The NCAA couldn’t ask for a better Elite Eight. Tonight you have two incredible great and highly-anticipated matchups with Wisconsin and Arizona reprising last year’s fantastic Regional Final matchup and Kentucky putting their 37-0 mark on the line against a very interesting Notre Dame team that has already beaten Duke and North Carolina twice apiece. So can the Irish shoot their way into one of the biggest upsets in modern NCAA Tourney history? Or do the Cats simply overwhelm them like they did the enthusiastic but under-talented Mountaineers?
Last night may not have had the same marquee star power as Saturday, but anytime the night ends with Duke and Gonzaga and Michigan State and Louisville left to sort out the Final Four, it’s been a pretty good night.
I’ll be honest, I don’t LOVE either game tonight from a wagering perspective, as there are very possible circumstances and developments that could favor any of the four teams. A lot of it will come down to knocking down shots. Do that, and anyone could win. If shots are tight for any team (other than Kentucky) then they will likely lose.
So who comes out on top tonight? Let’s put a nice four-game winning streak in the tourney on the line with tonight’s free picks.
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Tonight’s Free Picks:
Arizona Wildcats -1 vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Look, both of these teams are really good. So you can find some numbers and stats to talk yourself into either pick. But the simple stat I am leaning on is that the Arizona Wildcats were 21-0 last year before Brandon Ashley got hurt. They took a few odd losses early this year while people were getting healthy and freshman Stanley Johnson, arguably now their best player, was getting acclimated. Since The weird Arizona State loss they have ripped through their schedule and despite a listless performance against Xavier Thursday night, I think they are ready to roll tonight at McHale West, aka Staples Center.
Wisconsin’s bigs; Kaminski and Dekker will have some trouble against Arizona’s big frontcourt, though I think both will score plenty, neither will dominate. The biggest differential is TJ McConnell. Every time Arizona needed a big bucket he magically orchestrated the perfect possession. I think his edge over Wisconsin’s point guards will provide the slight margin of difference.
This should be a great game, but I’ll take Arizona getting Coach Sean Miller to his first Final Four in narrow fashion.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Kentucky Wildcats -11
There is little evidence after the last viewing of Kentucky that anyone in college basketball can beat them. But, keep in mind Notre Dame dead meat Duke twice as well as North Carolina and played a brutally tough schedule in the ACC. Kentucky has been tested by the likes of Ole Miss, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M.
This pick is more of a hunch than statistically-based. Kentucky could very well smother the Irish into sub-40% shooting and make a romp of things. But I am placing some faith in Jerian Grant being mature and talented enough to make a few plays and to help the Irish initiate some offense. Demetrius Jackson is one of the few point guards in the country athletic and strong enough to handle Kentucky’s big guards, and if need be, Grant can always be used to advance the ball.
Kentucky should obviously win this game, but if any team is going to give them trouble it is a veteran team that can shoot well from all positions and is extremely offensively-efficient.
I’ll take the boatload of points, in anticipation of a much better game than advertised.