And there are officially 32 teams left! Due to the quick turn around, a lot of these teams are unfamiliar with their opponents, and do not have enough time to prepare. The teams with the good coaches usually have the edge, especially when it comes to covering spreads.
After what UMBC did to Virginia, is anyone safe? We have several small lines today, so guess what? We are in for some buzzer beaters, I can feel it! I took a lot of dogs to bark in the first two days, which paid off, but I am going with a more balanced approach on Saturday. Let’s breakdown these games…
#9 Alabama vs. Villanova (-11.5)
538 Win Prob: Villanova 90%
Ken Pom says: Villanova 81-69
Joes vs. Pros: The public is on Nova with 62% of the bets on them. The line started at Nova -11, and has now gone up to -11.5 in most books.
ATS Pick: Alabama +11.5
Collin Sexton showed me something on Thursday by single-handily willing his team to victory over Virginia Tech. Villanova is the more complete team, but Sexton goes hard, never gives up, and reminds me a little of Russell Westbrook. Bama also has a top 20 AdjD, which should keep them hanging around all game long. I will take the points in this one.
#7 RHODE ISLAND Vs. #2 Duke (-9.5)
538 Win Prob: Duke 84%
Ken Pom says: Duke 80-70
Joes vs. Pros: 64% of the money is on Duke, with not much line movement.
ATS Pick: Duke -9.5
RI’s legs will be spent after their overtime thriller against Oklahoma. Tired legs spells doom for them against Duke’s zone. The Rams are not a good shooting team as is, and rank 61 in offensive efficiency at Ken Pom. They will not have enough firepower to hang with the Blue Devils, and will have no answer for Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter on the defensive end. Look for Duke to blow this one open in the second half.
#13 Buffalo Vs. #5 Kentucky (-6)
538 Win Prob: Kentucky 71%
Ken Pom says: Kentucky 83-77
Joes vs. Pros: The line opened at UK -6, went down to -5.5, and is now back to 6 in most books. 60% of the public money is on UK.
ATS Pick: Kentucky -6
I was all over Buffalo + the points in their first game, but the situation here calls for UK, as this game fits a couple of big betting principles for me. Everyone remembers Buffalo demolishing Arizona a couple of days ago, so the public will be on them. That is called recency bias. Buffalo is also in a huge let down spot here after beating Arizona. You know they enjoyed their biggest win of the season. Coach Calipari will make sure his squad does not take them lightly, and I love the way Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is balling right now. UK just matches up a lot better with Buffalo than Arizona did. The Wildcats are playing some of their best ball of the season right now, and you will be getting value with the better team in this one.
#11 Loyola vs. #3 Tennessee (5.5)
538 Win Prob: Tennessee 73%
Ken Pom says: Tennessee 67-62
Joes vs. Pros: Huge reverse line movement alert in this one. Tennessee opened at -6, but is now down to -5/ 5.5 despite 66% of the money on them.
ATS Pick: Loyola +5.5
These are two of my favorite teams in the tourney, so this was the toughest game for me to pick a side on. I went back and forth on this game many times before settling on the Ramblers because of the reverse line movement. Tennessee is built to win this entire tournament (40/20 rule), but Loyola has a style that can help them stay in this game. They have a NBA style offense, and they shoot and make a lot of threes. The 3-point shot is the ultimate equalizer in these kinds of matchups. Their coach Porter Moser is a brilliant offensive mind that comes from the Rick Majerus coaching tree. Loyola also has the size to matchup with Tennessee. The only thing I am worried about is if Loyola is in a let down situation after their last second victory against Miami. If they are not just happy to be here, they will have a legit chance of hanging with the Vols.
#8 Seton Hall Vs. #1 Kansas(-5)
538 Win Prob: Kansas 78%
Ken Pom says: Kansas 80-76
Joes vs. Pros: A 1 seed only favored by 5 points? The public is loving that short line, hammering Kansas at a 75% clip. The line has gone back and forth between 4.5/5.
ATS Pick: Seton Hall +5
This line reeks, so I will go contrarian here and take the Pirates. They have four seniors who have dreamed of this moment all their lives. Teams with good guards and experience do well in these kinds of situations. They also matchup well with Kansas and should be able to limit the Jayhawks 3 point barrage. This game has buzzer beater written all over it, so I will be taking the points.
#5 Ohio State vs. #4 Gonzaga (-3.5)
538 Win Prob: Gonzaga 73%
Ken Pom says: Gonzaga wins 74-71
Joes vs. Pros: The public is all over the Zags in this one. 83% of the bets are coming in on the Bulldogs. The line started at Zaga -2.5, and is headed in the right direction with them now being favored by 3.5. It looks like the public and the sharps are both on Zaga.
ATS Pick: Ohio State +3.5
I’m going contrarian and taking OSU. This is not the same Buckeye team the Zags defeated in the PK80 tournament. They have Micah Potter back, and will have an answer for the way the Bulldogs defended Bates-Diop the first time around. Ohio State’s toughness has impressed me all season long, and they proved it again defeating a tough SDSU team that many had picked to win straight up. Not only did OSU beat them, but they covered. Ohio State matches up with Gonzaga really well, and look for Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate to have big games.
#6 Florida vs. #3 texas tech (-1.5)
538 Win Prob: Texas Tech 56%
Ken Pom says: Texas Tech 68-66
Joes vs. Pros: This is the lowest line in all of the games. The public is split at 50%/50%. It looks like the sharps took Texas Tech early, steaming this line from -1 to 1.5.
ATS Pick: Texas Tech -1.5
I’ve watched these two teams play plenty of times, so I am going with my eye-test. Florida is super talented but they are also a super inconsistent. When they are on, they are rolling, but when they are off, their offense can struggle to score points. Texas Tech is physical and the better defensive team (AdjD 3), and that is what usually wins these kinds of toss-up games.
#6 Houston vs. #3 Michigan (-3)
538 Win Prob: Michigan 58%
Ken Pom says: Michigan 68-66
Joes vs. Pros: The public and the sharps are both on Michigan in this one. The line is holding steady at -3.
ATS Pick: Michigan -3
This is a tough, tough game for Michigan, but John Beilein will have his team ready. He is one of the best coaches in the country, and you can be sure the Wolverines will be up for this game after their sloppy performance against Montana. Look for Wagner to bounce back with a huge game as well. On the flip side, I think the Cougars will be in a little bit of a let down spot after beating SDSU on a last second shot. This will be a low scoring, grinder game, but Michigan should pull away towards the end. I also like the under 134 for those same reasons.