One half of the final four was decided on Friday as No. 4 Syracuse routed No. 3 Marquette to win 55-39. The nation’s Cinderella has now become a hunter as No. 9 Wichita State beat up on the No. 2 Ohio State all first half before blowing their lead late on, barely holding on in the final minutes to win 70-66. It is only the second time the Shockers have reached the Final Four in school history.
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No. 2 Duke at No. 1 Louisville 2:10 ET
Coach K has not faced off against Rick Pitino since the 1992 Elite 8 game when Christian Laettner hit “The Shot” when Pitino was coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. The Blue Devils hosted the Cardinals earlier in the season in a November 24th, 2012 meeting in Nassau, Bahamas during the Battle of Atlantis Tournament. Duke won the game 76-71.
Duke: The Blue Devils showed their mettle and perseverance in a tough Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan State. Close for much of the game, Duke pulled away in the final 10 minutes to win 71-61. Seth Curry led the team in scoring, hitting six 3-pointers on 8 of 19 shooting to end the game with 29 points. Forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly were also strong against Michigan’s top front line, grabbing 7 boards each in the victory.
Louisville: The Cardinals have been one of the tournament’s most dominant teams. They crushed Round of 64 foes North Carolina A&T and Round of 32 opponent’s Colorado St. Louisville. They had a bit of a hiccup with Oregon, but still controlled the game against the Ducks. Rumor has it a flu bug had made its way into the locker room, which was partly responsible for Louisville’s sluggish performance.
The Cardinals have one of the best big men in the tournament in Gorgui Dieng, who is shooting nearly 88 percent from the field in three tournament games. Junior guard Russ Smith led the Cardinals in scoring against Oregon, scoring 31 points on 9 of 16 shooting. He is averaging 27 points per game in three tournament games.
Our Pick: We here at SportsBettingOnline are scratching our heads as to who may win this one. While Louisville truly does look like the No. 1 team in the nation, Duke is not far behind. Neither team is turnover prone nor will they make stupid mistakes to give away free baskets to their opponents.
Louisville has won 13 straight games going back to February and does have a size advantage on the smaller – albeit faster – Blue Devils. However, the Cardinals have shown that they can defend just about anybody and will not be caught slow footed by Duke’s perimeter ball movement.
Another key matchup is Dieng vs. Mason Plumlee, a confrontation that certainly looks like it will favor Louisville. Duke simply does not have the size to matchup with the Cardinals at many positions on the floor, which could result in some potentially game-losing mismatches.
We like Louisville to cover in this game and send the Duke Blue Devils packing. Lay the -4 and take the Cardinals.
No. 4 Michigan at No. 3 Florida 5:05 ET
Michigan has made the Elite 8 for the first time in 19 years while Florida seems to be a mainstay. This year marks the Gators third straight year in the Elite 8. Florida’s last time in the Final Four was in 2007, when they won back to back national championships under their current coach, Billy Donovan.
Michigan: Michigan moved through their first two games in the tournament with relative ease. They defeated South Dakota State 78-53 in their opening game and then swept past VCU 78-53 in the Round of 32.
Friday’s game marked perhaps one of the best comebacks in NCAA Tournament history. The Wolverines rallied in the final seconds to take the game to overtime against No. 3 Kansas, on the back of Trey Burke’s three pointer in the final seconds of regulation. Michigan ultimately prevailed in overtime, winning the game 87-85.
Florida: Florida has also looked strong in their first three games and is the best defensive team left the tournament. After crushing Northwestern St. in the first round 79-47, the Gators beat Minnesota 78-64 in the Round of 32. Then they faced a surprise team in No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, which gave them fits for the first half but were stifled in the second half and forced into 20 turnovers. Florida ultimately prevailed 62-50.
Our Pick: This matchup is one of youth versus experience, with Michigan starting three freshmen and Florida’s key players almost all seniors.
Michigan seems to have all the momentum coming into this game after their epic win against Kansas in OT. They likely have the best player on the floor in Trey Burke, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year. The Wolverines are also one of the most careful squads with the ball and have turned the ball over less than any other team in the tournament.
Florida’s senior dominated squad has four players who average double figures and seem to find a new hero every night to power them to victory. However, it is their defense that does in opponents. The Gators are relentless with their on and off ball pressure, forcing teams into turnovers. They have only allowed one team to score over 60 points in the tournament.
Ultimately, we think experience triumphs over youth – at least for today. Florida’s defense projects to cause Michigan problems and could totally throw their offense out of rhythm. Michigan’s bigs will have an especially hard time grabbing boards and scoring down low.
The Wolverines barely escaped against Kansas thanks to the likes of Burke and were one three pointer away from not advancing. If Florida can contain a few key players and use their size effectively, they should be able to defeat Michigan.
We like the Florid Gators -2.5.
Bet on the Gators now at www.topbet.eu and remember to check back next week for our Final Four and National Championship Picks.
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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