Yesterday was as exciting a day of college hoops as you could hope to have. Two overtimes, a double overtime, and every game proving to be worth sitting down to watch. For a lot of us, that meant 10 straight hours of basketball.
Andrew and I each went 6-2 against the spread yesterday, and we're back to try again, with previews and predictions for the Sunday action. Interestingly, on games in which we agreed on the spread winner, AW and I went 4-0. (Note, too, that we make our score predictions without talking to each other first, or revising them afterwards.) Please remember that the Texas preview is an abbreviated one - a more robust look at the matchup with USC is forthcoming.
(4) Virginia vs (5) Tennessee
SOUTH REGION QUARTERFINAL (Columbus, OH)
Game Analysis: I guess we should probably start with Tennessee, who set all kinds of interesting records with their 121 point outburst against Long Beach State. The Vols had an astounding adjusted offensive rating of 159.3 for that game, but as we're all quick to note. . . they were playing the Big West Conference champs. Can they score at that pace against Virginia?
The short answer is: no. Why? Matching that offensive performance against anyone - even Long Beach State again - is highly unlikely. Still, the Volunteers could have another outstanding evening on the offensive side of the ball. The Cavaliers don't force turnovers and give up second chances too frequently - two characteristics that play into Tennessee's strengths.
The good news for Virginia is that Tennesse's defensive profile is worse than Virginia's. The Volunteers don't clear the defensive glass, allow alarmingly high field goal percentages, and foul too often. In other words: buckle up - we might have ourselves a fun offensive game to watch. One thing to watch closely is Virginia's turnover rate: when they're conceding too many turnovers, they lose. And Tennessee is outstanding at forcing steals. It might be decisive.
The Line: Tennessee -3
PB's Pick: Tennessee 83 Virginia 78
AW's Pick: Tennessee 85 Virginia 77
Final Score: Tennessee 77 Virginia 74
(1) Florida vs (9) Purdue
MIDWEST REGION QUARTERFINAL (New Orleans, LA)
Game Analysis: I always feel like the winner of the 8-9 seed scram has a small advantage over the #1 seed simply because they play a competitive game in their opening round matchup. Of course, that usually winds up being the -only- advantage that the 8-9 seed holds. As is the case today. Florida is superior to Purdue in every meaningful statistical category except creating turnovers. So much so that unless the Gators have an atrociously sloppy game with the basketball, there's almost no chance they'll lose.
Purdue's certainly a strong defensive team, but they're facing perhaps the nation's most balanced offensive attack. It's difficult to imagine them winning this game.
The Line: Florida -11.5
PB's Pick: Florida 76 Purdue 63
AW's Pick: Florida 80 Purdue 68
Final Score: Florida 74 Purdue 67
(2) Wisconsin vs (7) UNLV
MIDWEST REGION QUARTERFINAL (Chicago, IL)
Game Analysis: The Running Rebels don't do a lot of the flashy stuff real well, but they're among the most solid and mature basketball teams in the field. They protect the basketball, don't force shots, and play outstanding positional defense. Of course, the same could be said for Wisconsin. Of all the second round matchups, this one is the closest we're going to get to a "mirror" game in which both teams look very much like the other.
As we predicted, Wisconsin had some trouble with their opening round game, but the fact is that they took care of business when they had to, erasing a frustrating 18 point deficit during their comeback win. Even better news is that UNLV isn't an explosive offensive team; they play a more deliberative protective brand of basketball that suits Wisconsin much better. The Rebels are unlikely to play the style of basketball that could frustrate the Badgers away from playing to their strengths. This is an intriguing upset possibility (which means taking the points is smart here), but it doesn't look to me like UNLV is quite built to capitalize on Wisconsin's weaknesses.
The Line: Wisconsin -5.5
PB's Pick: Wisconsin 63 UNLV 60
AW's Pick: Wisconsin 62 UNLV 60
Final Score: UNLV 74 Wisconsin 68