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March 18, 2017

There are two picks today. 

  

#1: Take Middle Tennessee +3 spread against Butler for 3% of the bankroll.

Every year there seems to be a "Cinderella" team that enters the NCAA Tournament and vastly exceeds expectations. This year's team we believe is the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders are one of the more balanced, veteran teams in left in the tournament and their utter dominance over Minnesota proved just that. When given the opportunity, the Blue Raiders have risen to the occasion and have delivered against the power conferences and we believe this matchup with Butler will be another example of that.

A number of years ago, the Butler Bulldogs were that 'Cinderalla' team that would continuously pull off upsets over much more well established programs. They have molded their program into legitimate contenders come tournament time and will no doubt be a tough out for any team that they face. The downside to becoming a prominent and well know team however is that is that every other team knows what to expect by now. They do not have the luxury of being underestimated and in fact are now listed as the favorites in a majority of their matchups, including this one. There is a big difference between pulling off upsets and now being expected to not only win the matchup, but to do so by a specific margin.

The Blue Raiders are a very tough defensive team and use a trapping 1-3-1 style defense that has been successful in forcing turnovers (13.5 per game) and limiting teams on the scoreboard (63.3 points per game). That defense was on full display against the Golden Gophers and we don't believe we have seen the best this team has to offer yet. They are balanced on offense and are extremely efficient with their shot selections. The spread the ball out well and stretch the interior of their opponent’s defense. While Butler is known for playing solid, fundamental basketball, the ball movement and penetration of the Blue Raiders should be enough to keep the Bulldogs off-balanced on defense in this contest.

We still don't believe the Blue Raiders are getting the respect that their fully deserve. They come into this contest on an 11-game winning streak, are 22-7 ATS in their last 29 games, including going 5-0 ATS at neutral sites. They have also risen to the challenge in their non-conference slate having gone 7-1 ATS in their last 8 matchups. This is a team that is still flying under the radar and the oddsmakers have not yet adjusted which still exhibits a fair amount of value on the Blue Raiders as underdogs. It's only a matter of time before the market catches up with the Blue Raiders, but until then, the value lies solely on the live underdog.

 

#2: Take Iowa State +1 spread against Purdue for 3% of the bankroll.

This is a matchup between two polar opposites as the Iowa State Cyclones and Purdue Boilermakers square off for a trip to the Sweet 16.

The Purdue Boilermakers rely heavily on their frontcourt with 7'2" Isaac Haas and 6'9 Big 10 players of the year, Caleb Swanigan leading the way. Both Haas and Swanigan are dynamic playmakers and typically cannot be defended one-on-one. Due to the double teams needed, it leaves a number of sharpshooters wide open on the wing and Purdue has been extremely efficient with their opportunities on the perimeter. With Iowa State being a much smaller lineup, they will need to come up with an answer for Swanigan and Haas early on in this contest.

While Purdue employs a heft frontcourt, Iowa State has arguably the best backcourt in the nation with Monte Morris leading the way. Iowa State received a combined 59 points, including eight 3-pointers, and 14 assists from starting guards Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Deonte Burton and Matt Thomas in their victory over Nevada. Morris (16.4), Mitrou-Long (15.4), Burton (14.8) and Thomas (12.1) are all averaging double figures, and Morris’ 6.1 assists per game ranks fourth among players that participated in the NCAA Tourney. Five Cyclones have made at least 40 three-pointers this season and, as a team, Iowa State is connecting on 40.3% of them ranking 13th nationally.

Iowa State has proven to be one of the best shooting teams in the country and because of their guard heavy style of pay, they have been incredibly tough to stop. They have the ability to drive into the lane, pull up from the baseline or kick the ball out to the perimeter. Because of the various options available to them, they have been able to keep opposing defenses off-balance by finding the open looks and knocking down big shots. The Cyclones have experience in dealing with athletic big men in the post having already taken on Baylor and Jonathan Motely twice this season which should make them much better equipped to deal with the size and athleticism of Swanigan in this contest.

Purdue has had a quality season and they are certainly a nice story heading into the NCAA Tournament, however Iowa State is a much more experienced, versatile team and even though this game should be close, we expect the Cyclones to continue to knock down big shots as they punch their ticket to the Sweet 16 with a close victory over Purdue.




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