We all LIKE upsets. But if you can grind through the temporary disappointment of not getting your “One Shining Moment” you end up with a weekend like the one we have on tap; no boring fourth-place major conference team taking on a plucky miracle low-major participant, no games to avoid while waiting for the one you really want to see. Nothing today but amazing, awesome hoops!
Before we get rolling, you’ll notice I’m not bragging about a winning day yesterday. That sense of humility is a full-recognition of what a garbage cover we got in the Oklahoma State game. As one very clever Twitter’er sent to me “someone needs to send that kid some 1-800-Flowers.”
Agreed my man, agreed.
Today’s SECOND ROUND NCAA TOURNAMENT PICKS:
Xavier Musketeers vs. Florida State Seminoles -6.5
Same logic as the Florida State fade versus Florida Gulf Coast; Florida State is really talented individually but really awful when they are not playing at home relative to that talent level. Hey were just 3-6 away from Tallahassee, and while it will be a moderately pro-Florida State crowd in Orlando, Xavier also a has a decent fan base PLUS the fact that Florida plays AFTER in the same building, so lots of people willing to get enthused about the underdogs from Cincinnati.
Plus, Xavier seems to have figured it out lately. This was a preseason Top Ten team that cratered after the devastating injury to point guard and future pro, Edmond Sumner. They lost seven of their next nine games and looked like the might even miss the NCAA Tournament. But some of those losses coincided with returning third-team All American Trevon Blueitt missing a few games. Blueitt is back, and as he showed in the second half of the Maryland rout, he can carry the team offensively for long vital stretches.
Xavier is 5-0 ATS in their last five games and looks to have learned to adapt to playing without Sumner.
Meanwhile, Florida State is just 2-4 ATS in their last six games and has looked very erratic. Their non-home woes are well documented but real. This just isn’t the same team once they leave home.
Xavier is getting a lot of points on a neutral floor, especially for a team with some veteran leadership and tourney experience. Florida State is poor on the road and is relying on freshman, very talented freshman, but freshman none the less.
I’ll take the Muskies and their March Magic and the points.
Today’s Pick: Xavier Musketeers +6.5
St. Mary’s Gaels vs. Arizona Wildcats -5
Apparently, the lack of respect for St. Mary’s only extends to the general public and the seeding committee. Vegas quickly installed this as a three point spread and then adjusted to a still-slim minus five for the Wildcats. I am not sure I agree.
St. Mary’s is in fact a good basketball team. I think. They are 28-1 when not playing Gonzaga, but the Zags tore them limb from limb in all three matchups. Since no one else on the schedule OTHER than Gonzaga profiles similarly to Arizona, it is HARD to ignore those three results. They LOOK like a pretty good team, but the real evidence points to them being a little out of their depth tonight against the Wildcats.
Arizona is still my lean to win the whole darn thing, though I like the upside of UCLA and steadiness of Carolina (and draw of Kansas). They are big, deep, athletic, talented – and 21-2 since Alonzo Trier, who has a little James Harden-shiftiness to his game, returned from suspension. Lauri Markkanen is the best player in the country people don’t know (general public people, not YOU – YOU know Lauri. And it’s why you are probably picking Arizona tonight).
This line really surprised me. I thought Arizona would lay seven or eight. I’ll take advantage of the slimness and back the far more athletic Cats. The Gaels had NO ANSWER for anything Gonzaga threw at them in all three matchups. I like more of the same tonight.
Today’s Pick: Arizona Wildcats -5