Every year, I religiously fill out only two brackets. The first is the one I take seriously and submit into bracket pools to inevitably lose. The other is a battle-royale-cage-match between the live versions of teams mascots. Neither bracket has ever cashed out for much success.
The last straight-up bracket I can ever remember winning was Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse run. Since then, nothing. I’ve even lost to my own mother on multiple occasions because she liked the names “Duke” and “Butler” enough to place them in the championship. For these reasons, I’m opening up a new kind of bracket, one that really tests the skill and knowledge. (But not really, because it’s March Madness and the whole thing is a projection crap-shoot). This year, we’re going to discuss the NCAA Tournament Bracket against the Spread.
The “Bank on Hank” columns are something new I’ve wanted to start for awhile, and figured there’s no better time to start than the NCAA Tournament.
DISCLAIMER: Let me start by saying I am in no way, shape or form a handicapper. I don’t have the intention of becoming a handicapper with these columns either. My goal is to present the information and discuss what Vegas thinks about the matchups. Notice the carefully worded title, “Bank ON Hank,” not “with.” Meaning take the information I present and make your own assessment. IF I’m right, I’ll pat myself on the back and count my dollars. But WHEN I’m wrong, cast your stones and call me an idiot for thinking I could beat Vegas. That’s what I’m here for.
If I were a handicapper, I wouldn’t be sharing my picks for free. I also wouldn’t need to be in graduate school majoring in journalism. If I were a handicapper I’d be parked in a Vegas sports book with a cigar in mouth and taking full advantage of buffet. This article gives all you ‘degenerate’ readers out there to take a glance at the picks, and either ride with Hank or fade Hank.
Sports gambling is a billion-dollar-a-year industry. It has been frowned on or shunned by most of the media for a long time. As of late, the conversation on sports gambling has shifted, and there’s a more honest discussion of its impact.
This tournament is one of the best weekends for us gamblers with the endless opportunities to place wagers on 48 games in four days. In addition to making each game a little more “interesting,” it’s also one of the few times a year you get to transform your apartment or dorm room into a personal sports casino….
Simply put, it’s just a great time of year for us recliner enthusiasts. It excuses us of all responsibilities and allows us the opportunity to absorb every minute of madness.
Unlike betting on football (which can be the most difficult) or the NBA, (which is never consistent enough), college basketball is one of the most enjoyable and heartbreaking all at the same time. My explanation wouldn’t do the drama justice. The do-or-die nature of the tournament means every player, regardless if they’re playing for Kentucky or East Tennessee State, gives it their all for every last bucket.
If you’re unfamiliar with the mid-majors that most of the one-through-six seeds are facing, you can get to know the mid-majors right here on Armchair All-Americans. “Meet the Mid-Majors” here before you move on to the spreads and lines below:
Without further ado, let’s get to the first round spreads, grouped together by the seeding matchups. Some games have more analysis than others. My two-cents on a matchup doesn’t mean as much as what the figures and information provided by the professional oddsmakers. I’m not a seasoned veteran in sports gambling, but as these columns continue, hopefully so do the picks and gambling opinions. Enjoy the list, but most importantly, just enjoy the fact that we have 48 basketball games in the next 96 hours.
1. One Seeds vs. 16 Seeds
If you haven’t heard the “one seeds have never lost to a 16 seed” narrative, then you’ve never filled out a bracket or watched the tournament. I think one day it might happen, but it won’t happen this year. Money lines will be outrageous for the ones, making it hard to win a lot of money unless you risk a TON of money.
1 vs. 16 record: 128-0 (1.000)
Villanova (-27) vs. Mount Saint Mary’s (+27)
Villanova: 31-3 SU & 19-15 ATS | MSM: 19-15 SU & 3-3 ATS
Public Money: 56% MSM
The largest spread amongst the one-seeds, and I kinda dig it. As the number one overall seed coming off a championship effort last season, the Wildcats have the targets on their back. The difference between covering will be the Villanova’s shot making. Sounds like an “uhhhh ya think?” no brainer analysis. But here’s the deal. Villanova will undoubtedly win this game, and will not be the first one-seed to fall in the first game. But, Nova’s shooting percentage is far better than Mount Saint Mary’s, so depending on how serious they take this game, whether they show up in a non-chalant effort or a business-like approach is key. I generally steer clear of spreads larger than 23-25, just cause it’s a lot of points, but 27 isn’t unreasonable for the number one overall seed against a team that has no business being in the tournament.
Gonzaga (-23 / – ML ) vs. South Dakota State (+23 / + ML)
Gonzaga: 32-1 SU & 22-7-1 ATS (#3) | SD State: 18-16 SU & 14-16-1 ATS
Public Money: 55% Gonzaga
After my 7 p.m. bets went south most nights, I turned to the west and relied on Gonzaga to make up for my losses late night. Which they accomplished on multiple occasions with the third best record against the spread this season. Reasons that I’m confident in Gonzaga to cover is that the majority of their schedule has been against teams like South Dakota State, with large margins. They’re accustomed to this large of expectations and should cover. Especially against a South Dakota State team that without a remarkable conference tourney run wouldn’t be in the field.
Kansas vs. UC-Davis
Kansas: 28-4 SU & 12-17-1 ATS |
*Spreads not available in time for this article*
North Carolina (-26.5 / ML) vs. Texas Southern (+26.5 / ML)
North Carolina: 27-7 SU & 16-15-2 ATS | TX Southern: 23-11 SU & 2-6 ATS
Public Money: 51% UNC
Given the fact that all of Texas Southern’s 11 losses came on the road (including the six against the spread) UNC should be a lock against this 16 seed. But at -26.5 they are the largest favorites before the play-in opponents are decided. But against non-power five schools, UNC averaged a 33.4 point margin of victory. Which makes it tempting to take the Heels.
2. Two Seeds vs. 15 Seeds
Usually considered as automatic as the 1/16 matchups, the two-seeds have disappointed in recent seasons. In the last four tournaments, a 15-seeds have collected three of their eight total wins. Blame it on an increased talent pool or the Tournament committee sleeping on teams that deserve a higher seeding, fifteen seeds are now worth keeping an eye on.
2 vs. 15 record: 120-8 (.937)
Duke (-19) vs. Troy (+19)
Duke: 27-8 SU & 15-18-1 ATS | Troy: 22-14 SU & 20-12 ATS (9th ranked)
Public Money: 51% Duke
Kind of a no-brainer to take Duke against Troy, given the recent run they’ve been on and Troy’s unimpressive resume. Troy has only played one power-five school, Southern Cal, and covered with a five-point loss. But other than that, they didn’t win their conference in the regular season. On the other side, Duke absolutely eviscerated mid-majors this season, putting their athleticism, size and skill to use. Take the hot hand and the Vegas favorite at 5-to-1 odds to win the championship.
Arizona (-17 / -5000) vs. North Dakota (+17 / +1500)
Arizona: 30-4 SU & 18-14-2 ATS | North Dakota: 22-9 & 17-9-2 ATS
Public Money: 57% Arizona
Arizona is my championship pick after the show they put on in the conference tournament. Their size and strength down low with Markannen. North Dakota might have enough size to keep up, but Trier and company will be too athletic for the Fighting Hawks. Coverage. Book it.
Louisville (-20.5) vs. Jacksonville State (+20.5)
Louisville: 24-8 SU & 17-12-1 ATS | Jacksonville State: 20-14 SU & 17-12 ATS
Public Money: 56% Louisville
Jacksonville State is the only 15-seed I have covering the spread. I don’t have a lot of faith in Louisville, thinking they were over-seeded at two. Louisville plays their high-pressure style, which should overwhelm a weak Jacksonville State. But Louisville’s offense is inefficient, having the lowest average shooting percentage between their three top scorers. Scoring points is how you cover point spreads (warning: hot take) and Louisville doesn’t do a great job of it, forcing me to take underdog’s spread.
Kentucky (-19) vs. Northern Kentucky (+19)
Kentucky: 29-5 SU & 18-16 ATS | N. Kentucky: 24-10 SU & 20-9-1 ATS (6th best)
Public Money: 52% UK
College basketball is a religion in Kentucky. With Northern Kentucky’s campus an hour and a half directly north of Lexington, chances are that most Northern Kentucky Norse fans are bigger Kentucky Wildcat fans. This game goes one of two extreme ways. Northern Kentucky either plays inspired basketball with a chip on their shoulder against the school that most likely skipped out on recruiting them, while Malik Monk fails to shoot lights out. Or the Wildcats come out with the same purpose they displayed mowing down the SEC in the conference tournament and put the Norses in their place, while probably pleasing most of the opponent’s fan base rooting for the Wildcats to move on.
3. Three Seeds vs. 14 Seeds
Another trending pick in the NCAA tournament are the 14 seeds. At least one 14 seed has won in the last four tournaments. The trick is finding the right money line to hit, as only once since 1996 have multiple 14 seeds won in the same tournament. These money lines are the largest odds with the most reasonable probability, but it’s probably safer to stick with the spreads than the money lines.
3 vs. 14 record: 107-21 (.835)
Baylor (-12 / -890) vs. New Mexico State (+12 / +640)
Baylor: 25-7 SU & 13-14 ATS | New Mexico State: 28-5 SU & 3-2 ATS
Public Money: 60% New Mexico State
There’s not much analysis to give here, other than Baylor is too good to lose to a New Mexico State team that hasn’t played anyone worth a second look. Their lone game against a last place Arizona State team was a victory, but they don’t matchup well against a team that occupied the #1 ranking in the country at one point. Baylor was 5-3 against top-25 teams, started 15-0 to start the season and doesn’t show enough vulnerability for New Mexico State to feast on. I’m taking Baylor to cover.
Florida State (-11.5 / -875) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (+11.5 / +625)
FSU: 25-8 SU & 16-14-1 ATS | FGSU: 26-7 SU & 4-0 ATS
Public Money: 63% FGCU
This is one of America’s favorite upsets, and it has more to do with FGCU’s past than it’s present. Florida State has been one of the most impressively talented teams all season, which makes me scratch my head that anyone would pick against them in this matchup. Sure, FGCU plays above the rim with athleticism, but FSU battled ACC competition all season long. Orlando is a fairly equidistant location between both schools, but Noles fans will fill the joint to see their most relevant team in program history. Home game atmosphere for the Garnett and Gold. Gonna give the edge to the Seminoles in this one, also doesn’t hurt going against the public money.
Oregon (-14.5 / -1640) vs. Iona (+14.5 / +935)
Oregon: 29-5 SU & 19-14 ATS | Iona: 22-12 SU & 14-16-2 ATS
Public Money: 50% Oregon
Oregon was dealt a serious blow when they lost their center Bouchier to a torn ACL, and learning about it the day of the Arizona game was even worse. Dillon Brooks is one of the best players in the country. Given time to re-asses the damage, the Ducks will come out playing inspired ball. I couldn’t recognize four teams on Iona’s schedule, while Oregon is battle tested in a thick Pac12. Ducks. Coverage.
UCLA (-17) vs. Kent State (+17)
UCLA: 29-4 SU & 16-17 ATS | Kent State: 22-13 SU & 17-13-1 ATS
Public Money: 61% UCLA
UCLA is the best offense in the country. You’ll hear me say this more than once in my against the spread picks. Ability to score points creates a better ability to cover point spreads. It’s kindergarten-level reasoning, and that’s why it makes sense to pick the Bruins, even though it displeases me knowing Lavar Ball will be smiling.
4. Four Seeds vs. 13 Seeds
The 13-over-4-upset has occurred in 12 of the last 16 tournaments, which is less frequent than the 3/14 or 5/12. This is the last grouping with multiple double-digit spreads. The money lines are big payouts for underdogs, but the .796 winning percentage gives little reason to place multiple wagers on underdogs in this group.
4 vs. 13 record: 102-26 (.796) | 4 vs. 13 ATS record:
Florida (-10 / -600) vs. East Tennessee State (+10 / +450)
Florida: 24-8 SU & 18-12 ATS | ETSU: 27-7 SU & 18-13 ATS
Public Money: 68% East Tennessee State
This is one of the few times that I’ll lean toward betting with the public money, because I think Florida is a much different team without their center John Egbunu. The spread is tight for a 4/13 matchup, but I’ve got ETSU as an upset pick in my bracket and I like them as underdogs against an injured Florida team that hasn’t been the same. Part of me also believes that Canyon Barry is one of those tournament specialists that lights up a scoreboard and becomes a god of March. Still leaning toward ETSU.
West Virginia (-13.5 / -1220) vs. Bucknell (+13.5 / +805)
WVU: 26-8 SU & 13-16 ATS | Bucknell 26-8 & 7-1 ATS
Public Money: 61% Bucknell
West Virginia is a team that bullies with relentless pressure. WVU is 8-13 against the spread as a favorite, which is slight cause for concern. But that’s mostly the result of playing against a tough and underrated Big12. I’m not sure why 61% of the public money leans towards Bucknell. Their wins are nothing impressive and their losses to Wake Forest and Butler by 20+ points gives me little reason to believe they have a fighting chance in this contest against the Mountaineers. WVU covers.
Purdue (-8.5 / -570) vs. Vermont (+8.5 / +420)
Purdue: 25-7 SU & 17-11-1 ATS | Vermont: 29-5 SU & 4-4 ATS
Public Money: 53% Vermont
Purdue is one of the largest teams in the country, with two of the most physical big men in the lineup. Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan bully people in the paint. Vermont’s tallest player is 6’8. Eight-and-a-half points isn’t enough points in my opinion, Purdue covers easily. In addition to dominating the paint, Purdue also shoots better behind the arch than the Catamounts, point scoring ability equals coverage ability.
Butler (-11 / -750) vs. Winthrop (+11 / +525)
Butler: 23-8 SU & 17-12 ATS | Winthrop: 26-6 & 3-5 ATS
Public Money: 62% Winthrop
The money line in this matchup is heavily in favor of the Bulldogs, which makes sense for a veteran Big East team with tournament experience. I picked the Winthrop Eagles to record the upset, which means I’ll likely take them to cover. But Butler is too good to lose in the first round. The temptation with Winthrop is liking their head coach Pat Kelsey, an energetic coach with an opportunity to land a big gig in college basketball with a win.
5. Five Seeds vs. 12 Seeds
Everyone’s favorite bracket buster and the most frequent upset in the tournament. Don’e believe? Check out the win percentage from this group compared to the next (6 vs. 12). Identical winning percentages in a matchup with higher difference in seeding. Makes no sense, but at the same it’s March Madness, so it makes sense. In the last sixteen seasons, only once have five seeds swept the 12 seeds, and in seven of the last 11 tournaments multiple 12 seeds have advanced to the second round.
These are the best chance to cash in through betting underdog money lines, because the upsets are reasonable and the payouts are large. Also notice the dramatic decrease in opening spreads from the last group. Not a single double-digit spread in addition to an even pick’em spread.
5 vs. 12 record: 82-46 (.640) | 5 vs. 12 ATS record:
Virginia (-7.5 / -355) vs. UNC-Wilmington (+7.5 / +285)
UVA: 22-10 SU & 18-12 ATS | UNCW: 29-5 SU & 14-15-1 ATS
Public Money: 65% UNCW
Kevin Keatts almost became a household name when his Seahawks flirted with upsetting Duke in last year’s tournament. This year they face off against another ACC foe, the Hoos. Virginia is the nation’s number one defensive scoring unit in the country, sticking true to their trademark brand of basketball. The best way to defeat a defensively stout team is making your shots when given the opportunity, which UNCW can do. I don’t think they have enough fire power to keep up against the senior leadership of UVA senior point guard London Perrantes. Perrantes is trying to put his last stamp on the tournament as the most recognizable player under the Tony Bennet regime. UNCW lurks late, but UVA covers with free throws.
Notre Dame (-6.5 / -310) vs. Princeton (+6.5 / +250)
Notre Dame: 25-9 SU & 16-9-3 ATS | Princeton: 23-6 SU & 12-10-1 ATS
Public Money: 51% Princeton
Notre Dame has an ability to shoot the lights out a gym, while also exhibiting a tough-nosed approach the game. Ivy League teams have only three wins in the tournament since 1998, making Princeton a heavy under dog against the Irish. It’s surprising to me that the spread is as tight as it is, and the money line not as spread out. I’ve got the Irish covering easily.
Iowa State (-6 / -300) vs. Nevada (+6.5 / +240)
Iowa State: 23-10 SU & 18-12 ATS | Nevada: 28-6 SU & 23-11 ATS (#2)
Public Money: 52% Iowa State
Nevada is a low key trendy pick in some brackets, but personally, I was impressed with the way the Cyclones balled in the Big12 tourney. Given the fact that Uncle Brent retired from play-by-play (the only man who could make Ames, Iowa relevant), I’m going with the Cyclones.
Minnesota (-1 / -105) vs. Middle Tennessee State (+1 / -115)
Minnesota: 24-9 SU & 19-12 ATS (#15) | MTSU: 30-4 SU & 23-10 (#1)
Public Money: 61% MTSU
While opening at a one point spread, this game has flirted with PK. It’s unusual and almost uncomfortable for a 12-seed to project this close to a 5-seed, but that’s the tournament we now live in. While my bracket pool (gut) says MTSU wins, my ATS bracket (my wallet) goes against the public money for a Pitino-lead Gophers to cover.
6. Six Seeds vs. 11 Seeds
While five seeds are the consistent upset picks, six seeds have been equally unreliable in covering the spread. The winning percentage isn’t much higher than the 7/10 matchups below and equal with the 5/12 above, making it one of the most unpredictable and maddening groups.
6 vs. 11 record: 82-46 (.640) | 6 vs. 11 ATS record:
SMU vs. USC
SMU: 30-4 SU & 21-6-2 ATS (#4) | USC: 24-9 SU & 16-16 ATS
*Spreads not available in time for this article*
Maryland (-2 / -135) vs. Xavier (+2 / +115)
Maryland: 24-8 SU & 18-13 ATS | Xavier: 21-13 SU & 15-18 ATS
Public Money: 51% Xavier
Through the middle part of the season, Maryland was a constant underdog in matchups that made little sense. I rode their midseason success, thinking I was robbing Vegas for quite awhile, until the oddsmakers caught on and corrected their earlier mistakes. Melo Trimble has unachieved in his four years at College Park, but a breakout performance in the tournament this year could make up for the lack of past success. Xavier is good, but I’m riding the Senior point guard looking to make one last impact. Terps cover. Book it.
Creighton (-1.5 / -110) vs. Rhode Island (+1.5 / -110)
Creighton: 25-9 SU & 19-13 ATS | Rhode Island: 24-9 SU & 18-14 ATS
Public Money: 68% Rhode Island
Tied for the highest percentage of early public money, Rhode Island is an interesting team to watch against Creighton. The Blue Jays took Villanova to the wire in the BigEast championship game, and have been a strong contender all season long. Rhode Island was a preseason top-25 member, but never managed to stay within the rankings for too long. With 68% on Rhode Island, it makes sense to take Creighton’s points. Especially with their record against the spread. After opening at 1.5, some books have closed the gap to PK in this 6/11 matchup. The overwhelming amount of money on Rhode Island, with less impressive wins against lesser competition, Creighton seems like a no brainer here.
Cincinnati (-3.5 / -180) vs. Kansas State (+3.5 / +150)
Cincinnati: 29-5 SU & 17-14-1 ATS | Kansas State: 20-13 & 16-11-2 ATS
Public Money: 54% Cincinnati
Kansas State, lead by former Illinois final four coach Bruce Weber, snuck it’s way into the tournament with a good run down the stretch. After an impressive win against Wake Forest, the Wildcats are tasked with beating a tough Cincinnati team. Kansas State kept it up tempo last night, which also resulted in foul trouble. Both teams, statistically, are about dead even in all statistics. Both at 45-percent FG, 68-percent FT and only a two-percent difference in 3P FG. For this reason, I’m taking the Wildcats to cover in a hard fought game.
7. Seven Seeds vs. 10 Seeds
The seven versus 10 matchups are where we start to see even tighter lines between the opponents. Most of the matchups are fairly even, with the selection committee selecting household tournament names in the 10-slot to force seven-seeds into proving their worth.
Of the teams seeded seven and ten, seven out of the eight teams were not conference tournament champions. Only Michigan managed to win their conference tournament, in a resilient fashion I might add. And only one team won their conference regular season title, Dayton. These are the at-large bids, some of them bubble teams, others with inconsistent production sliding into the tournament.
7 vs. 10 record: 78-50 (.609) | 7 vs. 10 ATS record:
South Carolina (-1.5 / -125) vs. Marquette (+1.5 / +105)
USC: 22-10 SU & 11-17-1 ATS | Marquette: 19-12 SU & 15-15-1 ATS
Public Money: 57% Marquette
South Carolina limped their way into the tournament. After starting 20-5, the Gamecocks finished the season 2-5. It’d be easy to pick Marquette to cover the 1.5 points, especially with their two wins against other SEC teams and coming out of a better conference. The reason I’m taking South Carolina as a combination of going against the public money and the playmaking ability of Sindarious Thornwell. The tournament can be taken over by playmaking ability, something Thornwell certainly doesn’t lack.
St. Mary’s (-4.5 / -200) vs. VCU (+4.5 / +170)
St. Mary’s: 28-4 SU & 15-12-2 ATS | VCU: 26-8 SU & 12-16-2 ATS
Public Money: 55% St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s is a team that has played nobody outside of Gonzaga, who they lost to thrice, while VCU is a regular tournament dweller. St. Mary’s is second to only UVA in defensive points per game, mostly due to the lack of offensive ability in their opponents. The Rams still run some of the up-tempo havoc, which should make this an interesting game. VCU ranks 20th in defensive efficiency, not too far behind St. Mary’s. In a game featuring a lack of points, it’s harder for the favorite to cover more points, which is why I’m picking VCU to cover.
Michigan (-1 / -140) vs. Oklahoma State (+1 / +120)
Michigan: 24-11 SU & 16-16 ATS | OK State: 20-12 SU & 16-11 ATS
Public Money: 52% Michigan
After the travel issues the Wolverines faced, I bet against them in the majority of their Big10 tournament games. To state the obvious, it cost me. The big question here will be if the Wolverines can keep their inspiration bottled and emotions in check for the tournament. I don’t know much about either teams, but I know more about Michigan and leaning toward taking them at current line of -2.5.
Dayton (+6 / +220) vs. Wichita State (-6 / -270)
Dayton: 24-7 SU & 18-10-1 ATS | Wichita State: 30-4 SU & 18-12-1 ATS
Public Money: 50% Dayton
It shocked me to find out only 50% of the public has Dayton covering, given they’re a heavy underdog for a seven seed facing the lesser 10 seeded Shockers. Dayton will certainly have their hands full, but up against another mid-major shouldn’t be as intimidating. The Shockers have a wealth of tournament experience, and Gregg Marshall will have his squad ready. I just think Archie Miller is coaching for his next job this week, either at NC State or possibly Ohio State and covers the six.
8. Eight Seeds vs. Nine Seeds
The completely even matchups. With virtually zero difference between the two teams, and seven out of eight power five participants, this is where you would expect the spreads and money lines to shrink a drastic amount. With the odd selection of Wisconsin as an eight seed an anomaly, the rest of the group is between two points.
8 vs. 9 record: 64-64 (.500) | 8 vs. 9 ATS record:
Wisconsin (-4.5 / -245) vs. Virginia Tech (+4.5 / +195)
Wisconsin: 25-9 SU & 14-16 ATS | VA Tech: 22-10 SU & 17-11 ATS
Public Money: 54% Virginia Tech
Considered to get the toughest draw in seeding, Wisconsin sits as an eight seed after a fairly impressive season. After starting out a strong 21-3, they stumbled into the Big10 tournament with a 2-5 record. They righted the ship, making it to the championship game before losing to an inspired Michigan team. Virginia Tech toughed its way through the ACC, taking it’s lumps while also completing some upsets. It’s hard to bet against any ACC team in the tournament, with the night-in-night-out rigors of the schedule. I’m taking Wisconsin to win straight up, but Virginia Tech to cover 4.5 points.
Northwestern (+1 / +120) vs. Vanderbilt (-1 / -140)
Northwestern: 23-11 & 19-11-1 ATS (#14) | Vanderbilt: 19-15 SU & 20-12 ATS (#8)
Public Money: 57% Vanderbilt
The second instance of the lower seed listed as the favorite. While it’s only a point, it’s important to look at 57% of the public money on the lower-seeded Vanderbilt. This has the makings of picking the higher seeded underdog. Picking/rooting for Northwestern is something I’m against, because it would thrill the likes of Darren Rovell, Mike Wilbon and Mike Greenberg. But strategically it makes sense to pick against the public, especially considering Vanderbilt enters the tournament with the most losses in tournament history and a very low RPI. Northwestern is the better team from a deeper conference, but they’ll be fighting nerves with it being the programs first tournament appearance in over seventy years. I’m picking Northwestern.
Miami (-2 / -135) vs. Michigan State (+2 / +115)
Miami: 21-11 SU & 11-19 ATS | Michigan State: 19-14 SU & 17-15 ATS
Public Money: 57% Miami
I already picked Michigan State in my bracket, because (other last year) I learned that picking against Izzo in March is a mistake. The Spartans probably don’t deserve to be in the tournament over some snubs, like Syracuse, they rode their reputation into the dance. They’ll be faced against a more talented and well coached Miami team. The familiarity with the Spartan’s logo and the public money lean me toward taking Michigan State to cover, but I might hedge by riding Miami’s money line.
Arkansas (-1 / -115) vs. Seton Hall (+1 / -105)
Arkansas: 25-9 SU & 17-15 ATS | Seton Hall: 21-11 SU & 14-15-2 ATS
Public Money: 62% Seton Hall
Despite getting punched in the mouth by Kentucky in the SEC championship, the Hogs looked like one of the hottest teams in the country. Seton Hall comes from arguably a better conference, but the losses to both South Carolina and Florida concern me against Arkansas. That, combined with 62% of the public money leaning heavily toward the Pirates incline me to bet for Arkansas. At only -1, it’s more beneficial to take the points than the money line, with more bang for your buck.
9. Here’s what my first round ATS bracket looks like:
Highlighted teams are the favorite, will be updated on Saturday morning.