The opening round of the NCAA Tournament always brings surprises and I expect tomorrow to be no different. From a betting angle however, we aren’t just interested in who wins and who loses though. We’re also quite intrigued by the lines and whether or not we think they are smart plays or not.
South Region (13) Eastern Washington (+7) vs. (4) Georgetown – The first reason you should love Eastern Washington is that Georgetown hasn’t exactly been successful recently when it comes to winning first round games. They haven’t gotten out of the first (second) round since 2007. The Eagles don’t play much defense and they aren’t really shy about it either as they give up about 70 points per game, but… They can score with anyone and if they get hot from outside they have a chance to do some real damage in the tournament.
The Hoyas have some bigs who are good players but they lack consistency. Georgetown’s only two wins out of conference against tourney teams were against Indiana and Robert Morris.
The Pick: I absolutely love the Eagles getting the points.
Midwest Region (12) Buffalo (+4.5) vs (5) West Virginia – The Bulls are a hot pick and not just because of the scary “5-12 match-up.” The Mid-American Conference Champions are coached by Duke legend Bobby Hurley and his team gave both Wisconsin and Kentucky all they could handle before losing. Not only can the Bulls score (75 points per game) but they defend fairly well too.
Coach Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers were in the thick of the Big 12 race until injuries slowed them down. While Huggins expects his guys to be at 100% and that’s crucial because of the full-court pressure the Mountaineers deploy. If Buffalo can’t handle the pressure then West Virginia should be in good shape.
The Pick: I like Buffalo in a close contest and I like them outright.
South Region (10) Davidson (+2.5) vs (7) Iowa – The Wildcats were picked to finish last in the preseason polls in the Atlantic 10 but turned in a terrific season anyway. Davidson seems like a really simple pick because of past success but the only time they’ve made it past the opening round as when Steph Curry was shooting out the lights for them.
Iowa makes their second straight appearance in the tournament and they will pride themselves on having played a tough schedule that ranked 33rd overall. The Hawkeyes will look for Aaron White to be their go-to guy and will also rely on Coach Fran McCaffery’s tournament experience.
The Pick: There will be a lot of money thrown at Davidson but I like the Hawkeyes to cover.
East Region (14) Albany (+13) vs (3) Oklahoma – The Great Danes have lost just once since we entered 2015 and they rely on three key players in Sam Rowley, Peter Hooley and Evan Singletary. Each guy brings a little something different and I expect Albany’s overall style to give Oklahoma some problems.
Oklahoma is the type of team that can be a championship caliber team when it all clicks and that happened several teams during the season. They play excellent defense as they give up just 60 points per game. Buddy Hield is one of the better players in college basketball and he’ll be relied upon to score for the Sooners.
The Pick: I think the Sooners’ tough schedule will pay dividends here but I like Albany to keep this game within 10.