James Scully rocks the rim with a full breakdown of South Region Free Picks!
Looking for Oregon-Wisconsin? Well, Scully paid particular attention that matchup for very good reason in a separate deep dive. You can read that preview by clicking here to see who prevails in Oregon-Wisconsin, or continue on for the rest of the games!
[Thursday, March 21st]
#11 Saint Mary’s vs #6 Villanova -5.5
St. Mary’s enters on a hot streak, winning seven of the last eight including an enormous 60-47 upset of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tourney finals, and Gaels are tough to score upon (24th-ranked allowing only 64.4-ppg). They can go to Jordan Ford (21.3-ppg) when in need of a bucket and this sets up as a favorable match-up because Villanova doesn’t score a lot (102nd-ranked with 74.5-ppg) and played most teams close (44th-ranked with +7.4-ppg scoring margin) despite winning Big East regular season and conference titles. Wildcats were on fire earlier in season, stringing together 11 straight wins, but cooled off down the stretch losing five-of-eight games and enter on a dismal 3-9 ATS run, 1-3 ATS in last four. St. Mary’s playing with renewed confidence and more than capable of keeping this one close to the wire. Take the points with St. Mary’s!
South Region Free Picks – St. Mary’s +5.5
#14 Old Dominion vs #3 Purdue -13
Old Dominion may not have enough to upend the heavy favorite but can stay within the point spread against a Purdue squad virtually guaranteed to struggle if Carson Edwards doesn’t play well. And considering the Big 10’s leading scorer enters in a shooting funk with a bad back, going 17-for-68 from the field as Purdue compiled a 1-2 ATS mark in the last three games, Boilermakers appear vulnerable to a possible upset. Old Dominion gets after teams defensively, ranking fifth nationally in scoring defense (60.8-ppg), eighth in opponent field-goal percentage (39.1%) and ninth in team overall defensive efficiency, and feature solid guard play with B.J. Stith (16.9-ppg) scoring and Ahmad Caver (5.6-assists per game) breaking down opposing defenses. Grab the points with Old Dominion!
South Region Free Picks – Old Dominion +13
[Friday, March 22nd]
#16 Gardner Webb vs #1 Virginia -23.5
Virginia will look to start fast and improve the offensive output after scoring only 59 points in a sluggish loss to Florida St. And of course, they’ll be motivated to show up after becoming the first #1 seed to lose to a #16-seed last year. Cavaliers couldn’t score last year, compiling only 54 points in stunning setback to UMBC, and missed star guard Hunter. He’ll make an impact here along with sharpshooter Guy, who won’t be held in check for the second straight game. Gardner Webb terrible away from home during regular season (8-9) and have been held to less than 80 points in last nine games. They won’t reach 50 against the nation’s #1 scoring defense and Cavs poised to win by 30+, lay the points!
South Region Free Picks – Virginia -23.5
#9 Oklahoma vs #8 Mississippi -2
Oklahoma went 11-1 SU before conference play, including wins over Wofford and Florida, and boast a 13-3-1 ATS record in last 17 non-conference games. Sooners better defensively than Mississippi, holding opponents to only 43.5% shooting (29th-ranked), and like how inside players Doolittle and Manek have complemented leading scorer James in recent weeks. Ole Miss has quality backcourt players but coughed up a 14-point halftime lead to Alabama last out, scoring only 19 points in second half. They’ve lost four of the last five, averaging only 69-ppg over last 9 contests, and feature bad assist/turnover (89th) and defensive efficiency (142nd) numbers. Mississippi enters in declining form and Oklahoma rates a slight edge, we’ll take the points!
South Region Free Picks – Oklahoma +2.0
#13 UC Irvine vs #4 Kansas State -5
Kansas State a trendy pick-against due to the iffy status of Dean Wade but we like the defensive stalwarts regardless. Wildcats have terrific depth, with their star forward missing most of last year’s Elite 8 run, and improved defensively this season. Kansas State allows only 59-ppg (third nationally) and Big 12 regular season co-champions know how to grind out close games. They’ll force turnovers against UC-Irvine, which lacks offensive playmakers and gets it done on the defensive end. UC Irvine beat Saint Mary’s and is very balanced, with Hazzard leading the way at 12.6-ppg and six players averaging at least 6.4-ppg. But buckets will be hard to come by against a fierce defensive front and Kansas State will draw away in the second half. We like Kansas State to cover!
South Region Free Picks – Kansas State -5
#10 Iowa vs #7 Cincinnati -3.5
Both teams have been miserable for bettors over the last six weeks but Cincinnati enters with momentum after knocking off Houston 69-57 in American Athletic tourney finals, covering two of the last three after eight straight ATS losses. Bearcats will have best player on the floor in Cumberland, who struggled in late-season losses to UCF and Houston but rebounded by averaging 23.3-ppg, 6.0-rpg and 4.3-apg in conference tourney, and Cincy tough defensively (22nd overall efficiency) and on offensive glass (10.9-rbg). Iowa won a lot of games through mid-February but staggering toward end of season, posting 1-9 ATS mark in last 10 and delivering an ugly showing most recently (74-53 loss). Hawkeyes are 0-5 ATS vs teams with a winning record and Cincinnati 7-3 ATS vs non-conference foes. Cincinnati playing in front of home crowd in Columbus and we’ll lay the points here!
South Region Free Picks – Cincinnati -3.5
#15 Colgate vs #2 Tennessee -17.5
Colgate faces a tough task but is surging of late, winning 11 straight games (9-2 ATS), and can score enough to stay within the number. Red Raiders improved significantly after struggling against non-conference foes earlier in season and have averaged 84-ppg over last six contests, easily rolling through the Patriot League conference tourney. They’re a dangerous shooting team (15th-ranked at 55.9% effective FG percentage; 62.3% over last three games) that drains a lot of 3-pointers. Tennessee has reason to be disgruntled. They failed to show up in a 20-point loss to Auburn last Sunday and committee has them scheduled to possibly meet Cincinnati in Columbus in the next round. Vols weren’t stellar as a favorite over the last month, posting a 4-7 ATS record in last 11 games, and must avoid overlooking a school that most players probably associate with toothpaste. Tennessee will prove too tough in second half but won’t cover bulky betting line, we’ll take the points with Colgate!
South Region Free Picks – Colgate +17.5