The Midwest is a region that could be full of upsets and dominant runs. Here’s my cheat sheet for the best picks, with a few spreads I like at the end.
1. Houston vs 16. Northern Kentucky
Houston has the all around effort that fuels their defensive ferocity, rebounding prowess, and will to get to the free throw line. The only stumbling block the Cougars face is the health of All-American guard Marcus Sasser. Signs point to him being available in the second round, at the least, but I think it could be a benefit to rest him in the round of 64. With or without their star, I expect the Cougars to blowout the Norse.
8. Iowa vs 9. Auburn
This game comes down to how well Iowa shoots the ball, mainly from 3 point range. Iowa has a top 5 most efficient offense in the nation and can shoot the lights out of any team. The key for the Hawkeyes is to get the ball into the hands of Kris Murray, Tony Perkins, and Payton Sandfort. Auburn has to be aggressive and hope that their defense can cause Iowa some problems. I don’t think Auburn can keep up with Iowa on offense, so I have the Hawkeyes.
5. Miami vs 12. Drake
Things get tricky here because I see one upset, not two and not none, in the 5 vs 12 and 4 vs 13. In this game, Miami could be without their starting forward and premier rebounder Norchad Omier. Drake is a tough team with a lot of experience. They will be ready no matter who is in the opposing starting five. Isaiah Wong is a very talented guard that the Hurricanes will have, but the Omier injury concern makes me too cautious. I’m taking the Bulldogs to upset.
4. Indiana vs 13. Kent State
All the talk I’ve heard is that the Golden Flashes could be a problem for the Hoosiers. They’re led by Sincere Carry who may just be an elite guard. With that being said, they’re not the 4 seed here, and there’s reason to praise Indiana. If anyone is going to take over this game it’s All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. He averages a double-double with 20.8 points and 10.9 rebounds and I don’t think Kent State, let alone any team in the NCAA, can slow him down. I like Indiana.
6. Iowa State vs 11. Pitt
Pitt can shoot and was hot against a stingy Mississippi State defense which allowed them to escape an early exit. Iowa State has an even better and more energetic defense that will be very disruptive. I think Pitt’s luck runs out and Iowa State puts some offense together. The cyclones keep on spinning.
3. Xavier vs 14. Kennesaw State
Xavier lost a huge piece in Zach Freemantle late in the year. Despite this blow, the Musketeers have continued their promising play, picking up wins over Providence and Creighton with narrow losses to Marquette. Kennesaw State plays in the ASUN and has their most valuable wins over Liberty. There’s no reason to overthink this. Xavier.
7. Texas A&M vs 10 Penn State
This is a game worth overthinking because both squads are rated rather evenly. The Nittany Lions have a lethal offense that can come up huge in any game behind outstanding performances by senior guard Jalen Pickett. They’ve picked up wins over Indiana and Northwestern, but have also failed to compete with Purdue and Michigan State. I like the Aggies more because of their balanced strength on offense and defense. They’ve downed SEC powerhouses Alabama and Tennessee and beat Auburn and Arkansas 2 times a piece. The Aggies have more consistency and upside on both ends of the court. Texas A&M keeps on dancing.
2. Texas vs 15. Colgate
I don’t have much to say on this one. Texas is good. Colgate is good when playing bad teams. The Raiders have a defensive efficiency outside the top 200 while the Longhorns are top 10 in this category. Coming off of a Big 12 Championship win I expect Texas to still be alive in a week or very possibly even two. Horns up!
3 Favorite Bets:
Auburn vs Iowa o151.5
Kennesaw State vs Xavier o151
Northern Kentucky vs Houston -18.5