We’ve got brackets to break down! I’ll offer a quick take on the 28 matchups already set for Thursday and Friday. Games are listed in rotation order.
Missouri spent the entire season losing close games on the road. Larry Eustachy got the most he could out of Colorado State’s talent level this year, but the Rams, too, lost nearly every step-up game on the highway.
As a 3 seed, Marquette is only a 3.5 point favorite over 14 seed Davidson; the shortest 3-14 point spread in recent memory. The betting markets clearly respect the Wildcats’ five upperclassmen starters who started 30 of their 33 games together this season.
Butler has won at least the first two games of every postseason tournament they’ve played since 2010, including runs in the Horizon League and A-10 conference tourney’s, two runs to the championship game in the Big Dance and last year’s run to the CBI semi-finals. Bucknell’s fellow Patriot League member Lehigh knocked off the 2 seed Duke in the first round last year.
Valparaiso has 11 juniors and seniors on the roster, and they’re loaded with size and good shooters. But Michigan State will have an enormous crowd edge playing in suburban Detroit, and Tom Izzo has a pretty darn good history of avoiding first round upsets.
Akron’s point guard got kicked off the team just prior to their regular season finale and VCU’s defensive pressure is their bread and butter, leading the nation in forcing turnovers. So why have we seen some early wiseguy money come in support of the underdog Zips?
South Dakota State was good enough to steal a game at New Mexico just before Christmas, but were bad enough to lose by 24 at Minnesota. Michigan does something few Summit League teams are very good at – they play defense!
When Gonzaga faced Southern in a non-conference tilt three years ago, the Zags won the game 117-72 and won the rebounding battle 54-11. The Zags had a winning ATS record in the dozen games they’ve been favored by 15 points or more this year.
Pitt is on a 2-7 ATS run in the Big Dance dating back to 2008, and they’ve lost SU as a favorite in each of their last four NCAA tournament appearances. Wichita State has Big East-level size and depth, but lost five times down the stretch by five points or less.
Harvard lost and failed to cover in the opening round against Vanderbilt last year, continuing a string of SU and ATS failures for the Ivy League’s entrant. New Mexico won the regular season and tournament titles in the strongest mid-major conference in the country for the second consecutive year.
Belmont is loaded with strong 3-point shooters. But the Bruins lack size, giving Arizona a solid chance for redemption following a disappointing 5-5 SU, 4-6 ATS mark in their last 10 games.
Oregon wasn’t the same team after point guard Dominic Artiz got hurt mid-season – he scored only 20 points with 14 assists in six games since his return to the lineup Oklahoma State has a clear edge in the backcourt with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown combining for more than 30 points and 10 boards between them.
Saint Louis was as hot as any team in the country down the stretch: 15-1 SU and ATS in their last 16 games, the lone loss coming in OT at Xavier. New Mexico State got a lucky draw in the WAC tournament after conference leaders Denver and Louisiana Tech both got upset early.
Trailing by one at Cal in December, UNLV’s Anthony Marshall threw up a last gasp airball in the closing seconds, but Quintrell Thomas grabbed it and scored on a short hook shot with a single second on the clock for a one point Rebel win.
Syracuse has three NBA draft picks on their roster, something that correlates extremely well with extended Big Dance runs. Montana is hoping to improve on their performance from last year when they lost by 24 against Wisconsin in the opening round.
Duke has only lost one game all season with a healthy Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Albany lacks any sort of a signature win; a team with limited interior size to complement their strong guard play.
Cincinnati lost seven of their last eleven in straight up fashion while going 2-9 ATS. Creighton snapped out of an ugly mid-season funk by reeling off five consecutive wins and covers on their way to a MVC Tournament title.
Florida Gulf Coast lost on the road at VCU, Duke, St John’s and Iowa State all by double digit margins, but pulled the upset at home over Miami and covered the spread in all four of their lined games this season. Georgetown has only two Big Dance wins since 2007, consistent underachievers in March.
Lon Kruger knows Steve Fisher’s Aztecs well from his tenure at UNLV. But Oklahoma did not fare well down the stretch, including bad losses at Texas and Texas Tech. That being said, San Diego State lacks low post size and they struggled away from home against quality foes in Mountain West play.
NC State has future NBA talent with Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie, two of the five starters who average at least a dozen points a game for the Wolfpack. Temple struggled with poor shot selection from leading scorers Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall, and their three point defense has been problematic all year.
Iona has the nation’s third leading scorer, MAAC Player of the Year Lamont Jones, and the nation’s second highest scoring offense. Unfortunately for the Gaels, they’re matched up against a defensive minded, slowdown Ohio State team playing a just short drive from Columbus.
Last year, Iowa State pulled off a double digit win as an underdog in the first round against UConn. Notre Dame is just 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS in their last five Big Dance games.
Kansas will enjoy tremendous crowd support against Western Kentucky at the Sprint Center in Kansas City; where they just won another Big 12 Tournament title. Western Kentucky won their final three Sun Belt Tournament games by three points or less; every bit as lucky as they were good.
Villanova was a point spread juggernaut all year, losing ATS only 10 times in their 30 lined games. But North Carolina was a point spread juggernaut when it mattered most – down the stretch – cashing seven of their last eight prior to the ACC Tournament.
Ole Miss won SU as an underdog against LSU, Missouri and Florida away from home over the past two weeks; an ascending team right now. Wisconsin is as tough as nails defensively, but their lack of consistent scoring options was on full display in their Big 10 title game loss to Ohio State.
Florida has been remarkably adept at blowing out lesser foes, closing out the regular season on an 11-5 ATS run as double digit chalk. Northwestern State leads the nation in scoring (82.4 ppg) and have ten players who average at least 15 minutes per game, deep enough to avoid a second half meltdown.
UCLA looked like a completely different team in the PAC-12 Championship Game without second leading scorer Jordan Adams (ankle). Minnesota has the veteran talent to pull off the ‘upset’ as demonstrated by the point spread – the #11 seed is favored over the #6 seed.
Miami enters the Big Dance tied for the best pointspread record in the country this year. Pacific has only one double digit scorer, relying on a ten deep rotation to make up for their lack of size in the paint.
Illinois is always capable of knocking off superior foes when sharpshooters Brandon Paul or DJ Richardson get hot from the perimeter. Colorado pulled the upset over UNLV in the Big Dance last year .