Hopefully no one read the first slate of games preview. Because VT and Duke play today, so we
will start with that prediction and go from there.
4 Virginia Tech vs. #1 Duke
With 5 teams from the ACC advancing to the Sweet 16, two of its heavyweights were bound to clash at some point. This happens at a neutral site in Washington, DC, and even though Blacksburg is a couple hours closer than Durham, I still expect it to be a pro-Duke crowd. Duke comes in with a healthy Zion who didn’t suit up in their lone matchup this season when Virginia Tech beat the Blue Devils 77-72. The Hokies did this on their homecourt and without their all-time leader in assists, Justin Robinson. With both teams coming in at full strength, this game
is set up to be a doozie. The Hokies didn’t really impress me until about a month ago. They seem to have finally put it all together, and the only team they’ve lost to in March is Florida State. With Justin Robinson they are a damn good team, and Buzz Williams knows how to beat Duke. He’s going to force them to shoot 30+ three balls, and if they make 12 or more I think Duke wins this game. Otherwise, I expect Virginia Tech to upset Coach K’s most talented group since the 2015 team.
3 LSU vs. #2 Michigan State
The other game from the east bracket tonight is another great matchup. LSU will still be operating under their interim coach instead of Will Wade. I’m sure Wade is still in the picture while preparing for the game. He just won’t be on the sideline. Michigan State has the clear coaching advantage with Tom Izzo seeking his eighth final four appearance. I wasn’t high on
this Michigan State team until they defeated archrival Michigan for the third time this year. They come in as Big 10 tournament champions, which I always value a lot during this time of year. If you’ve proven you can go undefeated in your conference tournament, that only increases the
chances that you can advance in the NCAA Tournament. Each team is very well-rounded, but I think that LSU is a little more athletic. This could cause
trouble for Michigan State, who isn’t familiar playing teams that rely on athleticism as much as LSU does. The Spartans certainly have enough athleticism to keep up with LSU, though. Tom Izzo in March is the difference maker in this game. I’m rolling with Sparty here.
5 Auburn vs. #1 North Carolina
Auburn comes in as one of the hottest teams in the country, even after nearly being upset by New Mexico State in the first round. They have yet to lose in March and pummeled Tennessee in the SEC Championship final. On the other side of the court is the best college basketball program of the last five years- UNC. I thought they had the best team in the tournament in 2016
and 2017, and they would’ve came out with two championships instead of one if Nova didn’t hit the clutchest shot in recent NCAA history.
The Tar Heels have been as under the radar as a North Carolina team can be so far this year. They have been overshadowed by Virginia and a superstar Duke team. But after UNC drops 90 on Auburn tonight they will finally get the respect they’ve deserved all season. The Heels have a
future top-10 pick in Coby White who scored over 3000 points in high school and has continued to fill the bucket in college. Nassir Little is finally emerging as a star. These young guns paired with experienced players like Luke May and Cam Johnson make up the perfect formula for a National Championship squad. UNC plays at a lightning quick pace that most teams cannot keep up with. Auburn doesn’t possess the defense to hold these guys under 80 points, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Carolina scores 90+. Expect Carolina to run the Tigers out of the gym.
3 Houston vs. #2 Kentucky
I haven’t watched much of this Houston squad, but in the two games that I did I noticed one thing. ATHLETES. Basketball is a sport where you have to possess a certain degree of athleticism to step onto the court at each level. I could work at basketball for my whole life, but a NFL wide receiver is going to get a spot on any roster in front of me just because of the quickness and length he possesses. The Cougars have that elite athleticism that gives them the chance to beat anyone in the country. They also seem to be a gritty team that takes pride in defense while still being able to score often on the offensive end. Kentucky on the other hand is another highly talented Calipari team capable of cutting down the nets at the end of the tournament. PJ Washington is expected to be back tonight but in a limited
role, but that does not matter. They still have the firepower to be the best team in the country. The thing that has hurt them throughout the year has been consistency. Just when you thought they’d get on a long winning streak, an opponent has caught them slipping. I think that’s exactly
what is going to happen tonight. They are taking this Houston game seriously, but they’re more concerned about playing UNC or SEC foe Auburn in the elite 8. Houston is going to come out and slap them in the mouth to get out to an early lead. The game will be close for the last ten minutes of play, but I think the Cougars will wear on Kentucky and come out with the upset. Getcha popcorn ready, though, because these two teams will be full of intensity for all forty minutes.