All stats from kenpom.com
#1 Virginia vs. #16 UMBC (UVA -22.5)
- Virginia has weaknesses getting to the free throw line and offensive rebounding. Their defense will always keep them in it but a cold shooting night and they’re in trouble (shot 34% in loss to V Tech)
- UMBC has experience but may just be happy to be there. Beating Vermont was crown of their season.
- Injuries: None of note
- UMBC plays at an average pace, Virginia plays slower than your Grandma responding to an email.
- Bets: Under (122.5), 1H Under
- Pick: Virginia
#8 Creighton vs. #9 Kansas St. (Creighton -1)
- Marcus Foster (ex-K St.) and Khyri Thomas are two versatile high-impact players that have given Creighton balance. Their offense has always been good (22) but their defense isn’t so bad either. They take care of the ball very well and get offensive boards, but they’re awful and forcing turnovers and defensive rebounding.
- Creighton good wins: Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, Butler, UCLA. Creighton Bad losses: Baylor, Marquette twice
- Kansas St. is better defensively than offensively but don’t think they can hold down Creighton. Won’t hurt their offense board weakness (312 in defensive rebounding) and should get crushed by Creighton on the other end (255 o-rebounding to Creighton’s 31 defensive rebounding). Kansas St. must take care of the ball or else they’re toast. They rely a lot on 2’s which is a weakness of Creighton.
- Kansas St. good wins: Oklahoma, TCU twice, Texas twice. Kansas St. bad losses: Tulsa.
- Creighton plays fast, Kansas St. plays slow.
- Injuries: Barry Brown and Dean Wade are banged up but probable
- Bets: Creighton -1
- Pick: Creighton
#5 Kentucky vs. #12 Davidson (Kentucky -6)
- Davidson is hot and has a top 20 offense. Most interesting test is they shoot 6th most 3’s in the country at the 6th highest rate (42%), but Kentucky #3 in defending the 3. Their offensive rebounding and free throw shooting are weakness, but Kentucky cant take advantages of rebounding and if they’re shooting hot, free throws aren’t as important (they do shoot nearly 80% when they do get to the line). Peyton Aldridge, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Kellan Grady all playing extremely well.
- Davidson good wins: St. Bonaventure twice, URI twice. Davidson bad losses: Appalaichin St., Hawaii, Richmond twice, Dayton. They did play UNC and UVA.
- Kentucky is the most inexperienced team in the country. They’re top 25 in both offense and defense so very balanced, but there isn’t really an area where they can really kill Davidson (Closest is Davidson forcing zero turnovers, but young Cats may panic). All main contributors are freshmen, SGA has been nice but worry about him on this stage, Knox could very easily be a no-show.
- Kentucky good wins: Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Texas A&M, Alabama twice, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee. Kentucky bad losses: South Carolina
- Davidson plays extremely slow, Kentucky plays at an average pace
- Injuries: Jarred Vanderbilt is questionable for UK
- Bets: Davidson ML, Davidson +6
- Pick: Davidson
#4 Arizona vs. #13 Buffalo (Arizona -9)
- Wildcats are red hot and DeAndre Ayton looks simply unable to stop at times. But freshman NBA talent in the tourney, especially one with motivation questions like Ayton, can be an issue. Arizona’s offense has been really good, but they don’t shoot many threes. Buffalo is OK defensively and likely to struggle with them. Ayton not experienced but Trier, Ristic, Alkins, and PJC are. Team could be flying under the radar. Their defense can struggle at times but they can control the boards.
- Arizona good wins: Texas A&M, Alabama, Arizona St. twice, USC twice, UCLA. Arizona bad losses: Colorado, Washington, Oregon. Definitely not a hard schedule but talent is clearly there.
- Buffalo is ranked 42 in offense and hope they can pressure Zona’s defense. 30 in efg%, 53 in TO%, 70% OREB, but Zona is 40 in DREB%. Bulls routinely creamed the MAC but the Wildcats are a whole different animal and an extremely physical team. Led by seniors and juniors (Nick Perkins and Wes Clark). Bulls have a little more experience.
- Buffalo good wins: None. Normal bad losses for a mid major but they played some decent teams and lost to Cincy by 6 on a neutral floor.
- Buffalo plays very fast, Arizona likes to slow it down.
- Injuries: None
- Bets: None
- Pick: Arizona
#6 Miami (FL) vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago (Miami (FL) -2.5)
- This game should be a rock fight. Miami is known for their defense, but they’ve slowed down a bit since losing Bruce Brown. They’re now facing a top 25 offense and a more experienced team that should stifle them from all areas. The Hurricanes will need to exploit Loyola’s two weaknesses: TO% and OREB%. If they don’t, they’re toast.
- Miami best wins: Florida St., NC St., UNC, Virginia Tech twice. Miami’s worst losses: Georgia Tech, Boston College/
- Despite Loyola having only the #68 ranked offense, they shoot lights out (8 in efg%, 13 in 3P%, 14 in 2P%). If they get hot, this one could honestly be a rout. Both teams should probably be able to clean the glass defensively. Their biggest weakness is TO%. Loyola must protect the ball. However, with no Brown and sometimes having Chris Lykes on the perimeter for Miami, Ramblers could have an easier time than normal. A lot will depend on how Lonnie Walker plays offensively and Ja’Quan Newton plays defensively. Led by seniors and junors who all shoot 38% or higher from three (Aundre Jackson, Marques Townes, Clayton Custer, Donte Ingram.
- Loyola best wins: At Florida. Loyola worst losses: Milwaukee, Boise St., Missouri St., Indiana St., Bradley. Encouraging for Ramblers that they didn’t have much trouble in a tough defensively MVC, as well as a frantic Florida defense. Perhaps TO% concerns are overblown.
- Both teams play incredible slow.
- Injuries: Bruce Brown has been out a while for Miami
- Bets: Loyola-Chicago +3 -120, Loyola-Chicago ML (Maybe 1H under)
- Pick: Loyola-Chicago
#3 Tennessee vs. #14 Wright St.
- Wright is led by their defense, #53 in the nation and good in just about every area. However, their offense is bad and never faced a defense like Tennessee’s (#4) in the Horizon. Wright doesn’t shoot very well from anywhere and will struggle with Tennessee’s pressure. Their only hope is to grab some o-board, get to the FT line, and get a little hot. Losing Justin Mitchell is a huge blow, even though they swept Northern Kentucky and dominated the Horizon League tournament (Did not play any of conference’s top 4 teams however). Grant Benzinger and Loudon Love are solid, but Love as well as Jaylon Hall and Everett Winchester are freshmen that need to be counted on.
- Wright St. best wins: None (OK Northern Kentucky twice). They have several bad losses and played no one of note.
- Tennessee didn’t look great in the SEC final but has been very good all season long. Weakness is defensive rebounding but Wright isn’t the team to take advantage of that. Surprisingly their biggest strength on offense is OREB, and they’ll need to do that as well as get to the FT line. Team shoots a decent amount of threes at 38%, and that’s the crack in Wright’s defense.
- Tennessee best wins: Purdue, NC St., Kentucky twice, Texas A&M, Florida, Arkansas. Tennessee worst losses: Georgia. Maybe a nice comeback in SEC finals and almost beat Kentucky thrice. Now likely playing with a chip on their shoulders.
- Tennessee plays very slow. Wright plays at an average pace.
- Injuries: None
- Bets: I’d lay the points with Tennessee if it gets under 12. Perhaps the under (132) or 1H under.
- Pick: Tennessee
#7 Nevada vs. #10 Texas (Nevada -1)
- Nevada has a top 10 offense, Texas has a top 10 defense. Lindsey Drew’s absence is huge as the team excelled at taking care of the ball, but have slumped since missing their point guard. They’ve been bleeding on defense in the Mountain West, but the conference is high scoring. Huge experience advantage over Texas. Led by juniors and seniors. Having Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, and Kendall Stephens all playing huge roles at 6’ 7” could make them a matchup problem. Neither team is inspiring on the boards or forcing turnovers. Wolfpack were favorites to win the Mountain West and found themselves down 30 at the half to San Diego St. in the conference tournament. Bounce back coming?
- Nevada best wins:
- Texas is a pretty average team and a banged up Mo Bamba does not help. They do nothing from behind the arc (Nevada is 12 in 3 point defense) and that simply will not cut it in today’s game. The loss of Andrew Jones have obviously capped their ceiling. A lot will rely on PG Matt Coleman, another freshman, and Dylan Osetkowski. He’s a stretch 4 matchup problem, but Nevada has the bodies to throw at him. It may be that simple: whoever does better, Nevada’s offense or Texas’ defense, will win.
- Texas best wins:
- Nevada plays relatively up tempo, Texas plays at a snail’s pace.
- Injuries: Lindsey Drew and Andrew Jones are the big ones that everyone has known for a while. But Texas will have a banged up Bamba, and Nevada’s Stephens may not be 100%.
- Bets: Probably a stay away, if anything Nevada at a pick or with some points.
- Pick: Nevada
#2 Cincinnati vs. #15 Georgia St. (Cincinnati -14)
- Cincinnati has the second best defense in the nation, and while their offense isn’t shabby either, they rely a lot on OREB (third in the nation). Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, and Cane Broome (sleeper) can all make things happen on the offensive end. Bearcats play physical as usual, but are slightly better than Cincy teams of past. Georgia St., a terrible rebounding team, will struggle.
- Cincinnati best wins: Houston twice, Wichita St., UCLA, a healthy SMU. Cincinnati worst losses: None.
- Georgia St. is near the top 100 in offense and defense, so there is balance. They shoot the ball well, have a decent defensive efg%, take care of the ball, and force turnovers. But these all play into Bearcats’ strengths, and you just cant beat Cincy if you can’t rebound. There’s some experience on this team but top guy D’Marcus Simonds is a sophomore.
- Georgia St. best wins: None of note. They have a handful of bad losses like most mid-low majors.
- Georgia St. plays slow and Cincinnati plays VERY slow.
- Injuries: None
- Bets: Under 130.5 or a 1H under (sniff courtesy of Joe Caputo)
- Pick: Cincinnati