"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts" - Winston Churchill
Here is a list of things that are better than my performance so far in NCAA Tournament picks. (2-7 record)
Bobby Petrino's judgement.
Jen Bielema's tweeting ability.
Charlie Weis' schematic advantage.
Randy Shannon's halftime adjustments.
The Craig James for Senate campaign.
Dennis Rodman's diplomacy.
Justin Bieber's maturity.
As I sat helplessly on the couch watching Louisville struggle to put away Manhattan on Thursday night, the usual texts and messages started coming in. "Time to retire." "You're terrible, just give up." "Yikes." I felt weaker than Ukraine's new government. My struggles serve as a lesson to Hillary Clinton; Sometimes a return to the spotlight doesn't quite go as planned.
But I won't give up. I remain confident and I'm ready for new opportunities. In search of motivation and wanting to respond to those that expected me to hide in shame, I went back to the words of one of America's greatest philosophers; DMX.
"Bring It! What? We right here. We're not going anywhere. We right here."
My picks record was 1-7 heading into the Iowa State NCCU game. I put whatever pride I had left into a "degree all-in moment," putting my full faith in the Cyclones. Iowa State stepped up and gave me something to build on. The one bright spot of Thursday/Friday was the 2-1 performance on Over/Unders. My friend ended the week with good reviews and earned himself another opportunity to pick three O/U’s this weekend.
Follow me @JPickens15 for the rollercoaster ride that is picking games during the NCAA Tournament.
(1) FLORIDA -5.5 vs (9) Pittsburgh 12:15pm - CBS
Florida struggled through Thursday's game against Albany and Coach Billy Donovan expressed his disappointment. I think that poor performance will help refocus the Gators to play significantly better against Pitt. The Panthers routed Colorado from start to finish, but I still don't believe in this team. Talib Zanna's physical play won't be as effective against Patric Young toughness and Florida's athleticism. Florida has more depth, balance on offense, and NCAA experience. The Gators haven't lost since early December and will bounce back in a big way. Scottie Wilbekin will be the catalyst and Florida will show everyone why they were given the number 1 overall seed in this tournament. Pitt hasn't made a Sweet 16 since 2009 and Jamie Dixon will be outcoached on Saturday.
(4) LOUISVILLE -9 vs (5) Saint Louis 2:45pm - CBS
Louisville struggled against Manhattan and early on, I felt stupid for picking them. The coaching similarities and tendencies of both coaches gave Manhattan an advantage and Louisville shot a dreadful percentage from the field (20-55 FG). Saint Louis was very lucky to beat NCST and if not for the worst FT shooting I've ever seen, the Billikens would've been home already. Saint Louis was being blown out and looked like a team that lost four of six games heading into the NCAA Tournament. Louisville won't give SLU a chance to come back on Saturday. Russ Smith and Luke Hancock will play better early, and Montrezl Harrell will dominate in the paint. Jordair Jett willed SLU to victory against NCST, but Louisville is a much more talented team. Go with the defending champs and don't be surprised if Saint Louis is emotionally and physically drained from their epic overtime win.
(2) MICHIGAN -4.5 vs (7) Texas 5:15pm - CBS
The young Longhorns beat Arizona State at the buzzer, but showed their inexperience in the second half by losing a 14-point lead. Michigan has several key contributors like Nik Stauskas and Caris Levert back from their run to the title game last season. UM's Jordan Morgan will battle Cameron Ridley on the inside and Glenn Robinson III will make enough plays to push the Wolverines to victory. Stauskas has been hot recently and he'll hit at least four threes on Saturday afternoon. I have absolutely no faith in Rick Barnes as a coach. Expect John Beilein to run circles around him.
(7) OREGON +5 vs (2) Wisconsin 7:45pm - CBS
I love the Ducks. Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the nation and rewarded my faith with a blowout win over BYU on Thursday. Wisconsin destroyed American and will be a tough out in this tournament. Both of these teams can run and I expect a high scoring ball game. I expect Oregon's big guys to be the difference. Wisconsin's big man Frank Kaminsky can step outside, but I expect him to be bothered by the versality of OU's Mike Moser and Richard Amardi. Johnathan Lloyd will force a few steals and Oregon G Joseph Young will catch fire in the second half. This is my favorite upset pick on Saturday.
(3) IOWA STATE +1 vs (6) North Carolina 5:15pm – CBS
The injury to Iowa State star Georges Niang ruined my Friday night. I picked the Cyclones to make the Final Four and truly believed this team was capable of beating anyone in the field. That being said, I still think Iowa State has enough firepower to beat North Carolina. DeAndre Kane’s size will bother UNC’s Marcus Paige and the Cyclones will rely more heavily on the Big 12 Player of the Year, Melvin Ejim. UNC’s biggest strength is offensive rebounding, but ISU’s Dustin Hogue can jump with anyone in the nation. North Carolina struggles to make threes and I still don’t trust James Michael McAdoo in clutch situations, despite his game-winning FT’s on Friday to beat Providence. Iowa State will rally around their injured teammate and play inspired, keyed by big threes from Matt Thomas and Naz Long.
(1) WICHITA STATE -3.5 vs (8) Kentucky 2:45pm – CBS
One of my favorite games all weekend. Kentucky is a trendy upset pick because not enough people respect the Shockers. Wichita State’s impressive undefeated season this year is being overlooked by concerns about the quality of their schedule. Wichita State was in the Final Four last year and should’ve beaten Louisville. This team understands the intensity of the NCAA Tournament and I love F Cleanthony Early and G Fred VanVleet. G Ron Baker will knock down a few big threes and fire his team up. Kentucky is young, inconsistent, and has confidence issues. The Wildcats don’t always play with maximum effort and haven’t yet earned the trust of their coach John Calipari. The Harrison twins will struggle all afternoon. Wichita State will play with poise and "Play Angry" throughout, en route to a double-digit victory.
(4) SAN DIEGO STATE -3 vs (12) North Dakota State 6:10pm – TNT – Saturday
(14) MERCER +8.5 vs Tennessee (11) 6:10pm – TNT – Sunday
(2) KANSAS -5.5 vs Stanford (10) 12:15pm – CBS - Sunday
(3) CREIGHTON -3 vs Baylor (6) 7:45pm – truTV – Sunday
OVER/UNDERS - SATURDAY
(7) OREGON vs (2) Wisconsin OVER 145 7:45pm - CBS
What an ideal setup for an over here…a Wisconsin team historically regarded as a half-court offense that likes to lull its opponents to sleep is getting a discounted total against one of the fastest teams in the nation. This year’s transformed Badgers team likes to run the court and score buckets in transition and will gladly challenge the pace of play that the Ducks bring to Milwaukee. The Ducks/Badgers both had walk-in-the-park games the other day and still managed to put up 87 and 75 respectively.
(2) MICHIGAN vs (7) Texas UNDER 139.5 5:15pm – CBS
Normally this passes the eye-test for a nice over play, but based on Michigan’s recent offensive struggles, the Wolverines will try and slow this game down and get some easy buckets in the paint. Keep in mind that the maize and blue rank 337th out of 351 D1 programs in possessions per game this season. Texas will be coming to the gym with some tired legs after Thursday night’s track meet against Arizona State and a slow start early from the Longhorns should set the overall pace of this game.
(4) LOUISVILLE vs (5) Saint Louis UNDER 132.5 2:45pm - CBS
Two teams that know how to light up the scoreboard with Ville averaging 81 ppg vs Saint Louis at 70, but both squads pride themselves on their defenses with each team allowing a sluggish 61 ppg on the season. I like the battle of the defenses here as Saint Louis has struggled on offense of late and don’t see them getting to 60 points in this one after stealing an OT victory the other night. Louisville will dictate the pace of this game and has gone under the total in 4 of the last 5 while holding opponents to 55ppg over that stretch.