Round of 64 Thursday Predictions- East and Midwest Regions

Posted: 03/20/2014 by levcohen in Basketball, NCAA

I’m going to have to do these picks rapid fire, so expect shorter blurbs because the games from these regions are about to start.

5 Cincinnati (27-6) vs 12 Harvard (26-4) in Spokane
Spread: Cincinnati favored by 3
I really wanted to go with Harvard here. They seem like the prototypical upset pick- great record, some success last season, mature team, great coach (Tommy Amaker), 15-3 record away from home, +13 point differential, balanced scoring (six players at more than nine points per game), etc. They have it all. But this upset is getting a lot of press, and I don’t think it is going to happen. Cincinnati is really underrated at this point. They are 27-6 in a good conference with a top 20 RPI, but the main complaint has been that they are slumping. That’s just not true. In their past eight games, they are 5-3, and the three losses are by a combined nine points against UConn twice and against everyone’s favorite team, Louisville. They are tremendous defensively, and they are a tremendous offensive rebounding team. Harvard doesn’t rebound well. That will be a problem. Sean Kilpatrick is a terrific player, averaging 21 points per game, and he’s a nightmare to scheme against. He gets to the line a lot, makes his free throws, shoots eight threes per game (making nearly three). He’s also 6’4″, a solid height for a guard. Unfortunately for Cincy, I don’t think they have a long run in them. But they should be Harvard. Cincinnati wins 62-57.

4 Michigan State (26-8) vs 13 Delaware (25-9) in Spokane
Spread: Michigan State favored by 14
Is it possible that Michigan State, a team with a tremendous coach and a talented team that might just be healthy now and is playing their best basketball, is overrated? Remember, this is a #4 seed, and that’s deserved. They might have #1 talent, but they have been very inconsistent throughout the season, and that’s not nothing. Michigan State is now the overwhelming favorite to come out of the East region, which granted is probably the weakest. Should they be? I don’t think so. This season at least, Virginia, Villanova, Iowa State, and probably even Cincinnati have all been better basketball teams than Michigan State. I think that MSU is still probably most likely to come out of the East, but it’s closer to a toss-up between they and Virginia in a likely sweet-16 game than anything. With all that being said, I can understand the love. This is a team that was a preseason favorite and started 17-1 before being decimated by injuries. With some of their players back, they won the Big 10 tournament. It’s logical to infer that they are back to being elite. As you would expect from a Tom Izzo team, this team is good at everything. They can score, rebound, defend, force turnovers, and shoot threes. There probably isn’t a “big 3” in college basketball with more talent and experience than sophomore Gary Harris and seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. There might not be a better coach than Tom Izzo. All I ask for is a little caution.Delaware, their little-talked about competition, scores a lot of points. They have three players averaging more than 18 points per game: seniors Devon Saddler and Davon Usher to go along with junior Jarvis Threatt, a point guard who also averages six rebounds, six assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Delaware’s best win was over Towson, and their best road win was @William and Mary. That’s not great. But it’s easy to forget that this team lost by just four points at second seeded Villanova back in November. It’s also easy to forget that the Fighting Blue Hens are 19-2 in their last 21 games after starting 6-7. With all that said, Michigan State is not going to lose this game. They’ll win 84-68.

7 Connecticut (26-8) vs 10 Saint Joseph’s (24-9) in Buffalo
Spread: Connecticut favored by 5.5
Is UConn also being underrated? It actually seems like the American Athletic Conference was treated poorly by the selection committee, with SMU being left out entirely, Louisville earning just a #4 seed, and Connecticut, perhaps deserving of a #5 of #6 seed, ending up with just a #7. There’s a case to be made that Connecticut is a better team than Cincinnati. They are one of two teams to beat Florida. They have seven top-50 wins and four non-top 20 losses. They beat Cincinnati twice. Shabazz Napier is very Kemba Walker-like. He averages 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game. The Huskies are also one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country, so probably are less susceptible to big upsets than most would think. They could be a tough match-up for Villanova in the next round if they get that far.
Saint Joe’s is not a flashy team, but they are a good one. They are 5-5 against the top 50 with two wins over VCU. Their best players, Langston Galloway and Halil Kanacevic, are getting hot at the right time. They have an experienced team and a good coach. I’m a little worried, though, for a few reasons. The first is that their best out of conference win was over Boston University. The second is that they do not stand out at any particular thing. They are solid in all facets, but that’s not usually the type of team that succeeds as an underdog. I like Connecticut over a SJU team that has turned into a trendy pick. I don’t see it. 77-69

2 Villanova (28-4) vs 15 Milwaukee (21-13) in Buffalo
Spread: Villanova favored by 16.5
This was one of the easiest ones for me to pick. Villanova has lost to one non-great team this year. And that was Seton Hall in the Big East tournament. I think they’ll be ready to bounce back. Milwaukee, on the other hand, stole a bid from Green Bay after going 7-9 during the regular season. If you remove wins against sub 150 teams, they are 4-13. In their one game against a tournament team, they lost to Wisconsin by 26. They score 71 points per game, and allow 71 points per game. Villanova scores 79 points per game and allows 67.  Villanova will take this easily. 81-64.

2 Michigan (25-8) vs 15 Wofford (20-12) in Milwaukee
Spread: Michigan favored by 15
I really think that Michigan is ripe for an upset. They don’t rebound at all, at 303rd in total rebounds per game. They also don’t turn the ball over much defensively. A slow team who can get a lot of offensive rebounds and slow the game down could well upset them. Wofford is not that team. Michigan wins 73-61

5 Saint Louis (26-6) vs 12 NC State (22-13) in Orlando
Spread: Saint Louis favored by 3.5
Another popular 12-5 upset game here, and I’m going to go with NC State. Saint Louis is slumping, State has T.J. Warren, and that’s enough for me here. NC State wins 64-61

7 Texas (23-10) vs 10 Arizona State (21-11) in Milwaukee
Spread: Texas favored by 1.5
This has to be the biggest toss up game that there is. I don’t like either team. They’ve both slowed down recently, and I don’t think either will get past the next round. But somebody has to win this game. Texas has lost seven of their last 11 games after starting the season as one of the biggest overachievers in college basketball. This is a young team, although they can’t be considered “young” at this time of year. What they are, though, is inconsistent. This is a great rebounding team, but they aren’t great offensively or defensively. Overall, just a solid team.
Arizona State has the best player on the floor in this game in Jahii Carson. Carson averages 19 points, four rebounds, and five assists per game and could well have a pro future. For some reason, though, the team has also been inconsistent. They have lost five of their last seven, including three straight losses. I really am torn here, but I’ll take Arizona State. 65-64.

4 Louisville (29-5) vs 13 Manhattan (25-7) in Orlando
Spread: Louisville favored by 16.5
I like Louisville even more than I like Michigan State, the other underseeded #4 seed. They have lost five games all year, and ended the season on a five game winning streak with the average margin of victory in that time at 29.2. This team passes the “eye test” and they also won it all last year. They still have Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, and most of their players from last year’s team are back. They are going to crush Manhattan. Louisville wins 78-50.

  1. dpcathena says:

    best four days of the sports year

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