Four more games to go in the Sweet 16. Four more teams will join Duke, Houston, Villanova and Arkansas in the Elite Eight.
Farewell to No. 1 seed Gonzaga, No. 1 seed Arizona — plus Texas Tech and Michigan. It was a good run while it lasted.
A look at Friday night’s fun:
ST PETER’S (15 seed) vs. PURDUE (3 seed)
Betting Line: As of noon Friday, Purdue was favored by 13 points.
Notable Investment Trends: St. Peter’s is 22-9 against the spread this season. The Peacocks’ cover percentage (71%) is the second-best in Division I hoops this season. Purdue is 2-8-2 ATS in its last 12 games – but both ATS wins came in the first two rounds against Yale and Texas … As an underdog St. Peter’s is 10-3 this season against the spread, and Purdue is 14-19-2 ATS as a favorite – that includes a 7-10-1 mark ATS as the favorite in road/neutral site games.
This Game, Boiled Down: St. Peters’ will take its shot to become the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight and should have the vocal, vociferous support in Philadelphia for tonight’s game. No surprise, but there will be a size advantage for Purdue. The average height of Boilermakers who play the most is just under 6-7; for the Peacocks that average is 6-4. Purdue ranks No. 1 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and is No. 4 in effective field goal percentage according to KenPom – and can shred any defense with future lottery pick Jaden Ivey, their splendid 6-4 guard. And how will Saint Peter’s deal with Purdue’s 7-4 giant Zach Edey and the 6-10 Trevion Williams? St. Peter’s has seen nothing like this all season. The Peacocks are pretty good defensively, but this is a different kind of test, and they haven’t forced many turnovers. So how will they disrupt Purdue? Good luck.
KenPom Forecast: Purdue, 73-63
Bernie’s Secret Adobo Sauce: Purdue, 76-60.
PROVIDENCE (4 seed) vs. KANSAS (3 seed)
Betting Line: Kansas is favored by 7.
Notable Investment Trends: Both teams have won 83+ percent of their games this season. Providence is 15-3 against the spread when facing teams that have won at least 83 percent of its games; KU is 6-10 ATS against teams that have a winning percentage of at least 83% … Providence is one of the better underdog teams in the nation this season, going 7-2 straight up and 8-2 ATS as a ‘dog.
This Game, Boiled Down: This is a tricky one for KU because Providence plays sneaky-good defense, holding opponents to a low effective field goal percentage (36th lowest nationally.) And success or failure at the three-point line will be a significant part of the game. Kansas ranks 57th nationally in three-point shooting percentage, and Providence is 37th in defending threes. But KU is stronger than Providence at getting to the rim for points. Kansas tends to get careless, but the Friars aren’t a disruptive defense, ranking 322nd nationally at forcing turnovers. Kansas is the better team – but the only No. 1 seed still standing. The Jayhawks are an excellent offensive rebounding team but will have to deal with the brawny 6-10, 260-pound Nate Watson … KU will have to earn this one against a savvy Providence team that features six seniors in its eight-man rotation. In the end Ochai Agbaji should be a bit too much for the Friars; he’s made 40% of this treys this season.
One late note from VSIN’s Josh Applebaum in Las Vegas: “Respected money has jumped on Providence plus the points, dropping the line from 8 to 7.5. Some shops are hinting at a further fall to 7. Teams with a line move in their favor are 26-18 ATS (59%) this tournament.”
KenPom Forecast: Kansas, 76-69
Bernie’s Secret Adobo Sauce: Kansas, 74-69
NORTH CAROLINA (8 seed) vs. UCLA (4 seed)
Betting Line: UCLA is favored by 2.5. The line could change before the game, depending on the availability of UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez (sprained ankle.)
Notable Investment Trends: UCLA is 17-12-1 against the spread as a favorite this season, including a 4-2 ATS mark when favored by five points or fewer. UNC is 4-5 ATS as an underdog but has notable recent underdog wins (straight up) over Duke and Baylor.
This Game, Boiled Down: It’s expected that Jaquez will play, but how effective can he be on that ankle? He helped lead UCLA’s wild charge to the Final Four last season and the Bruins could use a sequel. The Tar Heels have been a rebounding machine, ranking 7th nationally with an average of 43.0 per game. The Stat: North Carolina is 25-6 when winning the rebounding fight in games this season – and only 1-3 otherwise. And UCLA wasn’t strong on the boards during its first two victories in the tournament. UNC has more muscle, and has a slight advantage in the three-point shootout. And the Tar Heels have been riding their starters – who average 29 minutes per game as a group – to terrific success since mid-season. But we saw the Tar Heels blow a 25-point lead against No. 1 seed Baylor last Saturday, recovering for the win after coach Hubert Davis had to go to his bench after an ejection and foul trouble. Carolina was tested to the hilt – and survived. UCLA has a vastly deeper team than UNC, with nine Bruins averaging at least 13 minutes per game. That will help offset any problems with the injured Jaquez. and that can be a factor in the outcome. I’m torn on this one. UCLA is probably a better team than the Baylor team that was weakened by injuries to two main cogs. And the Tar Heels caught Baylor on an outlier day, with the Bears making only 24% of their threes, and 45% of their shots at the rim. The Bruins have the better all-around team, ranked 12th nationally on offense and 14th in defense in the KenPom efficiency ratings.
KenPom Forecast: UCLA, 75-70
Bernie’s Secret Adobo Sauce: UCLA, 72-68
IOWA STATE (11 seed) vs. MIAMI (10 seed)
Betting Line: Miami is favored by 3.
Notable Investment Trends: Iowa State is 13-6 against the spread as an underdog this season, and Miami is 8-11-1 ATS as a favorite. Iowa State has a 5-2 mark ATS when listed as an underdog by 1 to 5 points … Miami is 5-6 ATS against teams that have won between 50 and 65% of its games.
This Game, Boiled Down: Here’s another contrasting-styles game. But the contrast is all about Iowa State. In short: the Cyclones are outstanding defensively, and pretty damn awful on offense. At KenPom Iowa State ranks 5th nationally in defense, 4th in creating turnovers, and 8th in defending three pointers. In the first two rounds LSU and Wisconsin combined to make only 6 of 41 threes against the Cyclones. (And Miami has made only 4 of 29 threes in the tournament so far.) But on the offensive end of things, Iowa State No. 207 in effective field goal percentage, 294th in turnover rate, 290th in getting to the foul line, and 328th in having shots blocked. Ugh. Miami is significantly superior to Iowa State offensively. And the Hurricane defense, while just OK overall, excels at forcing turnovers – and as we mentioned avoiding turnovers has been a real problem for Iowa State this season. It comes down to this for me: who takes better care of the ball? Miami. Who makes more shots? Miami, which ranks 30th nationally in effective field goal percentage.
KenPom Forecast: Iowa State, 68-67.
Bernie’s Secret Adobo Sauce: Miami, 65-60.
Thanks for reading …
Enjoy the hoops …
Have a great weekend!
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.