Who would’ve thought a #11 would be playing a #9 for a shot at the Final Four? We are going to have a Cinderella in the Final Four, and that is precisely why we love March Madness!
#11 Loyola vs. #9 Kansas State (-1.5)
538 Win Prob: Kansas State 66%
Ken Pom says: Loyola 64-63
Joes vs. Pros: The public and the sharps took KSU early in this one, causing the line to go from a pk’ em to KSU -1.5. It is now settling in at -1.5/ 1 in most books.
Vik’s Pick: Loyola +1.5
Kansas State shocked the world by beating Kentucky in their last game out. That upset sets the Wildcats up to be in a let down spot coming into this game. Loyola also matches up well with KSU. They have the experienced guards in Clayton Custer (Junior) and Ben Richardson (Senior) to handle KSU’s ball hawking defense. Loyola also has not looked intimidated at all vs. the likes of Miami (Fl.), Tennessee, or Nevada, so coach Porter Moser should have them ready from a mental standpoint. Loyola has a well-balanced offense shooting 39.9% 3% (#15 in the nation), and 56.6% 2% (#12 in the nation). They are executing on another level right now by sharing the ball, shooting well, and locking down defensively. I’m rolling with Sister Jean and the Ramblers in this one.
Jason’s Pick: Loyola +1.5. Basically, 99% of the country will be rooting for the Ramblers, because we love an underdog story. Here’s to the refs not turning this into a 50-foul disaster like the Kentucky game. Loyola has won three games on shots in the final :15, and there’s no reason to think that can’t continue. Oddly, Ken Pom has Loyola winning by 1, yet the line has them an underdog. Give me the better 3-point shooting team, and Sister Jean dancing with Clayton Custer at midcourt afterward. WIN, Loyola won 78-62.
#9 Florida State vs. #3 Michigan (-4.5)
538 Win Prob: Michigan 67%
Ken Pom says: Michigan 73-69
Joes vs. Pros: 70% of the early public money is on Michigan. Some sharp money is now starting to come in on Michigan, causing the line to fluctuate between 4.5/ 5 in most books.
Vik’s Pick: Michigan -4.5
Florida State like Kansas State, comes into this game in a let down spot after upsetting Gonzaga. The Seminoles are playing great basketball and a lot of credit should goto their coach Leonard Hamilton, who has the team firing on all cylinders right now. That being said, Michigan matches up better against FSU than Gonzaga did. The Wolverines have a much better defense (Adj 4) than Gonzaga, and more importantly, they do not turn the ball over often (#2 Turnover %). The Seminoles caused the Bulldogs to commit 13 turnovers, which led to some easy baskets. That won’t happen vs the Wolverines. Michigan also has a terrific coach in John Beilein and his team usually dictates the tempo. Tempo is going to be the key to this game. Michigan’s average length of possession on offense is #309 in the country, and #299 on defense. FSU likes to play fast, which they will not be able to do in this matchup. FSU also has the length and athleticism advantage, but so did Texas A&M. Killian Tillie being out really hurt the Zags as he could’ve taken the FSU bigs outside. Look for Michigan to exploit FSU’s defense with a lot of screen and roll action by Mo Wagner and Duncan Robinson. This will force the ‘Noles bigs to come outside and out of their comfort zone. The cover will come down to Michigan’s FT shooting (66%, #326), so that is the only thing to be worried about as a Michigan backer.
Jason’s Pick: Michigan -4.5. John Beilein has had masterful game plans in the Elite 8, dating back to his days at West Virginia. In 2005, Kevin Pittsnogle and the Mountaineers led Louisville 32-13 before collapsing and losing in a classic overtime game. At Michigan, Beilein lost as an underdog to Kentucky in another phenomenal game, 73-71, and also stunned #1 seed Kansas in the famous Trey Burke game. FSU is deeper and bigger, but so was Texas A&M. I think the Seminoles benefitted greatly from Killian Tillie not playing for Gonzaga, and I’ll roll with Michigan here. LOSS, Michigan won 58-54
#3 Texas Tech vs #1 Villanova (-6.5)
538 Win Prob: Villanova 83%
Ken Pom says: Villanova 76-70
Joes vs. Pros: Early numbers show 64% of the public is on Villanova.
Vik’s Pick: Texas Tech +6.5
Nova battled through one of their toughest tests ever vs. a rugged West Virginia team. Coach Jay Wright after the victory commented on just how tough the game was, and said they were lucky to survive and advance. Why does that matter? Because I think that will cause the Wildcats will come into this game a little drained mentally and physically. With such a short turn around, now they have to deal with another monster defensive team in Texas Tech. I talked about TT’s defense and rebounding numbers when I took them in their last game vs. Purdue, but the numbers are impressive so let’s take a look at them again. The Red Raiders have an AdjD #3, Effective FG% #13, Turnover% #16, Block Shot% #26, and a Steal% #39. This is a strong, physical, great offensive rebounding team (#45) that is going to not stop attacking Nova. I’ll go contrarian here (fade the public) and take Texas Tech, because I think they have a chance to win this game straight up (live dog).
Jason’s Pick: Villanova -6.5. This will be the best defensive team the Wildcats have faced in the tournament, and while I think the Red Raiders can hang athletically and in transition, I don’t know if they’ll have the offense to pull off the upset. They only shot 5-of-17 on 3-pointers vs Purdue, and that won’t be enough vs Villanova. West Virginia did pull down 16 offensive rebounds vs Villanova, which kept them in the game, so Texas Tech could do the same and keep it close, but will the Red Raiders make 17-of-18 FTs like they did against Purdue, or revert to the middling free throw shooting they displayed all season, 227th in the nation? WIN – Villanova won, 71-59
#2 Duke (-2.5) vs #1 Kansas
538 Win Prob: Duke 54%
Ken Pom says: Duke 81-77
Joes vs. Pros: The line opened at 3.5, but immediately came down to 2.5 in most books. It looks like the public and the sharps took the 3.5 early.
Vik’s Pick: Duke -2.5
I love when lower seeds are favored over higher seeds, and we have that in this matchup. The #2 Blue Devils are favored over the #1 Jayhawks. That to me is “fishy”. I also saw how much the Jayhawks struggled at the end of their last game vs. Clemson’s pressure, so look for coach K to implement some of that in this one. Kansas loves to shoot 3’s, but Duke is well equipped to handle that. They are #10 in Effective FG% defense, including being #20 in guarding 3-point shots. Kansas also was on fire in their last game, so look for them to cool off a little in this one. Bagley and Carter will Azubuike into some foul trouble as well, which should help Duke open up this game in the second half.
Jason’s Pick: Duke -2.5. Yes, three favorites is pretty gross, but I actually think this line is short. Kansas barely covered vs Penn, and then didn’t vs Seton Hall or Clemson. I wonder if Duke will come out of the 2-3 zone, because Kansas is a terrific 3-point shooting team (10th best in the country). Defensively, if Udoka Azubuike is in foul trouble, the Jayhawks lack of front court depth would be a massive problem. If Devonte Graham has another rough game (14-for-43 shooting, 10 turnovers, 19 assists so far in three games), it could be a long night for Bill Self, who is just 2-5 in the Elite 8 at Kansas. LOSS – Kansas won 85-81