Sometimes you just nail a pick. That was the case yesterday as we picked up yet another win when we backed the Washington Huskies against the Utah State Aggies as underdogs. I was surprised to see Utah State as the favorites, as they were squarely on the bubble before putting together a late-season run to win the MWC conference tournament. And they were facing a team in Washington, that had dominated a power conference all season long. In my opinion, the Huskies were certainly the more talented and accomplished team, and I felt like I was stealing to be able to back them getting +3.5-points.
To me, this game came down to a strength on strength matchup between Washington’s defensive superstar Matisse Thybulle and Utah State leading scorer, Sam Merrill. I liked Thybulle’s chances on shutting Merrill down and backed the Huskies. And that is just what happened. Thybulle was a force on the defensive side of the ball as he picked up five steals and three blocks. Merrill struggled to shoot the basketball all afternoon long as he finished his day 2-9 from the field and turned the ball over six times.
The Huskies dominated from the tip and cruised to an easy 78-61 victory. I mentioned in my pick yesterday that I thought the hate on the PAC-12 was a bit overblown, and that the league wasn’t as bad as everyone was making it out to be. And now that Arizona State, Washington, and Oregon have all picked up wins in the tournament, that theory might just be proving to be valid.
The Huskies advance to the round of thirty-two where they will face off against top-seeded North Carolina. For today’s pick, I will head to the Midwest region for a four-five matchup between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Auburn Tigers.
The Kansas Jayhawks, a four seed out of the Big 12, will host the Auburn Tigers, a five seed out of the SEC, tonight in the late game. The Tigers barely survived a first-round scare from twelve seeded New Mexico State. The Aggies had a shot to win the game at the free throw line late, but came up short, and had a great look from three to win it at the buzzer, only to see it rim out. The Tigers are certainly feeling lucky to still be dancing as they head into play this evening.
As for Kansas, the Jayhawks saw their NCAA record-breaking streaking of fourteen consecutive regular-season Big 12 titles come to an end this year, and they would love nothing more than to win a national title to atone for losing their streak. Kansas had little trouble dispatching a clearly overmatched Northeastern team in round one, picking up an 87-53, blowout victory.
The Tigers are -2-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 147.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:40 PM PST from the Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Kansas Jayhawks had a bit of a tumultuous season. We talked above about how they lost their streak of Big 12 titles, and they bounced around all over the top twenty-five, after starting the season as the number one team in the country. They lost some great players to injury, and when it was all said and done, they played the toughest schedule in the country.
This team has been through a lot this year, and they are battle-tested, and ready to show the nation they are a threat to get back to a second consecutive Final Four. No team in the country, outside of maybe Duke, have the same caliber of wins that Kansas has this season. They beat Michigan State, Vermont, Marquette, Tennessee, Wofford, New Mexico State, Villanova, Oklahoma, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State.
All of those teams made the tournament, and many of them are still dancing after the first round of action. If you have any doubt that this team can not only compete with, but beat, the best teams in the nation, you are crazy. Yeah, this team had its struggles at times, but when you play the type of schedule that Kansas has this year, you are going to lose some games.
Coming into this season, Auburn was expected to compete to win the SEC regular season title. That never materialized as they finished in fourth place, five games behind SEC champion Tennessee. But they still had a fairly successful season. They hold wins over Washington, Murray State, Florida, Mississippi State, and Tennessee twice. And none of their nine losses were what I would call bad losses, as they were all sold teams.
To me, this game comes down to experience. Kansas has a coach that knows how to win in March. Self has made three Final Fours and has a national title ring on his fingers. This team made a run to the Final Four last year, and they are a dark horse candidate to do it again this year. Dedric Lawson is one of the best players in the country, and he will no doubt go big tonight.
I just think these teams are on different levels. I am shocked to see the Tigers as favorites as I think the Jayhawks are clearly the more talented team, and Auburn looked downright exhausted at the end of the New Mexico State game. While Kansas coasted and rested their best guys down the stretch. Not only do I think Kansas covers this number, I think they win the game outright. Give me the Kansas Jayhawks and the +2-points tonight from Salt Lake City!