Yesterday’s Elite Eight games got the weekend started off in the right direction. Louisville made an impressive comeback and Ohio State looked much more comfortable against the 2-3 zone than Wisconsin did. Maybe the Badgers never really look comfortable, but it helps to have a big like Jared Sullinger with his now infamous posterior.
As good as the games were yesterday, I think Sunday’s games feature better players and better storylines. Kentucky and Baylor have been two of more successful schools in terms of recruiting and everyone expects the game to be played at a very fast pace. That is excellent news for Jousters. The Roy Williams spectacle has turned into the Kendall Marshall spectacle. I think the game will be well fought, but Kansas will win. If you are just stopping by for the first time in the tournament, here is my code: players that I recommend will be in bold, players that I feel are priced correctly will be in italics, and players that you
should avoid will be struck through.
1. Kentucky vs. 3. Baylor
Kentucky has won its NCAA tournament games by an average of 14.3 points and Baylor has not played a single-digit seed yet. This would seem to favor the Wildcats, but as we have all seen, funny things can happen in the Big Dance. Based on the salary chart, you’d think that Kentucky is a somewhat perimeter oriented team. Their top two scorers are Doron Lamb ($169,000) and
Darius Miller ($162,000). After slumping at the end of the regular season and through the SEC tournament, Lamb has been stroking his three-point shots in the NCAA tournament. Through three games, he has connected on 8-for-12 (66.7%) and has scored at least 16 points in each game. Baylor’s halfcourt trap shouldn’t pose many problems for the Wildcats and Lamb may get some open looks. Miller has equaled his season high in each of his last two games with 19 points. He has gone 13-for-19 (68.4%) from the field, so that likely isn’t sustainable. Miller has been playing consistent minutes, but I’d pass on him for this game. Fouls have been an issue for Terrence Jones ($147,000) in the last two games. He has only averaged 10.0 points in 30.0 minutes and has not topped nine shots. If he can stay out of foul trouble, Jones is a good bet to more than earn his salary. Anthony Davis ($146,000) also got in early foul trouble against Indiana and was limited to 25 minutes. He scored just nine points, but that has lowered his salary to a palatable level. He should be a great buy for the somewhat soft Bears. Marquis Teague ($139,000) has played some of his best ball in the Big Dance. For just the second time this season, he has scored in double digits in three straight games, including a career-high 24 points against Iowa State. If he can handle the Baylor trap, he should be able to rack up assists and maybe some points as well. After scoring 16 points in his previous three games, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($118,000) had 24 points against Indiana on Friday. He gets consistent minutes, but isn’t reliable enough to warrant taking even at his rather low salary.
Wins are wins, so by beating the 14, 11, and ten seeds in the South region, Baylor has done what it needed to do. The problem is that the Bears haven’t beaten a top echelon team all season. I wouldn’t say a Baylor win on Sunday is impossible, but I think it is improbable.
Brady Heslip ($165,000) cooled off noticeably against Xavier on Friday, which was to be expected. He hit nine threes in the win over Colorado and had hit 13 threes in his three previous games. Against the Musketeers, Heslip was just 1-for-3 from downtown and finished with 11 points. The Wildcats have a lot of length on the perimeter, so Heslip will likely not get many open shots. I do think that Pierre Jackson’s ($154,000) quickness could be a problem for Kentucky.The 5-foot-10 junior, who Kentucky coach John Calipari described as a water bug, can slash to the basket and is more than willing to take three-pointers. In the tournament, he has only gone 6-for-19 (31.6%) on threes, but has scored at least 15 points in each game. Perry Jones ($126,000) had a nice game against Xavier with 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting. I do not think he’ll fare well against the Wildcats’ talented and strong frontcourt. Maybe the opposing talent will bring out the best in Jones, but I think he’ll shrink from the limelight again. Quincy Acy ($109,000) powered his way to 20 points against the Musketeers and had a couple of thundering dunks. He is the type of power player who could cause Kentucky problems. Acy might not score 20 points against Kentucky, but 15 points is well within his reach. Quincy Miller ($96,000) has been quiet in the tournament with just 8.0 points per game, but the mini-Perry Jones has had big games against big opponents (49 points against Missouri), so he could be a bargain.
1. North Carolina vs. 2. Kansas
The Tar Heels survived their first test without
Kendall Marshall ($140,000), but they had to struggle into overtime against an over matched Ohio Bobcats. Marshall was involved in the walk-through portion of practice, but I am quite doubtful that he will play. Because Kansas is much more balanced and talented than Ohio, I think North Carolina is in trouble. UNC will once again rely heavily on Tyler Zeller ($192,000), who had a monster game against the smallish representative of the MAC. He had 20 points and 22 rebounds for his best game of the season. I think he’ll get the ball a lot against the Jayhawks as well and should be able to score 20 points again. I am less confident about Harrison Barnes ($178,000), who should have enjoyed the game against Ohio. Instead, the highly touted sophomore went 3-for-16 from the field and finished with 12 points. Barnes is still a capable and smooth scorer, but I don’t think he’ll exceed his salary. He has only scored more than 17 points once in his last nine games. In the game against Ohio, John Henson ($136,000) looked like he got hit on his injured wrist early in the game and it took him a good half to shake off the injury. He still finished with 14 points, but I don’t think the junior is playing at full strength. Henson won’t be a factor on scrums in the paint, which will limit his effectiveness. The Tar Heels will depend on their one healthy top guard Reggie Bullock ($120,000) again. He has scored 30 points in his last two games and knocked down ten three-pointers in his last three games. The sophomore did average 8.9 points in a mostly reserve role for UNC, so he has shown flashes of brilliance before. He is a great play in this game. The same can not be said of the replacement point guards. Stillman White ($53,000) and Justin Watts ($40,000) will get playing time, but neither will be encouraged to shoot. White missed all four of his field goal attempts against Ohio and finished with two points. Watts did not score in 15 minutes.
Kansas strikes me as the type of team that may come in overconfident against the wounded Tar Heels. That may be reason for Jayhawk fans to worry. The team is one of the few who has the forwards to stand up to the UNC frontcourt, but they have little reason for overconfidence. Thomas Robinson ($174,000) has not scored more than 19 points in his last five games and has made just nine of his last 29 shots (31%) from the field. Against North Carolina State, he was also 4-for-9 from the free throw line. Robinson has the type of power to put Zeller and Henson in foul trouble, but he will have to attack relentlessly. If he does that, Kansas could win relatively easily. The nicest surprise for the Jayhawks has been the scoring of
Elijah Johnson ($172,000). He has scored in double figures in five straight games, but was held to 11 points against the Wolfpack. He may score in double digits again, but asking for more than 15 points may be too much. Tyshawn Taylor ($136,000) has continued to slump throughout the NCAA tournament. The senior had a season-low six points against N.C. State and continued to brick threes. He is now 0-for-12 from long range in the tournament, but I think his price is so low that he will come through against the Tar Heels. Jeff Withey ($90,000) had a monster shot blocking game against the Wolfpack. He swatted away ten shots, but only scored eight points. His brief foray into a decent scoring option in January and February seems to have sailed, and I wouldn’t expect him to score much against the Tar Heels. The sneaky play on Kansas is Travis Releford $(78,000). The junior who is mainly known for his defensive exploits has scored 17 points in his last two games and could be matched up against the replacement guards. He could take advantage and score ten points or more.