Who’s your Fab Five? We are officially now just one month away from March. Before the Madness, you should pick your top 5 teams. I still like Ohio State. Despite them losing three straight in a difficult Big 10, they still have the talent to get to a Final Four. We all know Aaron Craft is a defensive difference maker. They are still reeling after losing Deshaun Thomas to the pros (French League). However, I believe the scoring can be made up for by committee. I had never heard of LaQuinton Ross before his big shot led the Buckeyes over Arizona and into the Elite Eight last year. The freshman darling Starling Loving from Toledo is getting more minutes throughout the season. I believe they have enough shooters with he, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shannon Scott to score by committee. Ohio State rounds out my top 5 of teams I can envision actually WINNING a national championship. Kansas is the “snub,” if you can call it that, because there is enough film in existence showing Joel Embiid struggling with a double team.
1. Michigan State
4. St. Louis
5. Ohio State
Now that is on the record, it leads right into my Saturday picks. I like Ohio State + 4 1/2 against Wisconsin. Both the Badgers and Buckeyes are desperate. I think this game will come down to a final possession. Two scoring possessions could take six minutes of game time against Wisconsin, so I like that extra half-point to handicap Ohio State 4 1/2.
I hated watching John Calapari bark at his young Wildcats, as Kentucky got embarrassed this week at LSU. Johnny O’Brien III had his way will Willie Cauley-Stein. However, Missouri doesn’t have that big man advantage today. The Tigers have been like my Knicks. Totally schizophrenic. They just got a big win in Arkansas, which means they are due for a winning streak before disappointing their fans again. If Calapari was as pissed against LSU, jumping onto the court to push Andrew Harrison into the right motion offense. This isn’t a good luck for Kentucky. They just too much of a mess to like getting 2 1/2 points. Take Missouri. This quality win for the Tigers could be the difference between them being that 3rd or 4th team from the SEC into the big dance. National analysts are saying there will be four teams total from this conference. Arkansas, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU would have to battle it out for that fourth spot. I actually like five teams from this conference.
Utah is a team to beware of. They lost to eventual champion Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship last year after putting forth a serious run at the Big Dance. Days ago they had Arizona on the ropes before losing the game. With Spence Dinwittie out for Colorado, I like the Utes getting 2 1/2 points. Perhaps they can close out a game today.
Keeping with the West, I like Stanford to cover 4 1/2 against Arizona State. Stanford is another team thirsty for revenge after playing Arizona tough.
Hey! Did you see Duke has its 3rd and final Plumlee brother? The Blue Devils are playing fantastic ball right now. They’ve found their rim protector in Mashall Plumlee. I also love the fact that Andre Dawkins is providing senior leadership. He played just 4 minutes in a loss against Arizona and 10 minutes in a win against Michigan. Since then, he has averaged 16 1/2 minutes per game. He, Plumlee and Rasheed Suulaimon are making quality contributions, which is something Duke was lacking from the bench early this season. I am taking Duke +4 1/2 points visiting Syracuse. Again, I think the Orange are overdue for that loss.
I don’t understand how Oklahoma is getting 9 points in Iowa State after how well they’ve played. I am taking Lon Krueger’s Sooners and watching this team real closely as a sleeper 6, 7, 8 or 9 seed in the Big Dance.
I told myself after last week’s poor performance (2-5, 24-22 on the season) that I need to also pick favorites, not just underdogs. I’ll take Arizona to cover 4 1/2 points in California. I don’t believe in the Golden Bear’s bigs, and Kaleb Tarczewski is one of my favorite players in the land. This means I am officially laying off the Michigan State Georgetown game. Spartans are spotting the Hoyas eight points, but are reeling from injuries. A win for either team would be very significant in the big picture.