Saturday Elite 8 Previews
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT UPDATE:
SATURDAY’S ELITE 8 PREVIEWS … AND MORE!
Let’s zip right into our Jim Sez Game Previews for the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 games on this final Saturday in March:
WEST REGIONAL FINAL — Staples Center — Los Angeles, CA
#2 ARIZONA (34-3) vs. #1 WISCONSIN (34-3) — 6:07 p.m. ET, TBS
So, is it gonna be a case of “payback” for the Arizona Wildcats … or are we headed for an encore performance by the Wisconsin Badgers?
Everyone’s talking about the fact that this represents a repeat West Regional Final in the NCAA Tournament — one the Badgers last year won 64-63 in overtime behind Frank Kaminsky’s game-high 28 points — and truth is that was one of the classic tourney games in recent memory even if the U of A ‘Cats sometimes played a little scared.
In Thursday’s 68-60 come-from-behind non-cover Sweet 16 round win against 11.5-point underdog Xavier, Sean Miller’s gang played a wee bit tight once again but the Pac-12 guys survived thanks to a game-ending 19-7 stretch that featured some of the finest defense you’ve seen in this man’s tourney plus some gut-check plays by point guard T.J. McConnell whose stat line of 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists didn’t quite hide the fact he was lost for much of the game’s first 25-to-30 minutes of play.
If McConnell — who last year laid an egg in this Elite 8 game against Wisky with just 9 points on 2-of-10 FG shooting with only two assists — isn’t a prime-time player here from start to finish than Arizona will be stopped short of the Final Four once again (this is the Wildcats’ third Elite 8 in the past five tournies).
And about that Arizona defense — the ‘Cats finally defended Xavier post star Matt Stainbrook effectively in the game’s final few minutes as the lefty scored 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds but late foul woes betrayed him and now Miller’s guys turn their attention to the aforementioned Kaminsky who has not exactly been Player of the Year stuff in this year’s tournament.
In Thursday’s closer-than-it-appeared 79-72 win/cover against 6-point underdog North Carolina, Kaminsky scored 19 points and was a force during that game-ending 19-7 run for the Badgers but he was MIA for large parts of this Sweet 16 contest (shot just 5-of-11 from the field with 8-of-8 FT makes) and if not for the exciting and often dipsy-do exploits of Sam Dekker (23 points on 10-of-15 FG shooting to go along with 10 boards) than the Badgers surely would have been sunk here.
In case you’re wondering, Kaminsky probably will be shadowed by the long-armed Brandon Ashley for much of this game but keep in mind Arizona C Kaleb Tarczewski (12 points and 12 boards against Xavier and a very active presence) was great in his defensive approach late and so maybe “Frank The Tank” will get double-coverage when he roams closer to the hoop.
Now, this is a true all-hands-on-deck game for Bo Ryan’s team that is comfortable with a limit-your-possessions type of game but can we see the Badgers be a bit more daring on defense (forced just 4 Carolina turnovers the other night) and maybe cut back on those three-point tries (see just 7-of-21 makes from beyond the arc). Hey, we usually recommend more triple tries by college teams but not with this Wisconsin bunch.
Get Kaminsky going early, allow Dekker freedom to take his man off the dribble and keep fingers crossed that the bench brigade make some big momentum plays (see Zack Showalter’s 6 big points in 8 minutes of action).
Now, here’s the NCAA Tournament roads that both Arizona and Wisconsin have travelled so far …
|3-19||Texas Southern||- 24||93-72|
|3-21||Ohio St.||- 10||73-58|
|3-20||Coastal Carolina||- 20.5||86-72|
|3-26||North Carolina||- 6||79-72|
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, the CBI and the CIT Tournies all for you -- get in on the fun-and-profits today either online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
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MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL — Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, OH
#3 NOTRE DAME (32-5) vs. #1 KENTUCKY (37-0) — 8:47 p.m. ET, CBS
Oh, yeah. The Kentucky Wildcats “doubled their pleasure” while doubling up hapless West Virginia 78-39 in Thursday’s Sweet 16 tilt and now we’re all left to wonder if Notre Dame here is gonna be just more “road kill” or can the Irish’s offensive fireworks make John Calipari’s kids sweat one out?
Okay, so now that the ‘Cats proved that they do indeed “play hard” — we wouldn’t want to be WVU frosh Daxter Miles, Jr. today! — here comes the final step before a Final Four that Kentucky was ordained to play in way back way in November. No doubt that the defense thrown at the beleaguered Mountaineers was “A+” in quality — West Virginia shot a woeful 24.1 percent from the floor while draining just 13-of-54 FG attempts — but now here’s a whole ‘nother animal as this high-flying Notre Dame just put up 80-plus points on one of the better defensive squads in the land in that 81-70 demolition of Wichita State.
Kentucky claims that it doesn’t lose games by opponents drilling their triple tries — call it some macho thing by the SEC team — but be clear that if Notre Dame (a 10.5-point underdog at press time here) is gonna hang around here in The House That LeBron Built than duplicating Thursday’s 9-of-19 performance from beyond the arc (or, obviously, bettering it) will be essential.
It’s amazing how Notre Dame lit up the joint following an early second-half time out called by classy coach Mike Brey as the ACC gang reeled off a 38-18 scoring run that shocked the Shockers — and PG Demetrius Jackson was once again the igniter with his 20 points that included 4-of-5 trifecta hoops and the way we see it here Jackson and fellow PG Jerian Grant (9 points, 11 assists and just two turnovers against Wichita State) must play close to mistake-free ball here and still make sure the likes of swingman Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia (a combined 31 points against the Shockers) get their open perimeter looks.
Some of the what-to-watch items here:
Kentucky G Aaron Harrison injured his left (non-shooting) ring finger and wound up with 12 points in 22 minutes in the Sweet 16 victory but pay attention to how he handles the ball here and might we see a more robust game from freshman F Karl-Anthony Towns who amidst all the fanfare of that 39-point win against the ’Neers wound up shooting 0-for-3 from the floor with one single point. We’d expect Towns and fellow front-courters Willie Cauley-Stein (10 rebounds and 3 blocks versus West Virginia) and Trey Lyles (14 points and 7 rebs against WVU)
Hey, wouldn’t it be something if the Irish — who shot a sizzling 30-of-54 from the field against Wichita State — got on a hot stretch or two here and made the ‘Cats fret? As you can see from our little game-by-game tourney charts,
Kentucky’s won by 23, 13 and 39 points thus far in this year’s tourney — no doubt discouraging news for the boys from South Bend even before they do take the court.
Now, here’s the NCAA Tournament roads both Notre Dame and Kentucky have travelled so far …
|3-21||Butler||- 4 (ot)||67-64|
|3-26||Wichita St.||+ 2||81-70|
|3-26||West Virginia||- 13||78-39|
Extra, extra …
Have you happened to notice how the underdogs have thrived in the other on-going college basketball tournaments being staged these days?
Here’s a quickie review with all the other tournies (thru Thursday night’s games)…
NIT — Next Tuesday’s “Final Four” at Madison Square Garden will pit a competitive doubleheader featuring Miami vs. Temple and the Stanford vs. Old Dominion with the winner being crowned Thursday night in NYC and heading into those game NIT Betting Favorites are 14-13-1 ATS (against the spread) …
CBI — How about the fact that this CBI Tournament has produced a 2-11-1 ATS mark for betting favorites and now this tourney gets into its best-of-three championship round tipping off Monday night with UL-Monroe battling Loyola-Chicago. Hey, the dogs actually went 7-0-1 spreadwise in the first round of this tourney.
The best-of-three title series will open at Loyola-Chicago and then Game #2 and — if necessary — Game #3 will be played at UL-Monroe ,,, note that UL-Monroe’s covered all three games in this tournament while Loyola’s covered two of its three tourney games.
CIT — Finally, the CIT Betting Favorites are a putrid 7-18-0 with one pick ‘em game so far.
So, overall the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournaments have produced a composite won/loss pointspread mark of 23-42-2 and combine that with the NCAA Tournament Betting Favs going 23-32-0 with one pick ‘em game thru Thursday’s action and you can see dogs have been the way to go this month!
NOTE : Catch our NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Sunday matchups in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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