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Saint Mary’s (10) vs. Villanova (2), 1:05 ET: The first matchup of this 2nd round could have easily been Saint Mary’s vs. Robert Morris. Villanova should feel very luck to be in this spot. Last year they almost blew their opening round game to American University before cruising to the Final Four. Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds did not start against Robert Morris due to a ‘teaching lesson’ that coach Jay Wright laid down. Reynolds was seemed to be affected by whatever distractions caused the sit-down. He had 20 points, but was only 2-15 shooting. He made up for it by hitting 15 of 16 free throws. Fisher was a non-factor taking only 4 shots. Saint Mary’s handled Richmond in the first round 80-71 led by Omar Samhan’s 29 points and 12 rebounds despite playing only 28 minutes due to foul trouble. Mickey McConnell was on fire as well hitting 5 of 9 three pointers, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The Wildcats better wake up just as they did last year, because this Saint Mary’s team is very good. I expect Samhan to have another big game. The Big East has struggled so far in this tournament and I expect it to continue today.
Pick: Saint Mary’s CA +4.5
Murray State (13) vs. Butler (5), 3:20 ET: Butler struggled in the 1st half on Thursday and trailed UTEP by 6 at halftime. Then they absolutely exploded in the 2nd half, outscoring the Miners 50-26. In typical Butler fashion, they shot lights-out. Led by Shelvin Mack’s 25 points on 8 of 13 shooting, the Bulldogs knocked down 13 three-pointers and shot 46% for the game. I attribute their first half struggles to the fact of a long layoff between the Horizon League Championship and Thursday. Murray State’s Danero Thomas nailed a jumper at the buzzer to give the Racers a dramatic 66-65 win over Vanderbilt. The difference in this game besides the buzzer-beater was that Murray State outscored Vandy from the free throw line 17-9. The Racers are no pushover despite playing in the small Ohio Valley Conference. They do have 31 wins on the year. However, I think the Bulldogs are too experienced and well coached to lose this one.
Pick: Butler -4.5 **TOP PLAY**
Ohio (14) vs. Tennessee (6), 3:35 ET: The biggest shocker of the tournament so far happened Thursday night when the Ohio Bobcats simply manhandled the Georgetown Hoyas 97-83. The Hoyas had no defense for the hot shooting Bobcats. Ohio shot 58% from the floor and made 13 of 23 three-pointers. Ten of those 3’s came from guards Armon Bassett (32 points) and D.J. Cooper (23 points). Tennessee is coming off a hard-fought 62-59 win over San Diego State despite shooting only 38.5%. The difference was that they were 8-17 from beyond the arc as opposed to the Aztecs 3-18. Ohio’s defense surrendered over 50% shooting on Thursday. That could be a problem against a team with a much better defense than Georgetown’s. 8.5 is a big spread in the tournament, but I see the Vols winning by double-digits.
Pick: Tennessee -8.5
Northern Iowa (9) vs. Kansas (1), 5:40 ET: After a sluggish start, the Kansas Jayhawks promptly put away Lehigh on Thursday 90-74. The Jayhawks shot 55% from the floor led by Marcus Morris’ 12-15 shooting and 10 rebounds. They failed to cover the 25 point spread, but still looked solid. Four of their starters played less than 29 minutes. This next game won’t be as easy. Northern Iowa, as I mentioned the other day, is very experienced and well coached. The Panthers beat UNLV 69-66. A team that runs much like Kansas. Northern Iowa will need to slow the pace a bit and limit the turnovers. They committed 16 against the Runnin Rebels.
Pick: Northern Iowa +11.5
Old Dominion (11) vs. Baylor (3), 5:45 ET: A couple of good rebounding teams face off in this one. Baylor really struggled against Sam Houston State the other day before winning 68-59. Baylor’s defense held the Bearkats to only 33% shooting and outrebounded them 45-34. The Bears didn’t shoot that well from the perimeter either as they were 5-20 from beyond the arc. Old Dominion was able to play Notre Dame’s slow down game and put the clamps down on the Irish offense. They held Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody to a combined 4-20 shooting. Old Dominion is #1 in the Nation in rebounding margin and they’ll be tested against Baylor. The Monarchs only turned the ball over 8 times against Notre Dame. They’ll need a similar number to hang with Baylor
Pick: Baylor -4.5
Washington (11) vs. New Mexico (3), 5:50 ET: New Mexico’s inability to hit the 3 kept the Montana Grizzlies around longer than expected, but the Lobos pulled out a 62-57 win over a team that was red-hot coming into the tournament. It wasn’t a pretty win, but they’ll take it. Only turning the ball over 6 times helped as well. I think the Lobos will do better offensively in this game against Washington. They’ll be playing more Lobo style of basketball. The Huskies appeared dead in the water against Marquette, but stormed back to pull out an 80-78 win. Quincy Pondexter was brilliant down the stretch hitting the big shots. I want to take the over in this one, but I’m going to pull the trigger on New Mexico based on the better season overall.
Pick: New Mexico +1.5
BYU (7) vs. Kansas State (2), 8:10 ET: Jimmer Fredette just might be the best shooter in this tournament. When he catches fire, he’s hard to stop. He scored 37 points in a double-overtime win over Florida in round 1. Michael Loyd had 26 for the Cougars. They’ll need someone else to help out with scoring against Kansas State. The Wildcats held the Mean Green of North Texas to 30% shooting and forced them into 16 turnovers. BYU will need hot shooting to stay in this one as Kansas State is just too physical inside for the Cougars.
Pick: Kansas State -4.5
Wake Forest (9) vs. Kentucky (1), 8:15 ET: Wake Forest came into this tournament in a big slump and faced another team in Texas that was playing poorly. The Demon Deacons came from 8 points down in overtime to defeat the Longhorns 81-80.Texas forced Wake into 20 turnovers and still couldn’t win. I wouldn’t take much from this win, because the was Texas is playing. Kentucky easily crushed East Tennessee State 100-71. The shot 51% from the floor, hit 15 three’s, and had 11 blocked shots. This line seems a little small, but I’m going to bite anyway.
Pick: Kentucky -9