1. The adoration of Northern Iowa makes me uneasy. I get all the reasons we are supposed to count out the Spartans – inconsistency, the Kalin Lucas injury, and so on. I also get why Northern Iowa is worthy of praise – woefully under-seeded, stunning upset of best team in the tournament, and so on. I just don’t feel great about the degree to which the action is on the Panthers – the game opened at MSU -1.5 but can now be found at pick ’em after almost 60 percent of bets have gone on the No. 9 seed. I do believe that that Northern Iowa can win this one. I just don’t think that this line movement reflects Michigan State’s superior talent even without Lucas, or the fact that Tom Izzo, one of the true kings of the tournament, has had five days to dissect this contest and spot what Northern Iowa does well and how to deal with it. I’m not even sure that I am picking the Spartans, though I am definitely leaning that way, but I just don’t think that this line or this movement is appropriate to the situation.
2. I am pretty sure that there isn’t a team that made the Sweet Sixteen that does less for me than Tennessee. I realize when I think about this game that I haven’t given them any real shot at winning it not just because Evan Turner is so good, but because Tennessee just doesn’t stand out in my head in anyway at all. They should – they are well coached, they have showed impressive toughness by overcoming all sorts of adversity this year to get where they are, and they have some nice accomplishments on their record. I just haven’t found any way to grab onto this game and get excited like I have to some extent for most of the other teams. They are vanilla ice cream in the ice cream parlor of my mind, and I’m not one of those guys that ever picks vanilla. This realization hasn’t changed the fact that I think Ohio State is the clear class here, though – and that’s really saying something for a Michigan fan.
3. I obviously respect Baylor for climbing back from the Dave Bliss mess so quickly, and I think that they are a very nice team, but the more I think about this game the more I like Saint Mary’s. I just can’t get past that win over Villanova. Saint Mary’s had a game plan, they executed it perfectly, and they won very easily against a good, if troubled, squad. The Gaels are the sub – No. 8 team that I believe in most, and I think that they have a real shot here. I also don’t think that Baylor has been asked to prove much so far in the tournament, and I am not sure that they have played well enough to beat better teams – like Saint Mary’s. If everyone else is on the Northern Iowa bandwagon I’m on this one. Given that the line has climbed as much as two points it looks like I’ll have lots of room to stretch out and get comfortable on this bandwagon, too.
4. The Boilermakers are the feel good story of this round. Given that along with my love for the Big Ten and my intense hatred of Duke I have looked long and hard for ways to make me believe that Purdue has a strong shot here. I just can’t find it, though. No matter how I look at it Purdue is missing one thing to make this one competitive and give them a very good shot at the win – a player like Robbie Hummel. That reality is going to haunt Purdue fans for years with thoughts of what could have been. Sad, but true. The only way that I see Duke losing is if they beat themselves, and with Coach K at the helm that sadly isn’t likely. I just hate Duke so much.