NCAA Tournament East Region Betting Preview
The NCAA Tournament has arrived with “First Four” games starting on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve been handicapping the Big Dance for over a decade and one of my techniques has always been to jot down my initial thoughts and opinions — call it “stream of consciousness” — on teams and matchups. So without further ado, I present to you my “first glance” breakdown of the East Region.
Two pretty good defensive teams for Duke to worry about in the second round with either VCU or UCF. The Rams beat Texas and lost to Virginia with the high point total in both games only 57 by the Cavaliers. And if the Blue Devils continue to struggle from deep (30.2%), UCF’s interior defense with Tacko Fall could make life at least mildly difficult for Zion and pals. How many Liberty and Mississippi State fans are going to make the trek to San Jose? Bulldogs played a handful of plodding offenses during non-conference play (St. Mary’s, Dayton, Clemson, Cincinnati, Wofford, and Wright State) and should be prepared for a Flames offense that averages 20 seconds a possession. Justin Robinson’s return has me thinking Virginia Tech will potentially abandon the “four corners” offense it routinely went with in his absence. The Hokies averaged 75 ppg in the eight ACC games Robinson played. Without him, 66 ppg. VT’s opponent, Saint Louis, will undoubtedly try to turn it into a fist fight. Billikens ranked 9th in a watered down A-10 in offensive efficiency. Hard time envisioning SLU cracking the 55-point barrier. Everyone knows Belmont likes to get up and down the floor, jack plenty of threes, and score plenty of points. You don’t associate Temple with that sort of style but the Owls have looked very un-Dunphy-esque this season. Temple’s two games vs. Memphis produced 163 and 154 points and 156 combined possessions. I had the matchup circled as a potential over bet but market already played it up to a very rich 155.5. Perhaps I’ll wait until the next game as the winner takes on Maryland. The Terps got up and down the floor at times in non-conference play but got sucked into the brawler mentality of the Big Ten. Maryland topped 70 possessions only twice in 20 Big Ten games. LSU will be a popular pick to go down in the first round to Yale. It doesn’t look like Will Wade is coming back and the way the Tigers bowed out of the first round of the SEC Tournament (blew 13-point 2nd half lead to Florida) wasn’t a good look. And Yale won’t be overwhelmed by LSU’s athleticism. The Bulldogs lost in double OT to high flying Memphis and also beat Miami when the Hurricanes had a full roster. How the hell did Minnesota make the tournament? You sometimes forget to factor in coaching matchups during the regular season but they’re paramount in the Big Dance. Chris Mack -24.5 vs. Richard Pitino with time to prepare. If you would have told Tom Izzo that despite winning the Big Ten Tournament his Spartans were still going to get a no. 2 seed, I’d lay -250 he’d take a first round loss to Ohio State. Instead, Sparty won three straight bloodbaths with basically five and a half players. Kyle Ahrens is now out for the tournament, Nick Ward doesn’t look close to full strength, Cassius Winston needs a 3-day ice bath, and oh yeah, the Big Ten title game was on Sunday and the Spartans drew a Thursday afternoon game. And their opponent, Bradley, is the spitting image of a crappy Big Ten team that wants to play bully and keep the score in the 50’s.