The Elite 8 was finalized last night as the Duke Blue Devils, Louisville Cardinals, Michigan State Wolverines, and Florida Gators all advancing. No. 4 Michigan will take on Florida in the South Regional Finals and No. 2 Duke will face No. 1 Louisville in the Midwest on Sunday.
Today’s action will decide the first two teams to reach the Holy Grail of the NCAA Tournament, the Final Four.
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No. 4 Syracuse at No. 3 Marquette 4:30 ET
Conference bragging rights are on the line in the Big East as two powerhouses meet at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.
Syracuse: The Orange cruised through their first two games in the early rounds in the tournament before stifling Indiana late in the game to win 61-50 in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles had a pair of tough wins to start the tournament but dominated in a Sweet 16 game against Miami. The Hurricanes hot shooting finally seemed to go cold and Marquette took advantage, winning 71-61.
Our Pick: It’s worth noting that these two teams have already played each other in Big East play. The Golden Eagles beat the Orange in February, winning 74-71.
Marquette has been impressive in the 2nd half all tournament long, eventually putting teams away or at least staying within striking distance. They haven’t had to rally from many double digit deficits and clearly know when to make the adjustments needed to contain their opponents.
As Vander Blue goes, so does Marquette, the guard has been dynamic in this tournament, but it’s worrisome to think if he has a terrible game that the Golden Eagles may struggle on offense.
Syracuse’s scoring leader is junior forward C.J. Fair and have plenty of weapons to go to, depending on the matchup. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams had a career high 24 points, six rebounds and four steals in the win against Indiana.
These teams appear to be evenly matched, and though Marquette beat Syracuse just a little over a month ago – we’re going with the Orange. Syracuse is long and strong and full of more weapons than the Golden Eagles. We feel Vegas is baiting bettors with Marquette +4.5, and we’re just not buying it.
Syracuse rolls in this one. Lay the Points -4.5.
No. 9 Wichita St. at No. 2 Ohio State 7:30 ET
Cinderella faces powerhouse as the Shockers take on the Buckeyes in a spot for the Final Four. Wichita State has already made school history and this year’s team would reach legendary status with a win against OSU.
Wichita State: The Shockers beat down Pittsburgh to open their NCAA Tournament and then upset No. 1 Gonzaga to book their ticket to the Sweet 16. They easily dispatched La Salle in their last game, winning 72-58 in a game that was not close towards the end of the second half.
Ohio State: The Buckeye’s 2013 tournament has been marked with drama and close finishes. OSU crushed Iona 95-70 to open the tournament, but won their last two games on the final possessions with clutch play from Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross. They barely escaped against a tough No. 10 Iowa St. team, 78-75 and again on by just three points against Arizona, 73-70.
Our Pick: This is the biggest David versus Goliath matchup we will see in this tournament other than Florida Gulf Coast at Florida. Unlike that game, in which the Gators beat the Eagles, we like the underdog to have his day.
There is no doubting Ohio State’s talent and superior presence down low, but let’s not forget Wichita has been strong on the boards in this tournament. They also go 11-12 guys deep in their playing rotation and always have some fresh bodies out of the floor. Their transition game is spectacular, and they never seem to stop attacking the rim and throwing bodies at opponents on defense.
The Buckeyes have shot the ball great in the tournament, shooting around 50 percent from three point land. However, their shooting percentages will come back to earth.
Also, consider the toll Thad Matta has put on his starters. In comparison to Wichita, the Buckeyes only run an 8 man rotation and even his back-ups do not log heavy minutes. Throw in the close games the Buckeyes have played, and you have a worn out squad. Wichita’s speed and relentlessness could cause major problems for the large but slow moving Buckeye frontcourt.
Even with the Buckeyes fully rested and healthy, we truly believe Wichita may be the better team. This team has shown that they are capable of beating the a variety of different opponents are one of the top four teams in the nation – they will show the world that on Saturday evening.
Take the Points, Wichita +5.
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