We wanted madness, and we got madness! The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament certainly lived up to the hype, with all the upsets we’ve come to expect and point-spread and Over/Under results coming down to the horn.
Here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, my fellow underdog bettors and I had a roller-coaster ride. My plays posted in Point Spread Weekly last week went a disappointing 0-2 on Friday, though hopefully everyone saw the Iona + 17 vs. Alabama pick I added in the “March Madness Best Bets for Every NCAA Tournament Game” file posted at VSiN.com. Favorites went 9-7 ATS on Friday, so that was a tough minefield to navigate. But dogs went 11-4 ATS on Saturday and 6-2 ATS on Sunday, so we had much better days on our betting apps. I split my two official best bets Saturday — a loss on St. Bonaventure and a win on Ohio, plus a refund with the VCU cancellation — while my non-best bets fared better. On Sunday, I added two winners at VSiN.com with Arkansas + 1.5 vs. Texas Tech and Syracuse-West Virginia Under 147.5. On Monday, the day started great with Oregon upsetting Iowa. But my two posted best bets at VSiN.com on Ohio and Kansas lost as favorites won and covered the rest of the card to go 7-1 ATS, and I gave back a good portion of my profits.
But, hey, it was a fun ride!
Underdogs ended up 25-22 ATS (53.2%) in the first and second rounds. If you include the First Four, dogs are 29-22 ATS (56.9%)
In totals wagering, Unders went 26-21 (55.3%) in the first and second rounds, though they dominated more in the first round at 19-12 while Overs actually led 9-7 in the second round.
First-Half Unders were even more profitable, especially early, for those who predicted teams would have trouble with the unfamiliar surroundings. I agreed with this narrative but unfortunately thought the oddsmakers had shaded the totals lower and thus had taken away any advantage. But obviously they didn’t adjust enough as First-Half Unders started 9-0 on Friday but then cooled off for those jumping on the bandwagon late. They went 3-3-1 the rest of Friday, then 7-7-1 on Saturday to wrap up the first round at 19-10-2 (65.5%). First-Half Overs actually led 9-7 in the second round to reduce First-Half Unders’ lead to just 26-19-2 (57.7% overall).
So now we move on to the Sweet 16, which will be Saturday and Sunday after being played Thursday and Friday for as long as we can remember.
Here are my top three underdog plays in this round, plus an Under. Don’t forget to check this week’s “March Madness Best Bets for Every NCAA Tournament Game” file at VSiN.com for all our handicappers’ picks. The group went a combined 41-27 ATS (60.3%), so it’s definitely worth checking out to compare with your own handicapping. I rely mostly on my own handicapping, but I definitely like to check out which dogs colleagues Matt Youmans and Greg Peterson agree with as well as looking for plays on other games.
Oral Roberts (+ 11.5) vs. Arkansas
There are three other double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16, but the biggest surprise has been No. 15 seed Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles shocked No. 2 seed Ohio State 75-72 in overtime as 15-point underdogs and + 1000 on the moneyline, then took out No. 7 seed Florida 81-78 as 9-point dogs and + 330 ML. I certainly underrated Oral Roberts, but the Golden Eagles have been underestimated by oddsmakers and bettors all season as they’re 11-3 ATS as underdogs. It’s no longer a secret that guard Max Abmas leads the nation at 24.5 points per game. Oral Roberts also has a big man, Kevin Obanor, who averages 19.6 points and 9.6 rebounds. Those two combined for 113 points in the first two rounds, and they give the Eagles a chance to stay within single digits in what should be a shootout.
Pick: Oral Roberts + 11.5
Oregon State (+ 6.5) vs. Loyola-Chicago
Another significant betting trend is that the Pac-12 is 9-1 SU and ATS so far. The “Conference of Champions” was dissed all season for its supposed lack of quality, but the Pac-12 has exceeded expectations, and Oregon State was the conference tourney champion. Of course, Loyola-Chicago shocked No. 1 seed Illinois 71-58 in the second round. Frankly, it can hardly be called a fluke if you watched the game. The Ramblers led wire to wire and, even though the whole world was expecting the Illini to rally, were never seriously threatened. Loyola ranks No. 1 in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and both teams are methodical on offense, working the clock for the best shot. A lot of bettors will be looking at the Under, but I’ll pass there as oddsmakers and the betting markets had set this as the lowest total in the Sweet 16 at 125.5 as of early Tuesday night. Instead, I’ll go with the Beavers plus the points as the slow pace should put points at a premium.
Pick: Oregon State + 6.5
Syracuse-Houston (Under 140.5)
How does Jim Boeheim do it? Syracuse is in the Sweet 16 for the third time in six seasons as a double-digit seed. Boeheim certainly gets his teams to peak this time of year, and we all know the reputation of his 2-3 zone defense. Syracuse upset No. 6 seed San Diego State as a 3-point underdog and then No. 3 seed West Virginia as a 3.5-point dog. I’m tempted to take the points with Boeheim and his son, Buddy, who is averaging 28.3 points his last four games. But the point spread is a little short for me at + 6 against No. 2 seed Houston. I’ll go with the Under here because Houston also plays tough defense and plays at a slow pace of just 67.7 possessions per game (309th slowest in the nation of 347 teams, according to teamrankings.com).
Pick: Under 140.5
Florida State (+ 3) vs. Michigan
Michigan is the only Big Ten team to make the Sweet 16 after nine made the Big Dance. When I filled out my bracket last week, I handicapped this game and had Florida State upsetting Michigan to make the Elite Eight. And that was before seeing how overrated the Big Ten ended up being, plus it’s still looking like injured Michigan star Isaiah Livers won’t be returning. Florida State does everything Michigan does, and I like the Seminoles’ defense better, even though Michigan ranks No. 9 at kenpom.com (though maybe we’re learning that’s an indictment of the style of play in the Big Ten). Florida State is ranked No. 29 in that category, and coach Leonard Hamilton is adept enough at mixing up zone and man-to-man defenses that I can see it frustrating the Wolverines. The number is a little short for my liking, but I guess if I expect the Seminoles to win outright, any points are a bonus.
Pick: Florida State (+ 3)