#13 Montana Grizzlies vs. #4 Wisconsin Badgers -9.5
If this year’s iteration of the NCAA Tournament is even close to as ridiculously exciting and awesome as last night’s opening play-in games (again, I refuse to say “First Four”), this is going to be the greatest tournament ever. Western Kentucky and BYU erased a combined 45-point deficit in the second half to win their play-in games and earn a spot in the Field of 64. It would be setting a high bar, but hopefully it is a harbinger of things to come.
That certainly bodes well for one of my favorite upset picks in the opening round. While all the experts are fawning over themselves picking Belmont over Georgetown (the line is down to -2.5 in a #3/#14, amazing) and the super-trendy upset pick of #11 NC State over #6 San Diego State (NC St is the Vegas FAVORITE), I continue to loop back to a great first round value pick with the unheralded, but very solid Montana Grizzlies.
The champs of the Big Sky looked impressive routing a very good Weber State team in the conference tournament final, and enter the Big Dance with a 25-6 record and a twelve game winning streak. Like most low-major conference champs, the Grizz are light on quality wins, but with the exception of a blow-out loss to Oregon State, their losses are all pretty respectable and hard-fought. They split the regular season with Weber State, and lost closely to San Francisco, Nevada and Colorado State. All of those losses were on the road.
Wisconsin is one of those mysterious teams that is hard to figure out. They seem to have underachieved most of the season, but I am not sure it is all their fault. Perhaps they “appropriately achieved” and the team just wasn’t that good to begin with. I think a lot of us under-estimated the impact of losing John Lauer from last year’s team and expected a little bit more out of senior point guard Jordan Taylor.
There is still a really good chance that Wisconsin wins this game, but I don’t see them blowing anyone out. Not only is this matchup MUCH closer than all the experts have realized, this line also fails to account for the tempo factor of a Wisconsin basketball game. A ten point Wisconsin win is like a 15 or 16 point win for anyone else. With Bo Ryan leaking the air out of the ball, this game feels like one played in the 50’s rather than the 70’s. That makes nine and a half points a tough lay down to stomach.
Consider this as well – this line is the third largest spread in the entire tournament tomorrow out of 16 games. It’s only five points less than Syracuse, a #1 seed is laying down to UNC Ashville! Montana is a dangerous #13 seed, and ask yourself, is Wisconsin really a dominant basketball team?
Give me the Grizz and the points, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can join me in a nice healthy money line wager as well that should pay you in the +250 to +300 range…
Free Pick: Montana Grizzlies +9.5