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Iowa vs. Villanova Pick NCAA Tournament + Bonus Pick

I pushed my 2016 NCAA Tourney record to 6-1 ATS with a third straight underdog straight-up winner last night.   So it’s been a nice start to the Big Dance and a great bank-busting start if you are inclined for some more aggressive money line plays. And there are plenty more opportunities today as the fruit of Friday’s spoils comes to harvest. The thrilling side of amazing upsets is that you get a moment of exhilaration and a great highlight clip for One Shining Moment.

The downside is, today you have Syracuse vs. Middle Tennessee State and Notre Dame vs. Stephen F. Austin!

It’s fair to say there is no Kentucky vs. Indiana on the schedule today, though Villanova vs Iowa has potential and Wisconsin and VCU bring some brand-name cache to challenge Xavier and Oklahoma’s Final Four dreams. But all in all, only two games are less than five point spreads, so if there are “upsets” today we won’t even have to use the word in quotes and we can fairly call them UPSETS (unlike these breathless honks squawking about the amazing Gonzaga upset of an #11 over the #3 which sounds good except for the fact that Gonzaga was the Vegas favorite!)

I’m still pissed Indiana and Kentucky played yesterday. That was two of the best teams in the nation cannibalizing each other, two major conference champions, playing five days too early. Alas, onward and upward. Let’s notch another winner

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Today’s Free Pick:

#7 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. #2 Villanova Wildcats – 12:10 PM START!!

It feels a little mean to pile on the Wildcats March struggles, but it is fair to point out they haven’t made it out of the first weekend since 2008, despite having been a top seed and a second seed twice. So to give Iowa a puncher’s chance tonight seems more than fair. When you take another step back and say, “Iowa had some late season issues, but were the #2 team in the nation seven weeks ago” you have to give them even MORE of a chance. When you start looking at rosters and talent, you give them MORE of a chance.

And all of a sudden, you’ve talked yourself into an Iowa upset. I know I did in my Bracket and I’m not backing it off it quite yet. Iowa has good talent and two guys who can affect the game in Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok. They have a senior point guard in Gessell, who both makes me nervous and calm at the same time (he takes some ill-advised shots late and over penetrates at odd times) and they have a seven-foot senior in Adam Woodbury who could make some trouble for the Wildcats interior defenders.

Villanova is a good ballclub and a deserving #2 seed (and would have been a reasonable fourth #1 even). But laying seven points on a neutral floor with all their past struggles and displayed tendency to struggle against their best opponents feels too rich. Oklahoma, Virginia, and Xavier have all smacked them in the mouth this season and their best wins are Seton Hall (who also beat them), Providence and Butler. I put Iowa somewhere in between.

This should be a real good game, but I don’t see Iowa getting punked by anyone. They lost six of their last eight but only one by more than seven points (eight point loss at that). Before that, they won 13 of 15 including sweeps of Michigan State and Purdue, and tight losses at Maryland and Indiana.   Meanwhile, in Villanova’s games against ranked non-con opponents they have by an average of 19 points.

I’ll take the Hawkeyes with the points.

Free Pick: Iowa Hawkeyes +7

 

Just in case you got here too late for the Iowa Pick, here are my other favorite play of the day (later games):

#15 Middle Tennessee State vs. #10 Syracuse Orange -6.5 – This happens ALL the time; plucky upstart pulls legendary upset and then gets a team not as good as the one they just beat! So the line shrinks and all the non-hoops regulars get excited, etc.

And then the good team beats their ass with vengeance.

That’s what coming today. Syracuse may not have deserved to be here, but they deserve to lay more than six against MTSU. Look for Boeheim to finally stop whining long enough to pack for the Sweet 16.

Free Pick: Syracuse Orange -6.5