We had a winning day in college hoops picks, thanks in large part to the best half of college basketball any team has played the entire season. The Louisville Cardinals captured their second straight Big East championship by outscoring Syracuse 56-26 in the second half. It was a sensational display of what the nations quickest and possibly best defensive team is capable of when they also knock down shots. I think this win makes them the #1 overall seed in today’s bracket unveiling.
Here’s my quick take on who SHOULD be the Top Four seeds in today’s tournament (note: this is not a prediction, rather how I would seed the bracket. This is based on the assumption all favorites win this afternoon; Ohio State, Miami, St. Louis & Florida)
#1’s: Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas, Miami
#2’s: Indiana, Duke, Florida, New Mexico
#3’s: Georgetown, Ohio State, Michigan State, St. Louis
#4’s: Michigan, Syracuse, Kansas State, Wisconsin
Teams with a right to complain: Oklahoma State, VCU, Memphis
First off – I know New Mexico won’t get a #2, and St. Louis probably won’t get a #3 – these are just my personal rankings. The Mountain West and A-10 conferences are better than the SEC and Pac-12 this year. A team that wins the regular season and the conference tourney deserves more respect than they are likely to receive today at 6pm…
Let’s get to a few conference championship game picks. And be sure to tune in early next week for full NCAA Tournament coverage, breakdowns and picks.
North Carolina Tarheels vs. Miami Hurricanes -2.5
North Carolina has been fantastic down the stretch, winning eight of ten. However, their two losses were a season sweep against Duke. They were also swept in dominant fashion by Miami, losing by 11 at home and by a million on the road (actually 28, but close). To me, that paints an accurate picture of this Tarheels team; they aren’t as ‘bad’ as people want to say, but they are not in the same league as the top 12-15 teams in the country. They are a dangerous meddling six-seed type team, but not a real Final Four contender.
Meanwhile, despite some of Miami’s late season struggles, they are a presumptive one seed with a win today over Carolina. It is a veteran team and a very physical one – two traits that give North Carolina and their new small lineup particular trouble.
I like Miami to cut down the nets for the first time in Greensboro.
Free Pick: Miami Hurricanes -2.5
VCU Rams vs. St. Louis Billikens -2
I have been big on St. Louis all season, and it has paid handsome dividends. While Butler and VCU get all the headlines, St. Louis gets all the wins. They are a ridiculous 4-0 against them, and all four wins have been by double digits. That’s about as impressive as it gets.
The A-10 is a really, really good league this year, right on par with any conference outside of the Big Ten and Big East. If you need proof, look at the league’s top three or four teams. All three will favorites in the opening round of the NCAA Tourney, and they should get two more danergous double-digit seed in the tourney. That is right on par with the Pac-12, SEC and even ACC.
St. Louis is undervalued nationwide, and I think they take some much-deserved respect today. They are bigger than VCU and are pretty steady with the ball. I think they handle VCU’s pressure and win the A-10 crown.
Free Pick: St. Louis Billikens -2
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes -1.5
This may not be the Final that anyone was expecting, but it should be a great one nonetheless. There’s no Indiana, Michigan or Michigan State – the three highest ranked teams in last week’s AP poll, but that might actually be a good thing for the conference. Ohio State can vault all the way to a #2 seed with a win today, and Wisconsin has likely put themselves in the top four seeds as well. Considering that little damage appears to ever come to Indiana despite all their bad losses, and the Big Ten could end up with a #1, a pair of #2’s and five total top four seeds. That’s a nice haul.
As far as today’s game goes, I like the Buckeyes. They have been getting a little more diversity in their offense this week, and the ability of their big wings to create their own offense, namely Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr., bodes well against a tempo-slowing team like Wisconsin. Slower tempo means more responsibility on the point guard to initiate and orchestrate offense. In that instance, I love the chance for Aaron Craft to shine.
These teams split the season series, each winning relatively easily at home. Today is a fair neutral floor toss-up. It will come down to making shots. Give me the Buckeyes to make just enough to win a tight contest and cut down the nets.
Free Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes -1.5