Wow! Three ACC teams dumped in the first two days is unprecedented. while Thursday was pretty quiet in terms of bracket busting, Friday produced a flurry of upsets, not the least of which were Cleveland State over Wake Forest and Wisconsin knocking off Florida State in overtime. Little Siena had to go double OT to dispatch Ohio State late Friday night, but the Midwest region should now be called the Busted West Region, because, in addition to #13 Cleveland State bumping the #4 Dekes, #10 USC trampled #7 BC, #12 Arizona demolished #5 Utah (a mis-seed if ever there was one), and #11 Dayton stunned #6 West Virginia. That leaves a big hole in the bracket. The 4-8 teams have been eliminated.
With that news as a backdrop, here are Saturday's games, with picks straight up and against the spread (ATS):
(3) Villanova (27-7) -2 (6) UCLA (26-8) 1:05 pm - The Bruins pose some matchup problems for the Wildcats in terms of size. UCLA is a much larger team that should be able to keep Dante Cunningham in check. Scottie Reynolds didn't play very well in the opener against American. The Bruins had their hands full with VCU, a senior-led team with a great deal of pride. This is somewhat of a home game for the Wildcats, being played in Philly, so why are they just 2-point favorites? Because UCLA has won 6 of their last 7, the only loss coming to USC in the PAC-10 tourney, and we saw what USC did to BC last night. Take the Bruins SU and ATS, to advance to the regionals.
(2) Memphis (32-3) -9 (10) Maryland (21-13) 3:20 pm - Of Maryland's 13 losses, nearly half - six - came by more than 9 points, sometimes much more like their 44-85 loss to Duke or the 64-93 shattering at Clemson. Some of their games have been outright ugly and the Terps were lucky to get an invite. Memphis keeps rolling along, despite their trouble against Cal St. Northridge, which can probably be chalked up to a serious case of jitters. Maryland will have trouble penetrating the defense, as the Tigers will clamp down on Greivis Vasquez. If Memphis can hold him to a pedestrian level, say 25, the Terps will be searching for scorers and they also don't defend well. Maryland's win over Cal wasn't anything special. Take Memphis, give the points. Memphis moves on.
(1) Connecticut (28-4) -10 (9) Texas A&M (24-9)3:35 pm - The Huskies absolutely rolled past Chattanooga and looked awesome. Meanwhile, the Aggies actually had to play a team that mattered, handily downing the higher seed, BYU, in the first round. Big 12 teams are 5-0 through two days, while the highly-touted Big East suffered their first loss Friday night when West Virginia fell to Dayton. They stand at 6-1. While I don't believe A&M will beat UConn, they just might. This no-name group does include one notable: Chinemelu Elonu, who will have to contend with 7'3" Hasheem Thabeet in the post. Elpnu's size and experience will help there and the rest of the unit has balanced scoring and no size issues. Look for the Huskies to win, but by only 5-7 points.
(4) Washington (26-8) -1 1/2 (5) Purdue (26-9) 5:40 pm - The Washington Huskies are a great sleeper pick at the #4 seed. PAC-10 teams are 4-1, the loss by Cal due to them not really belonging in the field of 65. Purdue, maybe the second-best team in the Big Ten, doesn't have the speed to stay with Washington, which gets much of their scoring from senior leaders Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon, though frosh Isaiah Thomas leads the team in scoring and assists. Purdue may have to rely on three-pointers more than they'd like here. Washington should win this by 8 to 12 points, easily advancing.
(1) North Carolina (29-4) -12 1/2 (8) LSU (27-7) 5:45 pm - The big question is whether or not Ty Lawson will be starting for the Tar Heels, or whether he will play at all. He's still suffering from a swelled-up big toe which kept him out of Friday's game and coach Roy Williams hasn't said whether the point guard will go or no. Keep in mind that Carolina is still really, really good without Lawson, and figure that even if he plays, he certainly won't be 100%. LSU is the lone standard-bearer remaining from the three teams that the SEC sent to the tourney, but they were the best during the season and have the kind of players that can match up with the Tar Heels, except in the middle, where Tyler Hansbrough is likely to dominate. The Tigers could spring the upset, and their chances of keeping this in single digits is good. Lots of money will go down on Carolina, which should advance, but not cover. Take the Tar Heels SU, take the points and LSU ATS.
(2) Oklahoma (28-5) -6 1/2 (10) Michigan (21-13) 5:50 pm - Michigan's win over Clemson was a surprise to some, but should they really be just 6 1/2-point dogs to the Sooners? I make them 12-13 point losers here. They are very one-dimensional, in that Manny Harris IS their offense. And while some may say the same about Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, he has experience and age over Harris, and well, size. Michigan will find him very difficult to control inside. Take the Sooners, lay the points. Oklahoma moves on, Michigan goes home.
(4) Gonzaga (27-5) -11 (12) West. Kentucky (25-8) 8:10 pm - This looks like the easiest pick of the day. The Zags struggled a little in their opening night win over Akron, and the Hilltoppers handled a pretty good Illinois squad, plus they've won 8 straight and 12 of their last 13. The Zags have won 10 straight themselves, but, remember, both teams are from non-power conferences, so the game should be closer than double digits. The Zags always attract a load of dumb loot, and this is no exception. The Hilltoppers could win this one outright, and they almost certainly will cover. Tkae Western Ketucky straight up and with the points.
(2) Duke (29-6) -7 1/2 (7) Texas (23-11) 8:15 pm - Take the points. Take the points. Take the points and take Texas to upset Duke. The Longhorns can play with anybody, and they have a very talented backcourt. If Texas can hit their threes and stay out of foul trouble they can go toe-to-toe with the Blue Devils. Really, I don't know which one of these teams will advance, but the money line on Texas (+280) is worth a shot as is the play with the points.
Coming later today: Picks for Sunday's games, plus Saturday results. Stay Mad!
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