With eight of the sweet 16 filled, the second round has already continued the run of upsets with #12 Oregon and #9 Wichita State both pulling big upsets yesterday moving on to next weekend. Today shapes up to be another packed day and night of college hoops with some more surprises and plenty of drama.
By the end of today, the Big 10 could have as many as six teams in the sweet 16 while the ACC has its top three teams in action. Three teams from the state of Florida also play today thanks to Florida Gulf Coast’s upset of Georgetown.
Here’s my picks for the rest of the round of 32:
12:15- Ohio State over Iowa State
ISU is seven-point underdogs but they could join the ranks of the giant-slayers if they can take down the Buckeyes. The Cyclones have the scoring to do it as they showed dispatching Notre Dame by 18 in their first game in the tournament. Ultimately though, I think they’ll fall a bit short against Ohio State who is peaking at just the right time. The Buckeyes have won nine in a row since an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin back on February 17. All season my critique of OSU has been their lack of scorers outside of Deshaun Thomas, but the recent emergence of Aaron Craft, Sam Thompson, and Shannon Scott as legitimate scoring options makes them even more potent. Ultimately, I think ISU will score enough to keep it close, but they don’t have the defense it will take to shut down the Buckeyes. I’ll take OSU in a close one to move on to the sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.
2:45- Indiana over Temple
The Big 10’s other top seed in action is the Hoosiers as they take on Temple who squeaked past NC State in their opener. The Owls are 12 point underdogs but should at least have A-10 player of the year Khalif Wyatt who is battling a thumb injury. If Wyatt is at full strength, the Owls should be able to score against IU, but I don’t think they’ll have the defense to slow down Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo on the other end. The Hoosiers should be able to avoid the upset but I don’t think they’ll necessarily cover the 11 1/2 point spread. I’ll take the Hoosiers by nine.
5:15- Kansas over North Carolina
Get ready for the Roy Williams saga to be told again and again in this one as the former Kansas coach tries to take down his former team with his new team the UNC Tar Heels. Kansas has eliminated the Heels the last two times the teams have met including last season when they faced off in the elite eight. Williams has yet to beat the Jayhawks since he left and KU is favored by six. The Jayhawks struggled to put away Western Kentucky in the first round ultimately winning by seven while the Tar Heels dispatched Villanova by seven in their first round matchup. UNC finished the year winning eight of their last nine before falling in Miami in the ACC Tournament Final. Their four-guard lineup could stretch the Jayhawks although it also causes matchup problems for UNC. This feels like a matchup that goes down to the wire, but I think the Jayhawks knock out their old coach again and move on to the sweet 16. If I could get six with UNC I’d take the points, but ultimately I think KU gets through.
6:10- Florida over Minnesota
The Gators are 8 1/2 point favorites as they host the Minnesota Golden Gophers who easily knocked off UCLA in the first round. Florida’s defense should power them past Minnesota as they use their press and depth to power past the Gophers who slid to a 5-11 finish in their last 16 games. UCLA was a little lost without injured Jordan Adams and that may have been the last we see of Ben Howland coaching the Bruins, so I think the Gophers were fortunate to catch them at the right time. I don’t think that will be the case against Florida as the Gators bite their way to a third straight sweet sixteen covering the spread in the process.
7:10- Florida Gulf Coast over SD State
The Cinderellas of the first round the FGCU Eagles now run into the San Diego State Aztecs after crushing Georgetown in the first round. SDSU had their own impresive win as they dispatched Oklahoma. No 15 seed has ever won two games in the tournament and the athleticism and defensive length the Aztecs bring should be enough to keep FGCU from becoming the first. The Eagles caught Georgetown flat-footed, but SDSU will be ready and should be able to get the win provided they get another solid game from the leading scorer Jamaal Franklin as they move on to the sweet 16 for the second time in three years. The spread is seven and I think the Aztecs can cover that and give the Mountain West one of their five tournament teams in the final 16.
7:40- La Salle over Ole Miss
In one of the more evenly-matched games of the day the Explorers of La Salle face Ole Miss after both pulled out first round upsets. The Rebels upset Wisconsin while La Salle won the play-in game and then ousted K-State. The matchup to watch is Marshall Henderson of the Rebels against Ramon Galloway of the Explorers. The two guards will probably defend each other and both lead their teams is scoring among other offensive categories. Ole Miss can be a little streaky, but has some serious talent making them four-point favorites over La Salle in this one. I think the explorers can pull the upset though as they continue their VCU-esque run through the tournament. Ole Miss is solid though so this should be a well-played game with a down-to-the-wire finish.
8:40- Miami (FL) over Illinois
Illinois has knocked off some giants this year slaying Butler, Gonzaga, Ohio State, and Indiana. They also finished the season below .500 in conference play, though, so they have defeinitely had their difficulties. One of the reason for their inconsistency is their love for the 3-ball. If the Illini are hitting their shots, they can literally beat any team in the country as they’ve shown, but if they’re off they can lose badly just as easily. Illinois got into the second round after winning a back-and-forth game against Colorado, while Miami dispatched Pacific with relative ease. The Hurricanes and Illini both won their games in the Big 10-ACC challenge earlier this season, but Miami’s win was more impressive as they beat Michigan State by eight a team that beat Illinois later in the season. This all comes down to how hot the Illini are from outside, but my guess is that Miami moves on winning by 10-12 points and covering the eight-point spread.
9:40- Duke over Creighton
Creighton has star forward Doug McDermott to thank for their first-round win over Cincinnati, but can he carry them to the sweet-16? The Blue Jays were dispatched last year by UNC in the round of 32 last year, and I think the Dukies will get them this year. With Ryan Kelly on the floor, Duke has looked excellent all year and went undefeated in non-conference play including some marquis wins over Louisville, Ohio State, and Kentucky. Duke only lost to its rivals in grudge-type games this year and I don’t think Creighton will be able to keep up with them offensively while struggling to shut down multiple Duke options on offense. If Creighton catches fire from three, they could pull the upset here, but I think the Blue Devils are back in the sweet 16 this year after their first-round upset last tournament. The spread here is six which feels about right, but in this case I’ll give the points and still roll with Coach K and Duke.