The tournament went overtime last night (four games requiring extra time, and the final game ending after 1 a.m. on the East Coast. You may be still clearing your head, but grab that extra cup of coffee, and get ready for another round.
1. Big 12 Pride on the Line in San Antonio? It’s an old Big 12 matchup in the first game in the San Antonio site, as Nebraska gets into the tournament against Baylor. Baylor fans have only a three hour drive from Waco; Nebraska can just pretend they are in the Alamo Bowl. This one could come down to rebounding and second chances. Baylor has length on the front line and relies on getting on the glass. Nebraska does a pretty good job of defensive rebounding.
2. If Tennessee beats Massachusetts, don’t call it an upset. Tennessee is the #11 seed against #6 Massachusetts. However, Tennessee comes in as a 4 point favorite. To put that in some perspective, that’s a larger spread than three of the #5 seeds were favored over the #12 seeds, and two of the other three #6 seeds were favored over the #11 seed.
Tennessee is a very good offensive rebounding team, and tends to limit opponents defensively. Massachusetts will need to neutralize the Volunteers on the glass, and control their own turnovers (the one major weakness) to pull the “upset.”
3. Wild West Showdowns. Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State. New Mexico vs. Stanford. The teams West of the Mississippi River are likely to provide the closest contests. Marcus Smart’s return from suspension has sparked the Cowboys, but they cannot overlook Gonzaga, who enters with as little buzz as possible for a pretty good team. New Mexico and Stanford will battle to see who can get a shot at Kansas without Joel Embiid.
4. Duke, Kansas, and Creighton try to avoid the shocker. Duke draws Mercer, a team they should be able to exploit on offense. For Duke, it will come down to defense and not giving Mercer confidence. Kansas, without Embiid, will still have a significant size advantage on Eastern Kentucky. This matchup is scary for Kansas for one reason–turnovers. Eastern Kentucky can speed you up and turn the ball over (top 5 nationally in turnover rate defensively). Kansas is prone to being Naadir’d. If Kansas can stay with a manageable number of turnovers, they should win comfortably.
Finally, Creighton draws Louisiana-Lafayette. Doug McDermott is a tough matchup for, well, pretty much everyone. I’m not sure the Ragin’ Cajuns have the personnel. One starter over 6’5″, center Shawn Long, and it will probably fall to Elridge Moore to be a thorn in McDermott’s side. Look for McDermott to take him inside, and how he responds will dictate whether this is a game.
5. My picks, for entertainment and mocking purposes, on all games during this session (11-3-2 against the spread so far in tournament):
Mercer (+12.5) vs. Duke (12:15 tip)
Baylor (-3.5) vs. Nebraska (12:40)
New Mexico (-3) vs. Stanford (1:40)
Weber State (+20) vs. Arizona (2:10)
Tennessee (-4) vs. Massachusetts (2:45)
Creighton (-14) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (3:10)
Eastern Kentucky (+14) vs. Kansas (4:10)
Gonzaga (+3) vs. Oklahoma State (4:40)