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March Madness 2021: First Round (Saturday)

WOW! What a first day! Not the best day I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst. The Madness is definitely back, and it came back pretty much with the first game. Florida and Virginia Tech went into OT, Arkansas started off extremely slow and almost lost to Colgate, no not the toothpaste, and then the craziness began. Ohio St. lost in OT to Oral Roberts, Purdue losing to North Texas, Syracuse doing what I feared and somehow dominating, and Tennessee playing absolutely terrible against Oregon St. All in all, we saw a #15 seed, a #13 seed, a #12 seed, and an #11 seed win yesterday. That left me at 10/16 for the day and against the spread as well, but I lost a final four team in Ohio St. Let’s take a look at today’s games and see what potential day 2 madness will occur!

Colorado vs. Georgetown

The first game of the day is a #5 vs. #12 matchup that was made even more difficult to pick based on how these teams ended their respective seaons. Colorado ended their season being upset by Oregon St. in the Pac 12 tournament, while Georgetown won the Big East tournament by destroying, now #5 seeded, Creighton. A team that many have possible making the Sweet 16 vs. a team that could not win more than 2 in a row until now where they have won 4 in a row. Hot at the right time? Maybe, but I trust that Colorado will be able to weather the storm against an early Georgetown push to win and advance. Take Colorado and -6.

UNC Greensboro vs. Florida St.

#13 vs. #4. The new 12 vs. 5 it seems. However, the Seminoles will not suffer the same fate as Purdue. They are a great shooting team and I expect them to take care of business today. Take the Noles and take -10.5.

Eastern Washington vs. Kansas

#14 vs. #3. The Jayhawks had a pretty forgettable season, by their standards this year. They fell out of the top 25 and did not threaten for a Big12 title this year. However, they ended the season on somewhat of a strong note. While they did not win the Big 12 tournament, they did finish 8-2 in their final 10 games to end their season at 20-8 before the tournament. I believe that is the right type of hot streak to be entering on and they will absolutely take care of business today. The Jayhawks and they cover -10.5.

St. Bonaventure vs. LSU

A tough #9 vs #8 game. LSU lost a nailbitter SEC championship game to Alabama, and they have struggled a little during conference play. The Bonnies won the A-10 title and have an older more experienced team than the Tigers. It will be a difficult matchup as the Tigers may have more talent despite their lack of experience. Cam Thomas is a fantastic guard and he will look to carry LSU on a deep run. Similar to the Wisconsin game though, I am going to go with the experienced team here and take St. Bonaventure to pull the upset and cover +2.

Texas Southern vs. Michigan

#16 vs. #1. Yes, Michigan is without Isaiah Livers (foot), but they will not have any trouble getting past Texas Southern. Fun fact, there was a chance for me to attend Texas Southern before I chose the Mount, but it did not pan out. They have a soft spot for that, but they will not win today. The only question is: -25.5? What the hell, take Michigan and take them to cover that.

UC Santa Barbara vs. Creighton

Ah, another #12 vs. #5 game. Classic. The #5 seed, Creighton just got wrecked in their conference title game 73-48 to the aforementioned Hoyas of Georgetown. It smells like an upset and even could look like one. I would not take Gauchos here though. Creighton is one of the better shooting teams in the country and in this tournament. Their loss may provide recency bias, but do not let it cloud your judgment. Bluejays win and cover -7.5.

Iona vs. Alabama

#15 vs. #2. As of yesterday I would not have thought Iona had a chance, but with Syracuse winning and Oral Roberts winning, I guess don’t count the Gaels out with Rick Pitino as the head coach. If you can get past that, you should be able to see pretty clearly that Alabama will win this game and cover (-16.5) on their way to what may be a Final Four appearance.

Drake vs. USC

Drake provided some magic on the official first night, the First Four, with a wonderful comeback win against Wichita St. However, if they get off to a slow start again, this will be the end of Drake in this year’s tournament. In fact, that is what will happen. USC will overwhelm them and cover -6.5.

Grand Canyon vs. Iowa

Game #9, time to refuel like last night because the night cap for Saturday could be better than last night. #15 vs. #2. Luka Garza will dominate with ease and the Hawkeyes will win. Despite what Andy said on the podcast earlier this week, the Hawkeyes in basketball are much different than the football team. They cover -14.5. The next games will be the most intriguing.

Maryland vs. Connecticut

A classic #10 vs. #7 matchup here. This is easily a 50/50 given the inconsistency of Maryland even though they are experienced and have the talent to be a top #3 seed. UCONN is moving past the recent troubles surrounding their program, which led to them having some terrible seasons. However, they seem to be on the right track, which has landed them in this matchup. If Dan Hurley can have his team motivated and ready to show that UCONN is back, they have a great chance to win this game. I just do not see them having the talent edge. Maryland is a better team and should win this game and I have them doing just that. Take the Terps and the cover of +3.

Ohio vs. Virginia

The other #13 vs. #4 that we mentioned yesterday has been a popular pick. Ohio has fantastic guard play, they are mature, and they run an up-tempo offense. Virginia still has some players from their most recent Championship run two years ago, but also some players from that #16 vs. #1 upset UMBC pulled off. They know what both ends of the spectrum feel like and that is why, despite their style of play, I do not see Ohio pulling the upset. Virginia cannot afford to lose this game. Ohio will keep it close for at least a half and possibly up until the 12 minute mark in the second half. After that, Virginia will pull away and start preparing for the Round of 32. In possibly the game of the night, Virginia wins and covers.

Missouri vs. Oklahoma

Another candidate for game of the night is right here. #9 vs. #8. Oklahoma is coming into this tournament with the same energy they had when they lost to Rhode Island in 2018. They are 2-5 in their last 7 games. Missouri may not be the hottest team coming in, but they are not one of the coldest. While, Villanova avoided my upset prediction after they came into the tournament pretty cold, I am not confident Oklahoma will. Missouri has been close to breaking through for most of the season. I believe this is the moment they will breakthrough. An NCAA Tournament win for the Tigers before losing in the Round of 32. Take the Tigers and the cover at +1.

Norfolk St. vs. Gonzaga

#16 vs. #1 overall. The round to history begins right here. 6 games. I am sure many of heard by now or read it, that the last time Duke and Kentucky were not in the NCAA Tournament was the last time we saw an undefeated champion when Indiana went 32-0 in 1976. Well, those same two teams are not in the tournament this year and with the way the schedule worked out if Gonzaga wins it all they will also be 32-0. The Zags should not have an issue here and the only question is will they attempt to make a statement and cover -33.5. A bit too risky for me to take that spread. The reason the Zags are so strong is the combination experience and youth. Jalen Suggs is the real deal and I believe they are the most complete team in the country. I have not seen a weakness exploited yet and their run to Indianapolis will be fun to watch.

UCLA vs. BYU

#11 vs. #6. Many had BYU losing this game to Michigan St. and despite the Spartans losing, many still do not see BYU beating the Bruins. While that was a great game, BYU is extremely underrated. Despite losing to Gonzaga in the WCC tournament final, they played extremely well. They were keeping up with the concensus #1 team in the country and because of that, I see BYU winning this game and covering at -4.

Abilene Christian vs. Texas

#14 vs. #3. Texas, despite some shaky play in the middle of the season has come into form nicely. They have won 6 in row and 7 of their last 9 on their way to a Big 12 Tournament title. They have the talent and the coaching, with Shaka Smart leading the way, to make some noise in the tournament. Take the Longhorns and the -8.5.

VCU vs. Oregon

The final game of the most exciting two days of the college basketball year. Usually it is an exciting week when the First Four starts, but we will take what we can all things considered. The Ducks are coming off a shocking upset loss to Oregon St., as it seems every Pac-12 team is now. VCU is coming of an A-10 tournament final loss to St. Bonaventure. I’m taking the Ducks here and they will cover -5.5. They will shake off that upset loss and get back to business to advance. Unfortunately, this game will be missing Bones Hyland for the Rams due to an injury and that will also hurt VCU’s chances in this game. The Ducks bring us home for the opening round and make the Round of 32.

Hope your bracket isn’t busted yet! Good luck and enjoy the Madness!

Featured Image Via: flipboard.com

Follow me on Twitter: @CaseyMoninghoff

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