Michigan vs. Villanova
Thurday 3/24 at 7:29 ET
The Wolverines are a very talented team and they are currently riding a hot hand into the Sweet 16 bracket. However, during the year they were wildly inconsistent and sported an overall losing record against both Top 25 teams and Top 50 teams. They now face one of the toughest opponents they have seen all year in the Villanova Wildcats. They match up well, especially with the full-time return of guard Devante’ Jones who is crying to make a big impact in the tournament (he played 12 minutes against UT). Jones was injured prior to the first round game and missed the win against Colorado State. Jones was first on the team in assists (4.6 per game) and third in points (10.7) during the year.
No team entering this year’s NCAA Tournament had more wins (14) against top 50 teams than Jay Wright’s team. It earned them a #2 seed and they have lived up to the billing with two impressive wins in the early rounds. But Villanova is not a team that often blows out teams. Some wins during the year include: 64-60 over Xavier, 75-69 over St. John’s, 73-67 over Seton Hall, 76-74 over Providence, 63-60 over UCONN, and so on. We think Villanova is going to win in the end, but 5 points is too much to lay over a very good Michigan team that just blew out Tennessee and is coming into this game with confidence.
Houston vs. Arizona
Thursday 3/24 at 9:59 ET
Houston rolled against an overmatched UAB team in the first round of the tournament, and then followed that up with a 26-13 run on Illinois late in the game to knock off the #4 seed in the South bracket. The Cougars are an elite rebounding team and that asset will come in very handy against Arizona, who was beaten off the glass by TCU on Sunday. That game went into overtime with the Wildcats scoring an emotional victory. Another weakness of Arizona is that they tend to turn the ball over a lot, and that plays into the strength of Houston, which is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Despite Kelvin Sampson making the Final Four last year with Houston, his team fails to get the respect they deserve. Make no mistake that Memphis’ impressive effort against Gonzaga last weekend flatters this Houston team.
Arizona’s star guard Kriisa did not play in the Pac-12 finals or the first game of this tournament. He returned in the second round and was clearly not 100 percent. Arizona is a talented and deep team, but despite that, they are not at full strength if Kriisa is playing injured. Arizona, on paper, should be favored by 5 to 6 points over Houston, but they are not because the bookmakers know that Houston has a great chance of winning this game straight up by playing great defense and winning the offensive rebound battle. Take the Cougars.