NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Bracket Predictions

Picks for the Elite 8 round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament

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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Bracket Predictions: Kansas Vs VCU

Kansas comes into this game as an 11 point favorite over VCU. We ran the accuscore simulator and Kansas won 76% of the time... In other words, don't expect Shaka Smart's boys to be cutting down the nets. Still, the same could be said for them in every round. That's what comes with the territory of being a Cinderella team. Smart talked yesterday about not only his teams' success, but the fame that has come along with it.

"It's something that goes with the territory of playing and advancing in the NCAA tournament. It's just the way that our basketball culture works. It's not necessarily right or fair, it just is what it is. And I try not to get caught up in that. My wife tries not to get caught up in that. The reality is I have a phenomenal opportunity to be the coach at a school that I love and to every single day work with players that I absolutely adore and care about. And that's where my focus is and that's where my focus will be."

VCU surrendered a nine point lead against Florida St. They were outrebounded in the game and yet they still gutted out a win, but that was against #10 Florida State. Kansas is one of the most efficient shooting teams in the country and they're one of the best rebounding teams. VCU can't afford to have the kind of lapses against them that they've had against other teams in this tourney.

Still, Kansas has been blowing teams out so far in this tournament. We haven't gotten to see how they react to being a fight, but we know VCU thrives in that kind of atmosphere. That said, I expect Kansas would react just fine...

There is one interesting stat that bodes well for #11 VCU. Only four #11 seeds have gotten to the elite 8, two of them have advanced to the Final Four.

Pick: Kansas

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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Bracket Predictions: North Carolina Vs Kentucky

North Carolina Vs Kentucky, this is the heavyweight matchup of the elite 8. Two famous coaches, a whole host of future NBA players... this should be pretty fun.

The Wildcats come into the game as a point and a half favorite, while the accuscore simulator has them winning 51% of the matchups. So really, this could barely be an closer. Kentucky coach Jon Calipari acknowledged how tough this game is shaping up to be.

"Can we, you know, guard North Carolina? I'm telling you, North Carolina is going to be hard. That may be a game we're trying to outscore them and they are trying to outscore us. Again, they haven't seen any tape. I have watched a little bit of tape to this point, and we still haven't totally decided on how we're playing some of the stuff, but they are good."

While Calipari might not be so sure how they'll guard North Carolina, Roy Williams sounds like he's got a pretty good idea. Namely, with forward Josh Harrellson, "For the huge part of the game last night he guarded Sullinger without any double-teams, so that allows the other players to stay out on the floor and not jam down."

Here's a pretty crazy stat, Harrellson has rebounded 15% of every shot that Kentucky has missed while he's been on the floor in this tournament. Williams is also impressed by the defensive development of Wildcats point guard Brandon Knight.

"I think Brandon is always been a really good scorer, but I think he has developed even more to a true point guard, a leader out there. And an even better defensive player, and I don't know if in high school he was asked to be a great defensive player, but I think John pushed him in that role."

So we've established that the coaches think each other are just great... but who is going to win this thing? My initial reaction was to ride the momentum and pick Kentucky. However, I had to ask myself if I would have picked Kentucky if they hadn't knocked off Ohio State? The answer is no. So if I ignore the excitement of their big upset and think objectively here... North Carolina wins this in a close one.

Pick: North Carolina

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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Bracket Predictions: Florida Vs Butler

The first game of Elite 8 tips off this afternoon at 4:20 as #8 Butler tries to continue its surprise run against #2 Florida. The most surprising thing about Butler is probably that they’re no fluke. They have legit wins over Pitt and Wisconsin in this tournament. Pitt didn’t play poorly in that game, Butler was just the better team.

Coach Brad Stevens attributes his team’s tournament success to their calm mindset.

"You know, the game is not going to go perfectly. That’s one of the things we talk about going into tournament play, and I think it does take a little bit of the edge off, is the game — you’re not going to play perfect. Let’s get it out there right now. People are going to make runs on you, people are going to make shots on you, you’re go going to make a mistake, you’re going to screw up a play, but if your preparation is good and your will is good and you’re all in together, you’ll have a shot at the end. "

The accuscore simulator is pretty even on this one. Florida wins 51% of the time, which basically makes this a tossup. The Gators are favored by three.

Pick: Butler

Check our UConn Vs Arizona pick and grab an updated NCAA Bracket

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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Bracket Predictions: Connecticut Vs Arizona

Perhaps the most even matchup of the entire elite eight is UConn against Arizona. Both teams are peaking at the right time and both teams boast one of the best players in the country. Kemba Walker & Derrick Williams have seen their stars and likely their NBA draft stocks shooting up in this tournament. The Huskies are in the midst of a pretty amazing run having one 8 straight games, including sweeping through the Big East tournament. Conventional wisdom would tell you that they should be out of gas by now, but they’ve only seemed to get stronger. Coach Jim Calhoun talked about his teams resiliency.

"I keep saying that the resiliency every day, go back to us losing 3 out of 4 after losing to Notre Dame, at home, and the exuberance they brought to the practice on Sunday morning. But it typifies the type of season they’ve had. Nothing seems to get them down. So it’s verification that you need occasionally that this — the kids are the same, the times have changed and the kids really do want to win and really listen and this group has done as good a job as any team I’ve had in a long, long time. I keep calling them an "old-fashioned" team, and they don’t play old-fashioned basketball. But they do have values. They want to win and they want to help each other. "

UConn comes into the game as a 3 point favorite. The Accuscore simulator has the Huskies winning 56% of the time. However, the most common score of 73-71 meaning Arizona covers.

Pick: UConn

Check our Florida vs Butler pick and grab an updated NCAA Bracket

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Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament Picks: East Region

The “final four” of the East region tip off in Newark, NJ tonight with a bracket that’s a good bit more chalk than the rest. #11 Marquette has been a surprise, but otherwise this bracket has gone as expected.

The nation’s #1 team Ohio State takes on #4 Kentucky in what is likely the premier matchup of the Sweet 16. I think you would be hard pressed to find another matchup in this round between two teams with as much talent. For me, this one comes down to experience. Ohio St is a great college team built for a tournament run. Kentucky is a young team of guys looking to jump to the NBA at the first possible opportunity. That means the Wildcats might have as much raw talent as anyone… but Ohio St knows how to win.

Pick: Ohio St. Buckeyes

The other game in the bracket features #2 North Carolina against #11 Marquette. Kemba Walker and UConn may have redeemed the Big East a bit last night by getting to the elite eight, which is good because I’m not expecting very much out of the Golden Eagles tonight. Maybe that’s unfair because they have beaten two really good teams in Xavier and Syracuse so far… but I think they struggle dealing with UNC’s big men.

Pick: North Carolina Tarheels

Check out our Southwest region picks.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket Predictions: Southwest Region

Thursday saw three upsets among the four games as the favorite averse 2011 NCAA tournament rolled on. Butler, Arizona, UConn & Florida have all booked their place in the in the elite eight and today the other four teams will join them. Who will they be? Let’s start with the Southeast region, where three of the four remaining teams are 10 seeds or lower.

The #1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks take on the the Richmond Spiders, who have been on a bit of a charmed run so far. They upset a #5 seed in Vanderbilt in the first round, then moved on to face #13 Morehead State in the next round. They’ll get by far their biggest test tonight against one of the tournament favorites, Kansas. The Jayhawks are 10.5 point favorites in this one, which is a big number and maybe a game you want to shy away from against the spread… but it’s hard to imagine them losing. Plus, when Richmond lose they usually lose big. Don’t be surprised if that’s the case tonight.

Pick: Kansas Jayhawks

It’s guaranteed that we’ll have at least one 10 seed or lower in the elite eight by virtue of #10 Florida St taking on #11 VCU. This is a tough game to pick simply because no one would have foreseen this matchup. It’s not that common that you get two teams seeded #10 or lower facing each other in the sweet 16. So it’s not a question of whether you keep riding a Cinderella team… it’s which one? Betting wise expect money to flow toward Florida St because they’re a name team, but really this could go either way. It really depends on whether you value defense or offense. Florida St can play D and VCU can score…

Pick: Florida St. Seminoles

Check out our East region picks

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Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament: Jay Bilas & Joe Lunardi Upset Picks

This year's sweet 16 is full of Cinderellas with five teams seeded #8 or lower left in the bracket. Which of these have a chance to moving past the sweet 16 and potentially booking a trip to the final four? This was the question put to ESPN experts today. Jay Bilas threw his support behind #11 Virginia Commonwealth.

"VCU has the best draw of the double-digit seeds because it gets to play another double-digit seed that has had trouble scoring. Florida State is better defensively and has great length and athleticism to throw at VCU, but the Seminoles still have to score. If I were picking a draw among the double-digit seeds, I would choose VCU's."

Joe Lunardi disagrees, instead arguing that Butler has the best shot to advance.

"Butler is the best bet here for two reasons: 1) the Bulldogs are not playing in the same region as Kansas; and 2) the Butler players will be the only ones from a "surprise" team not pinching themselves when the regionals get underway. It's one thing to "hope" (Richmond, VCU, Florida State) and another to "expect." By this point, Brad Stevens' team clearly expects to advance."

Check out our East region and Southwest region picks.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket Predictions: West Region

The West region bracket will be pared down to just two teams by the end of today as Duke, Arizona, San DIego St & UConn are all in action. The Duke Blue Devils, who already came into the tournament with stars like Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, now have the guy back that could be the #1 pick in the NBA draft, point guard Kryie Irving. The rich, get richer. Coach K said this week that Irving will play "significant minutes" this evening... whatever that means.

"If we could keep winning that that might evolve, but for right now he's not starting tomorrow, but he'll play," said Krzyzewski, "he played significant minutes last week when I thought he was going to play limited minutes, so I mentioned that he will play significant minutes tomorrow. I don't know what the hell that means, then. It means he's going to play 'great minutes' hopefully tomorrow night."

Arizona has a pretty good player of their own in Derrick Williams, but their suspect defense is going have to be better against a Duke team that can shoot and get to the basket. The Blue Devils are an 8/5 point favorite, which might make Arizona decent pick against the spread, but straight I'm going for coach K to get win # 901. Pick: Duke

Next up the Connecticut Huskies face the San Diego St Aztecs in a tough game to pick. The game is in Anaheim, which is an easy trip for SDSU, but a cross country trek for the Huskies. The star power of Kemba Walker and the generally bigger name recognition of UConn has them as a slight one point favorite despite being a #3 seed to SDSU at #2. I have to admit, this one vexed me. I really wanted to pick UConn, but I had to admit to myself that I watched a lot of Big East basketball this year. I saw every game the Huskies played in that great Big East tournament run. But I never saw SDSU before the NCAAs and I didn't watch the Mountain West tournament, so I really think I've probably got an unfair bias here. To get past that, I turned to ESPN's accuscore simulator which forecasted a 68-63 San Diego State win.

Pick: San Diego State

Check out our East region and Southwest region picks.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket Predictions: Southeast Region

The Sweet 16 is finally upon and the Southeast region kicks things off this evening with the #3 BYU Cougars taking on the #2 Florida Gators. After feeling like an underdog in the first couple rounds, BYU finally is one. In the wake of Brandon Davies suspension, a lot of people took them off their brackets. So far though, Jimmer Fredette and his boys haven't really missed a beat. Both teams have actually moved rather comfortably through the tournament so far, with the closest game being Florida's 8 point win over #7 UCLA. Both teams played tough schedules and while Florida has the deeper team, BYU has the best player in this game. So this game really has the makings of a really good one.

Florida is a slight 3 point favorite. I'm going with Jimmer. Pick: BYU

#8 seed Butler scored a major upset over top seeded Pitt in the round of 32 and will have upset on their mind again as they face #4 Wisconsin.The Badgers might not be a terribly exciting team, but they're efficient. They do a lot of the things that traditionally successful teams in the tournament do. Most notably, they don't turn the ball over and they don't waste a lot of shots. In fact, that's what led the analytical model that the Wall Street Journal uses to pick Wisconsin to make the final four.

The Badgers are a 5 point favorite. Pick: Wisconsin

Check out our East region and Southwest region picks.

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