Round 2 brings a different dynamic than round 1 of the NCAA tournament because both teams are on a level playing field. They’ve both gotten their body clocks adjusted, both played two days earlier and both have had some time to shoot in the arena and get used to where they’re playing.
In theory, that should make these games slightly easier to predict than in round 1, but there’s also the prospect of both momentum and running out of gas, especially with lower seeds. When a team wasn’t supposed to reach the second round, it’s pretty common for things to fall apart thereafter winning that first game. With that in mind, here are my picks for totals for Day 3.
New Mexico State vs. Arkansas
Pick: Over 138 (-110)
Arkansas is always willing to run, and the Razorbacks should find a more willing customer than Vermont was in the first round. The Catamounts still put up points in the first round against the Razorbacks, but the Aggies are more likely to push the tempo and take shots when they come.
Meanwhile, Arkansas has seen the over cash in seven straight games and even managed to score 74 on Tennessee, no easy task. The Razorbacks should reach the 70s, so as long as New Mexico State has something left from round 1, the over makes sense.
Michigan vs. Tennessee
Pick: Michigan Team Total Under 65 (-110)
I don’t want to mess with the overall team total after Tennessee ripped through Longwood, even though the Volunteers will likely have a tougher time scoring against Michigan. But I do want to go against the Wolverines’ team total, because Tennessee’s defense has been stiff against any opponent it’s faced. In their past 13 games, only Arkansas and Georgia managed to top 65 points against the Volunteer defense, and nobody in postseason play has managed more than Kentucky’s 62.
That doesn’t mean Michigan can’t win, but it does mean Michigan probably will have to play a grinder to advance. The Wolverines have shown that ability before, but it’s been some time before they’ve done it against the likes of a team like Tennessee. This game will likely be a race to 60, and I’d rather back the Tennessee defense than pick a side here.
Richmond vs. Providence
Pick: Under 134.5 (-110)
These teams both came up huge in the first round in stopping high-flying offenses in Iowa and South Dakota State respectively. What about stopping each other? They can probably do that too. Richmond has reached this point on the strength of its defense; out of 24 wins, the Spiders have held the opposing team to 65 points or less 17 times.
Providence has had a few defensive breakdown games, but for the most part, the Friars have played fairly good defense and tended to match the style of their opponent. The Friars don’t mind playing a slower game at all, which should be conducive to lower scores.
Saint Peter’s vs. Murray State
Pick: Under 130 (-110)
This is a terrible second matchup for Saint Peter’s, as the Peacocks are facing a mid-major like themselves and one that knows how to play good defense. Unlike Kentucky, Murray State shouldn’t make the mistake of taking Saint Peter’s even a little lightly because it comes from the Ohio Valley Conference and is used to playing teams like Saint Peter’s.
That means the defenses should take over. The Peacocks’ strength is their dominant defense, and without Oscar Tshiebwe to worry about, they shouldn’t give up 79 points again. Meanwhile, the Racers prefer a slower-paced, defensive-minded game themselves and will likely be delighted to pump the brakes after playing at San Francisco’s pace in round 1.