We're back for one more day of basketball to wrap up the always exciting first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The 2011 version has not disappointed. There have certainly been some stinkers on the schedule, but there have been enough wild finishes to more than make up for the stinkers. We wrap things up with the final day of the second round to complete the field for the Sweet 16. All your odds are available at Odds Shark.
No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Washington - The Tarheels are sitting as 4 1/2-point favorites over Washington. Initially I thought this line seemed a little bit low, but in looking at Ken Pomeroy's ratings (http://kenpom.com/) this could prove to be a fun little matchup. Washington ranks 9th in offense and 48th in defense, while UNC is 7th in defense and 41st in offense. I'm a believer in defense winning championships so I think UNC wins. I'm going with the UNC cover as well on late free throws.
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 8 Michigan - Duke is an 11 ½-point favorite over a Michigan team that surprised a few people by absolutely destroying Tennessee. That game sort of threw me for a loop as Michigan has had quite the up and down season. Duke is one of the best teams in the country and only improved with the return of Kyrie Irving. He is a bit of a wildcard for them, although he impressed in his return in Duke's opening game. I think Duke wins this game, and I think they end up covering, but not before Michigan makes them work at least a little bit in the second half.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 George Mason - Ohio State is an 11 ½-point favorite against an old school Cinderella favorite. Before Butler went to the title game last year the Patriots shocked the world by going to the Final Four. Ohio State is rated as the best team in the country as they can bring it on offense and defense. The Patriots are solid but they haven't faced anybody like the Buckeyes. The number one overall team in this tournament is a beast as they are led by Jared Sullinger. I think the Buckeyes will be covering in this win and rolling to victory.
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Arizona - Texas is a six-point favorite against Arizona. Both teams had some struggles in their opening matchups but escaped with victories. Texas brings a very good defense and a rock solid offense. Arizona is solid on offense but isn't quite up to Texas' level on defense. I think the Longhorns are going to pull this one out and I think they'll be able to cover the spread, although it will take some late free throws to make it happen. I'm just not quite sold on Arizona.
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 11 VCU - Purdue is a nine-point favorite against VCU as the Rams look to continue their Cinderella run. VCU was given a lot of crap for making the tournament but have knocked off USC and Georgetown in their attempts to prove they belong. However, Purdue marks their toughest opponent yet, by a big margin. The Boilermakers bring one of the most efficient defenses in the country and a solid offense to boot. VCU can be efficient on offense, but it remains to be seen if it's enough against Purdue. I'd love to see a CAA squad slide into the Sweet 16 but I think the VCU dream comes to an end today as Purdue has little trouble with them.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Marquette - Syracuse is a 4 ½-point favorite against Marquette. This could actually be worth picking the underdog Golden Eagles. Syracuse is better on paper, but not so much that an upset couldn't be in the offing. If Marquette can push the pace and hit some baskets, they could pull off the upset. Marquette actually beat Syracuse by six in a Big East matchup earlier this season. March Madness is a whole different beast but I'm going to go with Marquette to cover and also spring the upset.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 9 Illinois - Kansas is an 8 ½-point favorite against Illinois. The Illini had an ugly finish to the regular season but they seemed to put all that behind them in destroying UNLV in the first hand. I think Kansas is on a bit of a mission however and will have little trouble with an inconsistent Illinois squad.
No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Florida State - Notre Dame is a 5 ½-point favorite against the Seminoles. This could be an interesting matchup courtesy of Florida State having what Ken Pomeroy rates as the most efficient defense in the country. Notre Dame has one of the most efficient offenses in the country, which could make for one heck of a battle. I mentioned above that I believe defenses win championships and I think that could get FSU within striking distance. I just don't know if it's quite enough. I think Notre Dame wins but FSU covers.