As a part of the VSiN family, we hope you had a great start to the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, either with your bets or brackets (or both!).
On a pretty chalky day when favorites won 13 of the 16 games and went 9-6-1 ATS (60%), I somehow went 3-1 ATS with my best bets (all underdogs) in this past week’s issue of Point Spread Weekly. I lost my first play on Oklahoma plus-2, though it could have gone either way as the Sooners lost 83-78 in overtime. During the early evening games, there were plenty of times when it looked like I was going to start 0-3 ATS as both Davidson and San Diego St. fell far behind; however, Davidson rallied and somehow covered as a 5.5-point dog to Kentucky in a 78-73 where we admittedly got lucky with a wild endgame to get in the back door on a last-second 3-pointer and San Diego St. also rallied to lose only 67-65 as a 3.5- to 4.5-point dog. That put me at 2-1 ATS and I improved to 3-1 ATS with Alabama’s minor upset of Virginia Tech, 86-83 as a 3-point dog.
I also happened to stay alive with four of my five entries in the Last Man Standing contest at Station Casinos here in Las Vegas (I used Davidson on two entries).
My leans on all other games in PSW didn’t fare as well, going 5-6-1 ATS, though I pointed out that I had bet South Dakota St. plus-8.5 so I won that bet while grading it as a push for these purposes at plus-8.
We have another full day of action on Friday, but let’s look ahead to Saturday’s second-round games (we’ll add the matchups that were waiting for Thursday’s late action to conclude later Friday morning).
SATURDAY, MARCH 17
(537) Buffalo plus -6 vs. Kentucky
Tuley’s Take: No. 13 seed Buffalo didn’t look like a No. 13 seed in routing No. 4 Arizona on Thursday. The Bulls, which is the only team in the NCAA field with four players averaging more than 14 points per game (granted, playing against lower-mid-major competition in the MAC), looked like a confident veteran team and not overwhelmed by the big stage. This is a definite matchup of Buffalo’s upperclassmen against Kentucky’s blue-chip freshman phenoms. I’m going to introduce a theme here (along with my pick of Loyola-Chicago below that I posted Thursday night) but I don’t see this Buffalo team hitting a wall like we see so often with double-digit seeds getting embarrassed in the second round. Sure, the Bulls might lose, but I’m certainly encouraged by getting the cover with Davidson plus-5.5 against Kentucky on Thursday and see no reason why the Bulls (a very similar team to Davidson in a lot of ways) can’t play UK the same way in getting the cover. Best Bet: Buffalo plus-6.
(531) Loyola-Chicago plus-6 vs. Tennessee
Tuley’s Take: No. 11 seed Loyola pulled the first upset Thursday with a 64-62 over No. 6 Miami-Fla. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t on the Ramblers, but the line was too short at only plus-1 for a 6-11 matchup, but they showed why the oddsmakers made the line so low. Double-digit seeds often come crashing to Earth in the second round, but I don’t see that happening with the Ramblers. Tennessee is a talented team, but the Vols don’t have the size that is usually the undoing of a mid-major in the second round, so the Ramblers match up well physically. If it wasn’t already obvious that Loyola belongs in this spot, it beat Tennessee’s SEC rival Florida 65-59 in Florida back in December. Best Bet: Loyola-Chicago plus-6.
(529) Houston plus-3 vs. Michigan
Tuley’s Take: Michigan continues to gain supporters with its Big Ten run and now in the Big Dance, but I believe it ends here. This line opened as high as Michigan -5 at the Wynn, but I’m still on Houston plus-3 as I believe this should be even closer to pick ‘em and am expecting the Cougars to win straight-up anyway. Houston is underrated as the third team out of the AAC but matches up quite well with Michigan with four players averaging in double figures led by Robert Gray Jr. (18.6 ppg, including 39 points and the game-winner against San Diego St.). Michigan can shoot out the lights, but I expect Houston to have an answer for anything thrown its way. Best Bet: Houston plus-3.
Tuley’s Other Second-Round Leans (Saturday)
(526) Villanova -11 vs. Alabama (Nova easily covered the biggest spread on Thursday and Alabama – as much as I love watching Collin Sexton – is not consistent enough to make me go against Villanova here)
(523) Rhode Island plus-10 vs. Duke (almost made this a best bet as I love getting double digits; however, the Rams’ narrow win over Oklahoma didn’t inspire enough confidence)
(527) Kansas -4.5 vs. Seton Hall (passed on Penn vs. Kansas as I felt the line was too short; feel same way here)
(536) Gonzaga -3 vs. Ohio St. (this line too short to go against a Gonzaga team I expect to bounce back from its non-cover on Thursday)
(554) Texas Tech -1.5 vs. Florida (total toss-up; if you can separate these two teams, you’re a sharper handicapper than I)