This basketball handicapper breaks down the 2015 NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional Final between Notre Dame & Kentucky, sharing his free pick against the spread.
Power versus Finesse in Midwest Regional Final
The #3 seed Notre Dame (32-5) will take on top seeded and undefeated Kentucky (37-0) in the Midwest Regional Final on Saturday. Can Notre Dame pull off a stunning upset or even cover the large number for that matter? Will Kentucky continue their quest for an undefeated season and national championship? The opening tip is slated for 8:49 PM ET, and that game is being played in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the NCAA Tournament odds at 5Dimes, Kentucky is an 11.0 point favorite, and the posted total is 137.0.
Irish won’t be in Awe
It’s quite obvious that Notre Dame has an unenviable and daunting task in front of them tonight against Kentucky. However, one thing you can be assured of with the utmost certainty, they won’t be intimidated by or be in awe of the Wildcats. After all, “The Fighting Irish” defeated both Duke and North Carolina in their home state on the way to winning the ACC Tournament. As a matter of fact, they went a combined 4-1 versus Duke and North Carolina this season. They've also had quality wins over 2015 NCAA Tournament teams, Wichita State, Butler, Michigan State, Purdue, at Louisville, and at North Carolina State.
The Kentucky Wildcats made a huge statement in what’s been a glorious season during their 78-39 lambasting of West Virginia on Thursday. They dominated in every aspect of the game versus a very good Mountaineers team. Besides their huge front line, the most imposing part of the Wildcats game is their stifling defensive play. Kentucky has allowed only 53.5 points per game, and is holding opponents to a putrid 34.8% shooting from the floor. What’s even more amazing, those numbers have improved during the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have allowed their three tournament opponents a meager 48.7 points per game, and held them to an incredibly low 28.4% shooting from the field. It also must be noted, those three wins (Hampton, Cincinnati, and West Virginia) came versus opponents that are nowhere near the quality perimeter shooting teams that Notre Dame is.
The previous opponent (West Virginia) for Kentucky relied on creating turnovers, and second chance opportunities supplied by relentless offensive rebounding. Kentucky only turned the ball over ten times on Thursday which is far below the twenty turnovers a game that was being forced by the Mountaineers entering the contest. Additionally, depending on offensive rebounds against the huge front line of Kentucky is delusional to say the least. West Virginia has been far from a good outside shooting team this season, and in order to have a realistic chance of being competitive versus Kentucky, you must hit a high percentage of shots from the perimeter in order to neutralize their dominance on the interior.
They say the great equalizer for a college basketball underdog is the ability to convert on a high volume and percentage of three-point shots. Notre Dame averages eight three-point makes per game, and is converting on a stellar 39.2% of their attempts from long distance this season. During their current eight-game winning streak that they will carry into tonight, Notre Dame has averaged 75.4 points per game, and shot a sizzling 52.2% from the field. Calling for an upset may be a bit of a reach, but I do like Notre Dame to stay inside this large number for one of my NCAA tournament picks on Saturday.
NCAA Tournament Picks: Notre Dame +11.0 over Kentucky at 5Dimes.