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UC Irvine vs. Louisville Pick NCAA – March 20th + Bonus Pick

NCAA TOURNAMENT:  AFTERNOON SESSIONS:

What an opening day of the NCAA Tournament! Buzzer beaters, overtime games, favorites surviving in dramatic fashion and a pair of #3 seeds going down in dramatic fashion. It would be nearly impossible for anyone not to have enjoyed the first day of action…well, unless of course you are the Big Twelve or a resident of Texas. The Big Twelve saw a pair of #3 seeds in Baylor and many people surprise Final Four team, Iowa State make insanely early exits. In fact, it is the first time in 20 years that two #3 seeds lost to a pair of #14’s on the same day.

Meanwhile Texas lost their flagship Longhorns along with Baylor, SFA, Southern (no shame there) and SMU (who got screwed) to finish the state’s tourney dreams before they even had a chance to consider a Shining Moment at 0-5.

We took a ridiculous backdoor loss and cover to ruin what looked like a great day with Xavier winning easily and two more wins right there on our rackets. Oh well, that’s just the kind of day it was in the frenetic world of one-and-done excitement.

Let’s get a pair of winners to start Day Two.

Today’s Free Picks:

UC Irvine Anteaters vs. Louisville Cardinals -8.5

In a world full of crazy upsets, why not show some love for the Anteaters? They have the tallest player in the country protecting the baseline and rim and Louisville isn’t exactly a proficient offensive team. Is it possible they limit Rozier’s penetration and Harrell’s putbacks? Not only possible, but I’d wager it is likely.

Louisville is still the superior team in term of personnel and talent. But I’m not sold they can score enough to make the normal noise a Rick Pitino team usually does in March. UCI is a Top 100 RPI team who played reasonably well at Arizona and lost a pair of one possession road games at St. Mary’s and Oregon. Meanwhile, Louisville is just 3-2 since dismissing point guard Chris Jones and shoots just 30.4% from behind the arc, good for 301st in the nation.

Expect a closer game than many expect and yet another March thriller. The Cards should prevail, but I’ll gladly take the points.

Free Pick: UC Irvine +8.5

 

Valparaiso Crusaders vs. Maryland Terrapins -4.5

I’ll be covering this game live today, and am looking forward to some interesting matchups. However, in this instance, I think that Valpo might be getting a little too much love. The Horizon League is a solid conference and Valpo has gotten some good tests from quality teams like Cleveland State and Keifer Sykes and Green Bay. However, their marquee tests this season have been mostly fails. They lost badly to Missouri and New Mexico – both terrible teams whose name sounds better than the result truly is.   Of course, Valpo does have wins over Goshen, Indiana South Bend, Trinity (Ill.) and Drake. So, the 28-5 record? There isn’t a better win than the aforementioned conference foes other than Murray State.

Meanwhile, Maryland is loaded, both with size and quickness. Dez Wells should have an enormous game and Melo Trimble should control the game. Maryland got a tough draw, landing a #4 instead of the three I thought they’d earn and they get a top half of the bracket anchored by Kentucky to boot.

But for one game, none of that matters. Look for Maryland to turnover Valpo by exploiting their quickness advantages and to cover the very slim 4.5 spread.

Free Pick: Maryland Terrapins -4.5

 

EXTRA QUICK PICK:

Virginia has struggled since Justin Anderson got injured.  Belmont is a competent team.  The tempo will be slow in this game.  Laying 17 points feels like way, way too many.  I’ll take the Bruins, who have been here before, to cover the huge number in a low-scoring affair.

Bonus Pick:  Belmont Bruins +17