Here are my thoughts on tonight’s Sweet Sixteen action.
West Virginia (+13.5) vs Kentucky – In case you didn’t notice, this kind of a big game. It’s not your ordinary Sweet Sixteen game simply because of what’s at stake. The Kentucky Wildcats are four wins away from the first unbeaten season since the mid-‘70’s Indiana Hoosiers.
If I’m the Mountaineers, I look at this line and immediately I’m playing the “disrespect” card. Bob Huggins’ team has beaten some good clubs this year including fellow Sweet Sixteen teams NC State and Oklahoma as well as Kansas.
WVU will dial up the heat with pressure defense but will Kentucky’s guards crack?
Trends: UK is 8-3-1 against the spread in their last 12 games… West Virginia has gone 19-13 ATS this season… The Mountaineers rebound better offensively by a margin of 16.5 to 12.9.
The Pick: I like West Virginia getting a bunch of points.
Wichita State (-1.5) vs Notre Dame – This is easily my most difficult game to pick for tonight. Wichita State is so tough and they get every loose ball while Notre Dame can shoot the lights out if you aren’t careful.
I’d be remiss if I ignored the fact that ND Coach Mike Brey is dealing with the loss of his mother who passed away just prior to their game this past weekend. Will it factor in? I don’t think so but certainly his attention isn’t 100% on the Shockers.
At the same time, WSU Head Coach Gregg Marshall has to know his name has been tossed about for several openings or “potential” openings. Will this distract him? Hard to say.
Xavier (+10.5) vs. Arizona – The Musketeers are probably the team flying lowest below the radar in the Sweet Sixteen but any basketball fan knows this is a very good program. In both wins of the tournament, Xavier had to defeat teams with momentum. In the opener they beat an Ole Miss team that hung 90+ points on BYU and then had to beat the feel good story of week one Georgia State.
As good as Xavier is, they will need near perfection to beat Arizona. The Wildcats have won 20 of their last 21 games and are riding a very talented group of starters and role players. If the Musketeers will have a chance, they need to limit Arizona’s field goal shooting. The Wildcats are 6th in the country at just a shade under 49% on the season.
Trends: The Wildcats have won five straight games… The Musketeers are 17-17-1 against the spread this year… Arizona is 23-13 ATS this season.
The Pick: Give me Xavier and the points as they give the Wildcats some trouble early.
North Carolina (+6) vs Wisconsin – The Big Ten Champs got a bit of a wake-up call from Oregon in the round of 32. While I don’t think the Badgers were ever in harm’s way, it was a good dose of reality for them heading into a game with a traditional power. Wisconsin will go as Frank Kaminsky goes.The seven-footer is a match-up nightmare because of his ability to shoot from the outside and he’s an excellent passer as well.
Tar Heels’ Head Coach Roy Williams has already said the team will play tonight without sophomore center Kennedy Meeks who’s dealing with a knee problem. He reportedly practiced in Los Angeles during the team’s first practice there. Despite him being in a slump recently, his presence on the court is important.
Trends: The Badgers are 18-17-1 against the spread this season… The Tar Heels are 20-16-1 ATS in the 2014-2015 season.
The Pick: I like the Badgers to cover behind some stifling defense.