How ridiculously awesome is tonight’s even session of NCAA Tourney Round of 32 action??? Arkansas vs. North Carolina and Utah and Georgetown should both be great. Villanova should cruise over NC State, but it will be fun to see if Trevor Lacey can keep the Pack in the hunt and the finale between Butler and Notre Dame is the game I’ve been looking forward to since Thursday night.
We had a pretty good day yesterday, missing by just a single point from a 5-1 day, but still happy to take the profits from a 4-2 ATS endeavor. Let’s see if we can build on a good second day with some more winners.
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Tonight’s Free NCAA Tournament Picks:
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. North Carolina Tar Heels -4.5
It’s easy to take a little negative emotion away from UNC’s desperate survival against Harvard, but I’m not the least bit deterred. That was a bad matchup for UNC tempo-wise. Tonight is a GREAT matchup for the Heels as the Razorbacks play the same frenetic style only with a little bit less skilled a roster than the Heels. Tonight could very well be the showcase for Marcus Paige and company that has people frothing until Thursday about the chances for UNC to upset Wisconsin (not to get too far ahead, but how great would that Sweet 16 game be?!)
North Carolina has been good since Paige has started getting right. They made a nice run to the ACC Finals, and closed the season by winning seven of nine with their losses coming in close games to top-seeded Duke and a tough Final against a hot Notre Dame team. UNC is peaking at the right time, and more important, is healthy at the right time.
Arkansas has some talent and Bobby Portis is legit. But he won’t have quite enough help against North Carolina’s long and athletic wings and front line. Look for UNC to win the rebounding battle, force a few Arkansas turnovers and for Marcus Paige to completely control the basketball game on the offensive end of the floor for UNC.
Butler Bulldogs vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -3.5
Butler is like the St. Louis Cardinals the last five years. The faces change, the talent isn’t loud and flashy, and come playoff time, they just start winning games. As incredible as Butler is/has been, I think the run ends tonight. This is a pretty favorable matchup for Notre Dame as they play a similar stylistic team, but one that isn’t as good at them at nearly every position. The way to exploit Notre Dame is to get their lone big, Zach Auguste, in foul trouble and then hammer away inside. Then hope Notre Dame doesn’t shoot well (which happens for extended stretches on occasion) and you have a good shot.
Butler doesn’t really have the personnel to cook with that recipe. Add in the ankle questions for Roosevelt Jones and Butler has some real issues tonight. Notre Dame should win this game and I’m surprised the line has actually shrunk from 4.5 down to 3.5. That means the money is going to Butler overwhelmingly… I like the name and I like the story, but I also watch hoops. Take advantage of the sentimental public and run the other way. Notre Dame wins this game tonight, and I think they’ll cover as well.
If they weren’t in a bracket with Kentucky, I would have loved this team in the Final Four. They beat Duke and UNC twice apiece, have a legit STAR in Jerian Grant and have an athletic emerging star point guard in Westbrook-lite Demetrius Jackson, and a ton of god veteran shooters and smart players. They should handle Butler tonight in Pittsburgh in a late (probably after 10pm EST) tipoff.