We have waited over 700 days but the first full day of the NCAA tournament is finally here. I called in sick for work today and I’m ready to have a glorious day of watching college basketball. Like always, Aaron will have his college basketball bets on the Aarron Torres instagram page, and I will pick mine in article form here. We are coming off a massive 7-0 conference tournament match up week and we are ready to keep the train rolling.
Early Round Betting Strategy:
Fading three-point reliant teams against good perimeter defensive teams has been a profitable betting strategy for years. But it makes even more sense in this year’s tournament given the circumstances. Every single team will have to go through the difficulties of the NCAA bubble. When teams entered their NCAA hotels, each player had to isolate for two days. This week is really going to throw teams off rhythm. Simply, it’s going to affect deep shooting teams the most. Having limited practice times in game arenas is just going to throw teams off.
Betting Trends: 12 seeds are 28-12-1 ATS:
The NCAA tournament adage of 12 seeds beating five seeds remains true in the betting market. Even when these teams don’t win outright, most of the games are close. The 12 seeds are typically the most talented mid-major teams going against middle of the pack major conference teams. We will be betting on the majority of the 12 seeds in this tournament.
Now, to the picks:
Illinois vs Drexel
Drexel is a slow paced team that is non-commital on the defensive end of the floor. Not the type of team you want to be when you face Illinois. The Dragons rank 340th nationally in defensive efficiency and 247th in rebounding. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn are playing their first NCAA tournament games of their careers and they should be fired up to play. Illinois should roll in this one, lay the points.
The Pick: Illinois (-22.5)
Utah State vs. Texas Tech
Spread: Texas Tech -4
They say defense wins championships, and this game is going to be a defensive slugfest. Really the first team to 60 probably wins.
However instead of taking the game spread, we are going to take the first half under in this early game. This has all the makings of a slow and ugly start. Utah State is one of the best defensive teams in America ranking eight in defensive efficiency, 15th in effective field goal percentage, fourth in two point defense.
Texas Tech meanwhile, ranks in the top 25 in all major defensive categories. The pace should be extremely slow with Texas Tech ranking 316th in adjusted tempo. The Red Raiders do not have any playmakers or shooters outside of Mac McClung. The Aggies have potential Defensive Player of Year Neemias Queta anchoring the middle.
Expect this game to be ugly early, and we can cash a ticket with an early win.
The pick: First Half Under 61
Oregon State vs Tennessee:
Spread: Tennessee (-8.5)
The Beavers are on a 10-1 ATS run and just beat Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA to win the PAC 12 championship and Tennessee was inconsistent all season and are 3-8-1 ATS laying 7.5 or more since January 1st. This one of Aaron’s favorite picks and we are hoping on the bandwagon. The 12 seeds are on a 28-12-1 ATS run. Ethan Thompson and Jarod Lucas are legitimate scorers for the Beavers. The Volunteers have unquestionable talent, but they go through lapses where they are disorganized and stagnant on the offensive end. Oregon State comes into this game with a ton of momentum. I think the Beavers can continue their magical run. On the other side, the Volunteers blew a 14 point lead against Alabama after turning the ball over 19 times. This is more of a fade against Tennessee for me. Give me the points with Oregon State.
The pick: Oregon State +8.5
North Carolina vs Wisconsin
Spread: UNC -1.5
I really don’t see how you can make a case for Wisconsin to win this game. Nate Reavers and Micah Potter have been soft like charmin toilet paper all year. Now you expect them to go against the best rebounding front court in the nation? Wisconsin ranks 291st nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, and they are playing the top rebounding team in the nation. I have to imagine Wisconsin is going to need to shoot at least 40 percent from three to win this game. North Carolina has athletic guards in Caleb Love and RJ Davis. The one thing you have to worry about with the Tar Heels is turnovers. This is a very square play, but it’s simply a matchup you can’t overthink.
Trust Roy Williams to beat Greg Gard. Love the Tar Heels.
The pick: North Carolina ML -120
Syracuse vs San Diego State
Spread: San Diego State (-3)
Everyone is talking about Syracuse being an upset pick because of Boeheim's 2-3 zone and Syracuse happened to make a final run as an 11 seed over five years ago. Sorry Cuse fans, but Malachi Richardson is not going to suit up Friday night. I love this San Diego State team a lot and I believe the Aztecs are going to destroy the Orangemen on Friday. Remember, the Aztecs were one of the teams that got screwed when the NCAA Tournament was cancelled last year. Veterans Jordan Schackel, Matt Mitchell, and Nathan Mensah have unfinished business to take care of. The Aztecs rank 27th nationally in three point percentage shooting 37.5 percent from behind the arch. Syracuse will not have an answer inside for Mensah. Veteran Matt Mitchell should be able to dissect the zone as a three level scorer. Buddy Boeheim needs to get at least 30 for Syracuse to have a chance. Give me the Aztecs big.
The pick: San Diego State (-3)
Winthrop vs Villanova
Spread: Villanova (-6.5)
The Wildcats come into this game limping losing their last two games without star Colin Gillespie on the floor. Gillespie’s scoring has been dearly missed, but his on court leadership presence has been the most disastrous part of his absence. Without Gillespie, Villanova still has NBA caliber talent on the floor with Jeremiah Robinson Earl and Justin Moore in the lineup. I just think the team cohesion suffers greatly without Gillespie.
In addition, the Wildcats get a tough matchup with scorching hot Winthrop Eagles who come into this game with a 23-1 record. Winthrop is arguably the deepest team in this entire tournament. Winthrop has 11 guys who average 10 minutes or more and they kill teams with their insane pace. Villanova has struggled guarding the three point line, ranking 248th in the country in defensive three point percentage.
Winthrop has a star in point forward Chandler Vaudrin who is averaging 12.2 points 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists. Vaudrin has an awesome story transferring from a Division II schoo to play for the Eagles.
He has a chance to become a March folk hero if he can carry Winthrop to an upset on Friday. Give me the Golden Eagles to keep this one close.
The pick: Winthrop +6.5
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