OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18: Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators fights for a rebound against Kyle O'Quinn #10 (C) and Pendarvis Williams #11 of the Norfolk State Spartans during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 18, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

NCAA Predictions 2012: Will The Madness Continue?

After one of the wildest opening weekends in NCAA Tournament history, a look at how the crack crew at SBN Dallas thinks the Sweet 16 will play out.

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Sweet 16 Predictions: Florida, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Michigan State

Games I Have Some Feel For

Florida (+1.5) vs. Marquette, 9:15 CST

When you look at the talent on the floor, there's really no comparison. At every position, except the point (Darius Johnson-Odom vs. Erving Walker), the Gators trot out substantially better players. However, that one mismatch in Florida's favor is a big one.

Generously listed at 5'8", Walker is effective when he plays within himself. However, he has a penchant for erroneously sensing that he should take over the game when it gets close despite sharing the floor with two potential lottery picks (Brad Beal and Patric Young). He is legitimately the 5th most talented option on the floor in the starting line-up. Yet Billy Donovan is content to allow Walker to fire up 30-foot Jimmer Fredette heat checks like it's a Harlem Globetrotters act.

If the game is close, bad things could happen. However, in college basketball, I will always go with talent, and Florida's is overwhelming. Jae Crowder has gotten his name shouted a few times by Dick Vitale, but his lack of handle will hurt him in this game. The only thing preventing a Florida win is a Billy Donovan-Erving Walker assault against reasonable basketball.

Cincinnati (+7.5) vs. Ohio State, 8:45 CST

If you didn't already know, you should know after having watched Ohio State play against legitimately large big men: Jared Sullinger is trash. Watching him attempt to post up people bigger than him was laughable. He stepped out early and knocked down a couple threes, and trashed up a miracle shot from the block near the end of the game, but during the 35 minutes in between, he was revealed for what he is -- a nailed to the floor 6'8" post who can't get his shot against bigger players. If Pangos didn't turn in the worst guard performance of the tournament on both ends of the floor, Gonzaga wins that game.

This round, Sullinger gets Yancy Gates. Gates is bigger and meaner and will, I dare say, "zip him up." The rest of the team will again have to pull this one out for the Buckeyes. As far as that goes, pardon me if I don't think Aaron Craft will have another career game against a rugged Cincy defense; Pangos couldn't hold half the dudes on the floor in my pick-up games. Ohio State could find a way with DeShaun Thomas proving a tough match for everyone of late, and Cincy's offense bordering on the terrible but the talent disparity isn't too immense.

Cincy will cover. Will they win? Unclear if they have the offensive firepower to challenge a solid defense.

Syracuse (-4.5) vs. Wisconsin, 7:15 CST

Wisconsin plays a brand of basketball that requires you either get ahead of them early or beat them at their own game to win. Their defense isn't particularly strong, but they slow the game down to make up for their lack of talent, giving their opponents fewer opportunities to put together quick runs. Syracuse has more talent, and the veteran backcourt should have the patience and discipline to beat Wisconsin in a fairly close game whose spread they will cover via late free throws.

Don't Take This One to the Bank

Michigan State (-5) vs. Louisville, 6:45 CST

To be honest, I don't really know what to make of this game. Louisville is playing as well as they have all year, but Michigan State is more talented. Both great coaches, so hard to imagine that will provide much of a difference. If Michigan State takes care of the ball, they will prevail. The line seems pretty accurate, so I'd stay away.


NCAA Predictions Day 4: UNC, Kansas, Florida State, Xavier

Now that I've had a few days to warm up, we're gettin' hot here on day 4.


UNC (-8.5) vs. Creighton

Creighton plays no defense. Carolina has the best offense in the country. Carolina's talent level is as high as anyone in the country's, and their players know how to work the mis-matches. This will be as bad as the line Marquette got against UNC during last year's tournament if John Henson plays. Doug McDermott can not score on him.

Florida State (-2) vs. Cincinnati

Both strong defensive teams. Problem is, Florida State can also play a little offense. With Yancy Gates providing Cincy's sole source of consistent offense (and only over the last month and a half), they'll have trouble getting baskets against Florida State's athletic front line.

Kansas (-8) vs. Purdue

Purdue is my roommates' alma mater, and I have a soft spot for Bob Hummel, but this is a terrible matchup for the Boilers. KU has an advantage at every position and their bigs will have a field day against a very small Purdue team.

Small Risk

Xavier (-3.5) vs. Lehigh

Xavier has the better athletes on the perimeter, so this is no Duke. The run comes to an end as McCollum shoots even worse than his over-hyped 9-22 performance against Duke. The shots will be tougher, and Lehigh won't have an answer for Tu Holloway.


NCAA Predictions Day 3: Murray State, New Mexico, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt

I'm Going To Call These Two Locks:

Murray State +5.5 vs. Marquette

Murray State should be favored in this game. Some of the best guard play in the country, a swarming defense and the most over ranked/seeded team in the country is the recipe for a win. Marquette is not the trash team Colorado State was, but they will not win, much less cover 5 and a half points.

New Mexico +1 vs. Louisville

Really not a fan of Louisville. Peyton Siva has matured into a dependable point guard, and I like Kyle Kuric because he is the rare athletic white wing, but they just don't have the firepower of a usual Rick Pitino outfit. New Mexico is strong down low (Drew Gordon a future NBA guy) and Kendall Williams can put Siva on lockdown like he did Casper Ware in their first round matchup.

Riskier Territory

Gonzaga +7.5

The Zags are long and athletic down low, which will give the most overrated player in college basketball trouble. The issue in this game will not be controlling dough-boy Sullinger, it will come down to the Zags' inexperienced guards being strong with the ball against Ohio State's pressure. I like Ohio State to win, but Gonzaga should keep it close.

Vanderbilt +1 vs. Wisconsin

Jeffrey Taylor is an elite athlete and his size should give Jordan Taylor fits. Taylor is the key to the Wisconsin attack and with Ezeli down low and Jenkins firing away from the outsides, the Commodores have too much firepower for the Badgers to keep up with.


NCAA Predictions 2012: Lines To Watch On Day 1 Of March Madness

I'm Going To Call These Two Locks

UNLV (-5.5) over Colorado

If the Cal game is any indication, the Pac-12 deserved zero bids. Embarrassing. UNLV is a serious outfit as well. This would shock me if Colorado covered.

Murray State (-5.5) vs. Colorado State

Murray State has a strong backcourt, and Colorado State is a 22-10 team from a smaller conference. They notched wins against UNLV and New Mexico but nothing stands out as far as their out of conference efforts.

Things That Are More Of A Risk

Montana (+9) against Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a solid team, but their talent level isn't remarkably high. They'll win, but this is the largest spread outside of the 1-16 and 2-15 match ups.

Kansas State (-5.5) against Southern Miss

Kansas State is long, defends and rebounds. They are a different level of athlete, and this could get ugly. Or it could be close, with free throws covering the margin.


Baylor And Texas Should Advance Into The Second Round

Baylor (-8) vs. South Dakota St.:

The Jackrabbits hopped their way into the tournament by being offensively efficient. South Dakota St. hits their field goals, likes to shoot the long ball, and hardly ever turns the ball over. Baylor is also a team that likes to stroke it. And while the Bears don't value ball control, their length allows them to crash the boards in order to earn back the lost possessions.

The Bears struggled in conference play when faced with better opponents than in its weak non-conference schedule. Much of the blame was directed at Baylor's horrendously bad 1-3-1 zone, but the length and athleticism of the Bears can throw into that zone should work well against the midsized Jackrabbit jump shooters.

Baylor's non-conference matchups against similarly ranked opponents (SDSU is ranked 57th by Ken Pomeroy) is a mixed bag. The Bears beat San Diego State and Northwestern by double digits, but barely squeaked by West Virginia and BYU. By contrast, the Jackrabbits haven't faced any team as talented, athletic, and, well, good as the Bears, and that will be the difference. Baylor pulls away in the second half, 85-72.

Texas vs. Cincinnati (-2):

Call me a homer, but I picked Texas to advance in my brackets. At the very least, the Longhorns haven't shown much ability to beat good teams, but can at least keep it close. Against its five Big 12 opponents ranked in Ken Pomeroy's top 30, Texas is just 3-9, but six of those losses are by six points or less. Both Texas and Cincinnati slow tempo, suck at shooting, and crash the offensive boards for extra possessions.

Taken all together, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a low-scoring, close-knit affair, again boding well for Texas to at least cover the spread. Texas wins outright if J'Covan Brown has a monster game and the Bearcats never get hot from 3.

One matchup I'll be watching closely is at point guard, with Myck Kabongo taking on Cashmere Wright. Kabongo is more talented, but Wright's experience and smarts could befuddle the Texas freshman. I'll say Brown brings his A game and Kabongo manages the game more than hurts it. Texas wins with a huge second half from Brown, 61-56.


The Seven Rules To Betting On March Madness

Plus a look at which first-round match-ups might be worth paying close attention to.

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