How's your bracket looking now? My guess, not good. The Stack is here on this Good Friday and most of my brackets are looking terrible. Went with my gut on Miami (FL) making it to the Final Four. Well that didn't happen. They got smoked by a Marquette team that had played two really close games prior to last night's blowout win. Indiana as national champioins? Nope! Syracuse played some great defense and Indiana just didn't have the touch all night as they lost to Orange 61-50, ending a season of such promise with so much disappointment. LaSalle's Cinderella run? Done the moment they stepped on the court. Wichita State is a really good team. They knocked off LaSalle 72-58 and will give Ohio State trouble. That's right, Ohio State who in the only great game of the night, hit another last-second three to knock off Arizona 73-70. They weren't great for much of the night, but came up clutch when they needed to. With how Wichita State is playing in this tournament, Ohio State needs to come ready to play all forty minutes. Now let's preview today's games in "the stack" for today, Friday, March 29:
#12 Oregon vs. #1 Louisville 7:15 PM ET CBS Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
Louisville arguably has looked like the most impressive team in the tournament thus far. Their defensive pressure puts teams into a bind and they are getting lots of contribution on offense. They'll need that against a balanced Oregon team who has six guys who average over eight points a game. That means that if Louisville shuts one or two guys down, there are still four others capable of putting the ball in the hoop. Oregon has shown that they should not have been seeded #12. They look more like a #5 seed than anything. They can win this game, but the Ducks must stay cool under the intense defensive pressure that Louisville brings. Hope the game that tips off first Friday leads to a great slate of Friday games, because Thursday's was rather disappointing.
#3 Michigan State vs. #2 Duke 9:45 PM ET CBS Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
On paper, this looks like the game of the night. Tom Izzo's squad has looked really good in the tournament. They handle the spotlight really well. Adriean Payne is becoming a rising star. Their defensive play will be key against a Duke team who loves to shoot three pointers. Duke has a nice post presence with Mason Plumlee and a big guy in Ryan Kelly who can also knock down outside shots. He's the reason why Duke is a legit Final Four team and a potential champion. My gut tells me though (I should listen to it more often) that Michigan State is better defensively to contain Duke and they have enough on the offensive side of the ball particularly in getting offensive rebounds and second chance points to be able to knock off Duke. Remember, Duke hasn't looked great through two games. I'll go with my gut and see where it leads me.
Pick: Michigan State
#4 Michigan vs. #1 Kansas 7:37 PM ET TBS South Region (Arlington, TX)
There is another school in the state of Michigan that has people talking and that is Michigan. They really impressed people when they destroyed VCU last weekend. This team knocks down three pointers consistently and are perhaps the most dangerous team in the tournament when those shots fall because of how many they shoot. Plus they've found a hustle guy in Mitch McGary who gets after those rebounds and has gotten a lot of points in the paint. Kansas meanwhile, apart from a big second half run against UNC, has looked unimpressive in the tournament. They need to put it together for a full game or they're gone. Call me a sucker, but I'm buying into Michigan right now. I won't be surprised if/when Kansas wins, but take the more impressive team in this one. That's Michigan.
#15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #3 Florida 10:07 PM ET TBS South Region (Arlington, TX)
We saw one Cinderella go down last night in LaSalle. Will we see the other slipper fall off tonight? Florida cannot take Dunk City lightly. FGCU has taken the country by storm and for good reason. They're a good basketball team and they're the first #15 seed ever to make the Sweet 16. Florida must knock down their outside shots and defend well. They've run away with both of their games, but so to has FGCU. Which team can take the first punch and pop right back up? All of the pressure is on Florida. FGCU is playing with free money right now. Florida is expected to win. With all of the attention that FGCU has received this week, I think that that will take them down a peg. I don't expect to see them go shake Marv Albert and Steve Kerr's hands after this game in celebration. It would be awesome, and I'm not saying they can't do it, but Florida is the team that had Final Four aspirations from the beginning of the season and they aren't ready to go down yet.
Before I go, congrats to the Pittsburgh Penguins who keep on rolling with their 14th straight win, a 4-0 shutout over the Winnipeg Jets. With Jerome Iginla coming in, they look like the Stanley Cup favorites. We'll see if the streak remains after the weekend.
Elite 8 predictions Saturday and Easter Sunday