March 15, 2018
There are 5 picks today. Welcome to the NCAA Tournament!
#1: Take Loyola-Chicago +2 spread against Miami for 3% of the bankroll.
"Upsets" have become a staple in the NCAA Tournament and while many can still be viewed as somewhat "shocking", the fact remains that they are actually expected to happen. It is just about finding the teams who appear to be most vulnerable to an upset, and in this case, we feel that Miami fits the bill.
The Miami Hurricanes have had a rough go of things since losing Bruce Brown. They've been ice-cold against the spread and even though the managed to end the season on a 4-game winning streak, none of their wins were by more than 3 points. They were completely dominated in the ACC tournament by North Carolina and have not been the same team without Brown on the court. Even though they are the bigger named program with (arguably) the better overall athletes, they cannot afford to overlook the Ramblers in this contest.
Loyola-Chicago won the MVC title with ease this season. They went 15-2 in conference play and ended the season on a 10-game winning streak. They are extremely balanced on both sides of the ball. They have 5 players that average in double-figures on offense, but where they have really thrived is on the defensive side of the ball, giving up just an average of 62 points per game which ranks 5th nationally. They are a very fundamentally sound team, who shoots well, rebounds well, plays solid defense and rarely turns the ball over. They also don't let their opponents get to the free-throw line often, which is something that Miami likes to do. In short, this team rarely ever beats themselves and makes their opponents earn each and every point, which should be concerning for a Miami team that has shown their struggles at times on both sides of the ball. This should be an entertaining matchup, but on a neutral court, we believe the Ramblers are the better overall team in this matchup and will find a win to take this game outright and become the first 'bracket-buster' of the tournament.
#2: Take South Dakota State +9 spread (buy the half point) against Ohio State for 3% of bankroll.
The Ohio State Buckeyes were one of the surprise teams this season as they were predicted to finish near the bottom of the Big 10 this season, yet, exceeded expectations and find themselves in the dreaded position of being a 5-seed. The 12-5 upset has become common place in the NCAA Tournament and the Buckeyes appear to be vulnerable heading into this matchup.
It will have been 13 days since Ohio State has seen the court and there is a strong possibility that rust could be an issue The Jackrabbits live up to their name as they will run teams into the floor when given the opportunity to do so. They have an explosive offense that ranks 6th in the nation in scoring and 12th in 3-point percentage. They also have one of the better big men in college basketball in Mike Daum. For those who have not seen Daum play, he could become a player to watch in this tournament.
Ohio State is a Power Five school with a high seed, a solid record and they are ranked, however, none of that matters to South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits have already beaten Ole Miss and Iowa and gave Wichita State a run for its money so playing against a high-profile school is not going to intimidate them. Ohio State has had a great season; however, they have lost 3 of their last 5 games, and as the Jackrabbits have the offensive ability to put up plenty of points on the board. Even if Ohio State somehow avoids the 12-5 upset, the Jackrabbits should put enough of a scare in them to stay within this number. The points may not be needed; however, they do hold a lot of value in this matchup.
#3: Take Stephen F. Austin +11 spread against Texas Tech for 3% of the bankroll.
Stephen F. Austin is no stranger being underdogs in the NCAA Tournament as they pulled an and pulled a stunner two years ago by knocking off West Virginia in the first round. The Lumberjacks were somewhat of a surprise winner of the Southland Conference tournament this season but are a very dangerous team in this tournament and have the advantage of catching Texas Tech at a time where they are struggling.
The Red Raiders come limping into the tournament at the moment, having lost 5 of their last 7 games as leading scorer Keenan Evans has battled with a toe injury. If Texas Tech does not being their "A" game in this contest, they not only won't cover the spread, but could find themselves losing outright as the Lumberjacks play right in the face of their opponent and takes it to them. There simply is no time to relax against this team, as they are a terror on defense. They are the best in the nation when it comes to creating turnover with an average of 9.4 steals per game. As a result, their opponents commit the most turnovers in Division I basketball with 19.0 a game, even better than West Virginia. And because they routinely force teams to cough up possessions, their opponents manage to put up just 50.9 shots per contest, 8 less than themselves.
The Lumberjacks are no push over of a team and have played against power opponents already this season, losing by 1 at Missouri and defeating LSU on the road. We feel that Texas Tech is a bit over seeded coming into this tournament, and if they continue to play as they did to end the season, they could be upset alert. Even if they somehow manage to win this matchup, the oddsmakers have seriously inflated this spread. SF Austin averaged over 80 points per game this season and given the way they cause havoc on the defensive end, should be enough to stay within this generous number, if not win the game outright.
#4: Take Alabama +2 spread against Virginia Tech for 3% of the bankroll.
Advancing through the NCAA Tournament has a lot to do with momentum, and the Alabama Crimson Tide have quite a bit of it heading into this matchup. After starting the season somewhat slowly, the Tide made an impressive run in the recent NCAA Tournament before getting knocked off by the eventual champion Kentucky Wildcats in the semi-finals. The Tide features a true go-to player in Collin Sexton, who is the best player to wear an Alabama uniform in quite some time. Sexton is averaging 19 points per game and 3.5 assists per game this season, but he is not the only player who contributes on this team as Donta Hall leads the team in rebounding with 6.8 per game and is averaging 10.9 points per game. John Petty rounds out the double figure scorers for the Tide, averaging 10.1 points per game.
While Alabama has momentum, the Hokies do not. They come into the tournament having lost three of their last four games, and their offense has seemingly gone cold. They are averaging just 66 points per game over their last five contests, and the Alabama defense could pose problems for them. The Tide's defense struggled against Kentucky in the SEC tournament, but we expect them to correct their mistakes in this contest. They are holding opponents to just 41% shooting from the field and are ranked 23rd in the country in 3-point defense.
Alabama's run in the SEC tournament is likely what punched their ticket to the Big Dance this season. At this point, they are currently playing with house money and have nothing to lose. That makes this team especially dangerous. Sexton is a sure-fire one and done and is likely a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. That being said, there is no better platform for a player like Sexton to show the world what he is capable of than the NCAA Tournament. We expect the Tide to allow Sexton to run free in this contest and if that is the case, it could pose problems for the Virginia Tech defense. This will likely be a close game between two evenly matched teams. Alabama certainly has the ability to win this game outright, but even if they don't, they should be competitive enough to wear the points could prove to be valuable.
#5: Take St. Bonaventure +6 spread (buy the half point) against Florida for 3% of the bankroll.
The Florida Gators have been one of the more inconsistent teams this season and we believe they are over seeded in this tournament. We also believe that they are extremely vulnerable in this matchup as the St. Bonaventure Bonnies are one of the more underrated teams in the tournament.
St. Bonaventure is fresh off their upset win over UCLA to punch their ticket into the Round of 64. It's not uncommon to see a First four team flourish in this type of setting since they already have a tournament game under their belt. The Bonnies took on a high-profile and historic UCLA team and even though they didn't play their best; still managed to come away with the victory. The Bonnies were likely nervous and had some jitters in playing on such a big stage, but with the first round now over, they should have a much better showing and be the much more prepared team in this contest.
In the tournament, the play of the guards has a huge bearing on how team perform, and we believe the Bonnies will have the better guards on the court. Jaylen Adams was terrible in the UCLA game, missing 14 of his first 15 shots before coming up huge in the second half. With the jitters now gone, we expect him to have a bounce back performance against another high-profile program. The Bonnies also received a boost with the re-emergence of Courtney Stockard into the lineup. Stockard is going to be a matchup problem for the Florida defenders in this contest.
Florida plays at their best, they have proven that they can match up with anyone, however, they have been far too inconsistent to be backed in this one-and-done tournament. The Bonnies have already proved they can take down a big-named opponent and we expect them to do it again in this contest. St. Bonaventure has the potential to win this game outright which makes the points extremely valuable.
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