It’s nitty gritty time brothers. This is the time of year when the mettle of a champion is tested. This is the time when those who lack the fortitude to survive battle fall by the wayside and victors emerge. This is our time of year. This is where we shine. We are the lightning. We are the thunder. We are the mountain that cannot be scaled. We are the pinnacle. We are champions. We live our lives each day with the mentality of winners because that is what we are at our core. This tournament has been but one more opportunity to show that to the world, and today will be no exception. Today will continue to be our one shining moment. Today, with the help of our great friends at Oddsshark, we win.
(#5) Clemson v. (#1) Kansas (KU-5)–This game is going to be interesting. It’s a contest of strength versus strength and weakness versus weakness. Clemson is an average offense facing an average Kansas defense. Kansas gave up more points this season than 137 teams in division one. Clemson, on the other hand, has their offense ranked at 172nd. The other side of the equation is where things get interesting. Clemson was 26th in the country in points allowed and 18th in the nation in defensive field goal percentage. Look at what they did to Auburn, which was the SEC’s best offense, holding them to nineteen in the first half and 53 for the game. Kansas’ offense was 29th in the country in scoring and 11th in 3 points percentage. Obviously a healthy Azubuike is a huge boost to a Kansas team that sometimes suffers from a lack of depth. For some reason we’ve slept on Clemson in this tournament so far, as I think they probably have less buzz than any team remaining. I think the trend continues today, and while I think the Jayhawks move on, I think this could well be a tight game. THE PICK: CLEMSON +5
(#5) West Virginia v. (#1) Villanova (Nova -5)–In what has been a strange tournament thus far, to say the least, Villanova has been a constant. The Wildcats can beat teams with so many different players. Between Bridges, Brunson, DiVincenzo and the rest of the crew, they can get hot in a hurry and when they do, the points pile up in a hurry. We all know the Mountaineers game plan. Press, press, and more press. The issue with the press is if you have enough ball handlers to beat it, you can score a lot of points in a short amount of time. I expect West Virginia to hang around for a half, and then I expect Villanova to make a run similar to the Alabama game. I think Villanova is the team with the fewest flaws remaining in this tournament. THE PICK: VILLANOVA -5
(#11) Syracuse v. (#2) Duke (Duke -11)–Jim Boeheim and the Orange have done it again. The team nobody thought belonged in this tournament, literally the last team in the field according to the selection committee, have made a run to the Sweet Sixteen. Along the way they have knocked off Arizona State, TCU and Michigan State. The Orange are probably playing the best defense of any team left in this field. They have such long athletes that are tailor made for the zone defense they run. They clog passing lanes and make everything difficult for opposing offenses. It’s a system which their opponent, Duke, has adopted lately, and has been a catalyst to them tightening their defense. We all know Duke’s offense with Bagley, Carter, and Allen is capable of scoring at any time, but this defense will inhibit their guard play and make it tough to dump the ball down low. These teams also know each other so well. This is their third meeting this year. Familiarity generally leads to close games. I think it wouldn’t be a terrible play to take Syracuse and the points, but there’s a better play with they way these teams have played defense. THE PICK: UNDER 132
(#3) Texas Tech v. (#2) Purdue (Purdue -2)–I do not get the love for Purdue here. First this team struggled down the stretch, going 6-4 in their last ten straight up, and 1-8-1 ATS. Now they’re playing without their best player and it isn’t exactly like Carsen Edwards has been electrifying of late. Now factor in the matchup against a very sturdy Red Raiders defense and the absolutely on fire Keenan Evans and I don’t see how Purdue is favored. Texas Tech is more physical, they’re better defensively and they’re a better rebounding team, and with Evans, they may well have the hottest player in the tournament right now. Sometimes, it’s best not to over analyze things. I’m going to take Chris Beard’s Red Raiders. THE PICK: TEXAS TECH +2
Lots of people ask me about future bets, and I’ll tell you that I don’t usually make them. I don’t love having my money tied up for months at a time. But it is baseball season next week and there are some decent futures out there in terms of award bets. I’ll give you some of my favorites here.
Dallas Keuchel–20/1 (These odds are ridiculous, jump on this if you like futures)
Alright brothers, let’s get out there win these games, crush the Elite Eight and get ready for the Final Four. Let’s have a hell of a weekend while we’re at it. We don’t live life, we attack it. As always, I’ll probably have more picks through the day. You can find more information on them on twitter @BlackJackFletch.