Friday, March 23, 2007

NCAA Game Picks for Friday, March 23

7:10 pm EDT Florida (-10.5) Butler - It would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Gators did not win this game, but the Butler Bulldogs surely have other ideas. Butler will have to find a way to negate the inside game of Joakim Noah and Al Horford, which isn't going to be easy. Along with that, they'll have to find a solution for slashing forward Corey Brewer, who always seems to be the X-factor in big games.

After yesterday's close calls, I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who thinks that Butler can keep the Gators within single digits. Players are very emotional at this point in the tournament and none of the remaining teams are going to be easy outs.

However, the Gators are likely to be at the very pinnacle of their game here and will look to blow this one open early. whether they'll be able to do that depends more on their guards - Green and Humphrey - who don't actually match up well against Butler's, than the inside game. Florida's guards have to get the ball inside. Look for the Butler to deny, zone and use back doors and slip screens on offense to hang in.

Florida will advance, but the Bulldogs will not fold and should keep this one under the line.

7:30 pm EDT Georgetown (-7.5) Vanderbilt - There's an important key in this game which a lot of people may not notice, and it's not how many rebounds Roy Hibbert is going to get (should be many). The key here is Vanderbilt's Shan Foster, who sometimes disappears offensively. When he doesn't score in double digits, the Commodores almost always lose.

Foster, a 6'6" junior will be paired against either Jeff Green or Jonathan Wallace, both of whom are good defenders and longer than the Vandy forward and that spells trouble.

Georgetown and Vanderbilt squared off way back on November 15, with the Hoyas grabbing an 86-70 road win. In that game, Foster scored just 2 points, while Hibbert and Green had huge games for the Hoyas. In Vandy's 11 losses, Foster scored 15 or less 10 times. His season average is 15.6, so this game becomes very simple for the Hoyas. Hold Foster under his average and get the win.

Besides the Foster angle, the Hoyas will have to handle the ball with care. Vandy is quicker, but Georgetown holds a huge size advantage and that should get them easily into the next round. The Hoyas should win this one handily.

9:40 pm EDT Oregon (-3) UNLV - The Ducks have incredible quickness and that's going to cause problems for the Runnin' Rebels on both offense and defense. As anyone who watches the Ducks knows, if they hit their 3-pointers, they are nearly unbeatable and they're likely to throw up at least 25 attempts from beyond the arc here.

If the Ducks hit at 40% from 3-point land, it's lights out for the Rebels unless they hit at better percentages than their season average. UNLV may opt to play a 2-3 zone, with pressure on the ball, to keep the score down, but Oregon can either shoot over it, drive through it or pass into it. No matter which way you slice this game up, it looks like the Ducks are going on to face Florida in the next round.

If you look at the tournament teams UNLV has beaten in the course of the season, you'll notice that none of them are still around. The Ducks, on the other hand, show regular season wins over three teams still in the hunt - Georgetown, UCLA and USC. Oregon should win this game by at least 8 points.

10:00 pm EDT North Carolina (-8.5) USC - The Tar Heels are one of the deepest teams in the tournament and coach Roy Williams will likely use a 10-man rotation here. The one constant will be Tyler Hansbrough, Carolina's top-scoring center/forward, who will probably see at least 32-35 minutes of action, especially if it's close, which this one should be.Sports Training Products

Judging by the odds, Tar Heel nation is alive and well, with the Vegas line looking very generous in what is likely to be a close game, matching contrasting styles. While Carolina will want to get out and run, speed up the game and slash to the hoop, the USC defense is among the best in the nation. Stopping the penetration of Ty Lawson will be key for the Trojans, as he is very quick and a solid ball handler. Keeping him on the perimeter means keeping the ball out of the hands of finishers Hansbrough and Brandan Wright.

The Trojans should have success in stopping the Tar Heels and they should be capable of scoring on the other end. North Carolina is not among the best defensive teams, so if USC gets a lead or stays close, defensive close-outs late in the game should lead to a major upset and a #1 seed heading home.

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