It's Friday and it's March, which means one thing: It's time to make some college hoops bets.
That's right, the Sweet 16 tipped off on Thursday night, and yesterday, Austin Montgomery did an awesome job of getting you ready for what turned into a wild Thursday of college hoops. Today, it's my turn, as below I'll share thoughts on all four games, with two official picks (I'll share my leans in the other two).
Now, to the picks:
Midwest Region: No. 4 Providence vs. No. 1 Kansas (Friday, 7:29 ET, TBS - in Chicago)
Spread: Kansas (-7.5)
On the one hand, this line makes sense: Kansas is the No. 1 seed in this region, regular season and Big 12 Tournament champs, and playing close to home in Chicago.
On the other hand: Providence, as a 7.5 point underdog? What do the Friars need to do to earn a little respect here?
(I'll just go ahead and insert the Rodney Dangerfield GIF for you)
Yes, it's been a little bit of a theme all season long, but the Friars are, in my opinion, one of the most disrespected teams I can remember in college hoops. Despite winning the school's first ever Big East regular season title, the advanced analytics people have continued to call them "lucky" all year, even as they continue to pile up wins. That included a victory over South Dakota State as a trendy underdog in Round 1, followed up by a dominant Round of 32 win over Richmond.
As for Kansas look, I love the Jayhawks; they were my preseason national champion. At the same time, we are now 30+ games into the season, and let me ask you something: Outside of Ochai Agbaji playing at an All-American level, what does this team do at an elite level? They are really good across the board, but I'm sure that - when Ochai isn't cooking - anything makes them truly special.
Well, the last few games Agbaji hasn't been great (a combined 10 for 28 from the field in the first two rounds) and Kansas has struggled, holding on for dear life against Creighton last week. They really only won because Remy Martin had his best game as a Jayhawk with 20 points, and I simply don't think you can count on Remy going off every night.
In the end, Kansas may win here, but Providence and the points are just too good to pass up.
The Pick: Providence (+7.5)
Midwest Region: No. 11 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Miami (Friday, 9:59 ET, TBS - in Chicago)
Spread: Miami (-2.5)
It's the game that no one could have possibly seen coming, yet here we are, as Miami and Iowa State match up in the last game of the day on Friday night, with an Elite Eight berth on the line. That's right, we spent a whole season watching college hoops, only to watch Baylor, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee and Wisconsin fall in the opening weekend, while either Miami or Iowa State will be playing to go to a Final Four.
What a time to be alive!
And what a time to Miami.
Look, as I say on the Aaron Torres Pod all the time, "two things in life can be true" and two things are certainly true with Iowa State: They are a great story, and are absolutely worthy of being here.
They also got a few crazy breaks along the way.
Just think about Iowa State's path. Their first round matchup was against a team without a head coach (LSU) and their second round matchup featured a Wisconsin team whose best player (Johnny Davis) was banged up, and whose point guard (Chucky Hepburn) went down midway through the first half and didn't play the rest of the game. Yes, Iowa State is deserving of being here, but those are also some nice breaks.
As for Miami, well, they took down USC in Round 1, before running away from Auburn in the second round. Even if you want to argue that Auburn peaked in late January or early February, you can't argue that the Hurricanes absolutely steamrolled them last weekend.
Miami might be a surprising team in the Sweet 16 (I certainly didn't pick them). But they are the right side here.
The Pick: Miami (-2.5)
East Regional: No. 15 Saint Peters vs. No. 3 Purdue (Friday, 7:09 ET, CBS - in Philadelphia)
As I write this article, there is no line on this game in the DraftKings Sportsbook, and frankly it may be with good reason: No one is quite sure what to make of this Saint Peter's team. From No. 15 seed to the Sweet 16, it really is one of the more incredible stories we've seen.
Anyway, I've seen this number around 12.5, and I can't lie, I can see why Purdue is the heavy favorite - simply because they have the size and physicality advantage down low. I do feel like, as great as the Peacocks' run was last week, there is just too much down low with Zach Edey and Trevion Williams.
It is worth noting of course that Saint Peter's was at a size disadvantage last week against Kentucky, and (as you've probably heard) found a way to win. And they're actually a better rebounding team than they get credit for, as they actually rank No. 83 in the country in rebound rate. It's also worth noting that the Peacocks rank in the Top 15 nationally in two-point defense, meaning that while they aren't big, they are aggressive and solid around the rim.
Even when the line comes out I'm not betting this, but if I did have a lean, it would be the Boilermakers.
The Pick: No pick (lean - Purdue -12.5)
East Regional: No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 4 UCLA (Friday, 9:39 ET, CBS)
Spread: UCLA (-2)
The big story in this game is obviously the health of UCLA star forward Jaime Jacquez. The Bruins second-leading scorer and top rebounder left last weekend's win over Saint Mary's with a bad ankle, and was limited all week in the lead-up to this one.
He did appear to go through workouts Thursday afternoon in the lead-up to this one, but it's safe to assume that he is no where close to 100 percent.
Regardless, I'll be staying away from this one.
One, because of Jacquez injury.
Two, because to me, this game comes down to one simple thing: Who can dictate tempo in this one.
For all the criticism of North Carolina throughout the season (including from me personally) the Tar Heels figured it out late, finding success with Caleb Love pushing tempo and Brady Manek spacing the floor. The problem is of course, that UCLA wants to do the opposite, play in a half court game, grind you down, and win, with limited possessions.
Ultimately this game just feels like there are way too many variables at play, and because of it, I'll gladly pass on this one.
The Pick: Stay Away (Lean - UCLA -2)
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