Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 3 Open Thread + Picking The Lines

Enough of that First Four stuff. The real NCAA Tournament is here. The best sports weekend of the year. Let's dothis.

Join me in the comments below to chat with me all day during the games, and you can also get me on twitter.

At the bottom of this post are my picks of Thursday's lines. Remember that I did pick all of these games in my Tournament previews, so you can read my extended thoughts on these games there.

Total through First Four ATS: 2-2-0
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3

Valparaiso (+10.5) over Michigan State: This is definitely a bigger spread than I thought it would be. I didn't take Valparaiso to win this game outright, but they do have a real chance. I think Michigan State might be looking past this game a little bit too much. Valpo is a tough, experienced team that can score all over the floor. Their defense is their weakness, but Michigan State is not the most offensively explosive team out there.

Butler (-3.5) over Bucknell: This should be a very competitive game, and this line comes down to what you feel about 3.5 point lines. In general, I feel like with a line that small you should pick the team you think will win unless you really believe it's basically a toss-up game. With free throws and everything else, the odds of Butler winning by exactly 1, 2 or 3 points are pretty low. Butler is probably more capable of handling Mike Muscala than any other team Bucknell has played so far this season, so I do think they're the favorite.

Pittsburgh (-4) over Wichita State: On paper, Pittsburgh is the far better team. I think you need a really glaring match-up advantage for Wichita State, and I don't see it. Pitt's perimeter oriented offense will mostly bypass Carl Hall, and Pitt's physicality and toughness should keep Hall from doing too much damage on the other end of the floor. If you know that one team is clearly better and the line is only 4, just take your chances.

New Mexico State (+9.5) over Saint Louis: I love St. Louis as much as anybody, but this is a really huge line. New Mexico State is a decent team that is not known simply because the WAC was nationally irrelevant this season. They are not a team that relies on forcing turnovers or outside shooting (teams that rely on either of those two teams are the types that particularly struggle with this St. Louis squad). Sim Bhullar is a unique challenge, and I think a lot of people are going to be surprised to see just how big this New Mexico State front line is - even aside from Bhullar. Considering the fact that the St. Louis offense is not the most high-scoring in the world and asking them to win by double digits is a lot.

St. Mary's (PK) over Memphis: Pick'em game, so take whoever you want to win. I think St. Mary's is a tough match-up for Memphis. Memphis relies on using their perimeter speed and athleticism to get easy baskets off the dribble and off the offensive glass. St. Mary's is a fundamentally sound team that can stop dribble penetration and that was 4th in the nation in DR%. Memphis is an overrated team that is very fundamentally unsound, which is the exact type of team you want to pick against in the NCAA Tournament.

Marquette (-3.5) over Davidson: This is a really tough line to pick. It feels just about right to me. Marquette is the favorite, but they're overrated and this is a game that they definitely can lose. So, you probably want to lay off this line. Since I have to pick every game, though, I do think that there's a chance Marquette just out-athletes Davidson. Davidson's offense relies on getting in the paint and getting to the line, but that will be a lot tougher than usual against Marquette's aggressive perimeter defense. So while Davidson could definitely win this game, I give the narrow edge on the line to Marquette.

Southern (+22) over Gonzaga: I hate betting on these 1/16 games. Sometimes the 1 seed will get a 30 points lead early in the second half and then bring in their bench to win by only 20. When I first put this post together I picked Gonzaga here because I think they are getting a lot of media criticism for their 1 seed and will have something to prove. But I do think that this is the most competitive 1/16 game, and Southern is the best team out of the SWAC in a decade or more. This game really might be kind of close.

Oklahoma State (-2) over Oregon: With a 2 point spread, just pick the team you think will win. And to me, that's Oklahoma State. Oregon is going to be very offensively limited against Oklahoma State, and they are going to require a lot of turnovers and easy transition baskets to win. They did lead the Pac-12 in defensive turnover rate, but Oklahoma State's backcourt is very strong and has a whole lot of guys who take care of the ball well. Even freshmen like Marcus Smart and Phil Forte can be trusted against Oregon's defense. So the Cowboys are the pick.

Louisville (-26) over North Carolina A&T: Did I mention how much I hate picking 1/16 games? This game is going to be a romp, but can North Carolina A&T get a backdoor cover? Maybe. I guess. Louisville has tended to show no mercy against unqualified opponents this year, though, so they're my pick.

South Dakota State (+11) over Michigan: It's fascinating how far off conventional wisdom is from the computers on a game like this. Because the media talk all week has been how this is a hot upset pick, and how Michigan really could lose this game, and I had to take Michigan's side and say that I really don't think they're going to lose to South Dakota State. Nate Wolters is awesome, but Trey Burke is going to really harass him, and the Michigan D is not going to collapse like a lot of Summit defenses did against him. But an 11 point spread? That's what the computers say (Pomeroy actually has it at 13), but wow. I think the computers miss the fact that South Dakota State was not at full strength early in the season. Wolters missed some time and it took him a while after he got back to get into a groove. They are playing their best basketball of the season now, and this could be a really competitive game. I'll take the points.

Belmont (+4.5) over Arizona: Well, I picked Belmont to win this game outright, so I obviously have to take them with the points. My argument for Bemont is here.

California (+3) over UNLV: Once again, this is an upset that I picked in my bracket. My argument for why I think California will beat UNLV is here. I have to say, I'm surprised Cal didn't get any credit in Vegas for this being a quasi-home game.

Colorado State (+3) over Missouri: This was the game that really surprised me. Missouri is definitely the better team (the Vegas line is correct, on paper), and I was sure I'd take them to win. But when I broke down the match-ups in my preview, I just thought all of the personnel match-ups favored Colorado State (that preview is here). So they are my pick to win.

VCU (-8) over Akron: I told you guys that this is the lock of the Round of 64. I'll be shocked if VCU wins by less than 20.

New Mexico (-11) over Harvard: This is a really tough one to pick, because this line does seem correct to me. Harvard could potentially make this game competitive, but New Mexico is the clearly better team and they could really push Harvard with their defensive length and athleticism. And it's the athlete mismatch that is going to make me take New Mexico. Harvard just is not as good as they were last year or they will be next year. They were lucky just to get past Princeton.

Syracuse (-12.5) over Montana: It looks like this line has dropped by 1-2 points in the last day because of the allegations about NCAA violations at Syracuse. Why? The players aren't going to lose their focus, and it's not like Jim Boeheim is going to have a different gameplan that he's had the last 1000 or so games he's coached. Syracuse does the same thing every game every year. Montana is short-handed and is going to get destroyed on the glass.


Jeff said...

Just a few minutes to go. Here we go...

Ben said...

Hey Jeff,

This is kind of an extensive process to comment, but's march.

Butler -3.5 and stayed away from valpo game for these earliest starts.

Would like to see Butler play well, I'm trusting Stevens this round and against Marquette.

Jeff said...

Yeah, I know. And I did try to notate some of these games as "stay-aways". But I might as well list each game, because otherwise I'll get asked about the ones I skipped, haha.

Daffy Duck said...


Jeff said...

Their shooting today is insane. At some point they have to start hitting some shots... right?

Daffy Duck said...

They are airballing and "barely hitting the iron"'s so sad.

Jeff said...

Somebody needs to remind Pitt that they were 3rd in eFG% in the Big East this season.

Daffy Duck said...

And that they should not be intimidated by Wichita State. They are playing scared.

the dude said...

Dellavedova had his chances...missing a 1 and 1 and later 1of 2...I thought he was due up with the big 3 and.....air ball :( great game though!

Jeff said...

Heartbreaking to see the way his career ended. St. Mary's had such a debacle of a game.

the dude said...

Indeed. And Memphis played silly and undisciplined at the end of the game just as you said they would, which lead to more comeback opportunities for St. Mary's

Anonymous said...

Belmont is fool's gold in the NCAA Tournament once again.

Jeff said...

Can't hit a shot today. Though this Belmont team was never in the same league as the past two seasons.

The real year for Belmont was two seasons ago. That team was filthy good, and had the terrible misfortune of being seeded against Jordan Taylor's Wisconsin team.

luciente said...

It's early in the tourney, but... the Atlantic 10 is 4-0 so far. The league is not as good as Atlantic Starr yet, but it's putting up a good show so far.

Jeff said...

Indeed. Great year for the league. Too bad it'll be just one season of this collection of teams.