Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 3 Open Thread + Picking The Lines

4-0 against the spread! As all people who pay money to "tout" services know, this means I'm guaranteed to go 67-0.*

*This is a joke. Please do not expect my gambling picks to finance your retirement.

The first day of the NCAA Tournament is here. The first day of spring is here. Let's do this. And remember that if you haven't filled out your bracket yet, my full Tournament breakdown is here.

Please join me in the comments below for a discussion or catch me on twitter. Below are my picks against the spread:

2014 Tournament ATS: 4-0-0
2013 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3

Dayton (+6.5) over Ohio State: Ohio State is deservedly the favorite here. I think they're going to win. But this has "low scoring slog" written all over it. Ohio State's last six games have all been decided by eight points or less, and their only win away from home by more than nine points all season was that Marquette debacle where the Golden Eagles had an eFG% so bad (19.8%) that they were one of only two Division I teams all season long to fail to break 20% in eFG% (UMass-Lowell, back on January 26th, was the other). The odds of Ohio State blowing Dayton off the floor just seem awfully low.

American University (+13.5) over Wisconsin: I'm taking the points here for similar reasons to the Ohio State game: American University is good at grinding games down and keeping scores low. It's not often that Wisconsin faces an opponent that is significantly slower tempo than they are. It's been almost two months since an opponent scored more than 62 points against American, and in their last game they held Boston University to 36 points... the same Boston University team that just scored 33 points in the first half against Illinois in the NIT first round last night. Wisconsin should win this game relatively easy (don't buy the upset hype), but that's a big spread for Wisconsin to cover at this tempo.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) over Colorado: This is a big spread... but at the same time, this Colorado just isn't good. After NC State, they're rated the worst at-large team by the computers. Colorado doesn't have any real match-up advantages, so there's no reason to expect an upset. I suppose the argument for Colorado here is if you believe Pitt's late-regular season swoon was real, and their strong ACC tourney performance was something of a fluke.

Cincinnati (-3) over Harvard: Harvard definitely has a real chance to win this game. The gap between these two teams really isn't that big. Harvard is a very strong 12 seed. The problem is, with a spread this small, you have to believe this is basically a toss-up game to take Harvard. There's a chance Harvard is just going to get out-athleted, and they haven't beaten a team all season close to the skill and athletic level of Cincinnati. I'd give the points.

Syracuse (-13) over Western Michigan: This has been a bizarrely popular upset pick. Syracuse is substantially better and has every match-up advantage. This game should be an absolute romp. Western Michigan was well below average in MAC play in turnover rate and assist rate - they're going to get eaten alive by the Syracuse zone.

BYU (+5.5) over Oregon: Oregon is the favorite here, but that spread is too big. I broke down all the match-ups for this game here, and basically just ended up choosing Oregon because of the Kyle Collinsworth injury. With a healthy Collinsworth, this would be a toss-up game.

Albany (+21.5) over Florida: I always avoid laying off 1/16 games unless you really have a strong feeling or have a degenerate need to bet on every game. Florida can absolutely dominate this game, and then Albany can score a few points against the scrubs and get a backdoor cover. Albany obviously doesn't have a chance of winning this game, but for the sake of this preview I'll take the points.

Michigan State (-14) over Delaware: This is a pretty fair line, but Delaware is a pretty bad defense, so there's no reason Michigan State won't score 80 or 90 points here. This is why, unlike a game like Wisconsin/American that is likely to be low scoring, I'm not so concerned about the big spread.

UConn (-5) over Saint Joseph's: While pretty much every AAC team was overrated this year, Louisville was the one elite team that got the respect it deserved. The one AAC team that might have been underrated was UConn. They were as good as Cincinnati and significantly better than Memphis or SMU, but you wouldn't have known that from media coverage. I think UConn has the match-up advantages all over the place here: they're more athletic, they're bigger, and they should control the glass. St Joe's is the better jump shooting team, but if you're taking St Joe's you're counting on them to have a strong shooting day. It's a pretty big risk. UConn is the safer pick.

Michigan (-15) over Wofford: This Wofford team is easily the worst 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There have been plenty of 16 seeds over the years better than this Wofford squad, so treat this mentally like a 1/16 game. Are you concerned about 15 points? Particularly not against a Wofford team that struggles to score.

NC State (+3) over Saint Louis: I'd feel better taking Xavier here, but NC State should still be viewed as the favorite. Saint Louis was overrated all season long, and they have particularly struggled down the stretch. Their offense is just not good at all (outside the Top 10 in the A-10 in turnover rate, 3P%, OR% and total offensive efficiency). TJ Warren has been held below 20 points just four times all season long. Saint Louis is going to have to find scoring from someone to win this game.

North Dakota State (+3) over Oklahoma: This is one of the toughest picks of the day. I talked in my West Region Preview about how even this game was. I ended up giving the Oklahoma the edge, but only the very narrow edge. This is definitely a game that could come down to the final possession. So in the end, I'll take the points, even if there are only three of them.

Villanova (-16.5) over Milwaukee: Milwaukee is a "happy to be here" team. They were 7-9 in Horizon League play and below the conference average in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The only way they cover this spread is if Villanova, as a team that relies heavily on threes, goes ice cold.

Texas (-2) over Arizona State: I talked in my Midwest Region Preview why I viewed Texas a pretty solid preview here. Jordan Bachynski is a really good big man, but he's going to need to have the game of his life to somehow match the three quality Texas bigs. The Longhorns should dominate the glass.

Manhattan (+16.5) over Louisville: This spread is just too big. It's honestly a big disconcerting just how popular Louisville has become with the public, and it's safer to bet against them until the lines normalize. This Manhattan team is no crap squad out of the SWAC - they actually started the season with hopes of maybe competing for an at-large bid. They didn't quite get there, and they're realistically going to lose this game, but this is the type of spread you expect to see on a 2/15 game. That's not what this is.

San Diego State (-7) over New Mexico State: This is a pretty fair line, so I'd probably advise laying off this game altogether. I have to pick all 67 games against the spread, though, so I need to pick a side. I'll let you read my West Region Preview for my reasoning on why San Diego State is favored. I feel confident enough that I'll risk the points.


Unknown said...

Delaware keeping it close against MSU. I don't understand all the love for MSU. Their game against Virginia would basically be a 50/50 coin flip if I read the computer numbers right. That is part of the reason why I have Villanova going to the Final Four as they have a much easier road to the elite 8 IMO.

Jeff said...

Well, the computer numbers only judge teams on what they've done. The argument is that Michigan State is better than their computer numbers because basically every member of their starting lineup missed extended time during the season.

Unknown said...

goodness this NC State- St Louis game won't end

Unknown said...

Man no one deserves to win in this game

Jeff said...

Crazy. Horrible push, though it makes up for my lucky Michigan State cover.

Unknown said...

Everyone is going to bail on Villanova even though they only had a awful shooting day. Are you going to bet on them going 2-20 from three the rest of the tourney?

Jeff said...

Yeah, it's a team that takes a ton of threes. So sometimes they'll go cold... but usually they won't.

Joe said...

not feeling good about san diego state, i read somewhere the teams that play offense as badly as they do when they don't get turnovers rarely make any noise in the tournament, at least their path is pretty manageable to the sweet sixteen