I lost my shirt in Vegas.
Well, not exactly, but I certainly have had better years (handicapping) here. Wichita State killed me. I have been drinking the Shocker Kool Aid since 2012, so I have to give Kentucky a lot of credit here. Andrew Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle stepped up. The “young, inexperienced team” also beat the Shockers at the free throw line. I counted six free throws that the Shockers missed, including a pair of empty trips in the second half. It was an uncharacteristic loss for the Shockers. This sets up a fantastic sweet sixteen matchup between Blue Grass rivals Louisville and UK. Like Michigan State versus Virginia on the other side of the bracket, I feel the winner of Kentucky vs. Louisville will play in the national championship game. Those four teams are just playing at a higher level right now. (PS- I wrote on November 8th how the SEC is the best conference in America. SEC is 6-0 in the NCAA tournament).
Even in their wins, I feel Arizona and Florida have shown subtle signs of being in that second tier of remaining teams. For Florida, I think Casey Hill at backup point guard could be exploited under pressure, as well as an extremely muscular yet not super-tall front line. In the SEC Championship game, Kentucky killed Florida on the boards when its entire front-line attacked the glass. I can envision Michigan State, Virginia, or UK again doing the same. For Arizona, I feel its Weber State and Gonzaga path has been the easiest road to the Sweet Sixteen so far. Freshman Aaron Gordon is showing why he is a lottery pick. However, I feel there will come a point where the injury of Brandon Ashley will catch up to them. A substitute so far has been for guard Gabe York to play more minutes. I think that move to a smaller lineup will eventually not work out.
Speaking of size, the two teams I just put $5 to win it all remains Baylor and Tennessee. “You can’t teach size.” Tennessee blasted an upstart Mercer team because of its bigs – Mayben and Stokes. For Baylor, not only do they have Jefferson and Austin, but Rico Gathers is playing really well thus far in the tournament. I think he has a future in the NFL, literally. I made those football comparisons with Jordair Jett, but this is one that I actually mean when you look at the way Gathers rebounds the ball. If you look at the above picture, I jumped all over the 75-to-1 odds for Baylor to win it all. I did a double-take when I saw that longshot exists at Caesar’s Palace. At the MGM Grand, Baylor was 30-to-1. At my “hometown” resort South Point Casino, the Baylor Bears remain 15-to-1. It’s surprising yet comical how the speculation continues to vary. I doubled-down on my Michigan State pick as well. I have believed they were the odds on favorite from the beginning. (Sadly, I wished I had re-read my own blog, where I wrote on November 8th how Wichita State, Gonzaga, New Mexico, Indiana and Oregon are my top 5 teams to take step backwards in 2013-14. Today, I also hedged that bet slightly with Virginia at 11-to-1. Again, I feel the winner of Michigan State vs. Virginia will play the winner of Kentucky vs. Louisville in the championship game. I also love the way Anthony Gill is playing for Virginia, hence listing him pre-tournament as one of my Elite 8 Unknowns…until tip.
With either Dayton or Stanford a sure-fire for the actual Elite Eight, there is still much madness to be had. I hope you are all enjoying it. And hopefully your bracket doesn’t have as much pink highlighter as mine!