Our smoking hot run in the postseason continued last night as we picked up another win, to run our record to 9-2 in the last two weeks. Yesterday, we backed the Murray State Racers, the champions of the Ohio Valley Conference, getting three points, against the Marquette Golden Eagles of the Big East. I took the points, but I made it clear that I smelled an upset in the makings, and liked Murray State to pull off the 12-5 upset.
Ja Morant showed everyone why he might be the best player in the country as he dropped a triple-double, as the Racers pounded Marquette. Morant doesn’t have the crazy athleticism or body that Zion Williamson has, but this guy is James Harden and Russell Westbrook all wrapped up in one, and in my opinion, is the best basketball player in the country. Morant did anything that he wanted and filled up the highlight reel as he filled up the stat sheet.
The game wasn’t even all that competitive as Murray State jumped out to a double-digit lead just minutes into the game and eventually pulled away for the 83-64 blowout victory. If Florida State isn’t afraid of playing Morant and his Racers on Saturday, they are crazy. This team is the real deal, and they need to be respected. For today’s pick, I will take a look at the eight-nine matchup in the Midwest region between the Washington Huskies and the Utah State Aggies.
The Washington Huskies and the Utah State Aggies play today for the chance to presumably meet the North Carolina Tar Heels in the round of thirty-two. The Huskies were the regular season PAC-12 champs, before getting knocked off by a red-hot Oregon Ducks team in the PAC-12 tournament. Washington skidded to the finish line as they went just 4-3 down the stretch, including two losses to the Ducks.
For Utah State, the Aggies came into the season with very low expectations but got hot late and reeled off seventeen wins in their last eighteen games. That run featured wins over MWC kingpin Nevada, as well as a win over San Diego State in the conference tournament finals. The Aggies are -3.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 135 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:50 PM PST from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
We have all heard all season long how bad the PAC-12 was this year. And it was certainly down. But I think people might be exaggerating just how bad the league was this season. Yeah, it wasn’t a great league top to bottom, but we saw Arizona State look great in their first-four game earlier in the week, and nobody wants to play Oregon right now. So, yes, the league sucked during the regular season, but that doesn’t mean that the PAC-12 won’t be sending at least one team to the Sweet 16.
And Washington could very well be that team. Their late-season struggles are likely distracting people from the fact that they won the regular season title by three full games. All of their early-season non-conference losses came to good teams that are all still dancing. And they made a mockery of the PAC-12 as they went 15-3 in league play.
The Huskies have what might be the best defensive player in the country in Matisse Thybulle, who leads the nations in steals and is averaging over two blocks a game. Remember, this team went into Spokane and nearly knocked off the then number one team in the country, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, losing on a last second buzzer beater from Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura. So, this team has shown us that they can hang with the best teams in the country.
Utah State surprised a lot of people with how they finished up the season. For most of the year, it looked like Nevada was the class of the MWC, but it was Utah State that emerged late in the year as the leagues most dangerous team. But when you look a little closer to their resume, it is a bit light. They have losses to BYU, Fresno State, and San Diego State, all teams that did not make the tournament.
And outside of a home court win over Nevada in early March, they don’t have much to show for quality wins. The best win they had before that one was a win over St. Mary’s in November. The Aggies are led on offense by Sam Merrill. Merrill is the leader of this team and has really turned it on in the postseason, averaging nearly twenty-five points a game.
To me, this game comes down to one matchup. Sam Merrill against Matisse Thybulle. In a strength on strength matchup, the Huskies will have their best lockdown defender guarding the Aggies biggest offensive threat. Whoever gets the better of that matchup, should win this game. And I will almost always take a great defender over a great scorer. Defense never takes a day off, it never has a bad shooting night.
I think that Thybulle locks up Merrill and frustrates him all afternoon long. This Washington team is very athletic, they love to force turnovers, and I think they are going to find a way to pull off the upset tonight. The tournament is always super hard to predict, but in what I see as a lower scoring game, snatching up the three and a half points seems to be the play here. Give me the Washington Huskies and the +3.5-points tonight from Columbus!