The first day of the NCAA tournnament round of 32 was quite successful if you followed the Bank on Hank picks from yesterday morning. After a 13-17-2 first round record, yesterday’s record of 6-2 against the spread pulled the overall record to 19-19-2.
The two losses were Notre Dame and Virginia. When it comes to football, my picks are generally biased toward the SEC. And when it comes to basketball, it’s usually even more biased toward picking the ACC.
For the Notre Dame pick, I’m blaming my Catholic school upbringing for believing in the Catholic college to cover. On St. Patrick’s Day weekend no less, the Irish let me down. Shooting a disapointingly low three-point field goal percentage and battling foul trouble kept them out of reach against #PressVirginia.
As for the Virginia pick, I have no idea how that happened. To be honest with you I missed the first half of the game, looked up and all of a sudden it went from a four-point contest to a 15-point contest. Then I looked away again, and all of a sudden it ended a 26-point beatdown. UVA’s defense was solid, but Florida’s was even better, thriving off the Hoo’s misses and keeping them under 39 points. I drastically underestimated Florida’s ability in this tournament, and my bracket is hurting because of it.
Without gloating and patting myself on the back too much for the six losses, opening the door for karma and the Gambling Gods to smite me down, let’s get into Sunday’s picks. Yesterday’s success probably spells trouble for today’s, but I’m sticking with the gut feelings and “formula” to keep picking the way I have all tournament.
8. 2 Louisville (-3 / -150) vs. 7 Michigan (+3 / +130)
Public Money: 57% Louisville
Much like I didn’t give enough credit to Florida before the tournament, I’m even more skeptical of Louisville. No team in NCAA tournament history has made the Elite with their top three scorers under 40-percent. Louisville plays fast and physical on defense, forcing the tempo to keep teams uncomfortable, but solid shooting counters the pressure better than anything. It sounds like a scorching hot take, but in order to cover point spreads, you need to be able to score points. The Wolverines have been better at that than the Cardinals, which is why they’ll cover and possibly even win.
In addition to struggling from the field, Louisville’s free throw percentage is 9-percentage points less than Michigan. Free throws are the biggest ingredient for Hammerin’ Hanks formula to picking spreads in college basketball.
I’ve decided to ride Michigan as a team of destiny after their plane crash and betting against them in the Big10 tournament backfired. They shot the lights out of the gym in game one. If it continues they’ll knock off the Cardinals, who I still believe didn’t deserve a two-seed.
7. 2 UK (-3.5 / -200) vs. 10 Wichita State (+3.5 / +170)
Public Money: 58% Kentucky
Kentucky has yet to live up to the expectations that the roundball pundits and media has burdened them with all season. Sure their team is extremely talented, but they can’t seem to find a way to play well all at the same time. It’s been their biggest issue all season, and a huge reason why they have an 8-12 against the spread when favored against SEC teams they should handidly beat.
Alot of brackets in the pools I’m don’t have the Wildcats advancing, either due to little faith in Kentucky or picking Wichita State because they’ve ruined so many brackets in the past.
Although the public money percentage leans me toward taking the Shockers, I’m going to take the Cats for two reasons. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. The stage is set for the two blue chip prospects showcasing their NBA Draft lottery projections. Monk can score in BUNCHES, and the momentum of tournament games play well to his ability. If Fox is driving to the lane, and pushing the tempo to expose Wichita State’s less than comparable athleticism, with Monk drilling his shots around the perimeter, Cats win by more than 10.
6. 1 Kansas (-8 / -400) vs. 9 Michigan State (+8 / +310)
Public Money: 53% Michigan State
I abide by one rule every tournament. It’s actualy number #18 on my list of life rules. It’s simple. Never pick against Izzo in March. Always remember, the college basketball reads January-February-Izzo-April. It’s a cherry on top of the sundae that in following my rule I get eight points against Kansas.
The Jayhawks most likely make it to the Sweet Sixteen after surviving the Spartans but by eight points probably not. The Spartans snuck their way into the tournament on mostly reputation, but earned a spot after smoking the Hurricanes in round one.
Never pick against Izzo in March. The strategy might lose once every blue moon, but more often than not, going with the guy that’s earned respect in the tournament is a safe bet. It feels like playing with house money going against a Kansas team that has a reputation of flaming out before the Sweet Sixteen recently.
5. 1 UNC (-9.5 / -650) vs. 8 Arkansas (+9.5 / +475)
Public Money: 66% UNC
After the SEC tournament run, I decided riding with Arkansas is the move in the tournament. Their guard play and ability to apply pressure makes them an intriguing pick. Moses Kingsley is a wrecking ball all over the court who blocks shots, collects rebounds and forced turnovers. He will be key in hovering Justin Jackson all afternoon.
Arkansas’ style forces teams into running and playing up-tempo, which UNC responds well too and can manage to keep up with just about anybody in the country. Joel Berry’s ankle has him questionable for the game, making it easy to assume that things won’t go as smoothly for the Heels in responding to Arkansas pressure.
This game will be an intriguing over/under to hit as well, scoring opporutunities will be plenty with abundant possessions.
4. 3 Oregon (-5 / -235) vs. 11 Rhode Island (+5 / +190)
Public Money: 52% Oregon
I’m not quote sure why everyone is as high on Rhode Island as they’ve been, a third place Atlantic10 team. I think they took advantage of an injured Creighton team that wasn’t ready for the tournament. Oregon is one of the best teams in the country, even though they lost their center to a torn ACL the day of the Pac12 championship game. I think Dillon Brooks will be too much to handle for the Rams, and I think Oregon covers this five point spread easily.
Oregon shoots the ball from behind the arch better than the Rams. Hot take alert, scoring points helps cover spreads. If Rhode Island is close late in the game, they’ll be forced to foul and Oregon is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country at 70-percent. This considerably better mark than Rhode Island’s 65-percent. Ducks get the coverage.
3. 3 Baylor (-6 / -320) vs. 11 USC (+6 / +260)
Public Money: 62% USC
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this USC team, it blew my mond they were able to come back in the SMU game and win. They’re obviously a talented team that plays with alot of heart battling back against a better team like they did.
The battle test they passed in the first round is a confidence booster for the rest of the tournament. But I think Baylor’s one of the most underrated teams in the tournament. They started out slow in their first game but put everything together to end up covering in the first round.
Six points seems like a lot to cover against a team with as much confidence as USC, but I think the Trojans will power runs out against a better all around team. Going against the large amount of public money on USC also helps.
2. 2 Duke (-7 / -355) vs. 7 South Carolina (+7 / +285)
Public Money: 61% Duke
South Carolina is a team that Duke should worry about. After trailing against Marquette, the Gamecocks exploded to huge lead over the Golden Eagles. I’m taking South Carolina to cover for these reasons. Yes, Duke is one of the best teams in the country, but Sindarious Thornwell looked like one of the best players in the country on Friday night. The SEC player of the year is a playmaker and took over his game on Saturday night.
Another reason I’m taking South Carolina, their dominant performance came against a team coached by Coach K’s former trusted assistant, Steve Wojciechowski. I understand that this logic might discredit the entire column, but Woj, from Duke, has probably tried to install the system/style at Marquette that existed in Durham. The players are obviously far less talented, but South Carolina plays tough basketball and I think the hard nose approach gives Duke a fit, giving them a point spread cover.
1. 3 UCLA (-3 / -185) vs. 6 Cincinnati (+3 / +155)
Public Money: 66% UCLA
Obviously news is swirling around UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and his family, but this game shouldn’t be too much for UCLA to handle. I don’t know much about Cincinnati, other than they pressure the basketball, but I know alot about UCLA and their ability to score. Cincinnati doesn’t have enough talent to defend UCLA man to man, forcing them into a zone. The zone will open up passing lanes for a player like Ball to attack and lead to plenty of scoring opportunities.
The Bruins are averaging 91 points per game. Averaging. Cincinnati had one of it’s best offensive perforances agaisnt Kansas State, shooting above 60-percent from the field, but only managed to match their average of 75 points. If the Bruins are ready to shot and want to light up the scoreboard they will.
Gotta take UCLA at only -3 if you can get it.