This is the first time in 10 years I won’t be sitting courtside at NCAA Tournament games that are being played, but I’m sure it’ll be just as exciting watching from home. Hold on, I have to unload the dishwasher first.
Winthrop (+6.5) over Villanova: This year’s most popular first-round upset pick may feel too trendy, but its status is deserved. The Eagles are an excellent Cinderella candidate, having lost one game since February 2020. They are a team featuring experience, fast-paced play, strong shooters and even stronger rebounding. Still, the Big East champs are the real focus, lost without star Collin Gillespie. Villanova has suffered three upsets in its past four games and will struggle without its lead guard against a relentless defense.
Baylor (-25) over Hartford: The Hawks are the definition of “happy to be here,” playing in their first NCAA Tournament. The top-seeded Bears are a title contender in need of a 40-minute tuneup. Looking to regain the dominance displayed in its 18-0 start, Baylor will exploit every mismatch and put the tournament on notice that it remains a legitimate title threat. Hartford’s only game against a top-five seed this season resulted in a 34-point loss to Villanova. More recently, it suffered double-digit losses to Stony Brook and NJIT.
Oral Roberts (+15.5) over Ohio State: The Golden Eagles have tested some of the best teams in the country this season, falling by five to No. 4 seed Oklahoma State and holding a double-digit, second-half lead over No. 3 seed Arkansas. Having the nation’s leading scorer (Max Abmas) helps, as does a roster which hit more 3-pointers than any team this season, connecting nearly 39 percent of the time from outside. The Buckeyes will prevail, but the nonstop barrage of 3-pointers will cause unexpected headaches in Columbus.
West Virginia (-13) over Morehead State: Kenneth Faried isn’t around to perform a miracle this time. Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since stunning No. 4 Louisville in 2011, Morehead State isn’t built to repeat the feat. The Eagles have won 19 of their past 20 games, but haven’t played a team in the bracket since December and the turnover-prone squad lost by an average of 25.5 points to the four best teams it played this season (Ohio State, Clemson, Kentucky, Richmond). Bob Huggins may lean on his offense this season, but some “Press Virginia” flashbacks will surface against an opponent fighting above its weight.
This season: 11-15
2011-20 record: 261-223-9
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