This is why they call it Madness. A day after Villanova was bounced by Wisconsin the games just keep coming. We already have the number one overall seed out of the tournament and it just proves how crazy these few weeks in March can get.
With the probabilities so unknown it only makes sense to take some risks. We’ve seen how easy upsets can happen and how quickly you can make some serious money if you can identify where the issues lie. That’s why we’re here to break down each game and try and find those chances to win big. Let’s get to it!
#7 Michigan Wolverines vs. #2 Louisville Cardinals
Michigan (+3) vs. Louisville (-3)
The Cardinals advanced to the second round to take on the Wolverines after a tighter-than-expected game against Jacksonville State. The Cardinals entered with a 25-8 record on the season and the number two seed in their region but were trailing early before finally finding their stride and pulling out the 78-63 victory.
Michigan meanwhile comes in as the number 7 seed in the region and have a sense of destiny on their side. They have a 25-11 record overall and after winning their conference tournament just days after a traumatizing plane incident they are feeling as confident as they have al season. They pulled out a nail-biter against the Cowboys in their 92-91 win over Oklahoma State and are itching to keep advancing in this tournament.
Their track to the Madness has been far from conventional. The Wolverines find themselves in a rematch of their 2013 national championship after a huge run through the Big Ten tournament despite being the eighth seed to start. They beat the ninth seeded Illinois team, the number one seeded Purdue squad, the 4th seeded Minnesota team and finally the Wisconsin Badgers in the tournament final.
Now the Wolverines have a much tougher task in the Cardinals who have been one of the best teams in the tournament all season long. They were sloppy on defense early against Jacksonville State and had trouble guarding the perimeter before taking the ball inside where they ended up punishing their opponents in the paint. If Louisville starts off sluggish again they may find themselves bounced early from the tournament against a team that seems to have a bit of destiny on their side.
Mangok Mathiang against Derrick Walton Jr. Mathiang grabbed 18 points for the Cardinals and was excellent inside where he punished Jacksonville State on the glass. He won’t be responsible for guarding Derrick Walton Jr. but the Wolverine knows how to get it done. He dropped 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds against the Cowboys and the red-hot guard has been on a tear during the Wolverines’ recent streak.
Michigan is proving all their doubters wrong right now and rolling through everyone in their path. With that being said the Cowboys put up a good fight and the Cardinals are even tougher. The spread is a reflection of everyone believing in Michigan right now but we believe in the dominant team that Louisville was all season. Take the Cardinals on the spread as they put an end to the Wolverines’ Cinderella run.
#10 Wichita State Shockers vs. #2 Kentucky Wildcats
Wichita State (+4.5) vs. Kentucky (-4.5)
The Shockers and Wildcats may come in to this matchup as very different seeds but both schools know exactly what it takes to win in this tournament and have been here before as strong threats to win it all. In 2014 the Wildcats put an end to the number 1 ranked Shockers with a 78-76 win in the second round. Wichita State entered that contest with a 35 game winning streak and were in the middle of a dream season before Kentucky dashed their dreams before the real race even began.
Now the two teams will meet again with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line and this time the roles are reversed. Kentucky comes in with all the swagger and a 30-5 record while the Shockers have a 31-4 mark but a much lower seed in a weaker conference. Wichita State advanced to this big game after a hard-fought but never in doubt victory over Dayton. The Flyers only managed 31 percent shooting from the field against the Shockers’ strong defense and Wichita State will need to lock it down again with a much stronger offensive team in their way.
Wichita State will need to improve their offense as well. They’ve won 16 straight games up to this point in the tournament nut shot under 40 percent against Dayton. They were awesome on the glass with a plus 19 margin and turned those rebounds into 19 second chance points but with the size and athleticism of Kentucky in their way this time it could be a different battle for the Shockers.
Kentucky was excellent in their first game with 19 points from freshman De’Aaron Fox and a huge game out of their rookie center. Bam Adebayo was brilliant with 15 points and 18 boards in a huge double-double in opening round action. The Shockers play harder than Northern Kentucky on the glass and Adebayo will need to be at his best.
Malik Monk against Markis McDuffie. Monk is the most talented Wildcat on this already loaded Kentucky team but he was relatively quiet in his first game with just 12 points. He was just 3-11 form the field and it may be some tournament jitters he needs to get out before he settles into his groove. He’s averaging 20.2 points a game this season but it won’t be easy to hit that average against the strong defense of McDuffie. The Shocker leads his team in steals and will be playing some hardcore defense on Sunday.
The Shockers are on some kind of roll right now and have the experience and depth to compete with any team in the tournament but especially a team as inexperienced as Kentucky. The Wildcats are the youngest team in the tournament and may get overwhelmed against the aggressive and experienced Shockers. Take Wichita State on the spread.
#9 Michigan State Spartans vs. #1 Kansas Jayhawks
Michigan (+8) vs. Kansas (-8)
Now the real tournament begins for the Jayhawks. Kansas had an easy time in their first game as they hit the century mark in a 100-62 win over the University of California-Davis in the first round of the tournament on Friday night. The number one seeded Jayhawks enter their next game feeling good but have a much tougher task ahead of them in round 2 on Sunday.
The Jayhawks and Spartans are used to playing each other in big games and in most years it’s a pretty predictable Final Four matchup. That’s not the case this season as Michigan State has struggled all year long before finding their groove late. The Spartans have load of talent among their freshman players but also loads of inexperience and that cost them early in the year. Now fans and bettors alike are treated to a blue blood rivalry in the second round of the tournament and no one is complaining.
Michigan State may not be the most intimidating group in the bunch thanks to their number 9 seeding but they certainly announced their arrival in their first game of the tournament. They were in a big 12 point hole early over the higher seeded Miami team but pushed ahead with a late first half surge to find themselves up 11 by the end of the period. They came out of the break as hot as how they ended it and put their Miami opponents to bed early.
Still, the Spartans lack the experience the Jayhawks do. Michigan state started three freshman against Miami and Cassius Winston came off the bench to play heavy minutes as a freshman as well. They played excellent together in the big win with Nick Ward leading the way. The freshman guard scored 19 points to lead his team but will need to deliver a similar, if not better performance against the Jawyhawks,
Kansas is led by a senior who knows what it takes to win. Frank Mason III leads the team in scoring and was at it again in the Jayhawks’ first win with 22 points and eight assists to lead the offense. Landen Lucas also starts for the Jayhawks as a senior and Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk are both junior forwards. With as much experience as Kansas has their biggest asset may be their freshman Josh Jackson.
Josh Jackson against Miles Bridges. Jackson has been a stud all year for the Jayhawks with 16.4 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field. He also hauls down 7.2 rebounds a game and his athleticism was on full display in the rout against UC Davis. Bridges was a stud for the Spartans in their first round game but will have a much tougher task against the length and wingspan of Jackson.
The Spartans are up to something and they’ve proved their freshman have what it takes to battle with the best of them. The chances of getting by the Jayhawks are slim but we still think they make it a game. Take Michigan State on the spread.
#8 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Arkansas (+10.5) vs. North Carolina (-10.5)
The Razorbacks have relied on their speed all throughout the regular season and they’re up to their fast paced ways again during the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas will try and run the Tar Heels out of the gym like they have so many of their other opponents this season but North Carolina is the number one seed in the region for a reason.
The two will clash on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line with both teams great at pushing the pace. The Tar Heels are more than willing to join in on the fast paced action. North Carolina is deep and ready to run and had eight separate players all play at least nine minutes in their first half rout of Texas Southern. They dropped 103 points in a huge win and have more than enough firepower to get back at Arkansas.
For starters, they have one of the best scorers the school has ever seen in Justin Jackson, and when he gets hot he’s near-impossible to stop. He needs to drop just one more three pointer to set the school record. He has 95 on the year after pouring in another five against Texas Southern and can absolutely light it up from deep. As well as having Jackson on their team they also have a bit of history on their side. North Carolina has already beat Arkansas in two second round games in the NCAA Tournament in the last ten years.
The Razorbacks would hate to see three straight losses come in such a meaningful game but unless they figure out how to stop the Tar Heels’ prolific offense it could be a quick night for Arkansas.
Justin Jackson against Dusty Hannahs. Like Jackson, Hannahs can fill up the stat sheet as well. He leads the team with 14.6 points per game and hit two big threes late to help bury Seton Hall. He doesn’t have nearly the same athleticism or skill to keep up with Jackson’s scoring but if he gets hot he can at least keep his team in the game. Jackson meanwhile will use this tournament as his coming out party and will continue to push the tempo against another team that likes to play fast.
North Carolina was mightily impressive in their first game and blew out Texas Southern easily. Their offense is unbelievable right now and while the spread seems large the Razorbacks just don’t have the same depth of skill to keep up. Take the Tar Heels on the spread.
#11 Rhode Island Rams vs. #3 Oregon Ducks
Rhode Island (+5.5) vs. Oregon (-5.5)
With everyone worried about how the loss of Chris Boucher would impact Oregon’s shot at a strong tournament the Ducks responded with a big win over Iona in the opening round of the tournament. Oregon came in as the third seed in their region and rolled over their opponents with a 93-77 win on Friday.
The Ducks will have a much tougher task when they take on the Rams on Sunday. Rhode Island proved a lot of bettors right when they pulled off a big upset over the sixth-seeded Blue Jays in their 84-72 win and are eager to take on some tough competition with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Oregon relied on the same players they have all season long, and then some. With Boucher out of the lineup Dillon Brooks stepped up with 18 points and Jordan Bell was clutch with 17 points and 12 boards. Payton Pritchard may have been the most surprising contributor with 16 points but that’s the type of performances this Ducks team is going to need, especially if they want to get by the high-scoring Rams.
Rhode Island is ready to rock right now. The Rams have won nine straight coming into this game and 13 of their last 15 overall. They got one of the most unlikely contributions of their season from Jeff Dowtin. He averages just 4.9 points a game but dropped 23 in Rhode Island’s first round win. E.C. Matthews added 16 and Kuran Iverson dropped 17 of his own. If that balanced scoring continues the Rams could be a tough out for anyone, let alone the Ducks.
E.C. Matthews against Dillon Brooks. Matthews didn’t lead his team in scoring in their first game but he’s been their best player all season long with 14.9 points per game. He’s been nothing short of spectacular for the Rams during their nine game win streak but will have it in tough against Brooks. The Duck has been huge for Oregon all season long with 16.3 points a game while averaging over 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep. He has a lot more responsibility on his shoulders after Boucher went done but his team needs him now more than ever.
We don’t want to mess with the Rams and the hot streak they’re on but thanks to their strong play the spread is small enough for Oregon to take advantage of. The Ducks are going to miss their lead shot blocker and rim protector in Boucher, but they’re not about to let that ruin what’s been an incredible season just yet. Take the Ducks on the spread.
#11 USC Trojans vs. #3 Baylor Bears
USC (+7) vs. Baylor (-7)
For many teams in the second round it’s already time to throw the seeding out the window. That’s certainly the case when the Bears and Trojans match up on Sunday night. Baylor struggled down the stretch to finish off their year and while their first round win was impressive they haven’t alleviated all the doubts surrounding them.
Now they need to take on a scalding hot USC team that just pulled off their biggest win of the season when they upended a strong SMU team that many people had as far as the Sweet 16, if not further. The Trojans have now technically won two games in the tournament considering they had to beat Providence in the First Four portion just for a right to play.
That win seemed to propel them on and now they have all the momentum. They were down in the final minutes of their game against SMU but Elijah Stewart hit an enormous three with just 36 seconds left to put his team up ahead. That stood up as the game winner but the MVP of the game may belong to the Trojans’ defense. They employed a nasty 2-3 zone in the second half still down nine points and limited the Mustangs to just 15 points for the remainder of the game.
The defense was excellent at shutting down SMU inside and denying the entry pass and their effort and athleticism allowed the offense to take over to get just enough done to seal the win. Baylor employs a zone defense as well but had to switch to man to man coverage against New Mexico State thanks to some solid three point shooting from their opponents. Thanks to their switch and some big scoring inside Baylor avoided losing in the first round like they’ve done so often lately and will be playing with some new life against USC.
Chimezie Metu vs. Johnathan Motley. Metu leads the Trojans inside with 7.9 rebounds a game while also being a strong rim protector with 1.6 blocks. He also can score and ranks second on the team with 14.5 points. He scored 14 against SMU but will have another tough game against Motley. Baylor’s big man is averaging 17.3 points per game with 9.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks of his own. Let the big men eat.
Baylor has proved they can do what it takes to grab wins this late in the season but a seven point spread against a red-hot USC team seems far fetched. The Trojans just beat a very good SMU team and are now one of the hottest teams in the tourney. Take USC to cover the spread.
#7 South Carolina Gamecocks vs. #2 Duke Blue Devils
South Carolina (+7.5) vs. Duke (-7.5)
The Blue Devils’ fans travel in droves no matter where they go but they may find the arena crowded with different colors when they hit the court on Friday night. Their opponents, after all, are just next door to the Bon Secours Arena and the Gamecocks’ supporters will be out in full force for a huge second round game.
Both teams are coming off big first round wins and are ready to keep the party going on Sunday night. Second seeded Duke easily handled Troy 87-65 while South Carolina had a little more trouble in the early going before finally pouring it on during the second half on their way to a huge 93-73 win. The Gamecocks were spurred on by their fan support and will be eager to hear the noise against Duke on Sunday night.
While the fan support is nice, Duke wont exactly be fazed. As one of the most storied programs in the entire country the Blue Devils know what it means to go for a deep run in this tournament and exactly what it takes. They’re also red hot with five straight wins including four wins in four days during their conference championship.
It’s the first meeting ever between these two teams in the Tournament and just the second team in the last 30 years they’ve played one another. Neither school is going to be hung up on the history, or lack thereof, however. They’re just focused on moving on.
The Gamecocks were one of the hottest teams in the country earlier in the season and know what it’s like to go on a roll. They play with a toughness and athleticism that Duke could have trouble matching, but with one of the best coaches ever in college basketball on their side the Blue Devils won’t be too concerned. Mike Krzyzewski has been the head coach of Duke since 1980 with 12 Final Fours and five national championships during that span. After undergoing surgery earlier in the year his return sparked Duke on their huge run and the team hasn’t looked back since.
Sindarius Thornwell against Jayson Tatum. Thornwell could easily prove a thorn in Duke’s side. The Gamecock is averaging 21.3 points per game this season with 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals. He also blocks a shot a game and is a menace all over the court. The SEC Player of the Year was brilliant against Marquette with 29 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals and provides a unique challenge for Duke.
The Blue Devils will respond with Jayson Tatum who is a unique player of his own. The freshman is averaging 16.9 points with 7.5 rebounds to go along with 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals. He’s got all the skills necessary to take over a game and proved it with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also had four blocks and four steals and will be thrilled to try and lock down Thornwell.
Duke is out to prove a point this season after a slow start and they have the talent and the coach to get it done. The 7.5 point spread may seem large against a team as rangy as the Gamecocks but the Blue Devils are incredibly hot right now. Take Duke on the spread.
#6 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. #3 UCLA Bruins
Cincinnati (+4) vs. UCLA (-4)
The Bruins offensive show continues on Sunday but it may not be as easy to keep their foot on the gas against one of the strongest defensive teams in the country. The third seeded Bruins take on the sixth seeded Bearcats at the Golden 1 Center and it will be a battle of two very different teams.
As dynamic as UCLA has looked this season they know they’re in for a tough game against Cincinnati. The Bearcats have won an average of 2 games over seven straight seasons and have the experience and toughness necessary to contened with the high-scoring act of the Bruins. UCLA is trying to make their third Sweet 16 in the last four years while Cincinnati is trying to get back to the sweetness for the first time since 2012.
The Bruins were strong in their first game but still let a weaker Kent State team drop 80 points on them in the 97-80 victory. Lost in the shadow of the Lonzo Ball show TJ Leaf has quietly had an amazing season and was at it again for the Bruins with 23 points and six boards for UCLA in the win. With that being said Ball didn’t disappoint either. He shot six of seven from the field with four boards and three dimes after overcoming a scary injury in the first half. He was helped up and limped to the locker room to finish the half but all signs point to him being good to go for the next game.
The Bearcats will be happy to take a run at Ball after they pumped Kansas State by 14 points in their round one win and showed off their strong defense that has kept them in games all season long. Troy Caupain was huge again for Cincinnati with 23 points and seven boards while Kyle Washington chipped in with 16 and Gary Clark came back with 15.
Cincinnati won’t let UCLA dunk all over them and if they can disrupt their offense enough it’s going to be a tough time for the Bruins to come out with a win.
Lonzo Ball against Troy Caupain. As good as Ball looked in his first game his injury was slightly concerning and he’ll need to prove he’s at 100 percent early if the Bruins want to move on. Still, his skill at passing and shooting is enough to help him win this battle no matter how good Caupain has been all year.
The four points is one of the smallest spreads we’ve seen between two teams we find to be far apart in talent. The Bearcats won’t be in shock by the skill of the Bruins but they also may not have enough of their own to keep up with UCLA. Take the Bruins on the spread and watch Ball and Leaf go to work.
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