In what many are calling the greatest NCAA Tournament ever, at the very least to this point, the East Region has been a sea of tranquility, at least in part. Top seeds Kentucky and West Virginia are the only No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to make to the Elite Eight field from the same region and these two squads are combined 6-0 SU and ATS to this juncture. For those who would run over Cinderella’s glass slipper and discard her to the side of the road, this is the right matchup.
Kentucky (35-2, 20-15 ATS) became the best bet to win the NCAA Tournament after Kansas was derailed and they look the part, winning by 25.3 points per game in three tries. It’s amusing to read Kentucky detractors, this team is too young, they don’t shoot the ball well against zone defenses and Ashley Judd doesn’t look that hot in blue. While all or some of this conjecture might be true, coach John Calipari had arguably the most talented team coming into the tournament and as opposed to Kansas who could match them ability-wise, coach Cal’s players have an obvious desire to win and convincingly.
Kentucky has moved to 6-0 ATS in NCAA tourney clashes and their defense is unrelenting, with no team shooting over 36 percent in last three games and only Mississippi State converting over 40 percent among the previous six opponents.
West Virginia (30-6, 16-19 ATS) can also “D” it up with their physical nature. The Mountaineers have also not permitted a team to shoot over 40 percent in the tournament and six of last seven foes have not been able to make four of ten shot attempts. Coach Bob Huggins squad has won nine in a row (6-3 ATS) by locking down shooters and playing volleyball with their own missed shots.
Against Washington, they owned the glass with a 49-29 advantage and if they can convert over 76 percent from the charity stripe (13-17) against Kentucky, they could move to 22-4 ATS in all post-season tournament games since 1997.
Kentucky is a four-point pick at Bookmaker.com, with total of 133.5 and 13-6 ATS versus defensive teams holding opponents to 42 percent or less shooting and 7-1 ATS in previous eight Saturday assignments. The Wildcats are 9-1 OVER after three consecutive contests allowing 37 percent or less shooting. West Virginia is 6-0 ATS after a trio of teams have failed to score 60 or more points against them and 11-3 UNDER after they’ve covered the spread this season.
Watch for if Bob Huggins brings out their 1-3-1 zone sooner against Kentucky. Though West Virginia doesn’t use it a great deal in any given game, typically it has been at the end of a contest and it has worked like Mariano Rivera in closing out games. Because of Kentucky’s size, they might put John Wall and Patrick Patterson in the corners to get shots and set backside screens for lob attempts to either or both.
Maybe it just seems peculiar, but a 1 vs. 2 matchup only happens 35 percent of the time in the Elite Eight according to BracketScience.com since the field went to 64 teams. The higher seed is a mere 18-17 SU, with point differential of +1.4.