We had a pretty nice opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament with our free picks here at The Saturday Edge. None of the upsets won outright, and none of the “upsets to avoid picking” backfired – in fact, with two pushes we ended up a nice 3-0-2 ATS – technically perfect – to start the festivities.
That said, we have a LOT of work still to do this weekend. Lots of people whined about the lack of a single substantial upset in the tournament to this point, and I agree there is something less compelling about all the top four seeds winning without major heart palpitations. But the PAYOFF is spectacular. Instead of a few “meh” games the next two days, we are LOADED from noon until midnight with legit, high-stakes, awesome college hoops.
Just LOOK at what we get the next 48 hours: Notre Dame vs. West Virginia, Michigan vs. Louisville, Wichita State vs. Kentucky, Wisconsin vs. Villanova, Virginia vs. Florida, Iowa State vs. Purdue, St. Mary’s vs. Arizona, Cincinnati vs. UCLA, Gonzaga vs. Northwestern and Michigan State vs. Kansas – WOW!!!!!!
Here’s my favorite plays of the upcoming weekend (allotted for the fact some potentially great Sunday games don’t have lines posted yet)
ROUND TWO FREE PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD:
This game opened as a slight favorite for Purdue and quickly (and correctly, in my opinion) corrected. Purdue is the seed-favorite, Iowa State is the slight basketball favorite. Both teams have talent, albeit very DIFFERENT talent. SO the question today is: the SIZE of Purdue or the veteran guard brilliance of Iowa State. And when it comes to the Ides of March, I’ll go with the point giard every time.
If we are talking point guards in the Tournament, you won’t find a better one than Monte Morris. I am not saying that flippantly or hyperbolic – I truly think RIGHT NOW, he is the best college point guard in the country. I’m really happy to have Frank Mason III, De’Aaron Fox, Joel Berry, Jalen Brunson, and obviously, Lonzo Ball. But on pure “running a college basketball team” I’ll take the Full Monte. As I wrote earlier in the week, he posted the greatest assist to turnover ratio in Big Twelve history, dating back to when the conference had eight teams and daisy duke shorts… Dude is flat out EXCELLENT. I think he will be the difference tonight.
Iowa State is going to have a heckuva time contending with Caleb Swanigan. The Purdue big man will get his and then some. But when it comes time to MAKE A PLAY and get a huge bucket, Iowa State has so many more options.
Gimme the Clones to keep on rolling tonight on to the Sweet Sixteen
My Pick: Iowa State Cyclones – PICK
It is easy to take shots at the Cavs (and believe me, I often have). But it isn’t easy to MAKE SHOTS against them. That defense is still world-class, and now that there is some evidence their offensive woes are somewhat in the past, this is a dangerous, dangerous basketball team.
I’m not sold on the Florida Gators or the SEC, despite a nice 4-1 opening weekend of the tournament. I think the whole league comes thudding back to Earth this weekend and only Kentucky will still be standing (maybe. Don’t sleep on the Shockers…)
Virginia is 5-1 ATS in their last six games and has actually been playing pretty good basketball since their disastrous February skid punctuated by a sub-50 overtime offensive output against Miami. Florida and Virginia are each 19-13 ATS on the season, so mo major edge statistically. My edge comes more from the eye-test. Virginia is an elite defensive team, and I think Florida is simply “good” not “great” individually. I think they will struggle to get good enough shots and unless they bomb in some tough three pointers, I like UVA to control the game.
My Pick: Virginia Cavaliers +2
It is so easy to fade Butler. They don’t LOOK like a big-time team like the other Top Four seeds. They don’t SOUND like a Top Four seed as we struggle to make the mental adjustment of “Butler, plucky mid-major” to “Butler, legitimate major conference Big East Power” and therefore we get lines like tonight’s slim margin over MTSU.
Butler has legit talent, and owns wins over Arizona, Cincinnati, Xavier, and Villanova – all teams still standing and going strong. Middle Tennessee has some “only underdog left” cache, despite being widely favored over Minnesota, forget the seeds. Some of that love is carrying over into today, but Butler is far better than the comically over-seeded Golden Gophers.
I like Butler to handle their business and survive and advance into yet another Sweet Sixteen.
My Pick: Butler Bulldogs -3.5