The NCAA Tournament resumes tonight and you really could ask for a much better Sweet Sixteen. Despite a ton of thrilling upsets, we are left with the matchups most fans truly want; the best teams taking on the best teams. With the exception of the 4/5 seed line difference (and one could easily argue that #5 Maryland is a better team than #4 Cal), tonight’s games are the top teams remaining on the left side of the Bracket. Granted, Texas A&M is here on a miracle, but for all the talk of craziness, chalk has ultimately reigned supreme.
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So will it continue tonight or can Duke or Maryland send the first top seed home?
Let’s dive in to today’s matchups…
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Today’s Free Pick:
#4 Duke Blue Devils vs. #1 Oregon Ducks -3.5
Duke’s path to tonight hasn’t been a pretty one; they beat a #13 and #12 and struggled more than they should have in the second half of each game. So it is a sign of fatigue or just the Madness of March? They are famously thin depth-wise, but most of you already know my opinion there – they are short because of choice not absolute necessity. Most teams could live with playing McDonald’s All American Chase Jeter. And the players they DO put on the floor are as dynamic a scoring backcourt as any in the country.
Enter Oregon. The least-heralded top seed seems even more vulnerable after their tussle with St. Joe’s and the Pac-12’s absolute flameout in the tourney. All gripes that Pac-12 teams were over-seeded while others like Kentucky and Indiana were underseeded now seem really valid. So can Duke vanquish the final member of the West’s best?
I think they do.
I like Ingram and Allen to go off tonight. They have had five days to rest and I expect them to be energized to go nearly the full 40 minutes. Matt Jones has continued to work back into the fold to give the Blue Devils a little more defensive toughness and Plumlee has been able to stay on the floor lately (which is always a concern given their lack of interior depth).
It’s fashionable to hate on Duke, but talent-wise, this is one of the better starting fives left in the draw. Depth is always a concern, especially against an up-tempo team like Oregon, but I think Duke gets the better of them tonight. I’m not sold on the Pac 12 pedigree and the ACC’s makeup is nearly impossible to deny at this point.