By Jon Harris
Nolan Smith and No. 1 Duke look to join Kentucky as the only other top seed to survive into the Elite 8. Will Purdue provide a challenge or will Duke make it to their first Elite 8 since 2004.
Thursday’s Sweet 16 games saw top-seeded Kentucky advance into the field of 8, along with No. 2 seeds West Virginia and Kansas State. Falling from grace was the No. 1 Syracuse Orange, as they lost to No. 5 Butler and their shot at a second national title. Friday is sure to bring more excitement and upsets, as No. 10 Saint Mary’s remains in the field, along with the Jayhawk-killers that are No. 9 Northern Iowa. In the lone expected matchup, top-seeded Duke battles No. 4 Purdue and looks to outperform the Boilermakers’ big three. Then there is No. 2 Ohio State and NBA-ready Evan Turner versus Bruce Pearl’s No. 6 Volunteers. I went 3-1 in my picks for Thursday’s games, will the luck continue? Probably not. But just in case, I’m taking a trip to upset-city for these picks and no high seeds are safe. I’m looking at you Ohio State. (Read More)
#2 Ohio State (29-7) v. #6 Tennessee (27-8)
St. Louis, MO 7:07 p.m. on CBS
A lot of people looked at Bruce Pearl like he was a crazy after he indirectly called his Volunteers one of the best teams in the country … including me. Well, I should’ve believed Pearl. Tennessee is the only team in the country to beat both Kentucky and Kansas this year. Yeah, they’re pretty good. Let’s not forget that they lost star Tyler Smith to suspension in early January and are still playing incredibly good basketball. Ohio State is also playing good basketball. Evan Turner is a walking triple-double and junior guard Jon Diebler can light it up from outside, shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season. However, I like the Volunteers in this matchup. So, enjoy the NBA Evan Turner, but your college career and chance at a national championship are done.
Tennessee: 70 Ohio State: 63
#5 Michigan State (26-8) v. #9 Northern Iowa (30-4)
St. Louis, MO 9:37 p.m. on CBS
I know you’re busy, so this is going to be really quick and painless. Do-it-all point guard Kalin Lucas is out for 4-6 months with a torn Achilles’ tendon. So, Michigan State is going to lose. The last time Lucas was out was in February for the Spartans, and they lost three straight games to Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue, respectively. Plus, Ali Farokhmanesh has a really difficult last name to pronounce, but a really easy jump shot to understand. Quick, fluent and deadly … just ask Kansas.
Michigan State: 56 Northern Iowa: 64
#3 Baylor (27-7) v. #10 Saint Mary’s (28-5)
Houston, TX 7:27 p.m. on CBS
I have to admit, I really hate Baylor. Maybe it’s the whole basketball scandal of a few years back that made me lose major respect for the Bears. Regardless, Omar Samhan and Saint Mary’s are on a warpath and the Bears won’t pose too big of a threat. The 6-foot-11 center Samhan is averaging 30.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during the first two rounds of the tournament. Baylor, on the other hand, was awarded quite nicely with a No. 3 seed. They were ranked between 20 and 25 for a majority of the season and that sure doesn’t accumulate to a No. 3 seed. Just saying, Baylor is overrated and Saint Mary’s has got something to prove. Omar Samhan and the rest of the Gaels will bring that proof to the table and send the Bears home (Which isn’t very far, considering they’re already in Texas. Consider it mercy on St. Mary’s part, they’re just trying to save Baylor transportation costs.)
Baylor: 65 Saint Mary’s: 67
#1 Duke (31-5) v. #4 Purdue (29-5)
Houston, TX 9:57 p.m. on CBS
The Blue Devils haven’t made it to an Elite 8 since 2004. Yes, you heard me right. Coach K and the basketball powerhouse that is Duke hasn’t made it out of the Sweet 16 since George Bush’s first-term. Since then, health care for all has become a reality, but not before Purdue lost Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury in February. Prior to the groundbreaking injury, Purdue was holding onto a potential No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Now, they’re trying to prove they still belong with increased production from Chris Kramer and Hummel’s replacement, Keaton Grant. However, this might just be Duke’s year. 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek is finally playing well and the big three of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are more effective than any other combination of players in the country. Duke wins big and eyes a Final Four matchup with fellow No. 1 seed Kentucky in the not too distant future.
Duke: 81 Purdue: 66