Dark day for Pac-12, ACC

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

Loyola guard Donte Ingram (0) celebrates with teammates after hitting the game-winning shot against Miami.
© USA Today Sports Images

Buffalo obliterates Arizona in Thursday’s biggest NCAA tournament shocker. Highlights, updates, and our “Holy Trinity” previews for Friday’s full card here in VSiN City.

Thursday NCAA Tournament: Buffalo, Loyola, and Alabama score Thursday’s only upsets

Not enough room to run expanded boxscores from Thursday and Friday action this week. We’ll post stat notes on twitter for the first two days, then return to our normal stat summaries for the Round of 32 and beyond. We will crunch the numbers from any upset here in the newsletter. With favorites going 13-3 straight up on the first big day of action, that leaves us these three games for additional coverage…

Buffalo (plus 8.5) 89, Arizona 68

Two-point Pct: Buffalo 59%, Arizona 59%

Three Pointers: Buffalo 15/30, Arizona 2/18

Free Throws: Buffalo 6/7, Arizona 8/11

Rebounds: Buffalo 32, Arizona 31

Turnovers: Buffalo 10, Arizona 9

Estimated Possessions: Buffalo 68, Arizona 67

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Buffalo 77-73-81, Arizona 21-16-20

Market Watch: A sharp/square divide here…with smart money preferring this dangerous dog, while Arizona is always a popular bet with locals (and tourists) in Las Vegas. An opening line of Arizona -8.5 got as low as -8…and as high as -9.5. Total hung around 157.5 all week. Half point ended up mattering. 

It’s not quite the end of a disastrous season for the Pac-12. A few teams are still left in the NIT. It was 0-3 in the Dance despite Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State all being favored over Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, and Syracuse. UCLA’s loss looks even worse with St. Bonny losing so big to Florida. 

Arizona’s defense has been soft all season. And it was playing soft in a bad conference! Here, the Wildcats ran into a Buffalo buzzsaw that shot 50% on high volume treys (same as 75% on two-pointers) and 59% on deuces. Look at how few possessions it took for Buffalo to make a run at 90 points. Turns out that lost weekend in the Bahamas did foreshadow what would happen to Arizona outside of league play in March. 

Buffalo’s not as good as it looked here. But, the best MAC champions are always dangerous in this event. This dog will face a MUCH tougher defense Saturday against Kentucky. 

Loyola Chicago (plus 1.5) 64, Miami 62 

Two-point Pct: Loyola 53%, Miami 53%

Three Pointers: Loyola 8/21, Miami 4/9

Free Throws: Loyola 4/9, Miami 8/13

Rebounds: Loyola 27, Miami 33

Turnovers: Loyola 10, Miami 16

Estimated Possessions: Loyola 63, Miami 63

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Loyola 41-62-50, Miami 36-32-35

Market Watch: An opener of Miami -2.5 back on Sunday night was bet down through the week. Most spots closed at 1.5…though there was a game-day battle between backers wanting Miami at -1.5 or Loyola plus 2. Miami money thought it was getting a steal. Dog money persevered and won at the buzzer. The opening total of 133.5 hopped around a little through the week before settling where it started. 

Miami led a close game most of the way…but couldn’t make clinching free throws in the final moments. Very slow grinder given the possession counts (we use shots…minus offensive rebounds…plus one-half free throws…plus turnovers for our estimates). Slowest game of the early session by quite a bit. Loyola continues the great recent history for the Missouri Valley Conference, in the absence of Wichita State who changed leagues. 

Alabama (plus 3) 86, Virginia Tech 83 

Two-point Pct: Alabama 69%, Virginia Tech 58%

Three Pointers: Alabama 8/18, Virginia Tech 9/18

Free Throws: Alabama 18/27, Virginia Tech 14/20

Rebounds: Alabama 26, Virginia Tech 22

Turnovers: Alabama 17, Virginia Tech 14

Estimated Possessions: Alabama 71, Virginia Tech 68

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Alabama 51-46-54, Virginia Tech 32-37-29

Market Watch: Virginia Tech opened at -2. The game was bet up to -2.5 or -3 depending on the store. Over/Under hung around 141.5 all week.

Dark day for the ACC, with Miami and Virginia Tech landing in two of the day’s three upsets. NC State missed the spread by eight points against Seton Hall in an ugly defensive loss too. So much for the ACC/Big Ten challenge signaling postseason success in the mid-level. You can see that Virginia Tech was bullied inside here. Alabama shot 22 of 32 on two-pointers while also earning more free throw attempts and winning the rebound battle. Good day for the SEC, with Tennessee and Alabama covering by 14.5 and 6 respectively, and Kentucky playing more impressively than its final score vs. Davidson suggested. 

We can delete some teams from our estimated “market” Power Ratings that ran earlier in the week. Plus, some early point spreads for Saturday’s games have helped provide additional info. Seton Hall is getting more respect that we had anticipated off the win over NC State. Rhode Island and Ohio State are getting less than we had expected given early underdog price for them against Duke and Gonzaga. 

Here are estimated “market” Power Ratings after eliminating Thursday’s losers…

East Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 87, Purdue 86, West Virginia 84, Wichita State 83, Texas Tech 82, Florida 82, Butler 79, Arkansas 78, Alabama 77, Murray State 74, Marshall 71, Cal-Fullerton 65.

South Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Virginia 87, Cincinnati 84, Kentucky 84, Tennessee 82, Creighton 79, Kansas State 78, Nevada 78, Texas 78, Loyola-Chicago 75, Buffalo 74, Georgia State 70, Maryland-Balt County 64.

Midwest Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Michigan State 86, Kansas 84, Auburn 82, TCU 81, Clemson 79, Seton Hall 79, Rhode Island 78, Syracuse 76, New Mexico State 74, Bucknell 72, College of Charleston 72. 

West Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Xavier 83, Gonzaga 83, North Carolina 83, Michigan 82, Ohio State 80, Houston 80, Missouri 79, Texas A&M 79, Florida State 78, Providence 76, Lipscomb 64, Texas Southern 61.

The lack of Day One upsets creates some real battles Saturday. Be sure you watch VSiN programming for line developments between now and first tip. 

Now…Friday’s previews…

NCAA Tournament: Friday previews region-by-region with the Holy Trinity

If you’ve been with us this week, you know we’re focusing on the following stats in our game previews for the Big Dance…

*Adjusted Defensive Efficiency rankings from Ken Pomeroy’s website

*Rebound Rate as calculated by teamrankings.com

*Turnover Avoidance as calculated by teamrankings.com

We hope those have helped you visualize expectations thus far in the tournament. Let’s get to the Friday numbers…


Texas A&M (-2.5/138.5) vs. Providence (12:15 p.m. ET on CBS)

Providence: #35 defense, #179 rebounding, #115 TO avoidance

Texas A&M #12 defense, #24 rebounding, #231 TO avoidance

The Aggies were a classic “defense and rebounding” team this season. Though, they weren’t able to turn that into what was expected because of that horrible performance in the turnover category. Two good defenses. Two sloppy offenses. Might set up a low scoring game in that early TV window in front of a half-empty arena. Thursday’s good showing for Seton Hall might be hinting that the market has underestimated the Big East tweeners. 

North Carolina (-19.5/161.5) vs. Lipscomb (2:45 p.m. ET on CBS)

Lipscomb: #131 defense, #69 rebounding, #287 TO avoidance

N. Carolina #34 defense, #3 rebounding, #61 TO avoidance

Wins across the board for the Tar Heels, unsurprisingly. And, that turnover avoidance rank isn’t the end of the world because the team aggressively attacks the basket. Typically, aggression leads to worse rankings. Basically championship caliber balance…but from a team that has too many dead spots to trust to run the table. Remember they lost at home to the Miami team that couldn’t get past Loyola, and also lost recently to the Virginia Tech team that lost to Alabama. 

Creighton (-1/144.5) vs. Kansas State (6:50 p.m. ET on TNT)

Kansas St.: #41 defense, #289 rebounding, #90 TO avoidance

Creighton #61 defense, #142 rebounding, #22 TO avoidance

Another Big East tweener, though defense and rebounding may not live up to those rankings because of a mid-season injury. Got to like the turnover number for the Blue Jays. Will be interesting to see how the Big 12 tweeners perform. OU is out. Texas plays Friday vs. Creighton. K-State’s so bad at rebounding, meaning that stat profile is likely pointing to Creighton for value. 

Virginia (-21.5/121) vs. team (9:20 p.m. ET on TNT)

MD-Balt Co: #170 defense, #279 rebounding, #67 TO avoidance

Virginia #1 defense, #89 rebounding, #5 TO avoidance

Virginia may not rebound as well as its press clippings suggest, but it plays fantastic fundamental basketball otherwise. Note that the defensive rank isn’t “because” their games are so slow. Pomeroy adjusts for pace and strength of schedule. Virginia’s defensive skill sets make it very hard for opponents to score. Spread is so high that it could come down to garbage time. 


Purdue (-20.5/146.5) vs. Cal-Fullerton (12:40 p.m. ET on truTV)

Cal-Fullerton: #134 defense, #153 rebounding, #300 TO avoidance

Purdue #28 defense, #74 rebounding, #25 TO avoidance

A lot of projected blowouts so far. Fullerton’s horrible turnover offense runs into Purdue’s excellent defense. Purdue did have big trouble covering pointspreads in recent weeks, so you can’t just jump on the Boilermakers here. If they play Butler in the next round, you’ll see some striking similarities. 

Butler (-1.5/151) vs. Arkansas (3:10 p.m. ET on truTV)

Butler: #48 defense, #117 rebounding, #27 TO avoidance

Arkansas #103 defense, #218 rebounding, #17 TO avoidance

The SEC is seen as a sloppy conference, so that great ranking in turnover avoidance is really striking for Arkansas. They sure give it away in defense and rebounding though. Looks like BOTH teams protect the ball well…but Butler will win the other categories. You know Butler is well-coached. This stat profile is suggesting the short favorite could be offering value. But, the SEC did show well Thursday with Tennessee and Alabama. And, Kentucky won score on “1’s and 2’s” vs. Davidson 78-40.  

Michigan State (-14.5/148.5) vs. Bucknell (7:10 p.m. ET on CBS)

Bucknell: #112 defense, #110 rebounding, #89 TO avoidance

Michigan St. #9 defense, #1 rebounding, #232 TO avoidance

Michigan State’s Dance legacy is part of the reason “defense and rebounding win championships” is in our lexicon. Stellar numbers there. But, big trouble at playing clean on offense. May not matter here…but it’s likely to down the road vs. quality. Very dicey to ask Sparty to reach the Final Four given a sloppy offense and the poor showings vs. market expectations in the Big 10 tournament. 

TCU (-4/136.5) vs. Syracuse (9:40 p.m. ET on CBS)

Syracuse: #11 defense, #43 rebounding, #224 TO avoidance

TCU #104 defense, #14 rebounding, #131 TO avoidance

The fact that TCU saw Baylor twice should help it prepare for the Syracuse zone. Not clones…but close enough to serve as important prep work. TCU’s problem is that its own soft defense could make it too easy for less rusty/less nervous Syracuse to get cheap points. If TCU isn’t scoring early, the Horned Frogs may be trying to climb out of a hole against an annoying defense. At least TCU’s great rebounding will give it a shot at second half points. Fascinating handicapping challenge, but might be another ugly game to watch. A decent enough matchup from the Syracuse perspective. Sloppy offense matters less against a soft defense. 


Cincinnati (-13.5/130) vs. Georgia State (2 p.m. ET on TBS)

Georgia St.: #106 defense, #291 rebounding, #57 TO avoidance

Cincinnati #2 defense, #9 rebounding, #82 TO avoidance

Cincinnati is basically Michigan State with better offensive execution. Georgia State better make everything they toss up because it won’t get any rebounds. Seems like the Bearcats should at least be positioned to make a run at a cover given those stat lines. Helps to have an extra day off its Sunday final (Houston had to play Thursday). 

Nevada (pick-em/143.5) vs. Texas (4:30 p.m. ET on TBS)

Texas: #10 defense, #183 rebounding, #81 TO avoidance

Nevada #107 defense, #181 rebounding, #3 TO avoidance

Disappointing rebounding for Texas considering it has an NBA-bound tree in the starting lineup. Mo Bamba should be ready to start after playing as a reserve in the Big 12 tournament. Nevada could be in real trouble here. You probably know the Wolfpack lost their star point guard for the season to injury a few weeks ago. That means the great turnover avoidance ranking disappears…leaving a vulnerable defense and crappy rebounding. Nevada was obliterated in the Mountain West semifinals. Can Shaka Smart regain past Dance magic? Makes sense because Nevada may not be anything special shorthanded. 

Xavier (-19/160) vs. Texas Southern (7:20 p.m. ET on TBS)

Texas Southern: #315 defense, #248 rebounding, #88 TO avoidance

Xavier #59 defense, #10 rebounding, #84 TO avoidance

Xavier was the most vulnerable of the number one seeds according to our computer rankings that we ran earlier in the week…and our estimated “market” Power Ratings. That’s more likely to nail them in the next round or Sweet 16 than here. A defense and rebounding mismatch with TO avoidance cancelling out. 

Florida State (-1.5/147.5) vs. Missouri (9:50 p.m. ET on TBS)

Florida State: #76 defense, #63 rebounding, #127 TO avoidance

Missouri #47 defense, #45 rebounding, #305 TO avoidance

Missouri gets the nod in defense and rebounding, and may not be so bad in TO avoidance with the return of an NBA-bound player to its lineup. Tough call, because the Tigers didn’t impress in the SEC tournament when they really needed to get some time together. ACC tweeners fell Thursday with Miami, NC State, and Virginia Tech exiting early. Seems like these indicators would suggest taking a flyer on Mizzou as a short dog. 


Wichita State (-12/165.5) vs. Marshall (1:30 p.m. ET on TNT)

Marshall: #144 defense, #312 rebounding, #83 TO avoidance

Wichita St. #107 defense, #2 rebounding, #42 TO avoidance

Wichita’s soft defense has been a negative tie-breaker in a lot of games this season. May not matter here because Marshall is so bad in the defense and rebounding areas. Wichita State going Over its team total might make sense with the Shockers offense facing such a vulnerable defense. About as big a rebounding mismatch as you can see in this event. 

West Virginia (-10.5/144.5) vs. Murray State (4 p.m. ET on TNT)

Murray State: #82 defense, #28 rebounding, #98 TO avoidance

West Virginia #39 defense, #54 rebounding, #34 TO avoidance

West Virginia’s balance is why many have picked them to get past Wichita State in the next round. You can see why a #5 seed is criminal. That kind of quality balance is much more associated with a #1 or #2 seed. West Virginia was favored over Kansas in the Big 12 finals. Murray State is no pushover. Potential for a competitive game…setting up a great Sunday showdown. Those differentials are closer than we’ve seen in a other games in this price range, suggesting the dog has value. Is “barely in the top 100 in turnover avoidance” enough to trust against a pressing defense? 

Auburn (-9.5/148) vs. College of Charleston (7:25 p.m. ET on truTV)

Coll-Charleston: #167 defense, #215 rebounding, #10 TO avoidance

Auburn #44 defense, #61 rebounding, #60 TO avoidance

Auburn has been playing worse than that statline would suggest in recent action because of injuries. You can see they were a legitimate threat to go deep in this event back when they were at full strength. Now…a floundering favorite who got blitzed in the second half by Alabama in the SEC tourney. Charleston’s ability to treasure possessions could make this one very interesting. Can’t see why this wouldn’t look a lot like Greensboro/Gonzaga or South Dakota/Ohio State down the stretch. Though Charleston’s rebound rate was much worse than those dangerous Thursday dogs. 

Clemson (-5/133) vs. New Mexico State (9:55 p.m. ET on truTV)

N. Mexico St.: #14 defense, #7 rebounding, #117 TO avoidance

Clemson #8 defense, #86 rebounding, #139 TO avoidance

If you’re wondering why the ACC favorite is laying such a short price to a team you didn’t pay any attention to this season…focus on the defense and rebounding numbers for New Mexico State. Will this look like Loyola/Miami down the stretch? Certainly possible. Both offenses have turnover concerns. You have to decide if the market has properly captured New Mexico State’s potential for competitiveness here. Clemson hopes to shake the ACC flu. 

Hope the games went your way Thursday. Best of luck Friday! We’ll be back with you Saturday morning with Holy Trinity previews of Saturday’s eight matchups. We’re running seven-days-a-week through the month of March in VSiN City!

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