1) Kansas vs. 16) Western Kentucky
The Jayhawks will again be in the hunt for a national championship in this 2013 NCAA basketball tournament. Kansas has improved since losing three in a row in February by becoming less dependent on freshman Ben McLemore and having other making steadier contributions. Western Kentucky suffered a rash of injuries, but got healthy late which is why they won the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers have a fine backcourt in J. Price and Jamal Crook, but lack the offense and defensive acumen to fly with the Jayhawks who are favored by 20.
8) North Carolina vs. 9) Villanova
North Carolina went small starting near the middle February and finished 8-2 SU. The Tar Heels can create mismatches on the floor, but can be exposed in the paint when the shots are not dropping. Villanova played the role of giant killer several times in the Big East, but all those came in Philadelphia, not on the road, yet the Wildcats were 11-5 ATS away. Nova is a crappy club and might be mentally tougher than the Tar Heels, opening the door for taking the 3.5-points. Either squad could be challenging for Kansas, but beating them is a different matter.
4) Michigan vs. 13) South Dakota State
Michigan ended the regular season 5-5 and is 2-10 ATS since Feb. 2. This leaves them susceptible to being upset as Glenn Robinson III went AWOL on the offensive end, leaving Trey Burke to fend for himself too frequently. The Jackrabbits have a terrific scorer in Nate Wolters, who will give the Wolverines fits. South Dakota State struggles with quickness and speed as witnessed in their loss to Murray State in late February. Michigan should handle their weaker foe, but 11.5-points do seem large for a team not covering spreads.
5) VCU vs. 12) Akron
The Zips are the lone MAC representative and could not have drawn a worse opponent, considering their circumstance. Akron lost starting point guard Alex Abreu to an arrest, leaving freshman Carmelo Betancourt to run the team. With the kind of constant pressure the Rams apply, they can negate the Zips edge inside with Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell. Based on the matchup, hard to imagine VCU doesn’t come away as a double digit winner. The Rams could cause Michigan a boatload of problems if they meet.
2) Georgetown vs. 15) Florida G.C.
In seeking a medium-priced team to win six times, hard to go wrong with Georgetown at 18-to-1. The Hoyas have an outstanding player in Otto Porter Jr. who can score and set up his teammates from the forward spot. Georgetown is one of the best defensive teams in the tourney by any measure, nonetheless, will have scoring deficiencies which keeps games sometimes closer than they should. Florida Gulf Coast might serve as a good first half wager with their balanced attack and defense, but it turns the ball over too much to be a quality play at +12.5.
7) San Diego State vs. 10) Oklahoma
With a backcourt of Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and Xavier Thames, the Aztecs will not go quietly. San Diego State might not have much up front, but this trio is tough-minded and gives all it has each time out. Oklahoma has coach Lon Kruger and normally that is worth at least one win in this event. Kruger’s Sooners have depth, yet little star power and are dependent on its moving parts to emerge victorious. San Diego State is favored by 2.5-points and Oklahoma needs to have the lead with five minutes to play, since the Aztecs are 90-0 when ahead with that much time to play. Do not expect either squad to knock of G-Town.
3) Florida vs. 14) Northwestern State
Florida has the firepower to reach the title game on April 8; the holdup on the Gators is do they have the smarts and will when it counts to do so. Florida is a tremendous frontrunner, but is 0-6 SU in games decided by six points or less. Northwestern State led the country in scoring at 81 PPG and has four double digit scorers. The Demons defeats have to teams which slow them down or have the athletes to match points with them. Not much of a contest, however, the 20.5-points by the oddsmakers make it intriguing.
6) UCLA vs. 11) Minnesota
In this confrontation, the outcome will be determined by who can play to their strengths and best mask their weaknesses. UCLA is very efficient both in the run game and half court sets. The Bruins are a thoroughly awful rebounding team and get to the free throw line for dead ball points infrequently. It is hard to remember Minnesota was once 15-1 and ranked No.8 in the land. The Golden Gophers are considered a head-case at this juncture, being able to control the glass, yet make the dumbest of mistakes for periods of times. Minnesota a 3.5-point choice based on conference and the winner’s season ends when they face Florida.
Sweet 16 – Kansas – VCU – Florida – Georgetown