Here's a look at my bets for Day 1 of the NCAA tournament.
Princeton +6.5 vs. Notre Dame
I don't love this game but it's the first one on the board so you know you're going to play it. This one opened at 7 and money on Princeton is moving it down. They have the second-longest winning streak in the tourney behind Vermont. They play great defense. 10th-ranked scoring D in the nation. Notre Dame is one of the best bets in the tournament at 18-9-1 ATS. They play a little soft sometimes, though, and even though they’ve made the Elite Elite the last two seasons, they are just 5-11 ATS in the tourney since 2009.
Gonzaga -22 vs. South Dakota State
Gonzaga is the second-best bet in the tournament at 23-8-1 against the spread behind only SMU. Still, Gonzaga always seems to be an underdog in some capacity and they are being underestimated a little again in the tournament. They rank in the top 11 in scoring offense and scoring defense in the country and do everything well. They had 13 spreads of 20 points or higher this season and they covered eight of them. I think they annihilate SD State.
Pick: Gonzaga -22
Middle Tennessee State -1 vs. Minnesota
Our first 12 seed vs. 5 seed matchup. These ones have been great wagers in recent tourneys. 12 seed is 8-8 straight up and 11-4-1 against the spread. Opened as a 1-point dog and this one jumped the fence to -1. We’ve only seen four 12 seeds favored going back to 1995-96 so MTSU is in rare company and for good reason. This is a 30-win team that is great in transition, plays excellent defense and can shoot the 3. Also 23-10 against the spread this season.
Pick: MTSU -1
St. Mary’s -4.5 vs. VCU
St. Mary’s is really getting no respect here. Their two biggest faults this season were a weak schedule and playing in Gonzaga’s conference. They’re an awesome 3-point shooting team, 15th in the country, and they have the No. 2 scoring defense in the nation. I think their defense will handle this VCU team and they win comfortably.
Pick: St. Mary’s -4.5
Virginia Tech +5.5 vs. Wisconsin
Two contrasting styles a little bit here. Va Tech is the faster-paced team with better guard play. And I feel Wisconsin is better inside with the better defense. The team that can force its style is going to win this one and I am leaning to the teams with better team guard play this tournament because of the new rules this season designed to create freedom of movement. If you like Va Tech, I’d say take them on the moneyline also.
Pick: Va Tech +5.5
Nevada +6.5 vs. Iowa State
Second 12 vs 5 game of the day. Nevada has an excellent offense and when you’re looking at upsets, I tend to lean to great offenses. They score almost 80 ppg so I think they can keep with Iowa State. They shoot a lot of threes and they rebound really well so I think we may have an upset possibility here. Nevada comes in as the hottest bet in the tournament on a 9-0 ATS winning streak.
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