We’ve already seen a pair of upsets, as Kentucky and Iowa were both double-digit favorites that managed to lose to double-digit seeds, getting dismissed by Saint Peter’s and Richmond, respectively. The rest of the day went according to form, so No. 2 seed Kentucky was the only top-four seed to fall on Thursday.
That gives us a helpful trend to follow for Friday: every tournament that featured a No. 15 beating a No. 2 also featured at least one other No. 13, 14, 15 winning, and seven out of nine included two of those teams winning outright. That means we need to take a hard look at the likes of Colgate, Delaware, Jacksonville State, Montana State, Yale, Chattanooga and Cal State Fullerton, because statistics say at least one will win. Here are my best plays for Friday’s games.
Loyola-Chicago vs. Ohio State
Pick: Loyola-Chicago ML (-110)
We’ve got a pick’em for the first line of the day, and I think this could be another instance of the Ramblers taking down a team from a bigger conference in the first round. Loyola played very well in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, while Ohio State really didn’t look great down the stretch.
The one cause for concern is that Ohio State has the best player on the floor in E.J. Liddell. But Liddell hasn’t made much of a difference in recent games, and Loyola was a Sweet 16 team a year ago. The Ramblers are no strangers to the pressure of March, and I think they’ll respond well here.
Colgate vs. Wisconsin
Pick: Colgate +7.5 (-110)
The Raiders have won the Patriot League for the third straight year, and they look the most likely of the lower seeds to spring a surprise because they’ve been here before and Johnny Davis’ health is a major question mark. The Badgers also play at a slower pace than a lot of larger schools, which gives the Raiders a chance to stick close if they hit some shots early.
Wisconsin is playing in Milwaukee, which isn’t ideal for an opposing team to try to make them uncomfortable, but Kentucky just played in front of a partisan crowd in Indianapolis and lost. I think Colgate can cover the number, even if it falls short of getting the win.
Wright State vs. Arizona
Pick: Arizona -21.5 (-110)
This is an awful situation for a No. 16 seed to face, as Arizona plays at a very fast pace and Wright State isn’t likely going to be able to keep up with the Wildcats. But there’s another factor at play here: the Raiders had to go from playing in Dayton on Wednesday to playing in San Diego on Friday. We saw Indiana run out of gas against Saint Mary’s after crossing three time zones on Thursday, and Wright State is nowhere near as talented as the Hoosiers.
To have a chance, Wright State needed everything to be perfect. Instead, the Raiders are going to be playing at a lightning tempo less than 48 hours after chasing Bryant up and down the floor and flying across the country. Arizona might put up 100 points here and should cover.
Miami vs. USC
Pick: Miami +2.5 (-120)
USC has a big edge in rebounding, but if you make your shots, there are no rebounds. Miami’s five guards are hard to deny looks for a good defense, and USC’s defense isn’t quite good enough to stick with the Hurricanes’ shooters. Miami might get routed on the boards, but the Hurricanes have already faced Duke, who is much stronger inside than USC. They won’t be intimidated by the Trojans’ size and might win the game outright.