NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 3/15/2018
One of my favorite props every NCAA Tournament is wagering which conference the winner will come from. The ACC is usually favored, and with a tournament-high nine schools in this year's Big Dance it is again at +200 at BetOnline . Makes complete sense as it would surprise no one if Virginia, Duke or North Carolina cut down the nets on the first Monday of April. Don't see any other school with a chance. The Big Ten hasn't had a champion since 2000 but is a +350 second-favorite despite zero No. 1 seeds. Purdue and Michigan are good, but only Michigan State can win it all. The Big East is +375 with No. 1 seeds Villanova and Xavier. The Big 12 +600, the SEC +800, the Pac-12 +1400 and any other conference at +500. This might be a rare season I'd recommend the field because you get teams like Gonzaga, Wichita State and Cincinnati.
No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Rhode Island ( -2)
Midwest Region game at 12:15 PM ET on CBS from Pittsburgh. The winner most likely gets No. 2 Duke. Totally, absolutely ridiculous that Oklahoma is not only in the field despite losing 11 of its final 15 games and eight of its final 10 but that it wasn't in the First Four. Are you aware the Sooners don't have a single road victory on the 2018 portion of their schedule? In Norman, this is a dangerous team as Trae Young and Co. have wins there against Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas, but I wouldn't touch this team in the Big Dance. The NCAA Tournament is in effect a TV show, and no one will convince me otherwise that the committee chose the Sooners simply because Young is such a big star after being on national TV just about every game and leading the nation in scoring and assists. It would be fun to see him go up against Duke's impressive freshmen in the Round of 32, but I'm not seeing an OU victory here.
Rhode Island looked like a legit Final Four dark-horse for a while there, winning 16 straight at one point. But the Rams closed the regular season losing three of five. Their one-point loss in the Atlantic 10 Tournament title game got Davidson a bid and reportedly knocked Notre Dame out of the Big Dance. While Young is great, the Rams have the better backcourt here in seniors Jared Terrell (17.2 ppg) and E.C. Matthews (13.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who should both give the diminutive Young fits. Rhode Island didn't play a Big 12 team this season.
Key trends: The Sooners are 3-14 against the spread in their past 17 vs. teams with a winning record. The Rams are 7-3 ATS in their previous 10 neutral-site games.
The pick: Rhode Island.
No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) vs. No. 6 Miami (-2)
South Region game at 3:10 p.m. ET on truTV from Dallas. The winner faces either No. 3 Tennessee or No. 14 Wright State. This is a very popular upset pick around the country. If the Hurricanes had sophomore guard Bruce Brown, they have the talent and defensive tenacity to reach the Final Four. He had foot surgery at the end of January with the hopes of returning for the postseason - the original timetable was 4-6 weeks - but Coach Jim Larranaga says Brown isn't expected back no matter how long UM stays alive. The Hurricanes are 7-4 without Brown, who was projected as a first-round pick and probably still declares.
Loyola was the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament champion - certainly helped that Wichita State left for the AAC. Clayton Custer was the MVC Player of the Year. It's the first time the Ramblers are dancing since 1985. They already beat one power conference team from Florida this year, winning at the No. 5 Gators on Dec. 6. Don't be surprised if this is the ugliest, lowest-scoring game of the first round. Only four teams in the country allow fewer points per game than the Ramblers, who have held their opponents to 62.7 points per contest. Miami allows only 68.0.
Key trends: The Ramblers are 14-4 ATS in their past 18. The Canes are 2-7 ATS in their past nine.
The pick: Loyola.
No. 12 Davidson vs. No. 5 Kentucky (-5)
South Region battle of Wildcats at 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS from Boise. The winner probably gets No. 4 Arizona in the Round of 32 - and it's patently absurd that we might get Kentucky-Arizona that early in an NCAA Tournament. Look, we know a No. 12 is going to beat a No. 5 because it has happened in 29 of the past 33 years. It certainly could happen here, but I'd also rank this as the least likely of the four 5-12 matchups to feature an upset. What John Calipari told his team following a four-game losing streak from Feb. 3-14 seems to have worked as the most inexperienced team in Coach Cal's history has lost just once since. It thumped Georgia and Alabama in the SEC Tournament and then knocked off regular-season co-champion Tennessee in the final. Freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander became the alpha male during that tournament in averaging 21 points and six rebounds. The talent is here to win it all; the Cats just needed someone to take the big shots. They might have found him.
Steph Curry's alma mater also is rolling with just two losses in its past 13 games, and that was on the road at the top two teams in the Atlantic 10, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure. The Wildcats, though, beat both of them in the A-10 Tournament to steal a bid. The best player on the floor Thursday (from a non-NBA scouting perspective but just now) will be Davidson senior Peyton Aldridge, who was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, averaging 21.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. If he can get some of those young Kentucky players in foul trouble, this upset can happen. Davidson played both North Carolina and Virginia earlier this season and was competitive in losses.
Key trends: Davidson is 1-4 ATS in its past five non-con games. UK is 7-1 ATS in its past eight.
The pick: Kentucky.
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