Semi-Expert March Madness Picks – Day 4 [LIVE UPDATES]
In a few short hours, the greatest sports weekend of the year will be concluded, and I will be the laughing stock of town for how miserable these predictions will look. After going 7-1 yesterday, I am really expecting a day with less than stellar success- note that I did not say I will not have success, mainly because even if I go 0-8, I will find some excuse to make it look like I had every right to pick the losing team. I guess you'll just have to keep reading throughout the day to see. A little damage control before I make any picks, I am going to admit that the biggest challenge for today’s predictions will be pretending to sound like I know anything about Norfolk State and Lehigh. I have seen approximately 40 minutes of each team- this is why I am only a semi-expert; that being said, if Seth Davis claims to have extensive knowledge of these teams- he’s full of it.
By now (since it is Day 4), you should know the deal- I make predictions, complete with scores, for every game to be played today, and those predictions are listed below in order of tipoff time. If you don't know this deal I speak of, where were you for Day 1- Day 2- or Day 3?! I forgive you- you're here now, so let's let the magic begin.
- Georgetown over North Carolina State 72-67 This should be a good game unless someone decides to no-show. A lot of people had Georgetown being upset by Belmont in the first round, I did not- however, a lot of people had N.C. State falling in the first round to San Diego State, I was one of them. Wolfpack have a good offense and I did not give Mark Gottfried enough credit before the first round game for what he has done with that team. N.C. State will be happy if this game feels more like a NASCAR race (the speed aspect, not running in circles- always turning left), but Georgetown has a great team defense; loose balls, sporadic rebounds, Hoyas have the mentality to jump to them, and I think that will be the difference.
**Like I said coming in, "This should be a good game unless someone decides to no-show." It was a good game, and it would have been a better game for my prediction had Georgetown played defense for the last few minutes of the first half, and the first few minutes of the second half. Hoyas had to fight back from about ten points down with under ten to go in the second, and they were aided by N.C. State, who missed about 73 free throws in the final few minutes keeping the door unlocked for the Hoyas, but they never turned the handle and walked in, falling to the Wolfpack 66-63. 0-1 for the day, 7-2 in the round of 32, 31-10 overall, 75.6%**
- Michigan State over Saint Louis 73-58 As I learned on Friday, Rick Majerus is in fact alive. He really is a great coach who shocked me greatly on Friday by leading the Billikens to a convincing win against Memphis, and for still being alive. Speaking of life, Draymond Green is a healthy, living dominator who seems to be imposing his will on anyone he chooses, much like Darth Vader choking out that guy in the boardroom, only, Draymond Green is not a villain (that title belongs to Evan Turner). I like the Spartans to roll through this one despite a challenging first 15 minutes or so, and a resilient second half from Saint Louis. I also like Draymond Green to adopt the nickname Darth Vader, that would be awesome.
**Much closer than I expected- this was a good old school slugfest. At one point in the second half, Michigan State started taking control and led by 11, but Rick Majerus, who is not dead, settled his team down and had the Billikens competing by evening out every team of this game on defense. I'm trying to think of a player from the past who I can compare Draymond Green to- someone who does more than their share for the team. Even if my comparisons are lacking, CBS has made comparisons, or at least drawn comparisons in his numbers to those of Tim Duncan, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. Cool it, CBS- that's some spectacular hype of the young Draymond Green, aka Darth Vader. 1-1 for the day, 8-2 in the round of 32, 32-10 overall, 76.19%**
- North Carolina over Creighton 82-68 This decision pains me, mainly because I have picked Creighton to upset the Tar Heels in two separate pools that I entered. If Creighton plays the game of their lives, North Carolina could go down, mainly because the Bluejays offense has potential to spread UNC so thin that even Christian Bale from the Machinist would be saying, "Whoa- you're looking so thin!" Alabama provided the blueprint of how to guard Creighton in round one, and Roy Williams will take heed, face-guarding everyone on the outside for the Bluejays, forcing them to look for anything inside. Let it be known, if the game does get to this point, wherein Creighton is forced to look for offense inside, they will not find it there. Matchup to watch: Doug McDermott of Creighton against his high school teammate Harrison Barnes of UNC- there is potential that they will be guarding each other with such fury... nothing will happen whatsoever.
**Yet another margin of victory called by yours truly. A little more offense than I anticipated (10 total points more) but UNC gets the win 87-73. In the end, it was largely what I predicted- the Bluejays couldn't hit as many outside shots as they would have needed to in order to stretch the Tar Heels defense out of sync- subsequently, since the outside was not where it needed to be, they tried to go inside, and North Carolina was too much down low defensively, proof of which can be found in their 9 team blocks. Doug McDermott truly is a heck of a player, very patient in the offensive system of his father, Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, an offense that might be the most fun to watch of any I've seen this postseason. The movement among the Bluejays players on offense is seemingly constant, and they were unfortunate to be paired against a North Carolina team with one of the most athletic rosters in the nation. I still think the Tar Heels defense is not good enough to carry them to a title, but the offense is versatile enough to prove challenging for anyone they will face. Enough write up on this game, not enough links to funny things. 2-1 for the day, 9-2 in the round of 32, 33-10 overall, 76.74%**
- Florida over Norfolk State 72-60 I think the momentum, adrenaline and faith from this Spartans team will let them hit some remarkable shots throughout the game, but I also expect Florida to play non-lousy defense, aka not-Missouri defense. Norfolk State is a great story, and as long as this carousel keeps turning, I'll stay on for the ride, but I don't think it will... Also- that was a lousy metaphor.
**Cinderella's glass slipper just shattered. I expected the incredible high from two nights ago to have a brief carry-over for the Spartans- it did not. Billy Donovan has been to the tournament too many times to let a team relying on optimism, succeed long enough to even find a glimpse of hope. Kyle O'Quinn had an incredible first round, a performance that will not soon be forgotten, but for Norfolk State, their journey was their destination. (That may have been a far too articulate way of saying that the Spartans were never going to win a national championship.) Gators win 84-50. 3-1 for the day, 10-2 in the round of 32, 34-10 overall, 77.27%**
- South Florida over Ohio 66-58 South Florida is on a roll, and they are better than your typical 12 seed. Ohio is also pretty good, or else they wouldn't have been able to upset a Michigan team who was top-25 all season long, but the USF Bulls are one of the most explosive teams in this tournament and expect 5-6 minute stretches of USF dominance that will make the Bobcats look like a bunch of Queens. (Fact: Male bobcats are Toms and Female bobcats are Queens.) The silver lining for Ohio is that I have never seen South Florida prolong a stretch with hot shooting and defensive domination to cover more than a few minutes, meaning there will be a few windows for them to try to crawl through.
**I love upsets, even if I didn't call them. I love them more when the team is 1: beating Michigan, and b: Ohio University. I said that USF could leave the window open at times- incorrect- in the second half today, the Bulls left the door wide open, Ohio subsequently walked in, slammed the door behind them and locked it, winning 62-56. Down by six at half, up by six at the end, great day to be a Bobcats fan. "He's a Bobcats fan?" you're saying to yourself now? Well, when the United States Naval Academy decided that my knees were comparable to those of a 90 year old man who had been dead for 20 years, I applied to two schools, Wyoming and Ohio. Wyoming had a lower price tag, and Jim Cramer says we're in a recession. I have a great many relatives who are Bobcats alumni, (including a few who are great relatives- how do you like that word play Groucho?!) Logically, I may not pick the Bobcats to win another game in this tournament, but I will be cheering for them with every ounce of cheering ability I possess. Something to watch: Bobcats will play UNC next round, and their most integral player has a fractured wrist... Just a heads up. 3-2 for the day, 10-3 for the round of 32, 34-11 overall, 75.55%**
- Xavier over Lehigh 76-67 C.J. McCollum dropped 30 points, 6 dimes and 6 boards in the incredible Mountain Hawks win over Duke on Friday, but I don't think that performance will be duplicated against the Musketeers tonight. Austin Rivers is a terrific young talent, but the game against Lehigh was his first ever NCAA Tournament game. Tu Holloway has more experience, he has swagger, a chip on his shoulder, and a bobblehead. A great story, but I think Xavier won't have too much trouble "engineering" a sound win, and Sweet 16 birth. Fact: Lehigh graduates are credited with invention of the escalator.
**With under 15 seconds to go, Xavier was up 9, and I was face to face with another spot on margin of victory prediction. Unfortunately for me, but not for the Xavier gangster tendencies, a free throw and a windmill dunk gave the Musketeers a 70-58 win. The score was lower than I predicted, a fact I blame on Xavier's slow start out of the gate, and Lehigh's slow start out of the break. Lehigh did not have a big man who could keep up with Kenny Frease (25 points, 12 rebounds) and Tu Holloway did as expected (21 points). Holloway has the potential to carry a team, but he will certainly have his hands full and his eyes blinded in the Sweet 16 matchup against Baylor. 4-2 for the day, 11-3 for the round of 32, 35-11 overall, 76.08%**
- Kansas over Purdue 73-58 Kansas was one of the most impressive first round teams in my mind, not just because they were playing against a nobody (no offense P.J. Boutte), but because they didn't seem hesitant or shell-shocked to be in the tournament at any point, they were business like and focused on winning and advancing. I realize that sounds basic, but basically, that's how the focus of the Jayhawks looked to me. Purdue is a great story, I love their heart, but the illustrious career of Robbie Hummel will end tonight.
**A good friend of mine texted me with about 5 minutes to go in this game saying that even though I said FSU-Cincy would be the game of the night, it was most definitely the Kansas-Purdue game. I could not disagree. The illustrious career of Robbie Hummel had one final chapter with an astonishingly productive first half that saw the peg-legged wonder get 22 points (he would finish with a game high 26). The Boilermakers played inspired, like I thought they would, but there was no one able to hit such unlikely shots throughout the second half as Hummel did in the first, and the Jayhawks held Purdue to only 24 points in the second half, overcoming a 6 point halftime deficit, and winning the game 63-30. Much closer than anticipated because I did not foresee Hummel going off like that, or the rest of Purdue playing such demoralizing defense. Time to give Kansas some credit: they were down for most of the game, including a 10 point hole in the second half, yet they maintained their focus and marched on. Back to Purdue: I know I gave most of the praise to Hummel for making this game a ballgame, I feel that praise was deserved, but I take my hat off to Purdue. The most blue-collared nickname in all sports (Yes, in all sports. Even this one.) played a blue-collar game. If ESPN were able to obtain rights to this game and re-broadcast it on ESPN Classic tonight, I would watch. 5-2 for the day, 12-3 for the round of 32, 36-11 overall, 76.59%**
- Florida State over Cincinnati 62-58 Two nights in a row, the final game is going to be a great one. I give Florida State the edge with their defense but I will never bet a great deal of money on this Seminole team. Even sound wins, like their first round win against St. Bonaventure, when they slinked away with a 3-point victory, despite mediocre play through the first half, and much of the second. If they play like they did in the ACC Tournament, FSU could make a run much greater than a lowly Sweet 16. Cincinnati is good, and the last 4 weeks out of the Bearcats have been very impressive, but again, I give the edge to Florida State, winning this bout with defense.
**This was a defensive bout in every sense of the two words. For the first 38 minutes, it was back and forth with stops (and the occasional traded basket or two), but with two minutes to go, when FSU was thinking that they were going to remain scoreless and possibly go to overtime, Cincinnati made a few HUGE shots without asking the Seminoles if that would be ok. I'm guessing that if the Bearcats had first consulted with FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton (who strangely resembles Charles S. Dutton, aka Fortune from Rudy), he would not have given them the green light to pull away and win 62-56. Any historian and fan of Ohio State athletics has to love the Bearcats-Buckeyes matchup in the next round- and while this fact will be stated about 800 times in the next few days, I would like to point out how interesting it is that the state of Ohio is currently making up 25% of the remaining teams in the tournament. I think Ohio State has the greatest likelihood of continuing their run, but the Bearcats have tough defense, and play a really gutsy style of play. I did not foresee Cincinnati pulling out this victory until the final 2 minutes, that says something about a team. I finish the day 5-3, I finish the round 12-4, currently 36-12. 75%**
That concludes my predictions and subsequent analysis. Your laughing may commence. If you enjoyed this and think I'm the next Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, comment below or make checks payable to Townsquare Media, Laramie, Wyoming. If you thought I am a disgrace to mankind, comment below, and make your checks payable to Townsquare Media, Laramie, Wyoming. Like it or not, I will be back next week, with more predictions, to help you through the Round of 16.