Check out the gambling post we made for the East and West regions here:
South Region- Pat
Virginia (-22) vs. Gardner-Webb
The Cavaliers are sick of hearing the 16 seed jokes stemming from their loss to UMBC in last year’s tournament, and they’ll look to silence the critics with an emphatic victory over the Runnin’ Bulldogs. The three headed monster of DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome can suffocate you defensively and shoot the lights out on the other end, a scary combo for a Gardner-Webb team playing in their first NCAA tournament in program history.
Oklahoma/Ole Miss over 142.5
While I like Oklahoma getting points in this game, I’m even more confident in the over. Both teams are solid offensively, but their struggles on defense are the main reason I think we’ll see a high scoring affair. Ole Miss likes to run when teams let them, and I don’t see the Sooners doing anything to slow the pace down. Expect a high scoring affair where the first team to 80 wins.
Wisconsin (-1.5) vs. Oregon
This is another game where I’m going against the trendy underdog. There is no doubt Oregon has been playing some great basketball the last couple weeks, while Wisconsin is struggling, especially on offense. However, when I look at this matchup, I see Oregon struggling to score on a stout Wisconsin defense that’s ninth in the nation in points allowed. Look for the Badgers to win an ugly one here.
UC Irvine (+4.5) vs. Kansas State
This is one of those spreads that seems too good to be true if you’re looking to back Kansas State. When this happens, it almost always is too good to be true, and I think that’s the case here. The Anteaters have won 16 straight, and rely on a deep bench, strong defense, and balanced scoring attack for their winning formula. While Kansas State is an elite defensive team, they run into another one in U-C Irvine and may be without star forward Dean Wade for this game. Even if Wade plays, he’ll likely be rusty, and I like the Anteaters to not only cover, but win outright.
Villanova (-4.5) vs. St. Mary’s
The defending national champs are nowhere near as good as they were a year ago, and they run into a hot St. Mary’s team fresh off an upset victory over Gonzaga in the WCC title game. As great as the Gaels played in that title game, that’s not who they really are. St. Mary’s has struggled with elite competition all year, and while Villanova has had their ups and downs, Jay Wright will have his guys ready for this one. I like the Wildcats to win big here.
Old Dominion (+13) vs. Purdue
The Monarchs are a tough team, and unlike most mid-majors, win because of defense. They boast wins over a pair of at-large teams in VCU and Syracuse, and undoubtedly have what it takes to hang with the Boilermakers. Look for Old Dominion to make it a long day for Carsen Edwards and give Purdue a scare, and maybe even pull off the upset while they’re at it.
Cincinnati (-3.5) vs. Iowa
These two teams are moving in opposite directions heading into this tournament, as Cincinnati is red hot and Iowa has struggled. I expect that trend to continue as Jarron Cumberland will be able to get whatever he wants against the Iowa defense, while Mick Cronin’s tough defense will make it a long day for Iowa’s shooters.
Colgate (+17.5) vs. Tennessee
The Red Raiders are red hot, and are playing with so much confidence heading into the tournament. Tennessee is a legit title contender, but got exposed versus Auburn for their poor ability to defend the three point line in the SEC title game. Now they are matched up with a Colgate team that can shoot the lights out and is playing with swagger and nothing to lose. This is a recipe for a close game, and a Colgate cover.
UNC (-23) vs. Iona
After receiving an auto bid to the tournament for winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Iona Gaels have a tough matchup against a top seeded UNC team. The Tar Heels have had an impressive season and appear to be one of the strongest teams in the tournament. They are currently ranked 5th in BPI rankings and are an athletic team and can score in a variety of ways. They hit the boards well on offense and defense and like to get off to the races. The Gaels will have a tough time keeping up with the young and athletic talent of UNC and will most likely not cover their large spread.
Ohio State (+5.5) vs. Iowa State
After a late season slide, the Iowa State Cyclones got back on track by winning the Big 12 conference championship. The Cyclones are a fast paced team that has many players capable of hitting from behind the arc. However, Ohio State does an excellent job rebounding the ball and just got back their top scorer and rebounder Kaleb Wesson from suspension. The Buckeyes dropped a close one to Big 10 conference champion Michigan State in the quarter finals. If the Cyclones struggle to hit shots from deep, as they have in some games throughout the season, the Buckeyes have a chance to cover the spread and even pull off an upset.
Georgia State (+12) vs. Houston
The Houston Cougars are one of the scarier teams in the tournament this year. They are a solid overall team that plays with a great amount of intensity on both sides of the ball. The Cougars only lost three games all season, all to conference opponents. After losing the American Athletic Conference tournament to a stout Cincinnati team, the Cougars will be fired up and will look to force turnovers to get in transition. On the other side Georgia State has proven to be a very dangerous team in March over the past few years. After winning the Sun Belt Conference championship the Panthers look to keep their momentum and try to upset an impressive team. The Panthers are led by junior star D’Marcus Simonds (18.4 ppg) who does it all for the team and gets the offense going. Look for the Panthers to give the Cougars a tough test in the first round.
Utah State (-2.5) vs. Washington
Utah State has proven to be an extremely tough opponent throughout the season and are coming off a Mountain West Conference tournament title. The Aggies are led by junior guard Sam Merrill (21.2 ppg), who is the engine of the team, and freshman center Neemias Queta. They rebound the ball well and rarely turn the ball over, making them a scary opponent come tournament time. Meanwhile, the Huskies are known for their tough zone defense that boasts one of the best individual defenders in the country in Matisse Thybulle. However, at times the Huskies offense has difficulty moving the ball and scoring which will be a problem if they are trying to keep up with an efficient Utah State team. Look for the Aggies to win this defensive battle and cover their spread.
Seton Hall (+3.0) vs. Wofford
Over the past two weeks, the Pirates and the Terriers have been two of the hottest teams in the country. The Pirates fell short to Villanova in the Big East finals by two points after an impressive end to their regular season and conference tournament, including wins against Villanova, Marquette, and Georgetown. They are led by junior guard Myles Powell (22.9 ppg) and as of late have gotten a lot of help from supporting cast Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, and Sandro Mamukelashvili.
The Pirates are a tough and physical team that look to continue their strong play into the tournament. They also have impressive non-conference wins during the season coming against bigger teams such as Kentucky and Maryland. The Terriers have worked their way into the national rankings with an impressive run in Southern Conference play while winning the title. They take care of the ball well and have the ability to light it up from deep, however the Pirates should steal this first round win if they can lock up senior guard Fletcher Magee.
Auburn (-5.5) vs. New Mexico State
After an impressive SEC tournament championship win, the Tigers will have a tough matchup against Western Athletic Conference champ New Mexico State. The Tigers have proven that they are a team that is not afraid to rely on the three and they have many players who are capable of shooting from behind the arc. Auburn plays very up tempo and is well coached by veteran Bruce Pearl. However, the Aggies play terrific defense and only allow 64.1 points per game. They are also efficient on offense and turn the ball over less than 12 times per game. Look for Auburn to keep rolling to a possible Sweet 16 appearance and cover their spread against early upset candidate New Mexico State.
Kansas (-6.5) vs. Northeastern
After losing in the Big 12 conference semifinals to a dangerous Iowa State team, the Jayhawks are looking to avoid an early exit in the tournament. They will be going up against a Northeastern team that punched an auto bid by winning the Colonial Athletic Conference a week ago. The Huskies have a balanced and efficient offensive attack and boast four players averaging double figures, led by senior guard Vasa Pusica (17.8 ppg).
However, they do not create a lot of turnovers and do not fair too well on the glass. On the other side, the Jayhawks rebound the ball well and are led by transfer Dedric Lawson (10.3 rpg). Look for Lawson to have a big day and for Kansas to easily cover the spread if they get off to the races. After losing some key players throughout the year, such as Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike, this game will be the only one to come somewhat easy for the Jayhawks this tournament.
Abilene Christian (+22.5) vs. Kentucky
It has been rare for a 2 seed to beat a 15 seed in the tournament, the last was in 2016 when Michigan State fell to Middle Tennessee. However, the Abilene Christian Wildcats are an extremely efficient team on offense that move the ball well and make little mistakes. They finished first in team defense in the Southland Conference and force a healthy amount of turnovers. The Abilene Christian Wildcats also have multiple players who are capable of hitting from behind the arc, making them somewhat dangerous.
The Kentucky Wildcats are in familiar territory by being highly seeded in the tournament and have a typical Kentucky team led by underclassmen. Kentucky has been proven to be athletic and a tough rebounding team. With Calipari at the helm the Kentucky Wildcats should have no problem beating Abilene Christian, however, if the Abilene Christian Wildcats can take care of the ball they should cover their large spread.