March 22, 2018
There are 2 picks tonight.
#1: Take Loyola-Chicago +1 spread against Nevada for 3% of the bankroll.
If it weren't for #16 seed UMBC’s shocking upset over #1 seed Virginia, there is no question that Loyola would be the talk of the tournament. We have been big fans of the Ramblers, even before this tournament began so while many are still 'shocked' they have made it this far, we are not one of them. That being said, we still don't believe they have gotten the due respect that they they deserve in this tournament, despite all their accomplishments and will once again prove that they should not be a team that is overlooked.
Let's not forget, they enter this matchup having won 12 straight games including 19 of their last 20, so they are one of the hottest teams in the tournament especially when you consider two of those wins were against the 6-seeded Miami Hurricanes and the 3-seeded Tennessee Volunteers. Offensively, the Ramblers aren’t very fast as they average just 71.9 points per game (229th in CBB) on 50.6 FG% (3rd in CBB). This is a team that doesn't play fast but are incredibly efficient with the basketball. They prefer to keep things in the half court, and if they can control the tempo then the momentum is always on their side.
Many are expecting the Nevada Wolfpack to cause problems for the much slower Loyola squad, but we're not quite buying into that. Everyone is currently enamored with the fact that the Wolfpack managed to pull off a stunning upset by up-ending the #2 seeded Cincinnati Bearcats in the round of 32. Was down by as many as 22 points in the second half and yet they rallied to and the game on a 32-8 runs to stun Cincinnati. Because of that comeback, many people are residing on the fact that the Nevada offense cannot be held in check, however, we're not so sure that is the morale that people should be taking away from that contest.
The Bearcats play a very similar style of game to that of the Ramblers. They are focused on solid defense and typically get just enough offense to win games. Many are expecting a similar result of the Wolfpack cracking the Ramblers defense. That being said, the Bearcats defense did completely shut down Nevada for a good portion of their matchup. The Bearcats simply got complacent, overlooked their opponent, and got themselves caught. The Ramblers are not in a position where they would overlook any team. They are the team that is out to prove that they are worthy of making a deep run in this tournament and that motivation translates onto the court. There is no question they will use what happened to Cincinnati, learn from it, and ensure that the same fate does not happen to them. Let's not forget, they are statistically a better defensive team that Cincinnati, holding teams to just 62 points per game on 41% shooting from the field. They simply suffocate their opponents and into the passing lanes as 4 players average more than a steal per game.
It's a shame that one of these teams Cinderella runs ends in this contest, but we believe the Loyola defense will once again be the difference as they continue their magical run and punch their ticket into the Elite 8.
#2: Take Gonzaga -5 spread (buy the half points) against Florida State risking 3% of the bankroll
The Florida State Seminoles should have a lot of confidence in themselves after knocking off the #1 seeded Xavier Musketeers to advance to the Sweet 16. What was most impressive about their victory, was that the Bearcats were down by as many as 12 points mid-way through the second half before they turned up the defensive pressure and went on an improbable scoring run to end the game. Due to that performance, they are likely going to be a popular 'upset' pick against in the Sweet 16, and rightfully so, however, we don't believe they are going to be as fortunate in this contest.
Let's look at the facts. Ahead of the NCAA tournament this season there were many that believed Xavier was unworthy of a number 1 seeding. Many also believed that they were the most likely of the four teams to suffer an early tournament upset, ourselves included. Despite all the claims, let's not forget that Xavier did severely outplay this Florida State team for the better part of 30 mins, before suffering what can only be called an unexpected late game collapse. Against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, we don't believe they will be as fortunate.
Gonzaga is a perennial powerhouse in this tournament and has the experience that the Seminoles appear to lack. They are arguably the best two-way team left in the tournament, ranking in the top 20 in offense and the top 40 in defense. They have the size and athleticism to handle FSU on the inside, and numerous capable shooters on the wing to cause damage along the perimeter. The Bulldogs also haven't exactly looked good thus far in the tournament, escaping with a closely contested victory over UNC Greensboro, before toppling the Ohio State Buckeyes in the shootout in the Round of 32. Given how shaky they have looked thus far, we wouldn't be surprised if many are already writing off the Zags in this matchup, and we expect that to play into our benefit.
This should be an entertaining matchup, however, from a pure talent and experience standpoint, Gonzaga is head and shoulders the better overall team in this matchup. They should be able to do what Xavier did in the first 30 minutes of their contest, and that is outplay, out-rebound and out-hustle the Seminoles, only we don't expect the Zags to surrender their lead in this matchup. The Bulldogs will have one of their most complete performances of the tournament in this contest as they punch their ticket to the Elite 8 once against this season.
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