#10 Oklahoma vs. #7 Rhode Island (-1.5)
The stifling Rhody D will get a crack at Trae Young and the Sooners in the opening game of the Thursday slate. Neither of these teams finished particularly well, Rhody losing 3 of 5, and Oklahoma losing essentially every time they stepped onto the court (2-8 in their last 10). The Rams are great at containing individual scorers, and play sound enough team offense to win this game.
Winner: Rhode Island
ATS: Rhode Island
#14 Wright State vs. #3 Tennessee (-13.5)
If there’s a better name than Admiral Schofield in this tournament I haven’t found it yet. Led by Admiral, Tennessee has become one of the best defensive teams in the country, and managed to win the SEC this season (after being projected as an NIT team) by beating Kentucky twice. Wright State is one of the lowest rated teams to make the tournament, but should only improve moving forward with an incredibly young lineup. In the end, the Vols defense should seperate them pretty quickly in this one.
#13 UNC Greensboro vs. # 4 Gonzaga (-12.5)
UNC Greensboro has had a fantastic season, winning the conference regular season, and championship titles. They’re also a young team, with only two seniors playing meaningful minutes. They lost their first game of the season to Virginia by only 12, and beat NC State on the road. Make no mistake, this is a good team. This is Gonzaga’s time of year though. The Bulldogs are playing their best basketball, and should be able to win this game, even if it is closer than expected.
ATS: UNC Greensboro
#16 Penn vs. #1 Kansas (-14.5)
Penn may be the best 16 seed ever. They probably got screwed by the Committee by not getting a 14 or 15 seed and getting a crack at a slightly lesser foe. Do they have a chance to be the first 16 seed ever to knock off a #1? Probably not. Penn will be out-sized at every position, and will have difficulties trying to slow down the Jayhawks high powered offense. A decent game from Devonte’ Graham would win this game easily.
#15 Iona vs. #2 Duke (-20)
Well, Duke is doing Duke things lately, winning 13 games in the ACC and cruising to another two-seed in the tournament. Marvin Bagley and Grayson Allen are arguably the best duo in college basketball, and Coach K is just a winning machine. Iona has talent, but only managed to finish fourth in the regular season standings in a weak MAAC conference. They will have a hard time stopping Duke, and may give up 100 points.
#11 Loyola Chicago vs. #6 Miami (-3)
Loyola Chicago is a popular pick this weekend to upset the Hurricanes, and for good reason. The Ramblers have won their last 10 games, and beat the Florida Gators earlier in the season. The team has a well balanced offense, with five players averaging between 10 and 13 points per game. Miami has beaten UNC recently, but has played significantly worse without Bruce Brown. Maybe this is the classic darling pick that never works out, but it sure feels like an upset in the making.
Winner: Loyola Chicago
ATS: Loyola Chicago
#12 South Dakota State vs. #5 Ohio State (-7)
Ohio State is cold, having lost to Michigan and Penn State (x3). A few weeks ago, they may have been eyeing a two or a three seed, and now their lucky that they aren’t seeded even lower than they are. South Dakota State is a dangerous team that played stiff competition in the non-conference season. They’re averaging nearly 85 points per game, and can go nine deep, with nine players averaging 13 or more minutes per game. Oh, and they’re shooting over 40% from deep. This one should be close, but OSU will eke this one out.
Winner: Ohio State
ATS: South Dakota State
#9 Seton Hall vs. #8 NC State (-2)
Kevin Keatts is a fantastic coach. In one season he turned a 4-14 ACC team into an 11-7 ACC team. Quite the turnaround. Seton Hall has seniors though, and experience wins when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Four of the Pirates top 5 minute-getters are seniors. The talent on both teams is evenly matched (Allerik Freeman has been especially good lately), but Seton Hall’s seniors should pull it out late.
Winner: Seton Hall
ATS: Seton Hall
#16 Radford vs. #1 Villanova (-23.5)
Radford won their Super Bowl on Tuesday night by beating Derek Kellog’s blackbirds in the first game of the First Four. Unfortunately for them, this is where the journey ends. Unless on some ridiculous fluke, Brunson, Bridges, and Spellman all collide and are forced out of the game, Nova wins this game running away.
#12 Davidson vs. #5 Kentucky (-7)
These teams couldn’t be more different. Kentucky is big and ridiculously athletic, with some of the best blue-chip recruits in the country. For the first time in a while, Calipari hasn’t really been able to have the Cats jell the way he’s wanted. Regardless, Kentucky still won the SEC tournament. Meanwhile, Bob Mckillop, just like always, has Davidson playing basketball much better than their 12-seed would indicate. They’ve only lost one out of their last nine, and that was in triple-overtime in Olean. Davidson’s methodical and well oiled offense will pick apart an undisciplined Kentucky team.
#11 San Diego State vs. #6 Houston (-3)
San Diego State is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, having won their last nine, including the three it needed to capture the Mountain West crown. The only problem for the Aztecs, is that aside from a one point loss to an outstanding Cincinnati team in a game that was rather irrelevant as far as seeding was concerned, the Cougars have won their previous five. Also going for the Cougars is their range. Corey Davis Jr. is LETHAL from deep. Throw in Rob Gray’s 18.5 per game, and the Cougars should have enough to pull away.
#14 Stephen F. Austin vs. #3 Texas Tech (-11)
Stephen F. Austin is always a popular upset pick in the dance due to their previous near and actual successes. If any 14 seed is going to win, it’s the Lumberjacks. Their pedigree, high powered offense, and turnover inducing defense will help their upset push. The Red Raiders have been cold since pushing to knock off Kansas from the Big 12 throne a few weeks ago. Ultimately though, Tech’s size and experience in the best conference in the country this season will be enough to prevail over SFA.
Winner: Texas Tech
ATS: Stephen F. Austin
#9 Alabama vs. #8 Virginia Tech (-2)
Collin Sexton can flat out ball, and has scored over 20 points in each of his last four games. Meanwhile Virginia Tech’s balanced atack has five guys averaging over 10 points per game, and no one averaging over 14. The Hokies have been cold of late, losing 3 of 4, but aside from a quick run in the SEC tournament, Alabama has played worse, losing 6 of 8. Also, I really, really, REALLY don’t like Power 5 teams that finish under .500 in conference.
Winner: Virginia Tech
ATS: Viriginia Tech
#13 Buffalo vs. #4 Arizona (-9)
The Bulls got a tough draw with Arizona as a four-seed. Deandre Ayton is possibly the most difficult player to guard in all of college basketball, and Sean Miller (investigation aside) is a very talented X’s and O’s coach. With both teams averaging over 80 points per game, this should be a shootout. Buffalo hasn’t played nobodies all season though, with games against Cincinnati, Bona, ‘Cuse, and Texas A&M. Arizona will win this one, but Buffalo should give them a scare.
#14 Montana vs. #3 Michigan (-12)
Once again, John Beilein has the Wolverines playing their best basketball in March. After capturing the Big 10 title with four wins in four days, Michigan storms into the dance as a lofty three-seed. Moritz Wagner is about as big of a matchup nightmare as you will ever see. At 6’11”, he has the ability to play every position on the court. Montana dominated the Big Sky, but hasn’t beaten anyone decent all year. The Griz might keep it close early, but Michigan should have no problem putting these guys away.
#11 St. Bonaventure vs. #6 Florida (-5.5)
The Bonnies did it. They slayed the mighty dragon on Tuesday and got some revenge for the 1970 team that never got the chance to face John Wooden’s Bruins. The big question for the Bonnies on Thursday is, are they out of gas? I don’t think so. I expect Jaylen Adams to break out of his slump and for the rest of the Bonnies to continue their stellar defense against a Florida team that is significantly smaller than the UCLA one they just handled. #Unfurl
Winner: St. Bonaventure
ATS: St. Bonaventure