We're up to the first full day of the NCAA Tournament. It's going to be a long time before I get used to calling this the "Second Round".
I invite all of you to hang in the comments section to this post to discuss the games. I'll be able to talk with you guys all day today. Hopefully we can get some good discussions going, because I won't be here as much the next three days. I'm actually going to the games in Chicago, and when I'm in the arena I'm not going to have access to this website. But I'll be here all day today, so stay and chat. Here are my previews for today's games.
And now, my previews for Day 4:
Day 2 against the spread: 1-1
Total through Day 2 ATS: 3-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3
Texas (-10) over Oakland: Oakland is a solid team, but Texas is a brutal draw. Oakland's strength is in the paint and they are weak in the backcourt, which is a problem since their frontcourt still is inferior to the one Texas has. Texas will outplay them in every aspect of the game.
Tennessee (-2) over Michigan: I know some people are going to switch their picks to Michigan because of the news that broke yesterday that Bruce Pearl would be gone at the end of the season (a rumor that ended up being partially dispelled), but no team is more used to playing with distractions than Tennessee. They had to play a whole bunch of SEC games without Bruce Pearl this year and it didn't seem to affect them measurably. They'll be ready to play, and they're still my pick.
Notre Dame (-15) over Akron: I was leaning toward taking Akron here, because Notre Dame doesn't usually blow teams out away from home. But this really is basically a home game, taking place just up the road in Chicago. Akron's going to have to hit a lot of threes to stay in this game.
George Mason (+1) over Villanova: Villanova has been in an absolute collapse the past few weeks. There's no injury or excuse, they're just playing horribly. Last year they were in a late season collapse and went ahead and played terribly in the NCAA Tournament. I just won't bet on them magically turning it around here against George Mason.
Arizona (-5.5) over Memphis: I don't see this game being close. Arizona is underrated, and Memphis is way overrated (13-1 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime). I see no chance Memphis wins this game, so that spread is way too small to consider taking the points.
Duke (-25) over Hampton: It's always difficult to pick these 1/16 games. I think Hampton will struggle more with Duke than even a team like Kansas, just because Duke's excellent execution and fundamental play can really frustrate opponents that aren't used to it. I think Duke will get a mental boost if Kyrie Irving is there and plays, and they've got what is a virtual home game in Charlotte, and Duke always plays great in the state of North Carolina during the NCAA Tournament.
Florida State (+1.5) over Texas A&M: FSU is rated as the better team by Sagarin and Pomeroy, and they're actually better than their computer rating - they had to go through much of the year without Xavier Gibson and Chris Singleton. Of course, Singleton still hasn't played since he was hurt. He says he's going to play, and if he's not effective then FSU will lose, but if he's anywhere near 100% then FSU should win relatively easy. Texas A&M struggled all season with defenses that were big and athletic, and they were actually dead last in the Big 12 in getting their shot blocked. FSU's defense is extremely similar to the Texas defense, and Texas destroyed A&M both times they played this year.
Kansas (-22.5) over Boston University: Eight times this season Kansas played a non-conference opponent outside the Pomeroy Top 100, and won all of them by more than 23 points. They did win by only 12 at Oklahoma, a team outside the Top 100, but that was a true road game (and this Tournament game will be a semi-home game, in Tulsa), and Oklahoma's been playing like a Top 100 team the past few weeks anyway. So I expect a Kansas blowout.
North Carolina (-17.5) over LIU: This game is going to be a track meet. The final score could potentially be something like 105-80. But that is why I'm giving the points. It's easier to win by 18 or more points if you have so many more possessions to expand on your lead.
Purdue (-14.5) over St. Peter's: I was very indecisive about this one, so I would lay off it if I were you. This spread seems just about right. Purdue doesn't really blow teams out, but at the same time there's no chance St. Peter's wins this game. What are the odds that St. Peter's can keep the game within 10-12 points? At least I'd feel more comfortable having Purdue here, since even if the game's close you know that Purdue could pull away down the stretch, but if Purdue gets up by 20 points early then this one will be over. Keep in mind that in the MAAC tournament semis and finals, St. Peter's jumped out to big early leads and faded late when their opponent started to press and turn them over like crazy. If Purdue turns up the defensive pressure this game could turn into a layup line.
Marquette (+2.5) over Xavier: I picked Marquette to win straight up. Please read here to see my reasoning.
Illinois (+2.5) over UNLV: I took Illinois to win straight up. Please read here to see my reasoning.
Washington (-5.5) over Georgia: I don't think this game will even be close. Washington is a much better team. With a spread this small, don't take the points unless you think Georgia has at least a 25% chance of winning the game. And I don't.
Syracuse (-12.5) over Indiana State: Indiana State is an ideal opponent for Syracuse. Syracuse fears teams that can shoot threes over their zone, and teams that can hang onto the ball (since Syracuse is mediocre offensively in the half court and is dependent on forcing a lot of turnovers to get easy baskets). Indiana State is poor with the ball (7th in the Missouri Valley in offensive turnover percentage) and shot on 35.5% on threes on the season. So I like Syracuse here.
Edit [Posting this around 10pm eastern time]
The lines from the games involving the two teams that played in the first round are up, so let me add those two spreads here:
Georgetown (-5.5) over VCU: VCU is not a good team, despite the upset they pulled of a poorly-prepared USC team on Wednesday. Chris Wright will play, and I expect Georgetown to bounce back from their poor play during Wright's absence.
Ohio State (-23.5) over UT-San Antonio: I never feel good about picking the spread on these 1/16 games. Ohio State doesn't play inferior opponents close, though, and there's no way this game will be closer than 15 points. So giving the points seems like the safer bet.