All odds courtesy of Bovada.
#12 Princeton vs #5 Notre Dame (-6.5)
The Fighting Irish are receiving 70% of bets from the public, but this line has actually dropped from -8 to -6.5. Interpretation: Sharp bettors are backing Princeton, hoping it will be another one of those oft-mentioned “twelve over five” upsets.
Pick: Princeton (+6.5)
#12 UNC Wilmington vs #5 Virginia (-7)
Will Virginia, another five seed, fall as well? Not likely. The Cavaliers rank fifth overall in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings, suggesting they deserved a two seed. Wilmington, on the other hand, ranks just 59th in efficiency, which suggests that they are over-seeded. Swallow the points and back Virginia.
Pick: Virginia (-7)
#13 Winthrop vs #4 Butler (-11)
Tough game to call. I’m concerned that Winthrop ranks only 112th in efficiency. But they shoot the ball reasonably well–they’re 49th in the nation in effective field goal percentage–so I’ll take them to cover the spread.
Pick: Winthrop (+11)
#16 South Dakota State vs #1 Gonzaga (-22.5)
Gonzaga is being backed by nearly 70% of the public to cover the spread. I don’t have as much faith in a 22.5 point favorite.
Pick: South Dakota State (+22.5)
#13 Bucknell vs #4 West Virginia (-14)
For anyone that has read my two previous March Madness-related articles, I’m high on the Mountaineers. I even have them going to the Final Four. Even though this is a high number, I’m still confident enough in West Virginia to cover the spread. Reason being: Bucknell is receiving 66% of public spread bets, so I’ll be on the same side as the house by taking Bob Huggins’ squad.
Pick: West Virginia (-14)
#12 Middle Tennessee State vs #5 Minnesota (+1)
This is odd: A twelve seed is actually favored to beat a five seed. Despite picking Middle Tennessee State to win this game in my bracket, I’m actually going to pick against them, strictly from a betting perspective. The Golden Gophers, after all, are the more efficient team (33 vs 46), so it doesn’t make sense to me why they are the underdog here.
Pick: Minnesota (+1)
#10 VCU vs #7 Saint Mary’s (-4.5)
I’m on the Saint Mary’s bandwagon. They’re sixth and fifth respectively in true shooting and opponent true shooting percentage. They should make relatively easy work of VCU.
Pick: Saint Mary’s (-4.5)
#13 Vermont vs #4 Purdue (-10)
Vermont’s still got that tournament mojo. SORRENTINE HIT THAT ONE FROM THE PARKING LOT!
Pick: Vermont (+10)
#14 Florida Gulf Coast vs #3 Florida State (-12)
Recency bias alert: Everyone still has FGCU’s surprise run to the Sweet Sixteen as a fifteen seed fresh in their minds from a few years ago. That explains why they’re being backed by 71% of public bettors. The fact is, though, that Florida State is the far superior team based on every metric available. Side with the house and take the favored Seminoles.
Pick: Florida State (-12)
#9 Virginia Tech vs #8 Wisconsin (-5.5)
For an eight/nine matchup, there’s a pretty big disparity between these teams. Virginia Tech should have trouble scoring against a Badgers defense ranked highly in many defensive categories. And on the other end of the floor, Wisconsin should take advantage of the Hookies’ 220th ranked scoring defense.
Pick: Wisconsin (-5.5)
Other predictions for today’s games in which I don’t have a particular insight:
- #4 Florida (-10) over #13 East Tennessee State
- #8 Northwestern (+2) over #9 Vanderbilt
- #11 Xavier (+2) over #6 Maryland
- #16 Mount St. Mary’s (+26.5) over #1 Villanova
- #15 North Dakota (+17) over #2 Arizona
- #12 Nevada (+6.5) over #5 Iowa State