NCAA Tournament action all day and night on St. Patrick's Day!? I think there will be plenty of hangovers around the country on Saturday morning. The Pac-12 was ridiculously strong at the top this season with Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. That conference hasn't had a Final Four team since 2008 or a national champion since 1997. Is this the year that changes? I probably only give the Wildcats a shot because the Ducks are down a key player and the Bruins are in the toughest region. At BetOnline , the tournament champion coming from the Pac-12 was +450. The favored conference was the nine-bid ACC at +175. It should be favored as Duke, North Carolina and Louisville could all cut down the nets. The Big 12 was second at +400, although I only give Kansas a chance there. The long shot was the A-10 at +5000.
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No. 10 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 Michigan ( -2.5 )
Midwest Region game from Indianapolis at 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS. The winner surely gets No. 2 Louisville. All of a sudden, everyone is on board the Michigan bandwagon because the Wolverines survived a plane crash (well, a skidding off the runway) last week on the way to the Big Ten Tournament, played in their practice uniforms for one day because all their gear was part of the scene of the investigation and won four games in four days to be crowned tournament champions as a No. 8 seed (lowest to win in Big Ten history). Good stuff, no doubt, as UM beat regular-season champion Purdue in overtime in the quarterfinals and ranked Wisconsin by 15 in the final. You shouldn't bet against Michigan coach John Beilein as he is 9-1 ATS as an NCAA Tournament favorite dating to 2005 when he was at West Virginia.
I tend to worry about schools that play four games in four days entering the NCAA Tournament, although it worked well for UConn back in 2014. The Pokes enter on a three-game losing streak, albeit against very good teams Iowa State (twice) and Kansas. They have one of the Big 12's best players in sophomore guard Juwan Evans, who averages 19.0 points, 6.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. This should be a shootout as UM and Oklahoma State boast two of the top-five efficient offenses in the nation (OSU is No. 1). Both shoot better 46 percent from the field and average nine made 3-pointers per game. They go about things differently. While OSU averages 85.5 points, Michigan averages 74.9 and ranks 339th in tempo.
Key trends: The Cowboys are 7-1 against the spread in their past eight as a dog. UM is 2-5 ATS in its past seven non-conference games.
I'm leaning: Oklahoma State.
No. 10 Wichita State vs. No. 7 Dayton (+6)
South Region game from Indianapolis at 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS. The winner surely gets No. 2 Kentucky. The NCAA Tournament selection committee absolutely should not put teams into the field or seed them based on past success. It's why Syracuse, a Final Four team in 2016, was rightly left out of this tournament. That said, it's a crime that Wichita State is a No. 10 seed. The Shockers are 30-4 overall, on a 15-game winning streak and claimed the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles - trashing a very good Illinois State team twice. Wichita has an RPI of 31 and all four losses are quality: Louisville, Michigan State (both close in a Thanksgiving tournament), Oklahoma State and Illinois State. The Shockers are one of five teams that have won a game in each of the last four NCAA tournaments. They are Top 20 in both offense and defense. This team can beat Kentucky.
Might this be the final game at Dayton for highly-regarded coach Archie Miller? Reports are that he has two dream jobs: NC State, his alma mater, and Ohio State. The former is open. The Flyers won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title but were upset in the A-10 quarterfinals by a middling Davidson team. I still don't see how Dayton got a better seed than Wichita State. The Flyers didn't play anywhere near the non-conference schedule and lost to both Saint Mary's and Northwestern. They did beat NCAA Tournament team Vanderbilt. Dayton is making its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the longest streak in school history. It won at least two games in 2014 & '15 but was knocked out in the first round by Syracuse last year.
Key trends: The Shockers are 7-1 ATS in their past eight as a favorite. The Flyers are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 after a loss.
I'm leaning: Wichita State.
No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Miami (-2)
Midwest Region game from Tulsa at 9:20 p.m. ET on TNT. The winner surely gets No. 1 Kansas. It's March, so that means it's Tom Izzo's time. No coach does more with less in the NCAA Tournament than Izzo. His teams are 17-15 ATS in the Big Dance since 2005. Sparty was definitely on the bubble this year, and this club isn't anywhere close to as good as last year's team that was stunned as a No. 2 seed in the first round by No. 15 Middle Tennessee. Izzo does have one of the best freshman he has ever had in Miles Bridges, who might be playing his final college game. Other than that, not a ton with injuries gutting his roster. If Bridges stays in East Lansing, this team will be stacked next year with another top recruiting class on the way. It's the fourth time under Izzo that MSU has entered the tourney as a No. 9 seed or lower. The Spartans failed to advance past the second round in each of the previous three instances.
Miami also could be excellent next year with arguably the best recruiting class in school history on the way as long as freshman Bruce Brown sticks around - he probably will. The Hurricanes were really good at home this year and are a solid defensive squad, going 16-0 this year when holding teams to 65 points or fewer. UM beat no one of note out of conference but had quality ACC wins vs. Duke and North Carolina (both in Coral Gables) and at Virginia. Miami played one Big Ten team, beating Rutgers 73-61. Sparty beat the Scarlet Knights 93-65. Both these schools enter having lose three of four.
Key trends: The Spartans are 4-0 ATS in their past four following an ATS loss. The Canes are 0-7 ATS in their past seven non-conference games.
I'm leaning: Michigan State.
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