WEST Region – Phoenix, AZ
Xavier vs West Virginia 7:10 pm (WVU -1)
Chris – Red hot Joe Alexander versus one of the best teams in the nation at shutting down an opposing teams star player. Although Xavier does not have a big inside presence, which teams who do have been successful against Alexander do, but they play extremely solid team defense. Xavier is also an extremely balanced with six guys averaging between 9.8 and team leader Josh Duncan’s 12.1 PPG.
This is a tough West Virginia team that Coach Huggins will have playing physical for a full 40 minutes, but XU will have too much firepower and will do too good a job spreading around the offense.
The Pick: Xavier 72 West Virginia 69. Take Xavier and the points to win outright.
Brian – Let’s see, who’s tougher; a Mountaineer or a Musketeer?
West Virginia has been hot lately and Joe Alexander has established himself as a serious load in the paint. West Virginia pulled off what looked to be an easy win down the stretch against Duke without one of the top players, Darris Nichols even really getting going on the offensive end. Joe Mazzulla also came off the bench and played wonderfully, which allows Huggy Bear the ability to go deep and wear out Drew Lavender and the Musketeers.
I look for Dub V to pounce on Xavier early and control the game from the start and finally shut down this fluke that is Xavier as a 3 seed.
The Pick: West Virginia covering the 2.5. WVU 78 Xavier 71.
UCLA vs Western Kentucky 9:40 pm (UCLA -12.5)
Chris – I think the Hilltoppers give the Bruins an interesting match up. They’re great from 3 point range, which we all know is the great equalizer in every NCAA tournament game. They’re strong inside and on the boards. Super fresh Kevin Love might be forced to make more plays from the outside. This is an experienced, veteran, senior laden Western Kentucky squad that is good enough to hang around because of their three point shooting ability, and could pull off the shocker if the backcourt gets red hot.
Look for UCLA to really sweat in this one. But eventually pull it out as they are just too talented & too deep for the Sun Belt Cinderella Hilltoppers. Look for the Bruins aggressive defense to be too much to handle for undersized PG Tyrone Brazleton for 40 minutes.
The Pick: UCLA 68 Western Kentucky 61. 12.5 is a high spread for this level of competition, take the points. UCLA wins but W Kentucky covers.
Brian – The buck stops here for the Hilltoppers. UCLA will get back on the high horse they have been riding all year after a lackluster performance against Texas A&M. They played awful and still managed to pull it out at the end.
I think they get their act together tonight and get an easy win. Darren Collison will prove too much to handle for Tyrone Brazleton and the combo of Westbrook, Shipp, and Mbah a Moute will finally cancel out Courtney Lee.
The Pick – UCLA covers the 12.5 in a statement game. And they are my champ in my bracket, so I need to go with my gut. UCLA 82 WKU 69.
EAST Region – Charlotte, NC
Washington St vs North Carolina 7:27 pm (UNC -8)
Chris – The most curious of the Sweet 16 match ups features the powerhouse that’s always in the national spotlight, North Carolina. We know the coach, the players, the history. Versus the no-name Washington State Cougars.
This will be a grind it out, control tempo, extremely hardnosed defense Cougars team. After holding the high powered Notre Dame offense to under 25% shooting; if they can play THAT type of defense against the Heels, we could be in for a dandy.
This is going to be an ultimate battle of willing your style into the game. The UNC offense which has been strong all season seems to be hitting its stride at the perfect time. After exploding in the ACC tournament, the offense has seemingly gotten even better in the first 2 rounds.
Ultimately with Coach Roy Williams and his staff having a week to prepare for the Cougar defensive attack, the Heels will be too much down the stretch, and the Cougars will not be able to match baskets with the North Carolina
The Pick: North Carolina 80 Washington State 69. UNC covers easy.
Brian – UPSET SPECIAL. Washington State in a thriller. Actually I know nothing about Washington State. Their games are never on TV, and being a resident of the (215) I didn’t even get to see their games so far during the tournament.
The Pick – WAZZU 79 UNC 76. Going out on a limb here. Take the points though.
Louisville vs Tennessee 9:57 pm (Louisville -2.5)
Chris – The best game of the Thursday foursome. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals have been playing great basketball for the past month (minus the early Big East tourney exit). With guard Chris Lofton going to playing on a bulky ankle, many are calling for the Cardinals upset. I do not. Tennessee is loaded, playing 9 players 15+ minutes Bruce Pearl and his gang will find a way to force this into the shoot-out they want. The Smith’s; JaJaun, Tyler and Raymour, as well as Wayne Chism will be able to pick up any slack Chris Lofton has as result of a sore foot, achilles, and ankle (which might be none at all) and the Vols will shoot their way into the Elite 8.
The Pick: Tennessee 84 Louisville 82. I think it will be close, I’m going with Pitino and the points.
Brian – Completley agree with Chris above that this is the best game of the night. We better get plenty of live look-ins into this one.
I see Bruce Pearl’s gangsta ass squad of the Smith’s and Chism combined with Chris Lofton’s ankle being fine (probably a Tom Brady strategy) running and gunning all night long. They are too big and too athletic and ultimatley… will be too much.
The Pick – TENN 83 L’VILLE 74. Tennesee getting points, TAKE IT.