A pretty good first afternoon of action, thanks in large part to the usual 5/12 mayhem. Yale notched the first upset of this year’s tournament (I whiffed on that one – I just wasn’t impressed with Yale. Lesson learned). Then Purdue absolutely gagged one up in regulation to force a double-overtime thriller that eventually went the way of the Little Rock Trojans.
It isn’t quite “madness” but they are at least mild upsets, especially given the WAY Purdue lost when they had a double-digit lead with less than three minutes to go. I am going to press here before the end of the evening games, so there may be one more “upset” by the time you are reading this, though neither Gonzaga or Wichita State winning as #11’s are really upsets, especially according to Vegas. So as long as nothing crazy happens with either Big Blue; Carolina or Kentucky, all should be well in the world.
So, let’s see if we can have a nice second day of the NCAA Tournament after yesterday’s split brought us to 3-1 ATS for the Big Dance.
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Today’s Free Picks:
#13 Hawaii Warriors vs. #4 California Bears -5
It might be low hanging fruit to call this upset given the injury to Cal’s point guard Tyrone Wallace yesterday in practice (broken hand). That is a huge blow to the very young Bears who relied on Wallace in the Pac 12 Tournament, a senior, scoring 18.7 points per game in his last three games including 26 in a Pac 12 semifinal loss to Utah. Losing Wallace is a big blow.
Of course, the Bears still have NBA talent everywhere with Jabari Bird, Jaylen Brown and Ivan Raab. But they won’t have the veteran leadership to orchestrate it. I think that spells trouble.
Hawaii is legitimately good. They enter 27-5 and darn near knocked off Oklahoma in the Diamondhead Classic over Christmas. They own wins over Northern Iowa and Auburn and competitive losses @Texas Tech and Oklahoma. They would have been right on the at-large cusp (likely shafted, given the Committee’s performance this year) had they not won the WAC, but put all doubt to rest by earning the automatic bid.
I like Hawaii straight up. Cal is more talented, but Hawaii is healthy and an intact team.
#11 Northern Iowa Panthers vs. #6 Texas Longhorns -5
I love UNI in this one. They are a better, more efficient offensive team and have better ball control. They already own wins over North Carolina, Iowa State and Wichita State twice and have reeled off 12 of their last 13 games.
Meanwhile, Texas had some awesome flashes to get into the national conversation, but may have peaked back in January. They dropped five of their last nine, and four of the games were by double digits. Granted, UNI isn’t as good as Kansas who beat Texas by 30, but they aren’t that much worse than Baylor, who also handed Texas a beating.
Look for this game to be close, and don’t be surprised if UNI wins straight up. Either way, I’ll take the streaking Panthers and the points.