This was supposed to be the year for the Nevada Wolfpack. They made a deep run in the tournament last year and brought back virtually everyone this year. They had one of the deepest, most experienced, and talented team in the country. Nevada spent most of the season ranked in the top ten nationally, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that they would still be playing on the tournament’s second weekend.
But then Nevada seemingly hit a wall late in the year as they lost three of their last eight games and failed to even make the finals of the MWC tournament. Those late-season struggles dropped the Wolfpack from a probable two or three seed all the way to a seven seed. But something told me that this team was just bored and going through the motions and that they would find a way to turn things on when they really mattered. It is hard to stay engaged when you are playing against so many teams that aren’t on your level like the Wolfpack did this year.
So, I backed them as small favorites and expected big things out of them. And boy was I disappointed. Florida jumped all over Nevada early on and built up a nine-point halftime lead. Nevada responded in the second half and managed to cut the lead down to just one point. But in the end, the Gators were able to fend off the rally and came away with the win.
It was a rare loss for us in the postseason as we have been steaming hot, and even after watching the game, I am left scratching my head. This might have been the best team they have ever had in Reno, and their season ends on the tournament’s opening night. But, kudos to Florida for taking advantage of things and finding a way to advance. For today’s pick, I will look to get right back on track, as I head to Tulsa, Oklahoma to break down the game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Ohio State Buckeyes, an at-large bid from the Big 10, will square off against the Iowa State Cyclones, the Big 12 tournament champions tonight in a 6-11 matchup in the Midwest region. The Buckeyes snuck into the madness despite the fact that they went 3-7 in their last ten games. The Buckeyes were just 8-12 in a loaded Big 10 this year.
For Iowa State, they spent most of the season bouncing in and out of the top twenty-five nationally and made an improbable push to win the Big 12 tournament and earned the league’s auto-bid into the tournament. The Cyclones finished the season with a flurry, picking up wins against Baylor, Kansas State, and Kansas in the Big 12 conference tournament. The Cyclones are -5.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 140 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:50 PM PST from the BOK Center in Tulsa.
All season long, we knew that Iowa State was talented. They played a soft non-conference schedule, so even when they started out the season 12-2, they didn’t get a lot of respect. But when they managed to knock off Kansas in early January, they put the rest of the league on notice. Iowa State has wins this year over Kansas, Kansas State, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas Tech. So, it wasn’t all that shocking when they managed to run the table and win the Big 12 tournament title. As we head into the madness, the Cyclones are a dark horse Final Four team.
In my opinion, the Ohio State Buckeyes shouldn’t even be in the tournament. I just feel there were several other teams that did more this year that deserved to get in. When you look at the full body of work for the Buckeyes, it leaves a lot to be desired. They have losses to Rutgers, Illinois, and Northwestern to go along with a slew of losses to the best the Big 10 had to offer.
They propped up their mediocre record with early season wins over teams like Cleveland State, Samford, and High Point. Once they hit conference play, they mostly just lost. The Big 10 was so loaded this year though that losses to teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Maryland didn’t hurt them all that badly I guess, as the selection committee seemingly looked the other way.
We saw yesterday with Florida, another team that I didn’t think deserved to be dancing, that once you get in the dance, nothing else really matters. So, I will put that behind me as I breakdown which is going to win this game. For me, the two most important things to look at when predicting an NCAA tournament game are health and momentum. And right now, there are few teams as hot as Iowa State.
The Cyclones run to the Big 12 championship featured wins over three tournament teams. They have just shown us that they are playing at the top of their abilities and that they can beat teams that deserve to be playing in the postseason. For the Buckeyes? They have a total of one win over a team that made the tournament, a home court win over Iowa, since nearly November! The last time Ohio State beat a tournament team before beating Iowa was in December second against Minnesota.
The Buckeyes have been beating up on cupcakes all year long, and I think they are going to be very overmatched tonight. I love their coach, but he just doesn’t have the horses this year. I think Iowa State wins this game and does so fairly easily. The talent gap is just too high. Give me the Iowa State Cyclones, laying -5.5-points tonight in Tulsa!