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Tournament Record: 29-19-1 +8.68 units.
After two nights of great sweet sixteen games, we have another great slate set for the weekend elite eight games. Will we see some more upsets or will the chalk trend continue?
3. Texas Tech vs. 1. Gonzaga
The line: Gonzaga -4.5.
The total: 141.
This is a matchup of opposing styles. The best offense in the country in Gonzaga goes up against the best defensive team in the country in Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have been shutting teams down in their three games in the tournament, holding opposing teams to 53 points per game. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has been averaging 80.6 points per game in their three tournament matchups.
Gonzaga's dominant frontcourt will give Texas Tech lots of trouble, but I think Texas Tech's perimeter defense will do enough to slow down the Bulldog's three-point shooting, which is often a catalyst for their offense. Texas Tech ranks second in opponent field goal percentage, and if they can slow down Gonzaga's inside game, the Bulldogs will have a hard time putting up points.
I think this game will be extremely close, but I don't think Gonzaga has anyone who can matchup with Jarret Culver, who is averaging 22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game during the tournament. The Sophomore from Lubbock will lead the Red Raiders to the Final Four.
The Pick: Texas Tech +4.5 or Texas Tech money line +175 if you're bold.
3. Purdue vs. 1. Virginia
The line: Virginia -4.
The total: 127.
The Purdue Boilermakers are catching fire at just the right time. Led by junior guard Carsen Edwards, who is averaging a blistering 32.3 points per game in the tournament, are leading the tournament in three-pointers made per game with 13.3 and are shooting an excellent 44 percent from the beyond the arc. The Boilermakers staved off a Tennessee comeback in the second half but had to go to overtime to do so. You have to imagine that an emotional victory like they just had will lead to a slow start for them against Virginia.
Virginia may just be the best team in college basketball, once they wake up. The continue to survive and advance, despite their second-leading scorer Kyle Guy has shot 8/38 during their three games in the tournament. If Kyle Guy can wake up, and he will, Virginia becomes nearly impossible to beat. I think Guy will come to life and elevate the Cavaliers past Purdue in a game that never really gets scary for Virginia.
The pick: Virginia -4.5 and Virginia -2 in the first half.
5. Auburn vs. 2. Kentucky
The line: Kentucky -4.
The total: 142.
Sometimes, Auburn turns up the pace and rains three directly down on your head, and that is precisely what happened to UNC on Friday night. Auburn took 37 threes and hit them at a 45 percent clip, to UNC's 25 percent. It seems almost impossible to keep up with a team that is shooting that well, even for one of the best offenses in the country in UNC. Friday's upset was not all smiles for Auburn as their best player, Chuma Okeke, left the game with what looked to be a pretty gruesome injury. He is not expected to play against Kentucky on Sunday.
PJ Washington returned to the lineup for the Wildcats in Friday night's scrappy win over a very tough Houston squad. Washington did not look limited by his injury at all, racking up 16 points on eight shots and he had a clutch block to set up Tyler Herro's game-winning three. After playing against Houston's great defense, running into an Auburn squad that Kentucky hung 80 points on just a month ago must feel like a relief. Kentucky struggled from the three-point line against Houston, shooting 33 percent, but have shot 43 percent from three in two games against Auburn this season. Auburn's defense will be a sight for sore eyes for a Kentucky offense that has not put up too many points during the tournament so far.
Auburn's three-point shooting and pace have been fun to watch this season, but without Okeke, I don't think they have enough to knock off Kentucky.
The pick: Kentucky -4.
2. Michigan State vs. 1. Duke
The line: Duke -2.5.
The total: 148.
This game between blue blood programs has the potential to be an all-timer. Michigan State, who many thought should/would be a one seed, gets a pretty unlucky draw here after cruising past LSU. Duke, who now probably should have lost twice, is coming off of another emotional win. Duke point guard, Tre Jones, and his career night from the three-point line taking seven shots and hitting five, which helped Duke forget about their three-point shooting woes on Friday. Duke star and potential top-five NBA draft pick, Cam Reddish, missed Friday's game against Virginia Tech and it is uncertain as to whether he will suit up against the Spartans on Sunday. If Reddish is out of the lineup, that will be a massive blow to the Blue Devils. Reddish is one of Duke's best three-point shooters on this Duke team, which is all important to a team that struggles from beyond the arc as the Blue Devils do. It is a lot harder to mask missing Reddish against Virginia Tech than it is against a team as good as Michigan State.
Michigan State shot lights out against LSU on Friday night, and Cassius Winston has been playing exceptionally well during the tournament, averaging 18.6 points and seven assists per game. Where the Spartans get into trouble, however, is when they turn the ball over. Against LSU and Bradley, they turned the ball over less than ten times, but against Minnesota, they turned it over 22 times. Duke forces 14.6 turnovers per game, which could provide to be a big problem for Michigan State but I think that as long as Cassius Winston stays in control of the game, Michigan State should be able to knock off Duke.
Duke will not get lucky for the third game in a row. Michigan State will win an extremely close game.
The pick: Michigan State +2.5 and over 148.