Midwest Regional Picks
March 27, 2013
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Louisville Looks Unstoppable
If you took an early stake in Louisville to maximize their potential as the outright favorite to win the national title you’re probably like your chances right now. The Cardinal have been a dominant force in the Midwest and have the best odds of any team remaining in March Madness. They are +300 to take home the national title and -150 to win the Midwest Regional.
The Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks stand in their immediate way, while Michigan State and Duke return as staples of the Elite Eight. These four teams have cleared out the gutters of the Midwest Regional and are ready to prove who the dominant force is. Here’s who I have this weekend.
Both Sweet Sixteen matches are set to tip off on Friday night. Lines are subject to movement up until then.
#1 Louisville Cardinal -10.0 over #12 Oregon Ducks (7:15pm EST)
No team in March Madness has been hotter over the past month of college basketball than the juggernaut Louisville Cardinal. They’re on an 11-0 SU winning streak, and are 9-2 ATS over that stretch. This includes a blistering 5-0 SU and ATS record in tournament play during the Big East Championship and NCAA Tournament.
The stats are even more incredible. The Cardinal haven’t just been winning games – they’ve been demolishing opponents by an average point differential of +19.3 points per game over that 11 game streak. In their last five games, which are the tournament matchups, they’ve averaged a point differential of +21.0 points per game. Their average handicap in those five tournament games has been -12.1 points.
With trends and stats like that, how do you bet against them?
Keep in mind that I like the Ducks. They were unfairly slotted in as a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite being Pac-12 Champions and have surged on strong lately. Oregon has gone 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS in their last five games, which have all been in tournaments and have coasted in most of them aside from an opening round matchup against Washington where they won 80-77 in overtime as a -3.5 favorite. Before that, the Ducks had accumulated a dismal record of just 2-3 SU and 1-3-1 ATS. Nobody really saw the Oregon Ducks coming, and I’ll lump myself in to that category.
You can talk yourself in to the Ducks, but Louisville’s play as of late has been absolutely incredible. Oregon poses a legitimate threat, but the trends are leaning heavily towards another Louisville cover. If I can’t talk you out of backing Oregon with that point cushion then so be it, but Louisville is the smarter take here overall.
#2 Duke Blue Devils -2.0 over #3 Michigan State Spartans (9:45pm EST)
Coach Izzo and Coach Krzyzewski are two of the most storied active coaches in the country, and they’ll wage war on Friday night with a bid for the Elite Eight on the line. The Duke Blue Devils have gone 6-1 SU in their last 7 games against Michigan State, though the Spartans have a 5-2 ATS record in the series. Since those games stretch back to 1998, we’ll probably have to dig a littler further to find some relevant information.
Duke has simply been lights out in the tournament, silencing Albany in a squash and surviving the offensive onslaught of Doug McDermott and the Creighton Bluejays. They’re now 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games. Of course, their detractors will point to Duke’s loss against Maryland in the ACC Tournament as proof that Duke isn’t the powerhouse we usually expect them to be.
Michigan State has been caught in the windfall of what’s been a turbulent and crazy season. They’re usually near the top of the heap in terms of national discussion, and though they finished the season ranked eighth in the AP Top-25, you’d be hard pressed to find any real coverage about this specific team. The fact that they went 3-3 SU and 2-3-1 ATS in their final six games of the regular season probably had something to do with it.
As much as Duke haters won’t want to hear it, Coach K’s squad is simply the better all round team. They have a definitive post presence in Mason Plumlee, who is one of the best interior players in the country. Ryan Kelly is a dynamic swing man who can hurt you in a variety of ways, and while Seth Curry doesn’t have the clout that his brother did he’s certainly a perimeter threat.
The smart play is Duke leaning on their defence here to quell the threat from the Spartans, who really lack an alpha dog. Keith Appling has a serious motor, but he’s not the game breaking stud Michigan State will need him to be. The Spartans are a much better team than you probably think they are, but they won’t be able to handle a complete team like Duke as the Blue Devils punch their way through to the Elite Eight as tight favorites on Friday night.