As noted yesterday, with a quick turn around, a lot of these teams are unfamiliar with each other and don’t have enough time to prepare for their opponents. The teams with good coaches usually prevail in these spots.
We saw a lot of shorter lines yesterday, which made for terrific basketball. Today we see the opposite, as there are two double-digit spreads in West Virginia and Kansas State, and Michigan State and Cincinnati are also in that range. That tells me that Vegas is anticipating some blowouts.
I was happy to go 6-3 yesterday, but today is a new day, so let’s dive into today’s games…
#10 Butler vs. #2 purdue (-4)
538 Win Prob: Purdue 68%
Ken Pom says: Purdue 77-71
Joes vs. Pros: The public is on Purdue, but the sharps have not really jumped in yet. Both sides are waiting to hear if Isaac Haas will play.
ATS Pick: Butler +4
Purdue has one of the best engineering programs in the country, so you know Coach Painter put in the call to all the engineering students to develop an amazing elbow brace for Haas to play in! Haas is a tough dude, but even if he plays, how effective can he be? A fractured elbow is no joke. Purdue’s entire offense and defense is predicated on Haas being himself. Not to mention the mental let down for the entire team once they found out about his injury. You go from being one of the contenders to win it all, to now just trying to make it into the Sweet Sixteen. When these two teams met earlier in the season, Purdue won 82-67, so you know the public is also taking that into consideration when betting. Butler is a battle-tested team that has W’s against Ohio State, Villanova, Providence, Creighton, and Seton Hall this season. Butler’s offense (AdjO 25) should keep them in this one. I see this one coming down to the wire, so I will grab the points.
#11 Syracuse vs. #3 Michigan State (-9)
538 Win Prob: Michigan State 55%
Ken Pom says: Michigan State 67-59
Joes vs. Pros: The line has jumped from MSU -8 to -9.
ATS Pick: Michigan State -9
I have picked against Syracuse twice and lost this week, so take this pick as you may. While watching both games, I couldn’t help to think this was not the ‘Cuse defense of old. Their opponents were getting wide-open shots instead of contested ones, but just bricking them. Now they face Michigan State who is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, shooting at a 41%. clip. Syracuse has scored just 60 points against Arizona State, and 57 against TCU to get here. They needed every single one of Dolezaj’s 17 points last game to win. They just don’t have the offensive firepower or the physical toughness to battle with the Spartans. They might hang around for a half, but look for MSU to blow this one open in the second half.
#7 Texas a&M vs. #2 North Carolina (-6.5)
538 Win Prob: North Carolina 81%
Ken Pom says: North Carolina 79-74
Joes vs. Pros: The public is all over North Carolina in this game, with over 80% of the pub $ coming in on the Tar Heels.
ATS Pick: Texas A&M +6.5
This is the most lopsided public bet game of the day, with over 80% of the money coming in on the Tar Heels. I will go with the contrarian pick and take the Aggies. The public sees a 2 seed with a short line here that won big in their first game. I know they were looking ahead, but North Carolina looked sloppy against Lipscomb. If they come in to this game the same way mentally they are going to be in for a rude awakening. The Aggies are a tough, physical, and defensive team that will definitely be able to punch the Tar Heels in the mouth from the jump. They are going to make it tough on NC to get out and run and get easy baskets like they love to do. Look for Robert Williams to eat inside. This is going to be a lot closer game than most people think.
#7 nevada vs. #2 CincinNati (-8.5)
538 Win Prob: Cincinnati 87%
Ken Pom says: Cincinnati 72-67
Joes vs. Pros: Public is pretty split on this game, 53% on Nevada currently.
ATS Pick: Nevada +8.5
I’ve been fading Cincinnati because of their offense for the past few weeks now, and it has worked. I am going to try to run it back one more time in this one with Nevada. I know the Bearcats defense is amazing, but Nevada is one of the best offensive teams in the nation (AdjO 8). Between the Martin twins, Caroline, and Stephens, this team has enough offensive firepower to hang around against any opponent. They also showed a lot of heart in their last game win vs. Texas, so I know they won’t give up until the buzzer. That should help with a backdoor cover if we need one.
#5 Clemson vs. #4 Auburn (-1)
538 Win Prob: Clemson 53%
Ken Pom says: Auburn 75-74
Joes vs. Pros: Looks like the public and sharps are on the same side in this one, as the line has moved down to Auburn-1 from -1.5.
ATS Pick: Clemson +1
This game is a complete toss-up, as these two teams are close in pretty much every statistical category. This matchup should come down to the last minute, and it reminds me a lot of yesterday’s game between Florida and Texas Tech. I went with with the eye-test and the better defensive team in that game yesterday and came out on top, so will try it again here. The Tigers have the better defense (AdjD 9), and I love the way they grind and contest every shot. I see them moving on.
#16 UMBC vs. #9 Kansas State (-10)
538 Win Prob: Kansas State 72%
Ken Pom says: Kansas State 73-63
Joes vs. Pros: The public is slightly riding with tourney sweethearts UMBC at 57%.
ATS Pick: Kansas State -10
UMBC is in a huge let down spot today after pulling the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history. Their players and coaches were giving interviews and partying all night after their upset win. We saw this same situation play out yesterday with Buffalo. At the end of the day, these guys are just kids, and it is tough to turn that mental switch back on in such a short timeframe. Kansas State has a coach in Bruce Weber who has been here before, so you know he will make sure they are not looking ahead. Kansas State also matches up well with UMBC. Offensively they will be fine against the pressure, and defensively they have the length and speed to contain them. What UMBC did was truly amazing and Jairus Lyles is a stud, but the Retrievers Cinderella story ends today.
#9 Florida State vs. #1 Xavier (-5.5)
538 Win Prob: Xavier 71%
Ken Pom says: Xavier 85-81
Joes vs. Pros: 65% on Xavier public.
ATS Pick: Xavier -5.5
One of FSU’s best players Terance Mann is doubtful to suit up, which is unfortunate, and hurts them big-time. Florida State is super athletic, but I see their suspect defense (Adj 59) and depth letting them down in this game. With Mann out, their already thin rotation gets even shorter, and that hurts in a spot like this with such a quick turn around. Xavier just has too many weapons, and I love that their coach Chris Mack is playing up the “us against the world” card. He is right though, not one person I know has picked Xavier to win it all, and that makes them even more dangerous. The Musketeers will try to make a statement in this game, so I am happy to lay the points.
#13 Marshall vs. #5 West Virginia (-12)
538 Win Prob: West Virginia 87%
Ken Pom says: West Virginia 89-77
Joes vs. Pros: Reverse line movement alert! The public is riding with Marshall, but the sharps are pounding West Virginia. The line has gone up from -11.5 to -12/ 12.5 in some books, despite the public money on the Thundering Herd.
ATS Pick: West Virginia -12
Marshall came into the tournament as huge underdogs to Wichita State, and that is precisely why I am on the Mountaineers today. Why does this matter? Marshall was all-in preparing for their game against WSU. The players and their coaching staff couldn’t afford to look ahead or prepare for their next game. The big favorite teams usually have one of their assistants preparing their next game, which is a big advantage in this spot. West Virginia is one of the toughest teams to play against with a short turn around, and not much preparation time. The teams that do well vs. them have seen their press before or have enough time to get ready for it. Jon Elmore is a stud, but Jevon Carter, or the bulldog as I like to call him, will be able to make him work hard for his shots. West Virginia is just too physical for this Marshall team, and this one could get ugly in the second half.