I have one number one seed going down. Which one is it? Read on.
Arizona (-1.5) vs Wisconsin – This is a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight classic which saw the Badgers edge the Wildcats 64-63 in overtime. Obviously it can’t get much closer than that and this one has the makings of being just as close. Offensively, Arizona scores four more points per game than does Wisconsin while defensively the Badgers give up two points less per game than do the Wildcats.
In essence, these two are pretty darn even.
The Wildcats hold advantages in offensive and defensive rebounding as well as steals per game while Wisconsin is better from three-point land and at the foul line (76%-71%). This game will be a war and I believe this game will be decided in the paint. Whichever team can control the glass will ultimately come out victorious.
The only caveat to that thought is of course three-point shooting. In the college game, nothing can nullify an advantage down low like the ability to drain threes. Both teams have guys more than capable of getting hot and if either team isn’t careful, a quick run can happen tipping the balance of the game.
Trends: The Badgers are 19-17-1 against the spread this season… Arizona is 23-14 ATS in their 37 games this season.
The Pick: Don’t forget this game is being played in Los Angeles which should allow for the Wildcats to have a better crowd. Whether that holds true or not is hard ot say because Wisconsin travels well. Either way, I like the Wildcats to cover and advance.
Notre Dame (+11) vs Kentucky – This is a classic match-up of a team that does a ton of work in the paint versus one that does its’ damage on the perimeter. The Wildcats hold advantages in both offensive and defensive rebounding as well as points in the paint. Notre Dame meanwhile holds a significant advantage from three-point land.
Those facts shouldn’t be surprising considering the Wildcats will hold a tremendous size advantage over the Irish. In order for Notre Dame to have a chance, I see them having to accomplish three things.
First, they must shoot the ball well from beyond the arc. Shooting 30-40% won’t do it either. They’ll need to be closer to the 50% range. Secondly, they must be aggressive offensively and get to the foul line. As a team they shoot about 75% from the charity stripe so if they are aggressive and don’t settle for mid-range jumpers they could pick up some easy points. Lastly they must take advantage of their quick hands defensively. They collect almost seven steals per game and they’ll need to better that mark.
For Kentucky, it comes down to handling the pressure and creating pressure. John Calipari’s team took a big step in beating West Virginia Thursday night. Many felt the Mountaineers would be their most serious challengers but they passed that test going away. The pressure only intensifies with each step.
As for the other type of pressure, they must not let the Irish have uncontested looks at the basket especially from downtown. Because of their size advantage, I can see the Wildcats being very aggressive on the perimeter. They will hope to force Notre Dame to drive where the big men will be waiting.
Trends: Kentucky is 20-15-2 against the spread in their last 37 games… Notre Dame is 16-13 ATS this season…
The Pick: I thought WVU would keep it close Thursday and that sure was wrong so I feel equally uneasy when I tell you to take the Irish and the points.