Washington State +8 ˝ vs. North Carolina
It’s hard to believe that the odds-maker sent this game out Washington State –2. Then, North Carolina has become a popular choice to win it all, and they do play a fast-paced game that can run up the score. But, the Cougars have shown (notably against Notre Dame) that they can play defense and slow the pace, which they should do against the Tar Heels. Moreover, North Carolina doesn’t have a stifling defense that can shut down opponents, and Washington State should be able to score. That should be enough to keep them within the number. Washington State.
Louisville –2˝ versus Tennessee
The Cardinals seem to be hitting on all cylinders at just the right time. They have a huge advantage in the paint with David Padgett, and their trapping 2-3 zone should cause problems for Tennessee, whose sharpshooter Chris Lofton has been erratic of late. Plus, allowing 89.5 points average to Arkansas and South Carolina doesn’t bode well for the Vols defense. Moreover, Tennessee was fortunate to get past Butler as most of the late calls went their way. Against a more talented Cardinal squad, their luck runs out. Louisville.
West Virginia versus Xavier +1
This is an intriguing match-up with athletic West Virginia trying to exert its will on a more balanced Musketeer squad. The difference will probably come down to the play of Xavier point guard Drew Lavender, who’s capable of wreaking havoc with opposing defenses. If Xavier can hit a high percentage of their shots and/or rebound effectively, it will be lights-out for the Mountaineers. Joe Alexander has been dominant for West Virginia, but Xavier should be able to slow down their "go to" guy. Xavier.
Western Kentucky +12 ˝ versus UCLA
It will be interesting to see if UCLA follows its customary scenario of falling behind early. Western Kentucky is a solid team with three senior guards that can protect the ball from UCLA’s vaunted trapping defense. No doubt, they will focus their efforts on Darren Collison, who along with Kevin Love, single-handedly beat Texas A&M. There’s no way the Bruins can cover this many points this late in the tournament with only two potential scorers. Josh Shipp has been mostly missing in action of late, but if he returns to last year’s form, he can score from anywhere on the court. Moreover, Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute has been hobbled and hasn’t played to his potential the last few games as well. Because of his lingering injury, and the inconsistency of Josh Shipp, UCLA will once again be forced to win another nail-biter. Western Kentucky.