The first two rounds of conference tournaments swing the bubble fates of dozens of team every year, and this year is no exception. Let’s take a quick look at team whose stock rose and fell in the last forty-eight hours.
Stock Up: Iowa State did themselves a huge favor knocking off bubble mate Oklahoma in the Big 12 quarters, as did Alabama knocking off Tennessee in the SEC. For Iowa State, I think they get in. Alabama would be wise to show well against Florida today before feeling safe. UMass kept themselves alive in the A-10 knocking off Temple, but really needs a win today over VCU before buying Dance shoes. As far as seeding, UCLA, Wisconsin, Syracuse and Kansas State all moved up a seed line or two with big wins yesterday.
Stock Down: I think it is finally safe to say there will be no Kentucky in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Their blowout loss to lowly Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament should be the final nail in their coffin. Likewise Tennessee, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and La Salle are all feeling pretty uneasy after their early departures. Suffice it to say all four are rooting hard for Memphis over Southern Miss this morning to preserve one more precious bubble spot.
On to today’s host of fantastic games…
North Carolina State vs. Miami Hurricanes -2 (ACC Semifinals)
NC State started the year ranked 7th in the country. They finally looked like that team the last three games. Miami, meanwhile continued their trend of struggling and scuffling against inferior opponents, needing 39 minutes before pulling away from Boston College late. I like the momentum of the Wolfpack springing the mild upset and setting up an all-North Carolina championship game against the Tarheels.
Free Pick: North Carolina St. +2
Butler Bulldogs vs. St. Louis Billikens -4 (A10 Semifinals)
St. Louis swept the season series against Butler including an impressive road win and a dominating 17-point home win. They seem to be a bit more athletic and a ton more physical than the Bulldogs. I see no reason why they won’t beat them again on a neutral floor.
St. Louis has won 13 of 14 games, the lone exception a road loss to Xavier. Inside that streak they have beaten five (or possible even six) future NCAA tournament teams. St. Louis is still very much in play to get a top-4 seed and avoid the dreaded 5/12 opening round matchup with a win today.
I like them to do it. Give me the Billikens advancing to the final in the Barclays Center.
Free Pick: St. Louis Billikens -4
Syracuse Orange vs. Louisville Cardinals -5
These two played one of the most memorable games of the regular season when the Orange scored twice in the final seconds to overtake the Cards at the YUM Center. Tonight, Louisville will try to exact a measure of revenge in Madison Square Garden with the steaks certainly a ton higher. Louisville is the reigning tournament champs and is looking to exit the league with a rare repeat championship.
Louisville is playing ridiculously good basketball, entering tonight having reeled off nine straight wins, seven of the by double digits, and a road win at Syracuse. This is the best defensive team and possibly the fasted team in the country. I think they use that speed to loosen up Syracuse’s vaunted half-court defense.
Ultimately, it comes down to making shots. Syracuse did last night, and it allowed them to slip past Georgetown. I think the shot making edge goes Louisville’s way tonight. I like Siva and Luke Handcock to have big games and for the Cards to cut the nets down once again.
Free Pick: Louisville Cardinals -5