None of the South Region’s top 3 seeds have won a NCAA Title since the 1960’s (Cincinnati), while the 4 & 5 seeds are steeped in tradition and titles. How will it play out? Here’s a look at the first round.
#1 Virginia (-22) vs. #16 UMBC
538 Win Prob: Virginia 98%
Ken Pom says: Virginia 69-49
Joes vs. Pros: Nothing much on on the Joes vs. Pros front, as the betting is pretty split so far.
ATS Pick: Virginia -22
In year’s past, I would never lay this many points with Virginia, but this is a different Virginia team…one that can actually score. Their packline defense will frustrate UMBC, and this game will get ugly fast.
#8 Creighton (-1.5) vs. #9 Kansas State
538 Win Prob: Creighton 58%
Ken Pom says: Creighton 74-72
Joes vs. Pros: This is a game where the Joes and Pros are split. The public is backing Creighton, while some of the bigger money being laid is on Kansas State.
ATS pick: Kansas State +1.5
Kansas State’s Dean Wade is on track to play which is huge. This game is a toss-up, so I am going with the eye test as Kansas State is a little tougher. I’m also a contrarian, so give me KSU.
#5 Kentucky (-6) vs. #12 Davidson
538 Win Prob: 76%
Ken Pom says: Kentucky 73-70
Joes vs. Pros: Reverse line movement alert! The public is all over Kentucky, but the sharps took Davidson early. This line is all over the place depending on what book you use, so make sure you shop around. If you want UK, find the book offering UK-5. If you like Davidson, find one at +6/ 5.5.
ATS Pick: Davidson +6
I really wish these two squads were not facing each other in the first round. UK comes into this game playing their best basketball of the season, and Davidson is as hot as ever winning their conference tournament. Davidson has the best FT shooting % in the country, at 79.7%. Kentucky plays a great zone, but Davidson has one of the best zone offenses. Bob McKillop is one of the best coaches in the country, so he will have his team ready. I’ve gone back and forth on this pick so much, but I see this game coming down to the wire, so I will take the points.
#4 Arizona (-8.5) vs. #13 Buffalo
538 Win Prob: Arizona 85%
Ken Pom says: Arizona 84-78
Joes vs. Pros: The public is all over Arizona, especially after how they rolled through the Pac-12 tournament.
ATS Pick: Buffalo +8.5
Buffalo is a very athletic team, loaded with guards. They played Cincinnati and Syracuse very tough this year, and I think Arizona might be riding a little too high after last weekend. DeAndre Ayton is an absolute monster, but I think the Wildcats will be in a let-down situation here, so I will fade the public and grab the points.
#3 Tennessee (-12) vs. #14 Wright State
538 Win Prob: Tennessee 91%
Ken Pom says: Tennessee 71-58
Joes vs. Pros: This game is 50/50 right now, no big action.
ATS Pick: Tennessee -12
The Volunteers have one of the best defenses in the nation and will throw waves of it at Wright State. Look for Tennessee to wear Wright State out by the second half.
#6 Miami (-2) vs. #11 Loyola Chicago
538 Win Prob: Miami 67-66
Ken Pom says: Miami 60%
Joes vs. Pros: A little rlm action in this game. Started at Miami -2.5, but it is now -2 in most books. Also a little bit of a fishy line with Miami only being favored by 2 points. The public is split, so it had to be early sharp action.
ATS Pick: Loyola Chicago +2
Loyola is one of the best three point shooting teams in the country at 40%. They play a pro-style offense and Clayton Custer is a stud. I also love that their head coach Porter Moser is from the Rick Majerus coaching tree. I’ve seen Miami’s offense go into droughts during the season, so they are tough to back. I’m also rooting for my hometown squad so this might be a little biased, but I’m taking the Ramblers.
#7 Nevada (-1) vs. #10 Texas
538 Win Prob: Texas 60%
Ken Pom says: Nevada 72-70
Joes vs. Pros: The public is pretty split with Texas getting 55% of the tickets and money so far.
ATS Pick: Texas +1
Mo Bamba said he is 100%, and I believe him. The Longhorns played well without him, and with him back, they will be able to play their stifling defense (AdjD 10). I love Shaka Smart’s style and his past tournament experience. Bamba and Smart = $ in the bank.
#2 Cincinnati (-15) vs. #15 Georgia State
538 Win Prob: 93%
Ken Pom says: Cincy 69-57
Joes vs. Pros: The public and sharps are on Georgia State in this one, which is interesting.
ATS Pick: Georgia State (+15)
I’ve seen Cincy struggle too many times offensively this season to lay this many points. Georgia State has a coach in Ron Hunter who has been in this situation before, and they have the Sun Belt Player of the Year in D’Marcus Simonds. Georgia State also plays a tricky zone defense that should keep things close. Just too many points to stay away from in this one.