Thursday Sweet-16 Previews
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: HERE ARE THE THURSDAY GAME PREVIEWS PLUS OUR "BIG DANCE" POINTSPREAD CHART
Folks, they call 'em "power conferences" for a reason!
You've no doubt noticed that this week's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 contains some 14 teams from the power leagues - the Atlantic Coast Conference (five teams) and the still-underrated Pac-12 (three teams) make up half of this Sweet 16 field with the Big 10 and Big 12 getting two teams apiece in the mix while the Big East and Southeastern Conference claim just one team each - the only non-power conference clubs still alive are Gonzaga (West Coast Conference) and Wichita State (Missouri Valley).
And, while 36-and-oh Kentucky continues to dwarf any/all conversation about other teams still in this 16-team field there's been plenty of buzz regarding the fact that it remains possible (if not very likely) that we'll have an all-ACC Final Four in Indianapolis come early April .. now that would be shades of 1985, right? (see three Big East teams in that year's Final Four in Lexington with Villanova besting Georgetown for the crown while St. John's was a national semifinalist loser to go along with non-Big East guy Memphis).
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have been steamrolling their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and it ain't gonna stop anytime soon! There's time to still get with America's #1 Handicapper for The Network March Madness Package that features all of the remaining NCAA Tournament Games beginning with the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 tilts this Thursday-thru-Sunday and keep in mind the Jim Hurley Network also gets you the other post-season tournament winners such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too. Get it either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - plus don't forget we're banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.
Hey, before we get to Thursday's Sweet 16 previews, check out our NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD CHART below ...It's an annual Jim Sez feature at this time of the year -- the NCAA Tournament Pointspread Chart details the spread success (or lack thereof) of all the conferences/leagues that have participated so far in this year's tourney. The next time we post this chart here we will only be including the still-alive conferences/leagues, so check this out. Note that the power conferences - and we include the American Athletic Conference, for our discussion - have a composite pointspread mark of 30-33 for a .476 winning percentage in this year's NCAA Tournament with the aforementioned Pac-12 a snazzy 7-1 ATS (against the spread) mark at the top of the power conference heap.
NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
On Thursday, it's ...NCAA TOURNAMENT - Sweet 16 Round
MIDWEST REGIONAL: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, OH
#7 WICHITA STATE (30-4) vs. #3 NOTRE DAME (31-5) -- 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Don 't be misled by this Las Vegas price tag - true, the Shockers are a 2-point betting favorite at press time - because Wichita State was "under-seeded" in the first place after losing in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal round game to spunky Illinois State. The truth is this figures to be a game of "meaningful possessions" because Notre Dame PG Demetrius Jackson (one turnover in two tourney games so far) must continue to find open teammates from beyond the arc while Wichita State (only 13 assists to 12 turnovers in last Sunday's 78-65 win against Kansas) needs some drive-to-the-hoop buckets in case G Ron Baker is spotty from the perimeter. Major key for Notre Dame is Mike Brey's club needs double-digit made triples here - just 6-of-20 trifectas in that 67-64 non-cover win against Butler last Saturday night - and dare we suggest swingman Pat Connaughton (1-of-6 from beyond the arc versus Butler) will be the single-most important offensive weapon on the floor here for the Irish.
#5 WEST VIRGINIA (25-9) vs. #1 KENTUCKY (36-0) - approximately 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
Okay, so everyone's been taking their "best shot" at still-perfect Kentucky - so now's the time for John Calipari's crew to prove whether or not they can flex its muscles on this second weekend of NCAA Tournament play. As we all know, Kentucky failed to cover both of last week's tourney games versus Hampton and Cincinnati and in that latter tilt - a slug-it-out 64-51 win against 16-point dog Cincinnati - the SEC gang shot just 37 percent from the floor and was out-boarded 45-38 . Now here comes a physical West Virginia team into the gym and don't be at all surprised if Bob Huggins' club "mixes it up" in the paint and tries to invite fouls on big men Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles (a combined 28 points against Cincy) - gotta believe Kentucky guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison (just three made triples between 'em last Saturday afternoon) have to be sharp-shooters here or WVU will stay under the "two-TD" price. One key for the Mountaineers: They collected 15 steals in last Sunday's 69-59 "Round of 32" win/cover against Maryland as reserve G Jevon Carter (six thefts) again must be an energizer type off the pine here.
WEST REGIONAL: Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
#4 NORTH CAROLINA (26-11) vs. #1 WISCONSIN (33-3) - 7:45 p.m. ET, TBS
Here's something you may not have known about these Wisky Badgers: In the past four-plus years of NCAA Tournament play, Bo Ryan's gang is a nifty 10-4 SU (straight-up) and now here they are back in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the past four years and boasting Player of the Year front-runner Frank Kaminsky. So, what's there to worry about while getting set to battle 6-point North Carolina? Well, for starters, Kaminsky posted rather pedestrian numbers in last Sunday's 72-65 non-cover win against 12.5-point pup Oregon as "The Tank" finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 0 blocks and so the $64,000 question here is does North Carolina's tallish front line create problems for Kaminsky and Company here and, secondly, what gives should the likes of Wisconsin's Sam Dekker and/or Nigel Hayes not give the Badgers one of those key "energy" games? Note that the UNC Tar Heels figure to be without F Kennedy Meeks (knee) here but that bench did contribute 20 points and 8 boards in the third-round win against Arkansas and lefty G Marcus Paige -- 20 second-half points last weekend against the Hogs in that 87-78 win/cover - is one of those catch-fire guys capable of carrying this ACC gang.
#6 XAVIER (23-13) vs. #2 ARIZONA (33-3) - approximately 10:15 p.m. ET, TBS
Are the Arizona Wildcats getting "too much respect" here in this Sweet 16 game - or is Xavier not getting enough respect? In any event, the Pac-12 guys are listed as 10.5-point betting favorites in this Sweet 16 affair on the left coast and they'll have the "home region" advantage here plus the fact nobody's playing right now in this man's tourney than Sean Miller's U of A Wildcats: They battered Texas Southern 93-72 last Thursday and then followed that up with a convincing 73-58 win/cover against 10-point underdog Ohio State last Saturday when point guard T.J. McConnell was absolutely masterful with 19 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals - and the 'Cats proved they could get some mileage from the bench as G Gabe York nailed 5-of-9 triples. If McConnell and York continue to have their "one-mindedness" about their game here, than Xavier's in a heap of trouble but the sole survivor from the Big East could cause fits if it plays painfully efficient offense - or didn't you notice that the Musketeers starring reserve F Jalen Reynolds (21 points) connected on an amazing 23-of-34 FG attempts in the 75-67 win/cover versus Georgia State? Still, as we suggested in an earlier-week Jim Sez, it's Xavier C Matt Stainbrook who must be a stat-sheet stuffer here .. or else!
Note: Catch our Friday Game Previews of the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.
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