By now everyone should have had a chance to catch their breathe after a crazy and exciting start to March Madness last week. We’ve reshuffled the deck and narrowed our field down to the Sweet 16, with the Midwest and West Regionals set to get underway tomorrow night. Here’s how I see Thursday’s games playing out:
Midwest – Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland OH
First up in the Midwest Region (6:15pm), the 7th seeded Wichita State Shockers will take on the 3rd seeded Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. This is the “coin toss” game of the Sweet 16 with Wichita State predicted to have a 51% chance of winning the game (according the NCAA’s website). This should be a game of “threes”, and I think the Shockers will hit just enough to move past the Irish into the Elite Eight in a close one.
Prediction: Wichita State 74, Notre Dame 70
The late game (8:45pm) has the 5th seeded Mountaineers of West Virginia next in line for the juggernaut that is the #1 seeded and undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is given a 64% chance of winning the game, and even though Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins has a winning record against John Calipari (8-2), and Shane Battier is calling for the upset, I don’t see it happening. West Virginia can hang with the Wildcat’s depth, but not their size. Kentucky moves on in an ugly one.
Prediction: Kentucky 64, West Virginia 54
West – Staples Center, LA, CA
In the West the #1 seeded Wisconsin Badgers take on the #4 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels (6:47pm). The Badgers are given a 58% chance of moving on, and I don’t see the Tar Heels having enough to stop the Badgers roll. Bottom line is the Tar Hells don’t have an answer for Frank Kaminsky. Look for Kaminsky and company to move on.
Prediction: Wisconsin 78, North Carolina 72
Thursday’s final game has the #6 seeded Xavier Musketeers squaring off against the #2 seeded Arizona Wildcats (9:17pm). On paper this looks like the gimme of the night (Arizona is given a 76% chance winning) and it will be. The Wildcats’ weapons are just too much for the Musketeers to handle, Cats roll big.
Prediction: Arizona 85, Xavier 70
Moving on – Wichita State, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Arizona