Stanford -6 over Oregon State
At first glance this is a shocking line. How can the 9th place team be a healthy six-point favorite over an 8th place team that swept the season series? Because the power ratings say they should be. Every football and basketball point spread starts as the difference in the respective power ratings. In the old days, Bob Martin used pencil and paper to set the line for the country, but now computers do the work. Simply taking Jeff Sagarin's figures from USA Today and adding four points to the home team will predict the spread within one point 90% of the time. The program doesn't care that OSU beat Stanford twice, it doesn't care that Stanford finished a game behind OSU in the conference standings. The program does care that Stanford won four more games, has a positive scoring margin of 4.5 vs. negative 3.3 for the Beavers, and has won two of its final three games while OSU lost three straight to end the season.
Of course everyone reading this knows that OSU not only beat Stanford twice, they did so in convincing fashion by 15 and 12 points. With both teams healthy, why should the result of game three be any different? Well, apart from the previously mentioned "last three games", the Beavers are back in Los Angeles for the 2nd week in a row so travel might be an issue. Calvin Haynes, who averaged 21 points against the Cardinal, is coming off two terrible games in which he shot 2-16 from the field with one assist and four turnovers. Of course UCLA and USC have better defenders at the guard position than the Cardinal, but Haynes didn't struggle against them earlier in the season. Finally, Stanford's win at ASU is more impressive than any win on OSU's resume and it was just six days ago.
One thing that is made clear year after year, in every conference tourney, is the teams that truly want to play do well, while some are clearly going through the motions. DePaul could have packed it in with a 0-18 Big East record, but they were fired up for yesterday's game at MSG and took out a lackadaisical Cincinnati squad. I expect both of these teams to be fired up to play.
OSU was absolutely humiliated in their 2008 tourney game, as Arizona built an amazing 59-21 halftime lead. They have to remember that game. They also know for a fact that they can beat Stanford; they certainly won't have any apprehension. The Cardinal, on the other hand, might actually be peaking at exactly the right time. Four seniors playing major minutes certainly don't want their careers to end yet, and the mere thought of going 0-3 against the former doormat Beavers has to be gnawing at them.
Jeff's Bottom Line: Stanford is playing better basketball, had the better overall season, has better talent, and far more postseason experience. Cardinal hit their free throws late to put the game away and cover the number.
Washington State -9 over Oregon
Cougars are playing extremely well, with the thrilling one-point win at UCLA followed by a home sweep of the Arizonas and a close season ending loss at Washington. WSU is perfectly suited for the "every possession counts" nature of the postseason, with a patient half court offense and a veteran all-conference PG (who also happens to hit 89% from the foul line). Baynes is an effective inside scorer, Rochestie and Thompson two of the best 3-point shooters in the league. They also swept Oregon, including a humiliating 67-38 win in which the Ducks shot 21% from the field.
Oregon had the wheels come off in Los Angeles after their mini two-game winning streak, but the 14 and 26-point margins were a bit deceptive. They trailed USC by just a point at the half, UCLA by just seven.
Jeff's Bottom Line:
This Duck squad doesn't have the mix of talent and experience needed to beat the
Cougs at the top of their game. Nine is a big number for a team that only
averages 59 points a game, but have you ever seen what a cougar does to a
wounded duck? Rout.
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