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) Southern Illinois vs (5) Virginia Tech
WEST REGION QUARTERFINAL (Columbus, OH)
Game Analysis: Neither of these teams excels at anything glamorous, but they're both strong in enough areas to get them through more games than not. For Virginia Tech, they don't waste a lot of possessions on offense, and they make teams earn good looks on defense. Southern Illinois, meanwhile, feasts on a strong man-to-man defense and elite defensive rebounding. In other words: today's winner is gonna have to earn it.
Like yesterday's Vanderbilt-Washington State game, it's hard to pick a winner here, and the smart bet is on a close game that comes down to the end. At that point, anything can happen and this thing likely will be decided by what the guys on the court happen to do this afternoon. The statistical profiles are out the window when the clock is running down in a tight game. Who makes the big play down the stretch?
The Line: Southern Illinois -1.5
PB's Pick: Virginia Tech 61 Southern Illinois 59
AW's Pick: Virginia Tech 60 Southern Illinois 57
Final Score: Southern Illinois 63 Virginia Tech 48
(3) Oregon vs (11) Winthrop
MIDWEST REGION QUARTERFINAL (Spokane, WA)
Game Analysis: Oregon does a few things well that make them attractive: they limit turnovers, they hit three point shots, and they don't send opponents to the free throw line needlessly. Of course, Winthrop excels attractively in several facets of the game as well: they clean house on the defensive glass, they defend the perimeter ferociously, and they create an exceptional number of easy two point field goal attempts (read: layups and dunks).
So, what gives? We've got two teams that have proven themselves capable of explosive evenings over the last two months. We have two fundamentally sound teams that don't give away game very often. Is this another coin flip?
After today's madness, I won't rule it out, but I think Winthrop's the pick here - certainly against the spread. I love their ability to create good looks in the paint, and I think that's the decisive edge this afternoon.
The Line: Oregon -3.5
PB's Pick: Winthrop 69 Oregon 66
AW's Pick: Winthrop 73 Oregon 72
Final Score: Oregon 75 Winthrop 61
(2) Memphis vs (7) Nevada
SOUTH REGION QUARTERFINAL (New Orleans, LA)
Game Analysis: No one's picking Memphis to make much noise in this tournament, but this looks like a good matchup for the Tigers. Their defense is underrated, and despite their being relatively untested, that can't be held against them in this particular matchup, as Nevada hasn't played a quality opponent in eons, either.
The thing you have to like about Memphis is their depth - they have a multitude of guys that head coach John Calipari can throw in there to find the right mix. Nevada, meanwhile, is a little bit too dependent on their star forward, Nick Fazekas. And the thing is - Memphis has the athletes to make life difficult for Fazekas, so much so that I find myself not scared of the points here.
The Line: Memphis -5.5
PB's Pick: Memphis 79 Nevada 69
AW's Pick: Memphis 80 Nevada 70
Final Score: Memphis 78 Nevada 62