Let’s do this!
NCAA Tournament time is officially upon us, ready to spring forth three weeks of upsets, buzzer-beaters, drama and excitement as 64 teams begin the pursuit of their One Shining Moment. There will be some results no one saw coming. There will. No matter what we do. It is a tournament with a bunch of 19 year old kids playing on neutral courts at odd start times under insane amounts of pressure. But don’t let the one or two wacky results throw you from enjoying wagering, and wagering SUCCESSFULLY on the greatest event in sports. We won’t win em all, but we’ve won a lot more than we’ve lost this season and will be looking to lean through the tape in March.
There are a ton of games to choose from, but for these first few days, I am going to hone in on my two or three favorite plays on the board rather than trying to nail the “perfect bracket.”
Today’s NCAA Tournament Picks:
Princeton Tigers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -6.5
This may not be Pete Carrill’s Tigers back-dooring poor Georgetown into a near heart-attack, but this is about as good as the Tigers have been since the legendary coach’s heyday. The Tigers ran the table in the Ivy League – no easy feat in ANY conference, and enter the Tourney toting a 19-game winning streak and as a chic upset pick in Round One.
I’m going to say, not so fast. Notre Dame is Princeton; smart, efficient, balanced, poised – only with WAY better players. Notre Dame is a veteran squad that has reached two straight Elite Eights, so they are no stranger to Tournament pressure. They are one of the most efficient offenses in the country and stone-cold knock down free throws (best FT% in the nation). I don’t see them getting caught napping today.
Princeton has played a few good teams this year. They’ve lost to ALL of them. BYU by 9, Monmouth by 6, VCU and Cal by 11. I think Notre Dame gets at least the seven the need to win, cover and advance without too much drama.
My Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -6.5
Xavier Musketeers vs. Maryland Terrapins -2
This one hurts a little bit. For those of you who are regular readers, you know we have ridden Maryland to a bunch of winners this season. But those of you who are also regulars know my core philosophy; when the data changes, so much our perception. And the new data says LOUDLY that Maryland has hit the wall BIG TIME. The Terps are 3-7 ATS in their last ten games and just 1-5 ATS in their last six. They have lost straight-up to Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern and not looked great in the process. Add in the fact they are REAL young outside of Melo Tremble, and it could spell doom.
This is where you say, the data changed for Xavier too – they stink without Edmond Sumner. Correct. They have struggled without Sumner. But for much of the struggles, Trevon Blueitt was also hurt, either out of the lineup of nursing and injury and less than 100%. He is now fully healthy, and the Muskies are 4-1 ATS in their last five games including a straight-up neutral court win over Butler and a solid effort against Creighton (cover, not win).
They are also a more veteran team than Maryland with lots of Tourney experience over the last two years; Sweet Sixteen and Round of 32 heartbreaker at the hands of Bronson Koening and the Badgers). I think the poise of the Musketeers will be the difference in this “not really an upset” upset.
My Pick: Xavier Musketeers +2