Tim’s Sunday Picks

I went 6-2 yesterday to extend my Tourney record to 30-10, although to be fair, two of my correct picks on Saturday were teams I had losing in the first round (Saint Mary’s and Washington). But 28-12 ain’t bad either, right?

1. Syracuse vs. 8. Gonzaga

Original: Syracuse over Gonzaga

What I’ve Learned: I thought it would be a close game originally, and I still do. Gonzaga should exploit the high post with Elias Harris, Bobby Sacre, and even Matt Bouldin. That said, I expect the Orange to shoot very well against an iffy Bulldogs’ defense and make the necessary adjustments on defense themselves. It’s been a long time since Gonzaga beat a good team. It will be several more months before it does.

The Pick: Syracuse

2. Ohio State vs. 10. Georgia Tech

Original: Ohio State over Oklahoma State

What I’ve Learned: Indeed, deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it, and we don’t get to see James Anderson battle Evan Turner. The Yellow Jackets won it from the foul line on Friday and stand a chance if they can get the shallow Buckeyes into foul trouble. But Tech still turns it over an alarming amount, and it can’t expect another subpar outing from an opponent’s star.

The Pick: Ohio State

4. Maryland vs. 5. Michigan State

Original: Maryland over Michigan State

What I’ve Learned: The Spartans only confirmed what I thought: They are not long for this Tournament. The Terps will be able to flat-out outscore them, provided they don’t get dominated on the boards. Jordan Williams has come a long way and will prevent that from happening.

The Pick: Maryland

2. West Virginia vs. 10. Missouri

Original: West Virginia over Missouri

What I’ve Learned: The Mountaineers still get off to slow starts; the Tigers still force a ton of turnovers. I’m tempted to say West Virginia can’t afford to fall behind early again, but they’ve come back so many times this year, it’s not exactly unforeseeable. Missouri’s press will fluster WVU for a half or so; if the Tigers shoot the ball the way they did in the first half of last Tournament’s upset of Memphis (possibly the best single half played in last season’s Tourney) and build a big enough lead, they can pull the shocker. I don’t think they can, though.

The Pick: West Virginia

4. Wisconsin vs. 12. Cornell

Original: Cornell over Wisconsin

What I’ve Learned: Cornell looked even better than I expected in dissecting an excellent defensive team in Temple. Wisconsin had trouble with Wofford, like I thought (this whole exercise is just a pat on the back, isn’t it?), and the Badgers are similar in style and execution to the Owls team the Big Red just ran off the floor. Cornell won’t shoot it as well as it did in Round 1, but it will shoot it well enough to be the story of the first weekend.

The Pick: Cornell

3. Pittsburgh vs. 6. Xavier

Original: Xavier over Pittsburgh

What I’ve Learned: The Panthers didn’t struggle as much as I thought they might against Oakland while the X-Men looked terrible in the first half versus Minnesota. But the Musketeers got that out of their system early, and Jordan Crawford will be the best player on the floor. In a game as tight as last year’s Sweet 16 meeting, Xavier exacts revenge.

The Pick: Xavier

4. Purdue vs. 5. Texas A&M

Original: Texas A&M over Siena

What I’ve Learned: Reports of the Boilermakers’ death were greatly exaggerated, even if they nearly gave away a 15-point lead in the final five minutes to Siena. The Aggies had one of those underrated impressive first-round performances (because no one saw it in the East) that should scare Duke fans in the Sweet 16. Purdue intimidated Siena in the second half with its physicality; it will have no such luck against a team that plies the same trade but better.

The Pick: Texas A&M

1. Duke vs. 8. California

Original: Duke over Louisville

What I’ve Learned: Louisville might want to consider firing Rick Pitino. The Golden Bears can shoot it from the three-point line, but Duke has been particularly strong against the barrier this season. Unless Mike Montgomery’s crew makes it rain in Jacksonville, I expect the Blue Devils to get to their second straight Sweet 16 in a 10-12 point game.

The Pick: Duke

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