are methodical on both sides of the ball and while they haven't exactly looked dominant, they have been playing solid fundamental basketball. While their offense has sputtered, their defense has been nearly impenetrable and are arguably the best defensive team left in the tournament. They managed to hold a potent West Virginia offense to just 27% shooting from the field and 22% from deep. Xavier has been extremely efficient on offense, shooting over 50% from the field in all three games, however, they have yet to see a defense like the Bulldogs.

Given the perception of how these two teams have been playing, it's interesting that the oddsmakers have listed the Musketeers as sizable underdogs. There is no question that the betting public will be all over Xavier in this contest, but we believe the sizable line is a strong indication of how they believe this matchup is going to play out. Xavier has been playing well above their head while the Zags have yet to play up to the standard that granted them a #1 seed in the tournament. Everything changes in this contest. Xavier's run was a great story, but they are completely outmatched in this contest as Gonzaga goes on to win this one by double-digits.

 

#2: Take Oregon +7 spread (buy the half point) against Kansas for 3% of the bankroll.

This Elite 8 matchup is one of the most interesting on the card. The Kansas Jayhawks have looked like the uncrowned National Champions through the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They've had a tough road to get to the Elite 8 but have seemingly made things look easily, coming away with a convincing victory over Michigan State and following that performance up by blowing the Big 10 regular season champions, the Purdue Boilermakers, right off the court. The Jayhawks have won their tournament games by an average of 30 points which has undoubtedly made them the team to beat in this tournament and because of that, they are receiving a ton of attention.

Meanwhile the Oregon Ducks have had the exact opposite road as that of their opponents. Oregon has narrowly been winning games, rallying from behind against both Rhode Island and most recently Michigan to advance to the Elite 8. Oregon's last two games have been rather lower scoring and their margin of victory has come by just a combined 4 points. Given the visual perception on how both of these teams have been playing up until this point, it would be hard to go against the Jayhawks, however, much like Wisconsin last night, we believe the current public perception of this Jayhawks' team is going to be their downfall tonight.

Kansas has played nearly flawlessly this tournament and while we don't believe they will have a sub-par or poor performance, we do believe that they will start to come back down to earth where they statistics should be closer to their seasonal average. The Oregon Ducks are a solid defensive team and should be able to at least slow down the transitional and high paced offense that Kansas likes to employ. A big part of Kansas' success has been their ability to balance their offense between their perimeter shooting and also their ability to drive in the lane and create contact. Oregon has managed to keep both Rhode Island and Michigan to a combined 15 trips to the foul line. If Oregon can keep Kansas off the charity stripe, they will have a strong chance of not only keeping this game close, but also potentially pulling off the upset. They have also shown strong perimeter defense, allowing just a combined 17 three-pointers in their last two matchups.

One point that we don't believe many have been talking about is the fact that Oregon has faced two very strong defensive teams. Both Rhode Island and Michigan ranked in the top 20 in the country in terms of scoring defense and they somehow managed to navigate through the defense and come out on top. Kansas doesn't play nearly as strong a defense as those two teams so we wouldn't be surprised to see the Ducks' offense once again start rolling in this contest. Kansas is undoubtedly a tough team and have looked impressive thus far, however we expect they will have a much tougher time in this contest. Oregon has proven to be more than capable of pulling off the upset, but even if they fall short, their guards should provide enough of a problem for the Jayhawks' defense to keep this game close.




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