The NCAA Tournament is here!!!!
Look, we make fun of the "First Four" games, but we all watch them. They get huge ratings. We might show up late for Manhattan/Hampton, but we're going to watch BYU/Mississippi.
This is Day 1 of my daily "Open Thread + Picking The Lines" posts. I pick every game mainly as a gimmick to discuss every game. Past performance is no guarantee of future success, and I wouldn't recommend anybody ever bet more than a few bucks on a game. Gambling can bring extra enjoyment to a game where you don't have rooting interest, but as soon as your personal savings or retirement accounts are substantially depending upon the outcome of a sporting event, you've got a problem and need to stop.
Anyway, if you're a college hoops fan then we're in your favorite part of the year. I know that I can't wait for the games to tip off. Join in the comments section on these posts daily to talk about the games as they happen, or tweet at me.
Remember, my full NCAA Tournament previews game by game are all posted here. Use that to guide your bracket picking.
Let's get to the games:
2014 Tournament ATS: 40-23-4
2013 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3
Hampton (+9) over Manhattan:
There's a reason this spread is as large as it is. Manhattan was the significantly better team this season. That said, Pomeroy has the spread at 6 and Sagarin has it at around 7.5, which is where it opened before it started climbing. There's no obvious reason for it to be climbing. Manhattan has been playing their best basketball of the season down the stretch, but it's not like they got back an injured or suspended player, and Hampton has been playing their best basketball down the stretch as well. These are both turnover prone teams that shoot the ball badly, so this has the potential to be an ugly, disjointed basketball game (pretty typical of these 16/16 play-in games, honestly). It's possible that Manhattan imposes their will with superior athleticism and talent, but I'd bet on this being an ugly game that comes down to the final few minutes.
BYU (-3) over Mississippi: I spoke in my West region breakdown that BYU/Ole Miss was going to come down to the health of Anson Winder (who missed their last two games) and Skyler Halford (who was knocked out of the WCC title game). As of this morning, reports from BYU's practices were that the two were looking reasonably healthy and likely to play. So I think you pick BYU to win over a fading Mississippi team. With the way BYU shoots free throws (77.0% for the season), if they have a lead in the final minute I doubt they're going to the miss the free throws for Mississippi to get back into the game or to generate a nasty backdoor cover.