NCAA Tournament West 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. Here is my “first glance” breakdown of the West Region. You can read about the East Region here and South Region here.
It was only one game but Gonzaga’s 60-47 loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Championship provided a pretty good blueprint on how to beat the Zags. Hold the ball, turn it into a scrum, and force them to shot contested jumpers late in the shot clock. Isn’t that the entire foundation for both Syracuse and Baylor? If I’m Mark Few, I’m nervous. Speaking of pace. Baylor’s record with 66 or more possessions was 8-11. 65 or less and the Bears went 11-2. Similar for the ‘Cuse: 12-11 vs. 8-2. If you’re into usage rate, be sure to check out Marquette’s Markus Howard and Murray State’s Ja Morant. I’d be shocked if both players don’t combine for 50 field goal attempts. Size kills? Vermont’s biggest rotation player is swingman Anthony Lamb at 6-6. Florida State has 7-4 Christ Koumadje and 6-10 Mfiondu Kabengele. If the Seminoles take a shot outside of the lane, Leonard Hamilton should be fired. Finally we get some pace as Buffalo takes on the winner of Arizona State and St. John’s. Nate Oats vs. Bobby Hurley or Chris Mullin? Yikes. I know they tanked in the Big 12 Tournament (79-74 loss vs. West Virginia) but Texas Tech looked really good down the stretch. The Red Raiders will always defend but the offense (7 straight games of 1.1 ppp or better) was actually looking to score. They’ll need it because Northern Kentucky was the best offensive team in the Horizon and should TTU advance, the winner of the aforementioned Buffalo, Arizona State, and St. John’s trio — three teams that can fill it up — awaits. Florida is a bad matchup for Nevada. Even though Steve Fisher is gone, San Diego State still has some of his “bully ball” DNA. The Aztecs beats the Wolf Pack twice, 65-57 and 65-56. Florida plays that style and some. The only problem is you never know what you are going to get from Mike White’s team. And outside of two wins over LSU — both of which down to the wire — the Gators really haven’t beaten many teams of Nevada’s caliber. Remember, this is the same Florida team that three weeks ago lost to Georgia on its home floor. UGA had previously lost its last 13 SEC games. Tough draw for Michigan after playing in Sunday’s Big Ten Championship and now facing a veteran-heavy Montana squad — for a second straight year! You wish the committee would have done something to avoid this type of situation. The Wolverines won last year’s tournament matchup 61-47. Note that it’s the same situation for Michigan; Sunday Big Ten title game and Thursday tournament draw. In that game, the rested and ready Grizzlies jumped out to a 10-0 lead and trailed (but covered) at half 31-28. I’ll likely have a Montana first half wager in my pocket.