That was fun—let’s do it all over again!
Friday brings 16 more games, and almost certainly more upsets like we saw Thursday.
Which top teams will dominate?
And which underdogs are first-round bracket busters?
Matt Ehalt and I are back at it again with picks for every single round of 64 game Friday. The action starts up at noon and won’t cease until around midnight on the East Coast. Matt went 10-6 Thursday, while I finished 5-11.
Time: 12:15 p.m. ET | CBS
Spread: Loyola Chicago -1.5 (-110) | Ohio State +1.5 (-118)
Moneyline: Loyola Chicago (-118) | Ohio State (-110)
Over/Under: Under 133 (-118) | Over 133 (-110)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Ohio State +1.5
I’m not afraid to keep picking underdogs! The Buckeyes have a great offense assembled around E.J. Liddell. Ohio State’s rotation isn’t particularly big but that won’t hurt against the Ramblers, who don’t rebound very well, though they play exceptional defense. Besides, picking Loyola Chicago, everyone’s favorite underdog that’s actually favored against big, bad Ohio State seems too obvious, right?
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Loyola Chicago -1.5
I’m really hesitant to bet this because this feels like the Providence-South Dakota State matchup where everybody is taking Loyola Chicago. Loyola’s KenPom metrics are better. They play strong defense. Ohio State’s offense is strong, but its defense is porous. That loss to Penn State is also lingering here. I’m rolling with Sister Jean.
Time: 12:40 p.m. ET | truTV
Spread: Jacksonville State +15.5 (-118) | Auburn -15.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Jacksonville State (+800) | Auburn (-1786)
Over/Under: Under 137.5 (-110) | Over 137.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Auburn -15.5
This should be Bellarmine representing the ASUN and getting blown out by future lottery pick Jabari Smith and the Tigers. But it doesn’t really matter—Auburn will handle Jacksonville State all the same. The Tigers score at will and defend even better with Walker Kessler swatting more shots per game than the Gamecocks do as a team.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Auburn -15.5
Auburn’s poor ending has me fading them in all of my brackets, but not sure that will matter here. A team with NBA talent against a team without NBA talent should be a mismatch, and Bruce Pearl will have the Tigers motivated to provide a beatdown.
Time: 1:45 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Montana State +15 (-118) | Texas Tech -15 (-110)
Moneyline: Montana State (+800) | Texas Tech (-1786)
Over/Under: Under 132 (-110) | Over 132 (-118)
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Kyle Wood’s Bet: Texas Tech -15
My only concern in picking the Red Raiders to cover a large spread like this is whether their offense puts up enough points to do so. But defensively, Texas Tech, the No. 1 defense on Ken Pom, will suffocate the Bobcats’ offense as it does to most teams. I’ll put my faith in the Red Raiders’ revolving door of leading scorers (Bryson Williams, Terrence Shannon Jr., Kevin Warren and Kevin Obanor) to score at least 70 and cover.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Texas Tech -15
An elite defense against a team that ranks 149th in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom. Yeah, I don’t see Montana State penetrating this defense enough to keep this one close. This won’t be a high-scoring game, but Texas Tech can win by 20.
Time: 2 p.m. ET | TBS
Spread: Yale +16.5 (-118) | Purdue -16.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Yale (+900) | Purdue (-2000)
Over/Under: Under 143.5 (-110) | Over 143.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Yale +16.5
The Boilermakers haven’t covered the spread in their last 10 games. They’re certain to beat the Bulldogs, but I don’t like them to cover a double-digit line against a Yale team with a prolific scorer in Azar Swain.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Purdue -16.5
I don’t trust Purdue in March. They did not impress in the Big Ten tournament. They went 13-20-1 against the spread this year. I’m just not seeing anything in Yale’s profile that makes me believe they can keep this one close. Purdue can turn this into a track meet, and I just don’t see anyone on Yale slowing down Jaden Ivey.
Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | CBS
Spread: Delaware +15.5 (-118) | Villanova -15.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Delaware (+800) | Villanova (-1786)
Over/Under: Under 133.5 (-110) | Over 133.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Villanova -15.5
The Wildcats have also been suspect against the spread as of late, especially when it comes to 10-plus-point lines. Still, Villanova should be able to run away with a sizable win against Delaware. The Blue Hens will be a welcome break from the trials of the Big East for Collin Gillespie and Co., who should be able to score with ease against Delaware’s defense.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Villanova -15.5
I would be tempted to take Delaware if its defensive metrics ranked better, but a sub-200 defense on KenPom isn’t going to get it done against Villanova. Delaware had a nice run to the CAA title with Jameer Nelson Jr., but Villanova makes few mistakes and can make life tough for opposing offenses. The Wildcats should cover.
Time: 3:10 p.m. ET | truTV
Spread: Miami +2 (-118) | USC -2 (-110)
Moneyline: Miami (+105) | USC (-133)
Over/Under: Under 139.5 (-110) | Over 139.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: USC -2
The Trojans are a more complete team than the Hurricanes, and I expect USC to take full advantage of its superior size against Miami. UM is horrible on the boards, which could spell a big game for Isaiah Mobley, Southern California’s 6-foot-10 forward, who can also shoot the three ball. Miami looked good in a weak year for the ACC—the Trojans are the better team and they’ll show it for 40 minutes.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: USC -2
This is a simple bet for me based on one belief: The ACC was not any good this year. USC played quality teams in the Pac-12 and is more battle-tested. I don’t like this being such a low spread, but Miami struggled to beat Boston College and Syracuse down the stretch. USC should win this game by more than a basket.
Time: 4:15 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Notre Dame +4 (-110) | Alabama -4 (-118)
Moneyline: Notre Dame (+145) | Alabama (-200)
Over/Under: Under 151.5 (-110) | Over 151.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Alabama -4
Notre Dame has a quick turnaround from its double-overtime First Four game in Dayton to a first-round game in California against Alabama, which operates at one of the fastest tempos in the sport. The Crimson Tide are a stark contrast to the Fighting Irish—they run a much slower offense and shoot at higher percentages from the field, free-throw line and three. Both team’s strength is on offense and I think Alabama ends its three-game losing streak by playing this game at a breakneck pace.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Alabama -4
I would have felt better about an upset had this been Rutgers due to the Scarlet Knights’ defense. Notre Dame isn’t all that impressive, while Alabama has one of the best coaches in the country in Nate Oats. Both teams ride their offense and Alabama has a little more firepower. I’ll take the team I believe is more likely to win straight-up.
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET | TBS
Spread: Virginia Tech +1 (-118) | Texas -1 (-110)
Moneyline: Virginia Tech (-110) | Texas (-118)
Over/Under: Under 123.5 (-110) | Over 123.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Texas -1
The numbers love the Longhorns and the Hokies are hot, fresh off wins against UNC and Duke to capture the ACC championship. Both squads operate at especially slow tempos and a low-scoring affair favors Texas. I think UT can put a stop to Tech’s momentum and win the kind of grind-it-out games it often did in the Big 12.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Texas -1
I feel like I’m on an island here, but I respect Chris Beard too much to go against him here. Virginia Tech has the momentum. The Hokies can shoot. They can beat teams with more talent. Texas has enough defense to limit Virginia Tech, and I’ll take a team that played in a better conference and will be motivated after a Big 12 flop.
Time: 6:50 p.m. | TNT
Spread: Chattanooga +8 (-110) | Illinois -8 (-118)
Moneyline: Chattanooga (+275) | Illinois (-400)
Over/Under: Under 135.5 (-110) | Over 135.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Illinois -8
Illinois is led by experienced upperclassmen who were around for last season’s second-round exit as a No. 1 seed and plan on sticking around a bit longer this year. The Illini can score, pass the ball well and, most importantly against a team like the Mocs, they defend. Eight points is a big spot for a team as challenged against the spread as Illinois has been, but Kofi Cockburn should have his way inside in this matchup and send his team to the Round of 32 comfortably.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Illinois -8
I want to take Chattanooga. I do. But the Mocs didn’t see many players like Illinois stud Kofi Cockburn. Chattanooga relies on a three-guard set, and that could lead to many mismatches for the Fighting Illini. Had this spread been double digit, I take Chattanooga. Illinois is a well-rounded team that should handle its business.
Time: 7:10 p.m. ET | CBS
Spread: CS Fullerton +18.5 (-110) | Duke -18.5 (-118)
Moneyline: CS Fullerton (+1100) | Duke (-3333)
Over/Under: Under 145 (-110) | Over 145 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Duke -18.5
The Titans won’t know what hit them against Duke. Cal State Fullerton wasn’t even particularly dominant against its Big West foes and doesn’t have the shooting to keep things close. I think the Blue Devils, a team full of future first-rounders, runs up the score to kick off Coach K’s last go-around in the tournament.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Duke -18.5
One of my favorite pools I do each year is a spread pool where you are randomly assigned a team and you win as long as they cover. Any team can win. I drew Duke in that bracket. I bet Duke in futures betting. I’ve got a lot riding on Duke. Duke should be motivated here to make up for the recent duds and nothing in Cal State Fullerton’s profile says it can slow down the Blue Devils. Duke needs a “get right” game.
Time: 7:20 p.m. ET | TBS
Spread: Iowa State +4 (-110) | LSU -4 (-118)
Moneyline: Iowa State (+145) | LSU (-200)
Over/Under: Under 128.5 (-118) | Over 128.5 (-110)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Iowa State +4
This is a case study in what losing your coach right before the biggest game of the season does to a team. My answer, especially at this level, is yes, it matters a lot. LSU beat some of the best teams in the country earlier this year (Kentucky, Tennessee) during its 15-1 start. The Tigers slowed down as the season wore on and Iowa State is a tough out. Their record is deceiving given how good this team is and it’s usually safe to bet on a team with an elite defense and a veteran point guard in March.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Iowa State +4
Something feels off here. LSU just fired its coach. That’s not usually what you want heading into the tournament! And the Tigers are still laying four points to Iowa State. Three losses by a combined 55 points (18.33 average) explains it. Both teams have elite defenses, but I just find it hard to lay points with a team that just fired its coach.
Time: 7:27 p.m. ET | truTV
Spread: Wright State +21 (-110) | Arizona -21 (-118)
Moneyline: Wright State (+1400) | Arizona (-5000)
Over/Under: Under 156.5 (-118) | Over 156.5 (-110)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Arizona -21
Tanner Holden won me over in the First Four and Wright State looked great against Bryant. This is the end of the line, though. The Wildcats very well might hang 100 on the Raiders, who won’t be able to keep up the pace against Arizona’s top-20 defense. This team is primed for a deep run; one that begins with a blowout.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Arizona -21
I watched Arizona’s offense dismantle a top-15 UCLA defense in the second half of Pac-12 title game. And I’m supposed to believe Wright State’s sub-250 defense on Ken Pom is going to slow them? Yeah, not happening. Wildcats cruise in a laugher.
Time: 9:20 p.m. | TNT
Spread: UAB +8.5 (-118) | Houston -8.5 (-110)
Moneyline: UAB (+275) | Houston (-400)
Over/Under: Under 136 (-110) | Over 136 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Houston -8.5
What’s that about unstoppable forces and immovable objects? I’ll take the immovable object: Houston’s defense. The Blazers can score with the best teams in the country, but the Cougars have a balanced attack to counter with—the No. 10 offense and No. 11 defense. Free-throw shooting does matter, and UH isn’t great at the line, but I think it can cover this spot against UAB.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: UAB +8.5
I’ll show my age here, but UAB is one of those teams I always remember for upsetting a 1-seed (2004 vs. Kentucky). This is a fun UAB team. Sold offense, defense is OK. KenPom loves Houston, though. Much more than I think most people do. This seems like a high spread here with UAB riding some momentum. I’m just not sold that Houston is going to run UAB and Jordan “Jelly” Walker out of the building.
Time: 9:40 p.m. ET | CBS
Spread: Davidson +1 (-118) | Michigan State -1 (-110)
Moneyline: Davidson (-105) | Michigan State (-125)
Over/Under: Under 141 (-110) | Over 141 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Davidson + 1
The oddsmakers are giving the Wildcats a lot of credit with this line and it’s easy to see why. Davidson has the No. 12 offense on Ken Pom and everyone who plays major minutes can shoot. That’s difficult to defend. The Spartans’ offense won’t be able to keep up with Davidson’s and the Wildcats win their first tournament game since 2015.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Michigan State -1
I don’t have a great feel for this game because I hate 1-point spreads in hoops. This isn’t a great Michigan State team. Nothing really stands out. Davidson has an elite offense and can really shoot. Yet, there’s something that makes me think we’re gonna see a little Tom Izzo magic in March. I don’t know why but I think the Spartans win.
Time: 9:50 p.m. | TBS
Spread: Colgate +7.5 (-110) | Wisconsin -7.5 (-118)
Moneyline: Colgate (+250) | Wisconsin (-376)
Over/Under: Under 139.5 (-118) | Over 139.5 (-110)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: Wisconsin -7.5
Every year I get excited about the Raiders’ tournament hopes (they can shoot so well!) and every year they let me down. I’m anticipating the same this time around. The Badgers have the best player in this matchup in Johnny Davis and a defense capable of neutralizing Colgate’s sharp-shooting offense. Wisconsin puts its recent losses behind it in a double-digit win.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Wisconsin -7.5
I’m all for picking against Big Ten teams with high seeds in the tournament, but you have to give me something to work with in the metrics. Colgate isn’t doing that. Iowa probably already took the role as the Big Ten team to get upset. Wisconsin is strong and has a great player. That’s enough to cover this spread.
Time: 9:50 p.m. | TBS
Spread: TCU +1.5 (-125) | Seton Hall -1.5 (+100)
Moneyline: TCU (-110) | Wisconsin (-118)
Over/Under: Under 128.5 (-110) | Over 128.5 (-118)
Kyle Wood’s Bet: TCU +1.5
These teams are just a few spots apart on KenPom overall and in their offensive and defensive metrics. It’s a tough one to pick, which is kind of an evergreen statement in an 8-9 game. That said, I’ll take the hotter team, against the spread that is. TCU has only won four of its last six (it faced Kansas three times during that stretch) but covered six of those games. Seton Hall, meanwhile, hasn’t covered any of its most recent five games as a favorite. I’ll take the Horned Frogs and the points.
Matt Ehalt’s Bet: Seton Hall -1.5
My youngest brother went to Seton Hall and I may get un-invited from his wedding if I don’t pick the Pirates here. Kidding. Kevin Willard is a good coach and the Pirates are a tough team. TCU showed something by beating Texas. Both teams played in strong conference. I tend to side with the Big East teams in situations like this. Great job by the committee here pitting these teams against each other with such similar metrics.
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