2012 NCAA Tournament Picks: East Region Quarterfinal Vanderbilt vs Wisconsin Odds and Predictions – Free March Madness Picks 3/17/2012: With a flurry of unexpected upsets dominating the headlines of the 2012 NCAA tournament, Saturday’s East Region matchup between fifth-seeded Vanderbilt and fourth-seeded Wisconsin is a rare example of the higher seeds taking care of business. The game also provides one of the biggest style clashes possible, with the high-powered offense of the Commodores (25-10) taking in the defensive-oriented approach of the Badgers (25-9). Tempo is going to play a major role in deciding the winner of the matchup, and the team that dictates the pace could end up punching its ticket to the Sweet 16. In the battle of opposing philosophies, Vanderbilt is a one-point favorite.
On paper, the differences between these two teams really stand out. The Commodores average 73.1 points per game, while the Badgers average just 64.1 per game. However, Wisconsin is allowing just 52.8 points per game compared to a Vanderbilt defense that is allowing 65.1 points per game to opponents. If Saturday’s game creeps near the 70-point mark, the Commodores will likely be in the driver’s seat. If Wisconsin can keep the game in the 60-point range, the Badgers should be in control.
Despite the varying styles, both teams will rely heavily on 3-point shooting. Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins is one of the best sharpshooters in the country, averaging 20.1 points per game and connecting on nearly four 3-pointers a contest. More importantly, he shoots 44.6 percent from beyond arc. His teammate Jeffery Taylor can provide some firepower, as well. The forward averages 16.3 points per game, hitting two 3-pointers a game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin uses a team approach to do damage from the perimeter, stretching defenses with its soft-shooting big men. The Badgers have four players averaging more than a 3-pointer per game this season.
In this particular game, Vanderbilt’s dynamic duo could pose the tougher matchup problem. Wisconsin’s size and length take away scoring opportunities in the paint for opponents and forces teams into long-range shots. Jenkins has range to spare, and should have plenty of chances to shoot over the top of the Badgers’ paint-clogging defensive scheme. In Vanderbilt’s upset of Kentucky in the SEC title game, Jenkins was able to neutralize the shot blocking ability of Anthony Davis by scoring from the perimeter. He is certainly capable of exploiting the Wisconsin defense, as well.
The X-factor in the game could be Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor. After breaking out with several big performances last year, Taylor hasn’t been the most consistent player this season. However, he does lead the Badgers in scoring, and he rarely turns the ball over despite being the team’s primary ball handler. If Taylor has a strong shooting night, particularly when it comes to slashing and scoring in the paint, he is able to create open looks for Wisconsin’s array of spot-up 3-point shooters. He could push the Wisconsin offense to the next level.
In the end, it is going to take an abnormally hot shooting night from the Badgers to get them past Vanderbilt. Wisconsin’s painfully methodical offense normally supports the team’s defense by frustrating opponents into taking quick, low-percentage perimeter shots. However, Jenkins and the Commodores have no issues scoring from beyond the arc. Vanderbilt can put up points on just about any defense, and the Badgers just don’t have enough firepower to keep pace. Wisconsin’s deliberate style makes a blowout unlikely, but the Commodores will shoot their way into the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Vanderbilt Commodores (-1) Cover the Spread
NCAA TOURNAMENT VEGAS ODDS: Favorite: Vanderbilt -1 Total: Over/Under 122
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