Sunday's Elite 8 Action
March 31, 2013
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Sportsbook.ag Elite 8 Sunday
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (29-7) vs. FLORIDA GATORS (29-7)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Florida -2.5 & 131
Two clubs with identical 29-7 records square off on Easter Sunday in Arlington, TX to determine the champion of the South region when Michigan takes on Florida.
The Wolverines hit the wall at the start of February, finishing the regular season 1-9 ATS (5-5 SU) and then losing to Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. But they have been outstanding in the NCAA Tournament, beating South Dakota State by 15 points, crushing VCU by 25, and then pulling off a stunning comeback to edge top-seeded Kansas in overtime on Friday. Michigan trailed by 10 points with 2:22 left in that game and was down by five with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. The Gators have demolished their three NCAA Tournament opponents by 19.3 PPG, overcoming an early 15-4 deficit to beat Florida Gulf Coast by a dozen points on Friday night. Florida has allowed just 53.7 PPG in its three tourney victories. The Wolverines are 7-1 (SU and ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these teams by 10.3 PPG. Florida is 7-2 SU, but just 4-5 ATS, on a neutral court this season.
Michigan possesses a potent offense that scores 75.4 PPG (23rd in nation) on 48.6% FG (6th in D-I) and 38.1% threes (23rd in nation). The Wolverines are able to post such gaudy numbers due to the fewest turnovers in Division-I (9.3 TOPG) and a nation-leading 1.55 Ast/TO ratio. The defense allows 63.1 PPG (81st in nation) on 42.3% FG and 32.5% threes, preferring not to take many chances in trying to force turnovers, as evidenced by a mere 2.7 BPG and 6.1 SPG, which rank 253rd and 241st in the nation, respectively. However, this leads to the second-fewest fouls committed in the country (12.7 per game), and keeps the star players on the court instead of saddled on the bench with foul trouble. The Wolverines backcourt of sophomore PG Trey Burke (18.9 PPG) and junior SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG) has carried this team all season. Burke's 3.08 Ast/TO ranks fourth-best in the country, and his 6.8 APG places 12th among the nation's leaders. But as Burke showed on Friday night, his offense (47% FG, 39% threes and 80% FT) is most important to this team. After a scoreless first half against Kansas when his team trailed by six points, Burke finished the game with 23 points and 10 assists, including an amazing 30-footer in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime. Hardaway also shoots a high percentage for a guard with 45.2% FG and 39.2% threes. He has seven straight double-figure scoring games, including a strong 15.0 PPG on 49% FG (9-for-15 threes) in the three NCAA Tournament contests. Freshman PF Mitch McGary (7.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has been unbelievable in his past two games, averaging 23.0 PPG on 22-of-28 FG (79%) with 14.0 RPG. His 25 points, 14 rebounds and three steals were vital to his team's comeback on Friday. Freshman PF Glenn Robinson III (11.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG) played poorly in the Big Ten Tournament (6.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG), but he has certainly stepped up in the NCAA's with 16.0 PPG on 20-of-30 shooting (79%) and 7.7 RPG. Another freshman, SF Nik Stauskas (11.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is the team's best three-point shooter at 43%, but has been slumping over the past four games, averaging just 7.8 PPG on 10-of-31 FG and 2-of-16 threes.
Florida leads the nation in scoring margin (+18.1 PPG) with an offense tallying 71.8 PPG and a defense allowing a paltry 53.7 PPG (3rd in nation). The Gators win big by outshooting teams 48.0% FG (13th in D-I) to 37.9% FG (7th in nation), which includes making 38.0% threes (27th in D-I) and giving up only 30.3% threes (29th in nation). Florida's numbers reflect its excellent coaching, as the school commits just 11.1 TOPG (22nd in D-I) and 14.1 fouls per game (7th-fewest in nation) this season. The only real weaknesses for this team are its lack of a shot-blocking force (3.3 BPG, 191st in nation) and subpar free-throw shooting (67.8%, 222nd in nation). Five Gators average more than nine points per game, led by SG Mike Rosario (12.6 PPG), who has pumped in 20.0 PPG on 54% FG (8-of-14 threes) in the past two games. PF Erik Murphy (12.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG) was held to four points in Friday's win over Florida Gulf Coast, but is still averaging 12.3 PPG on 60% FG (4-of-8 threes) during the NCAA Tournament. SG Kenny Boynton (12.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG) is the third-leading scorer, but has done very little in the past two contests, scoring 7.0 PPG on 4-of-14 FG and 1-of-8 threes. C Patric Young (10.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG) started off the tourney with 16 points and nine rebounds, but has totaled just nine points (2-of-9 FG) and 12 boards in the past two games combined. PG Scottie Wilbekin (9.3 PPG, 4.9 APG) sports an outstanding 2.39 Ast/TO ratio (29th in nation) and has scored in double-figures in all three NCAA Tournament games, averaging 12.0 PPG and 4.3 APG. Florida got great production from its bench on Friday, as swingman Casey Prather (6.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG), PF Will Yeguete (5.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and SG Michael Frazier II (5.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG) combined for 19 points on 7-of-12 FG with nine rebounds (four offensive), five steals and two blocks. As the deeper bench of these two teams, the Gators have the ability to wear down the Wolverines in the second half.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS (30-5) vs. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (32-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Louisville -3.5 & 137
In a rematch of this season's Battle 4 Atlantis championship game in the Bahamas, top-seeded Louisville will take on No. 2 seed Duke in Saturday's Midwest Regional Finals for a spot in this year's Final Four.
The Blue Devils beat the Cardinals 76-71 in that first meeting between these two teams on Nov. 24, though Rick Pitino's squad was without C Gorgui Dieng that night. Louisville was favored by a point in that game, giving Mike Krzyzewski's team the ATS win as well. That is one of four victories for Duke this season against top-five teams. But there may be no hotter team in college basketball than Louisville, which has won 13 consecutive games SU and nine out of 10 ATS. Duke has also found its groove though, coming off an impressive 10-point win against Michigan State in the Sweet 16 to give them two consecutive ATS wins and three straight NCAA Tournament victories by double-digits. Both of these teams have been incredibly good all season on neutral courts: Louisville is 7-3 ATS (9-1 SU) and Duke is 8-2 ATS (9-1 SU). The reason the Blue Devils can hang around with the top seed in the tournament is their ball-handling. Despite playing at a reasonably fast pace and scoring 77.6 PPG, Duke turns it over just 10.6 times per game, ninth-fewest in the nation. That doesn't bode well for a Cardinals squad that relies on its pressure, forcing 18.8 turnovers per game, the second most in the nation.
All tournament long, the Blue Devils have been led by senior SG Seth Curry (17.6 PPG), who is averaging 24.0 PPG on 50% FG (10-of-20 threes) in his three NCAA Tournament games this year. In Friday's win against the Spartans, he made 6-of-9 three-pointers and scored 29 points. He struggled, however, in the first meeting between the two teams, making just 3-of-11 FG (2-of-9 threes) for 14 points in the win over Louisville. All five Blue Devils starters scored in double-digits that game, but than PG Quinn Cook (11.7 PPG, 5.3 APG) shined the brightest. The sophomore earned the MVP in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament after a 15-point, six-assist effort against the Cardinals in which he also helped force six turnovers from their senior point guard Peyton Siva. Those 15 points included the final eight of the game. Cook must regain that form, however, after going scoreless (0-for-5 FG) with just two assists against Michigan State. Also in need of finding his game is senior PF Ryan Kelly (13.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG), who is making 43.6% of his three-pointers this season but has missed his last 14 treys over a span of five games. In those games he's averaging just 6.8 PPG. Kelly had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists versus the Cardinals in November before fouling out. Key in the paint for Duke is PF Mason Plumlee (17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG), whose 16 points and seven rebounds (both team highs) in the November meeting will be much more difficult to attain with the presence of the 6-foot-11 Dieng down low. For the NCAA Tournament, Plumlee is averaging 15.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG. The team's X-factor can be freshman SG Rasheed Sulaimon (11.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG) who is averaging 18.5 PPG over the team's past two wins, thanks to a 20-of-24 clip (83%) from the foul line. Sulaimon made just 1-of-6 threes in the earlier meeting with Louisville, but still scored 14 points with four rebounds.
Arguably no player has been as impressive in this year's NCAA Tournament as Louisville junior SG Russ Smith (18.4 PPG), who is averaging 27.0 PPG on 55% FG in the Big Dance. In Friday's Sweet 16 win over Oregon, he dropped 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He is also an incredible defender, averaging 2.1 SPG for the season and 3.7 SPG during the Tournament. In the first meeting against Duke, he scored 17 points with seven rebounds, although he made just 7-of-19 shots and committed four turnovers. Senior PG Peyton Siva (9.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.2 SPG) runs the offense though, and must take better care of the ball than he did last time against Duke (4 Ast, 6 TO). He was able to score effectively in that game, however, going 8-of-15 from the field and scoring a game-high 19 points while recording six steals. Like Cook, he's coming off a weak performance on Friday in which he scored just four points, turned it over four times and recorded just three assists in 19 foul-plagued minutes. The biggest difference between these first two meetings is the addition of Dieng (10.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG), who missed the Nov. 24 meeting with a wrist injury. The 6-foot-11 center is a monster defender, averaging 2.5 BPG and 1.4 SPG for the season. In the NCAA Tournament, he's scored 10.0 PPG on a near-perfect, 14-of-16 shooting (88%) with 6.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG and 1.7 SPG. He must collect offensive rebounds and shut down Plumlee to help the Cardinals avoid the same fate they suffered last time.