One of the things I like best about the NCAAs is when I couldn't care less who wins which game. With Mizzou never in and Kansas bounced early, I've been able to enjoy the games for their sheer excitement. I loved the pace of the games, especially the cliffhanger ending Sunday between Kentucky and Michigan State. I figure many folks have Illinois and NC in their bracket, and I picked Louisville to make it in couple of my espn.com brackets, but Michigan State? Not a huge surprise, sure, especially when you look at Tom Izzo's winning percentage in the tournament, but still unexpected for them to come out of the bracket, especially one when Duke and Kentucky were on the docket. Anyway, St. Louis will be center stage this weekend, so to all my friends in the Gateway City, don't screw this up like Jacksonville did the Superbowl, okay? On to the games and the picks...
Illinois vs. Louisville
In terms of absolute excitement, I think this is the the premiere game of the weekend. Illinois survived a game they should have lost against Arizona, and Louisville hung in against a tough-as-nails West Virginia team who led by as many as 20 points in the first half, so neither one of these teams is going to play with fear or throw in the towel if they get down. Illinois is essentially the home team—St. Louis has as many Illini fans as Mizzou boosters—so they'll have somewhat of a crowd advantage, but don't underestimate Louisville's popularity, either. As a Conference-USA team, they play here every year. My gut instinct is to go with Louisville, but I think it'll be a close, fast, exciting game from buzzer to buzzer.
North Carolina vs. Michigan State
The Spartans have already knocked off two powerhouse teams in Duke and Kentucky, but I wonder if they will be able to match Carolina's physical inside game. Roy Williams has a lot of experience getting to the finals, but he's never been able to win one. Is this the year? It looks like it, and Carolina is the favorite to win it all, but Michigan State's gotten to this point by defying expectations and playing smart basketball. Again, it's just gut instinct, but I'm going with Izzo's boys to pull of the trifecta.
Louisville over Michigan State; just don't blame me if you wager cash and lose. Remember, when it comes to sports, we're all almost always wrong!