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In the East region, we get a good game right off the bat between two teams that probably share the same favorite song in Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" from 2008. You just don't know what you are going to get out of North Carolina or Marquette on any given night, as they seem to go on streaks of looking like a Maserati GranTurismo to looking like an AMC Gremlin. North Carolina was riding high into the ACC tournament after beating Coach K in his last game at Duke, and then got a taste of reality by Virginia Tech that their defense is absolutely atrocious. It's fine when you play teams like Virginia, who shoots about as well as I do, but real competitive teams will torch the Tar Heels on D. It's the other side of the ball that UNC can make an argument that they have a shot in the big dance. They can keep up the scoring pace with the best of them, as they rank as one of the highest in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. They will either shoot their way to a long tourney run or shoot their way to a quick exit.
Meanwhile, Marquette has that same type of unpredictability associated with them. The Golden Eagles opened the season 8-2 with some strong non-conference wins. Then, they lost four straight, really struggling in the early conference slate. After that, they immediately rebounded to win their next seven straight games, including a road win at Villanova. Then they started to stink again down the stretch before taking a loss in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. This is a dangerous team to face in the tournament because they can turn it on at any moment, yet they could also be one of the easiest outs if they are off.
Still, Marquette is a well-balanced team that is more than capable of winning this one. By limiting North Carolina’s offensive attack and getting easy looks to the basket, they have a good chance of pulling off the upset. Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell should have a field day against this Tar Heels defense.
My Pick: Marquette +3
Oh, how I have been waiting for this one all year. It really didn't matter the opponent, it is time to commence operation "Fade Texas" and bet on literally anyone who faces them. It's not to say that the Longhorns don't have talent, they certainly do. Timmy Allen, Marcus Carr, and Andrew Jones all give Texas options on offense, but the problem is, it never works. This is an anemic offense, to say the least, and if they get down early, it's going to be next to impossible to come back. Virginia Tech is a team full of efficient, deep shooters that pass around for the best possible look. They score the deep ball with high efficiency, and they also defend it very well. After struggling all regular season to put the talented pieces all together, they finally did so in the ACC tournament, winning the whole thing. While the Hokies rank 344th out of 358 teams in tempo, they have the 18th most efficient offense, ahead of more established teams like Tennessee, Auburn, and Illinois.
The only thing to be concerned about with Tech is this will be a size mismatch. The Longhorns are a fantastic defensive team. Texas finished the regular season 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 14th in turnover percentage. If they can get a lead over the Hokies, it could also be tough to come back from.
All in all, I just don't trust Texas at all to get the job done. I've been looking to fade them for a while now, and this is my chance. I'll go right ahead and sign up with the ACC Champs.
My Pick: Virginia Tech +1
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