Seton Hall Pirates vs. Providence Friars
Seton Hall won two games at the Big East Tournament for the first time since 2001 when it defeated the top-seeded Villanova Wildcats in Thursday's quarterfinals. The Pirates beat Villanova for just the fourth time since the year 2000. Seton Hall has overcome some genuine obstacles in this tournament, but now, it will have to win a third game in three days if it is going to play in the Big East Tournament championship game on Saturday. The Pirates might be able to play 20 minutes at a high level in this game, but will they be able to play 40? This is when the fact that Seton Hall had to play in a first-round game on Wednesday night could catch up with the underdog. Meanwhile, Providence knows that it will be favored instead of being the underdog, since it is playing an eighth seed and not a top-seeded opponent in the semifinals. The Friars had a big lead late in their quarterfinal game against St. John's and very nearly lost all of that lead. However, they managed to hang on and win, advancing to the semifinals. Providence felt a lot of pressure against St. John's. The Friars should be more relaxed here.
Pick: Providence -2 at Bodog
Houston Cougars vs. Louisville Cardinals
Houston scored a significant upset in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament by knocking off third-seeded SMU on Thursday. The Cougars, seeded sixth, were able to avoid the first round of this tournament on Wednesday night. That fact kept them fresher for this game against SMU. Houston really outworked SMU on the boards and showed that it is capable of doing something special on a really good night. Houston's ability to beat SMU in a tournament setting speaks well of the Cougars' competitive quality.
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Yet, Houston just beat a really good team in an upset result, and it must now play a team that's much better than SMU. Louisville is rounding into a national championship contender. The Cardinals' advanced statistics are really good, and after beating Rutgers by 61 points in the quarterfinals, a lot of Louisville players are extremely well rested for this game. Louisville is relaxed and confident, and that fact should enable the Cardinals to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, against Houston.
Pick: Louisville -18
This might be the single best game on the schedule on Friday. Kansas barely defeated Oklahoma State in overtime in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday in a game that felt like a much bigger event. Oklahoma State is a very skilled team, not a typical number eight seed in a conference tournament. Kansas did well to get past that game without center Joel Embiid, who is going to be out for the whole Big 12 Tournament with an injury. The Jayhawks showed a lot of determination against a good team, and that's a solid reason to pick them here in the Big 12 semifinals.
However, Iowa State is a better team than Oklahoma State. The Cyclones have more players who can score, and they can spread the floor more than Oklahoma State does. Iowa State has a superior offense and a more thoughtful coach. The Cyclones also lost twice to Kansas during the regular season, which will make them more motivated in this game. Iowa State played Kansas when the Jayhawks had Embiid in the lineup. Without Embiid, Kansas might be vulnerable to an upset, and that's what will happen in Kansas City on Friday night.
Pick: Iowa State +4