Kentucky Wildcats (34-2 SU, 19-15 ATS) vs. Cornell Big Red (29-4 SU, 18-10 ATS), 9:57 p.m. EST, Thursday, March 25, 2010, Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Kentucky -9/Cornell +9
Kentucky and Cornell are two very different teams. This matchup in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament will be youth vs. experience, athleticism vs. shooting, the big power conference team vs. the mid-major, the No. 1 seed vs. the 12 seed, the championship contender vs. the Cinderella, and the favorite vs. the underdog. That’s what the NCAA tournament is all about. In the matter of a few days, Cornell went from a team trying to pull off an upset in the tournament to a team that has a chance to shock the nation and advance to the Elite Eight.
Both of these teams won rather easily in the first two games of the NCAA tournament. Kentucky won 100-71 over East Tennessee State and 90-60 over Wake Forest. Cornell won 78-65 over Temple and 87-69 over Wisconsin.
In Cornell’s win over Wisconsin, the Big Red shot 61 percent from the field and 8-for-15 from 3-point range. They only committed eight turnovers and held a seven-rebound advantage on the glass. Louis Dale scored 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field, Ryan Wittman scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and Chris Wroblewski and Jeff Foote each had 12 points. Wisconsin shot 49 percent from the field and 8-for-25 on 3-pointers.
In Kentucky’s win over Wake Forest, the Wildcats shot 60 percent from the field and 7-for-21 on 3-pointers. Both teams had 11 turnovers, and Kentucky held a 38-29 rebounding advantage. Wake Forest shot just 33 percent from the field and 2-for-15 on 3-pointers. Darius Miller led the ‘Cats with 20 points, and DeMarcus Cousins scored 19 points. Miller and Cousins combined to shoot 16-of-19 from the field. Miller also had nine rebounds, while Cousins had eight boards. John Wall had 14 points and seven assists, and Eric Bledsoe had 13 points and five assists.
Although there is a significant strength of schedule difference between these two teams, Cornell and Kentucky are fairly even in the major statistical categories. Cornell is averaging 12 turnovers per game and forcing almost 13 per game, while Kentucky is committing 14 turnovers per game and forcing 14 per game as well. Kentucky has a +7 edge on the boards, while Cornell is outrebounding its opponents by almost four per game. Cornell is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country at 43.4 percent from long range, while holding opponents to 35 percent. Kentucky makes 35 percent of its 3-pointers and holds opponents to 31 percent. Both teams are shooting better than 48 percent from the field, but Kentucky is four percentage points better defensively, holding opponents to 38 percent shooting from the field.
Cornell is an excellent shooting team and Kentucky is very good at defending the 3-point line. If the ‘Cats can stop Wittman, Dale, Wroblewski and Jon Jaques from draining 3-pointers, it will be tough for Cornell to win. Cornell matches up with Kentucky pretty well. Dale and Wall will be a great matchup between an experienced point guard and an exciting, explosive point guard. Foote, a 7-footer, will be matched up on Cousins down low. Cousins has the strength and skill edge, but Foote has the height and experience edge. It will be interesting to see who guards Wittman and who guards Patterson. Those matchups will probably be most important for both teams. Kentucky has the better inside game, but Cornell has the better outside game with all of its shooters. And don’t automatically assume that Wall will get the best of Dale.
Cornell is 4-0 ATS in its last four games overall, 4-1 ATS in its last five games as an underdog, 5-1 ATS in its last six neutral site games, and 7-2 ATS in its last nine games following an ATS win. Kentucky is 5-0 ATS in its last five NCAA tournament games as a favorite, but 8-17 ATS in its last 25 games following an ATS win.
Ryno’s Pick: I like Cornell to cover the spread.