I have emerged from the shadows. Despite my mediocre performance making predictions last night, I am back, ready to shake, rattle, and possibly roll. I did all the typical "prelude to a great evening of predictions" activities including walking my dog, eating a bowl of knockoff fruit loops, and purchasing the season's first six-pack of Summer Shandy- it's game time. A few thoughts before the games get going- due to my neglect of the Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and THE Dapper Dan Man (at least Donovan's hair isn't as bad as Lavin's) last night, I am going to give more respect to coaches I deem worthy of it- also, an elaborate broadcasting prediction pertaining to Tu Holloway is coming up... read on.

You should know the deal by now- in order of tipoff time, here are the games, complete with predicted scores, predicted story lines, and then follow up analysis after each game (hence the live update thing).

  • Baylor over Xavier 73-65 I think Baylor came out flat in their opening round game against South Dakota State, but they were hot as Waco in July in their second game against Colorado. Tu Holloway has been as big if not bigger in necessary moments throughout this tournament so far and I think he'll lead the Musketeers into a close contest, but ultimately, I think Baylor has more speed and athleticism on the outside than does Xavier and as for Xavier's low post game, Kenny Frease is good, but I don't think he has the quickness or versatility to keep up with Baylor's Perry Jones III. Also, versatility is a synonym of athleticism, and I didn't want to use the word in back-to-back sentences. Finally, I really hate Baylor's jerseys. Something to watch for: If Xavier is down by two points, and Tu Holloway has the opportunity to heave a 3-pointer for the win, I want Nantz to yell, "Tu- for three--- MUSKETEERS (win)!!!" Just the entire Tu for three is funny for me, and to inadvertently say three Musketeers would be funnier and exceptionally awesome... I want that to happen AND I want Baylor to win for the sake of my prediction. This may be impossible.
    **Tu played well, registering an almost predictable 22 points, but when Baylor was playing well, they were a far superior team than Xavier. It was odd how Baylor decided to have 3-4 minute stretches where defense and offense would be hanging out back in Texas, but the stretches where they were in fact playing were just too good for Xavier to handle. During the course of this game, I decided that I want to give Kenny Frease an awesome nickname; Mr. Frease was too obvious, The Freezer is taken by B.J. Raji, and the Airbus is silly/cool but will never catch on for a player with approximately 8.5 inches of vertical leaping ability. I decided to stick with the nickname I christened him with last week Jed, mainly because in my mind, Kenny Frease will look exactly like the honorable Mr. Clampett in about 20 years. All that to say, Jed played a heck of a game, much better than I thought, but the Bears slowed him down (I didn't think it was possible either- another nickname idea: The Turtle) in the second half, he finished with a man's 18 points. Time to toot my own horn, the final score was Baylor 75, Xavier 70; I was only 3 points off of the margin of victory, and only 7 points away from the total combined score. Dig it. Final thought on this one: Baylor needs consistency if they're going to get into the Final Four, but for now, the Bears are Elite. 1-0 for the day, 3-2 for the round, 39-14 overall, 73.58%**


  • North Carolina over Ohio 70-66 UNC's most integral player, Kendall Marshall is out of this game with a broken bone in his wrist, so the style of play that UNC even brings to this game is in question. Certainly, they will not have as prolific ball movement or as successful a transition game. Also- Ohio's success in this tournament (not to mention their defense) has largely been from their clutch guard play. I think North Carolina wins a courageous game, a close game, one where Ohio does not fall behind by more than 9 at any point- this could be an upset, but if I continue to reiterate that UNC will win by a slim margin, eventually, it will make me more confident in the prediction.
    **So much to say about this one... the absence of Kendall Marshall did less for UNC's offensive game plan, and more against their ability to hold on the ball and have any resemblance of composure in the final minutes of regulation. My prediction of the Bobcats never trailing by more than 9 was off, they trailed by 15 for a time in the first half, before playing defense, frustrating the Tar Heels and forcing 23 turnovers (12 more than the season average for UNC). This one went wire to wire, and then they had to add another wire- that's right, overtime, the very first overtime game of this entire tournament. Ohio had some tremendous 3-pointers falling for them tonight, in particular from Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg who combined for ten of them. North Carolina meanwhile was led by an historic performance (See that English sticklers? An historic. Yes.) from Tyler Zeller who had 20 points and 22 rebounds, all while strongly resembling the giant from Big Fish. Ohio had the opportunities down the stretch, and even when they didn't convert on them, UNC kept giving them more opportunities- sadly, the Bobcats could only force overtime, and once there, they could only muster a pair of free throws. Final score in this one was UNC 73, Ohio 65. Tooting my horn again, I was only four points off the margin of victory, and only two points off the total combined score. Dig it (again). If in the Elite Eight game, the Tar Heels give up the ball as often while allowing outside shooters to get hot like in this one, Sunday will be their last game of the season. 2-0 for the day, 4-2 for the round, 40-14 overall, 74.07%**


  • Kentucky over Indiana 66-59 I think Indiana's defense will dictate the pace of play, but Kentucky's defense will win the game. UK had the most impressive performance of anyone during the round of 32, and even if they play 10 minutes with the kind of determination and domination that they had against Iowa State, it will be enough to pull away. I think Indiana hits a few late shots making the final score misleading.
    **Ok- take a look at my score prediction... now double that; and you basically have the final score from this game. Kentucky won 102-90. When was the last time you saw a college team score 102 in regulation and still only win by a dozen? The pace of this game very much surprised and entertained me. A lot of people, when predicting final scores for national championship games take 5 to 10 away from what they would normally predict of each team- this is the method I gave to this prediction. I expected Indiana to look at this game like a national championship and thus try to win it with defense. Wrong. My favorite stat on the bottom line of the screen showed that only 6 minutes into the second half, each team had four players with ten or more points. I like a defensive slugfest as much as the next guy, and while I miss seeing Brad Stevens in this tournament, everyone watching this game got their money's worth (maybe a bad cliche to use since I feel as though DirecTV is ripping me off). Kentucky is an impressive team, a scary team, because legitimately, I see no other team who can outscore them. For the Wildcats to lose, defense will have to be played tremendously- and by tremendously, I mean holding them under 75. My score was way off, but I did say Kentucky would win. 3-0 for the day, 5-2 for the round, 41-14 overall, 74.54%**


  • Kansas over North Carolina State 71-69 I love this North Carolina State despite the fact that I picked them to lose in the first round. However, I also love this Kansas team and think they will finally play to their potential, despite a modest 15 point first round over Detroit, and a gutsy win over Purdue. I don't think North Carolina State can play as inspired on both ends as Purdue did last weekend, thus I don't think the Wolfpack will be able to keep up with the Jayhawks. The forwards for N.C. State will do a good job slowing Thomas Robinson of Kansas, but with Kendall Marshall out of action tonight, I consider Tyshawn Taylor the best active PG in the tournament. I know it's an 11 seed vs. a 2 seed, but N.C. State is playing like most 3 seeds should, so this could be the best game of the round of 16. The more I write, the more I think N.C. State upsets Kansas, so I'll just stop here.
    **Not as much offense as I predicted, but definitely as even a matchup as I hoped. Kansas looked to be pulling away with this one in the second half despite trailing by a point at the break. The Wolfpack said "Nay-nay," and made this one a ballgame. I think the difference between a great game and a good game, is that in a good game, plays are made to make the game close, but in a great game, plays are made to take over a game. N.C. State had a respectable late run to make this a good game, but in their final defensive possession, a missed man-to-man assignment gave the Jayhawks an easy bucket, and then, trailing by 3, the Wolfpack turned the ball over. With the opportunity to make this a great game, they faltered, and Kansas snuck away with their second straight 3-point victory, 60-57. Two intriguing statistics from this game: Jeff Withey of N.C. State blocking 10 shots, and the N.C. State bench contributing a whopping 3 points. For Kansas with the win, this makes three "eh" wins, which in turn makes me think that either Kansas is due to turn it on and blow someone away, or they are prime for defeat... we shall see. 4-0 for the day, 6-2 for the round, 42-14 overall, 75%**

I consider this redemption. After going 2-2 yesterday, I straightened things out and swept the day... Room for error tomorrow is arguably non-existent, so I might have to make some predictions for each game beyond just the score... stop back and see. To hold you over until then, check out this live video of penguins!

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