VSiN.com senior reporter
Welcome to our look at Sunday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament. Underdogs went 8-7 ATS in Friday’s action with the Nevada-Texas game closing at pick ‘em; unfortunately, I lost with my two best bets on the day (Providence plus-3.5 vs. Texas A&M and New Mexico St. plus-4.5 vs. Clemson) to drop to 3-3 ATS for the tournament.
I hope some of you found some insight from my leans on the rest of the Friday card as those went 9-5 ATS while calling Maryland-Baltimore County “a fairly strong lean” vs. Virginia (I bet it myself, but gave no thought to betting UMBC on the money line!) and also saying I was betting Bucknell vs. Michigan St. My overall first-round record was 17-14-1 ATS; the Westgate’s Hoops Madness Challenge didn’t use the games involving the winners of the First Four games, so I went 16-12 (57.1%) in that contest but highly doubt that’s going to be in the top 3. All my brackets look pretty good as I didn’t have Virginia reaching the championship game in any of them and I still have two entries left in the Last Man Standing contest at Station Casinos as I lost two with Providence and New Mexico St. but won with Bucknell and Nevada (plus-1.5 on the contest card).
Without further ado, here is Sunday’s card starting with my best bets followed by our leans (games listed in chronological order; lines from the South Point as of Saturday morning).
SUNDAY, MARCH 18
(715) Syracuse plus-8 vs. Michigan St.
Tuley’s Take: Many didn’t think Syracuse should be in the field of 68 (again), but here they are again after beating Arizona St. in the play-in game and then upsetting No. 6 TCU. The Orangemen (yes, I’m old-school) are playing Jim Boeheim’s zone defense better of late and take on Michigan St., which is an enigmatic team that could lose this game or go all the way. The Spartans lackluster performance in the Big Ten Tournament (failing to cover against Wisconsin, which we had, and losing outright to Michigan) as well as not covering in the first round against Bucknell, certainly has me more confident that Syracuse can keep this close. Besides, I thought this line was going to be closer to 6. Best Bet: Syracuse plus-8.
(717) Nevada plus-7.5 vs. Cincinnati
Tuley’s Take: I already handicapped this game last Sunday after the brackets came out and concluded that Nevada had a very good chance to make the Sweet 16 (which I used in many of my brackets, including my primary one posted in VSiN’s March to Madness Guide), so I knew I would love the Wolf Pack plus any points and especially now as I was only expected this line to be around 5 points. Granted, Nevada very easily could have/should have lost to Texas and Cincinnati is No. 2 in defensive efficiency (to No. 1 Virginia, though we saw how much that mattered), but if the Wolf Pack is hitting its 3-points, they’ll be right in this game and hopefully poised for the outright upset. Best Bet: Nevada plus-7.5.
(711) Maryland-Baltimore County plus-10.5 vs. Kansas St.
Tuley’s Take: I was content to have UMBC plus-22 against Virginia (based more on expecting it to be a low-scoring game than any real conviction that the Retrievers could play with the Cavaliers) and was ready to write that off as a one-time upset and avoid backing them again. However, that’s when I was looking over all the stats and analytics and thinking that this line would be around K-State -7. I was even thinking that there might be an overreaction in changing UMBC’s power rating considering how much they really outplayed Virginia on both ends of the court and it could be lower. However, with this line at double digits, I’m back on UMBC. Kansas St. also isn’t as great as it looked in routing Creighton, but if UMBC plays anything like it did against Virginia, there’s no reason to think this won’t stay within the number. Best Bet: Maryland-Baltimore County plus-10.5.
Tuley’s Other Second-Round Leans (Sunday)
(714) Purdue -3.5 vs. Butler (line too short for me to take ‘dogs; I made it Purdue -5)
(710) North Carolina -6 vs. Texas A&M (again, line too short for this underdog; besides, UNC is my pick to go all the way so not fading them here)
(724) Auburn -1 vs. Clemson (total coin-flip straight-up and ATS)
(720) Xavier -5.5 vs. Florida St. (again, not enough points to put me on the underdog; liked Seminoles to get past Missouri in my brackets, but didn’t give them chance to advance past Xavier)
(722) West Virginia -12.5 vs. Marshall (this is the case where I’m looking for Cinderella to crash to Earth following upset win, though I’m backing several others)