We got back on track last night with a relatively easy winner in the Oklahoma Sooners and the game folded largely as projected – only a lot more comfortably. The best shot maker in the country, Buddy Love (or “Chevano Hield” if one wants to be accurate) was simply sensational last night as the best individual run in the Tournament since Steph Curry in 2008 continues one step further than Steph and the Miracles could survive. The biggest difference? This ain’t Buddy and the Miracles. It’s Buddy Hield, the best player in the nation, and a team of other really good senior basketball players.
They have Lon Kruger in another Final Four with a good look at a possible long-elusive title.
They will face off with Villanova next after the Wildcats got past Kansas. It was an interesting win because Villanova had been winning with offense in the Tournament, but it was their defensive effort last night that got them to the Final Four. But you can imagine Kansas and Coach Self will be unhappy all summer long, because as solid as the Villanova defense was, there were plenty of makeable shots left on the floor last night for the top-overall seed Jayhawks.
Two more spots to the Final Four are on the line tonight, so let’s see if we can keep a nice winning postseason run going tonight.
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Today’s Free Pick:
#6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #1 North Carolina Tar Heels -10.5
I’ve been burnt twice this tournament by betting against the Heels. I thought IU matched up well. They gave up 102 points. I thought Providence had two dynamic stars who could keep them in the game with the large point spread. They did not.
So do I dare go against the Heels one more time?
It’s daunting to say the least. Marcus Paige has looked like the sophomore version of himself that had him front and center in every “best point guard I he country” discussion, and Brice Johnson continues his workman-like domination. He isn’t flashy and may not translate perfectly to the next level, but the guy is effective and has a relentless motor on the glass and near the bucket. He steals them two or three free hustle baskets a game, and in a tight game, that can be the difference.
Zach Auguste will have his hands full and MUST stay out of foul trouble. If he gets two fouls early, the Irish lose. Period. But if he CAN stay on the floor, not many bigs have played better the last two months. Auguste has become the emotional leader and center of this team (Jackson is the best player, Auguste is the emotional leader) and Notre Dame has developed a tough resiliency that will serve them well tonight. They have gotten down and fought back time and time again – that’s vital because at some point Carolina will put a seven to ten point spurt on them and put them on the ropes.
Can Notre Dame win? Well, they HAVE beaten Carolina already this season. They are also 4-1 ATS in their last five games with North Carolina and as easily as Carolina can score at times, Notre Dame matches them at a high 47%-plus shooting percentage. They are a very efficient and ball-tough team and I like them to perform surprisingly well offensively.
The biggest issue is going to be the offensive glass. North Carolina is manhandling teams on the offensive glass and it is the difference in the game. They average 14 offensive boards to just 10 from Notre Dame. Auguste is going to need help from an out-athleted and under-sized front court in addition to a simply mammoth effort from himself. I think he gets enough help to keep it close, but it is hard to see the Irish actually cutting down the nets.
I’ll take ND with the points, but I think they are going to need most of them.