#11 North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. #2 Kansas Jayhawks -8.5
I had like seven jokes queued up for “Wolfpack” and lame Hangover puns, including a couple iterations that had Zack Galifinakis playing two guard for Kansas or the “Hangover Monkey” playing and it still not making a difference… I wanted to force it in there, I really, really did… but in addition to being lame jokes, I realized that I don’t think Kansas will blow the Wolfpack out. In fact, I think this is going to be one heck of a game on a night that could very well need some drama in the nightcap after a night full of potential lop-sided affairs.
Kansas has national player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson, who has notched double-doubles in seven of his last eight games (and the one he didn’t he had 15 & 9 in the loss to Baylor). However, he is going to need to be on his game to keep pace with North Carolina State’s breakout star CJ Leslie who is averaging 18.3 points and 9.6 rebounds a game over his last ten outings. Perhaps even more importantly, he is shooting nearly 60% from the field. That’s national P.O.Y. caliber numbers from a guy who most people hadn’t even heard of prior to the tourney. I expect Leslie to have a big game and give the Wolfpack a real chance to win this ballgame.
The key, as it has been all season for Kansas, is the play of Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has been scoring in bunches, giving the Jayhawks a much needed second offensive weapon, but his assist to turnover ratio is something of a concern. You want your point guard to be in the 2:1 or 3:1 range. Taylor is exactly 1:1 over his last six contests. That could be a problem tonight against the excellent defensive backcourt of the Wolfpack.
North Carolina State may not win tonight, but I love them getting 8.5 points. They are 7-0-1 in the last eight games ATS, while Kansas is 3-5 over that same stretch. Again, much like Syracuse last night, it is the mark of a team that has peaked a little early. The bettors get comfortable that a team is “really good” and the lines get inflated. I don’t think Kansas is eight and a half points better on a neutral floor. This line should be more like 5.5 or 6 looking at recent play and individual personnel at each position. The Kansas brand name boosts this one up a point. So, good for us, right?
Gimme the Wolfpack and the points.
Free Pick: North Carolina State Wolfpack -8.5