Over the next 4 days, I will give you a betting man’s perspective of the first round of the NCAA Tournament, in hopes that I can lose you all tons of money, thus forcing you to sell your computers, thus limiting the criticism of me. Sorry, I watched alot of Pinky and the Brain when I was a kid, and have crazy schemes all running through my brain.
But, in all seriousness, if you are the kind who puts a buck or two on the games, this is just one person’s thoughts going into Thursday. And KSR in no way condones gambling, drinking, smoking, pre-marital sex, or anything else that Drew Franklin normally does on a Wednesday.
We’ll start with the games that will be played during the afternoon on Thursday:
7. BYU vs 10. Florida (12:20, Oklahoma City)
Spread: BYU -2.5
My Pick: BYU, This is a tough game to start with because you don’t know which Florida team you are going to get. If we get the team who lost 4 of their last 5 games, BYU wins this game by 10 points. Or we might get the Florida who beat Michigan St or Tennessee. The Gators have more talent than the Cougars, and if the Florida guards shoot the ball well, this game should go in their favor. Overall though, the matchup suits BYU because they struggle on the glass, as does Florida, and the Gator’s defense has been spotty most of the season. I think BYU is able to carve up the Gators, Florida doesn’t shoot the 3 well enough to recover and they lose this game 71-63.
6. Notre Dame vs 11. Old Dominion (12:25, New Orleans)
Spread: Notre Dame -4.0
My Pick: Old Dominion, I am still picking the Irish to win this game, but I see it as a 3-point or less ballgame. Notre Dame, if you haven’t noticed, got into this tournament with a late season surge, and the main reason given for that success was a change in offensive philosophy. They have slowed the game up, cherish each offensive possession and are more focused on the defensive end. But, one of their sharp shooters, Tim Abromaitis has been slumping, and Old Dominion can really guard. I am still not sold that Luke Harangody is 100% either. The problem for the Monarchs is they shoot the 3 poorly, and Notre Dame has some big bodies to stop them in the post. This is going to be a very close game, but I am guessing Old Dominion misses a 3 at the buzzer and Notre Dame wins 58-55.
2. Villanova vs 15. Robert Morris (12:30, Providence)
Spread: Villanova -20.0
My Pick: Villanova, If I am Jay Wright, getting my team focused for this game is fairly simple. I pop in the tape from last season’s first round game against American and say this what nearly happened. If you don’t remember, Nova was down 14 in the second half as a 3-seed, rallied to win that game and then made the Final Four. The Wildcats have not been playing great as of late, but Robert Morris will be no match for them. Robert Morris has nobody on their roster above 6’8”, so Villanova’s small lineup will not have any problems rebounding. And let’s not forget that Nova brought back nearly their entire roster from last years Final Four team, so these guys know what it takes to get it done in March. Nova wins HUGE, 95-65.
4. Vanderbilt vs 13. Murray State (2:30, San Jose)
Spread: Vanderbilt -4.5
My Pick: Vanderbilt, Murray St. is one of those trendy picks coming into this tournament because people see they have 30 wins and get all excited. The Racers BEST win the entire season was against Morehead St, RPI 84. And Morehead beat Murray once at the end of the season. Murray played NOBODY throughout the entire season, plays in a less than great OVC and gets 30 wins. I’m not buying the Racers. I have seen 2 full games from Murray, and think if you can stop their dribble penetration, you will be fine. Plus, and this hard for me to say, but they haven’t faced many skilled big men like AJ Ogilvy this year. Kenneth Faried out of Morehead lit them up a couple times this year, and Ogilvy is more offensively skilled than Faried. Frankly, I love Vanderbilt’s makeup for this tournament. They have shooters, they have a very good wing player in Jefferey Taylor, and Ogilvy gives them a legit big man. If the shots are falling, Vandy could make an Elite 8 run. And the first speed bump in that run will be Murray St. Vanderbilt 80-67.
2. Kansas St. vs 15. North Texas (2:40, Oklahoma City)
Spread: Kansas St. -15.5
My Pick: Kansas St.,I find this spread a little surprising because Villanova is giving up 20 points and has been in a slide the last month, but Kansas St. has been on a roll and only gives up 15.5 points? As a WKU alum, I saw North Texas play a couple times this year, and they really are not that impressive. They only have ONE great characteristic, and that is they are the best free throw shooting team in the country. But since this game won’t be close, I doubt that really helps them in this game. I love K-State’s guards because they are in non-stop aggressive mode, can hit the 3 and are really good leaders on the floor. The frontcourt for Kansas St. is a little thin but athletic, which may hurt them in the later rounds, but I think won’t be a problem in this game. Kansas St. wins 88-62.
3. Baylor vs 14. Sam Houston St. (2:45, New Orleans)
Spread: Baylor -11.5
My Pick: Sam Houston St.,I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for SHS because they gave UK all they could want at the beginning of the season, but I truly think they will give Baylor all they can handle in this game. The Bearkats shoot the 3 incredibly well, but what people don’t understand is they pass the ball very well too. They assist on 71.8 percent of their made baskets, which is 2nd nationally. Now Baylor is very talented this season, and I don’t see them losing this game. But, they have a tendency of playing down to their opponents, and taking bad shots has been a common problem for the Bears this season. If you had one major upset pick, I think this is the game to pick. Doesn’t mean that I will pick SHS to win, but I would be surprised if this is not a close game. Baylor 75-70
7. Richmond vs 10. St. Mary’s (2:50, Providence)
Spread: Richmond -1.0
My Pick: Richmond, This is basically a pick’em game, and I think its a very difficult game to pick. But what sways me towards Richmond is their defensive mentality, and the fact that St.Mary’s play in a league without alot of defense. Honestly, of all the games on the early Thursday slate, this is the one I feel the most unsure about. It probably comes down to a game in the 50’s goes to Richmond, and a game in the 70’s goes to St. Mary’s. I am going to go with defense on this one, and pick Richmond 59-55.
5. Butler vs 12. UTEP (4:45, San Jose)
Spread: Butler -5.0
My Pick: UTEP, I not only think the Miners beat the spread, but I think they win this game outright. They have a great guard in Randy Culpepper and a good big man in UL-dropout Derrick Caracter. And Butler has nobody that has the athleticism of those two guys. Matt Howard is a very capable big man, but has a tendency of foul trouble, and if Caracter wins that battle, UTEP is going to win this game. Butler will put up alot of 3-pointers, and if they are going down, they can then shorten the game, keep the score low, and put UTEP on the ropes. But I think Culpepper makes the difference. If Butler lets him get in transition, its lights out for the Bulldogs. UTEP wins 70-64.