The 2011 NCAA Tournament is halfway through the round of 32 (second or third round depending on who you ask) and we had a solid day, that was all about late covers. Two different games got the cover at just about the last second and we've got a pair of Cinderellas headed into the Sweet 16. Richmond and Butler should make for interesting decisions next week for the sports books.
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia - Kentucky was a 3 ½-point favorite over the Mountaineers and I took UK to cover. It was looking ugly early as the Mountaineers were in control in the first half. However, the Wildcats flipped some kind of switch at the beginning of the second half to take over the game. It was back and forth late but six late points on free throws were the difference-maker as Kentucky covered.
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 UCLA - Florida was a five-point favorite in this game and I took the Gators to cover due to a line that I thought was a bit low. Vegas knew something I didn't (not surprising) as the game was a tight back and forth affair late into the second half. Fortunately Florida closed strong with a 7-0 run to win 73-65 and get the cover.
No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 13 Morehead State - The Spiders were a 3 ½-point favorite in this battle of Cinderellas and I took Richmond to cover. Morehead State could not sufficiently dominate the boards and always seemed a step behind. Richmond covered with ease as they dominated the Eagles 65-48.
No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 7 Temple - San Diego State was a six-point favorite and I took my national title pick to cover the spread. SDSU managed to cover that spread but the road there was a bumpy one as Temple took the Aztecs to double overtime. Both teams had some chances to put the game away before the second overtime but ugly basketball was on display. It was a crazy finish for gamblers. The Owls cut the lead to three and eventually had to foul SDSU late. Kawhi Leonard hit a pair of free throws to put the Aztecs up five with 30 seconds left. Temple turned the ball over in a position for an easy SDSU dunk to go up seven. The Owls had a shot at a layup but missed and SDSU ran out the clock to get the cover. An exciting finish indeed.
No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler - Pitt was an eight-point favorite and I thought I was betting with my head by taking the number one seed. Instead, last year's Cinderella is back in the second weekend of the tournament after one of the craziest endings in a long time. My own description can't do it justice, so please just check out the video in that link.
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga - The Bulldogs actually were a two-point favorite in this game and I thought the matchup favored them. Apparently this displeased Jimmer Fredette and company as BYU absolutely blasted Gonzaga, winning 89-67. I almost prefer that to missing the spread by a point or two.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas State - The Badgers were a three-point favorite and I took them to cover courtesy of late free throws. And in a bit of a rarity I nailed that one perfectly on the head. The two teams went back and forth all game long and seemed destined for a buzzer-beater. Wisconsin had a three point lead late when Jordan Taylor fouled Jacob Pullen as he attempted a three. However, Pullen missed one of the free throws. K-State sent Wisconsin to the line and they made both free throws, followed by the Wildcats missing a three. Wisconsin grabbed the rebound and was fouled again. Two free throws later and I went from push to cover.
No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 6 Cincinnati - UConn was a 3 ½-point favorite against the Bearcats and I took UConn to cover. Cincy hung close but they just didn't have enough to hang with Kemba Walker and UConn. Cincinnati ran out of gas and the Huskies were able to pull away late for the cover, winning 69-58.
We rallied for a strong Saturday performance going 6-2 against the spread. We were also 6-2 straight up as our two losses involved picking favorites Pittsburgh and Gonzaga. Let's just hope we don't follow our Thursday-Friday pattern with an ugly Sunday. We'll see you tomorrow with more predictions against the spread.