So how’s your bracket doing? Yeah, mine isn’t looking so hot either. At the very least I wasn’t alone. Let’s pick up the shrapnel from the grenade that incinerated everyone’s weekend and get back on the winning track, shall we?
Both semi-finals in the Midwest Bracket will tip-off on Friday, March 23rd so get your money in early, lay it down before game time and try to convince your boss that you have some satellite meetings to attend to. I’m sure your boss won’t think anything of the timing.
#1 North Carolina -10.5 over #13 Ohio
North Carolina’s odds at winning the national title took a big hit when point-guard Kendall Marshall fractured his wrist against Creighton which may leave him out for the remainder of the tournament. There’s no doubt that North Carolina is a good team without Marshall, but they may not be good enough to go all the way. Luckily for them, they are sporting a 10-1 Against The Spread record in their last 11 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite of 7.0 to 12.5 points and are playing a 13 seed in the Conference semifinals.
In order for North Carolina to be OK in this matchup, Harrison Barnes has to be more aggressive on the offensive end and Tyler Zeller will need to be lights out from the block. Everybody has to step up with Marshall out. The biggest issue going forward will be ball security. Roy Williams will still want his Tar Heels to run, run, run, meaning that everyone will need to be more alert.
The Bobcats on the other hand are an unbelievable 9-0 ATS in their last 9 non-conference games and have looked great in their first two matchups. Ohio has become this year’s Cinderella team and is relishing every moment of it. They’ll have to prepare for a pounding inside as the Tar Heels will look to use their big men to inflict their will throughout the game, especially with point guard Kendall Marshall out.
Against Gonzaga in round three, Walter Offutt was an impressive seven of nine from the field and finished with a total of 21 points and D.J Cooper chipped in with 19 points of his own for Ohio. But other than their two best players who each logged over 37:00 minutes against Gonzaga, Ohio doesn’t present any real threat to North Carolina.
What works in the Bobcats favor is that they have been able to control the tempo in their two previous games. Unfortunately for Ohio, I don’t see them controlling North Carolina, even with a backup point guard running the show. Let’s not forget that the Tar Heels still have three top 15 players in the upcoming NBA draft at their disposal with James Michael McAdoo, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes. They’re stacked. No question about it. And when the Tar Heels impose their pace and shut down Offutt and Cooper, Ohio will stand no chance of keeping up.
#11 NC State +8.0 over #2 Kansas
The Midwest Conference’s other Cinderella team, NC State, looks to make it to the conference final to potentially take on North Carolina in what would be a dream matchup for North Carolina giving Ohio a run for their money as to who has been the best March Madness State.
NC State has been red hot in college basketball betting going 7-0 Against The Spread following a S.U win. In fact, the Wolfpack have played the role of underdog supremely well going 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600.
In order to beat Kansas, North Carolina State will have to be sound defensively throughout the entire game. The Wolfpack will need to finish their possessions with rebounds, create turnovers and get the ball to the open court.
Most importantly, North Carolina State will have to take the ball out of Thomas Robinson's hands by double teaming him every time he gets his hands on the basketball. He has been dominant every time he gets in the post this tournament which means NC State will have to handle him on pick and rolls. NC State will need to make role players like Elijah Johnson take three point shots. If Kansas starts reversing the ball from side to side then NC State will have no chance at winning.
The Jayhawks on the other hand are a measly 2–5 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up win. What worries me even more is that the Jayhawks have not done a good job at covering the spread when oddsmakers make them a 7.0 point to 12.5 point favorite winning only once ATS in their last six games as such.
Thomas Robinson, a consensus top five draft pick and Kansas’ best player was awful offensively against Purdue shooting only two of twelve from the field. He was fouled often and still ended up with a respectful 11 points along with a monstrous 13 rebound performance. Elijah Johnson was forced to pick up the slack against Purdue by hitting 50% of his shots and finishing with 18 points. I don’t see him putting back to back performances together at that level.
I’m not picking NC State to win straight up in this matchup, but I definitely see them keeping it close until the end and easily covering the Spread.