The big upset didn’t happen on Friday, as most of the higher seeds managed to survive. But some teams looked better than others on Day 2, and the lines for Sunday’s games reflect that accordingly. Betting round 2 of the NCAA tournament is a lot like betting the second round of the NFL playoffs: whenever someone looked too good the game before, it might be a good time to fade them if they’re a lower seed.
With that in mind, here are my spread plays for Sunday’s NCAA tournament action.
Ohio State vs. Villanova
Pick: Villanova -5.5 (-110)
Ohio State got through its opening game against Loyola because the Ramblers couldn’t hit anything, shooting a mere 29% from the floor. That isn’t likely to repeat against Villanova, which is excellent from the perimeter and should take advantage of a fairly weak Ohio State 3-point defense.
The Buckeyes still looked out of sorts on offense against Loyola, and against a team that was having even a decent offensive day, they’d have been sent home. I don’t see them keeping up with Collin Gillespie and the rest of Villanova’s shooters.
Iowa State vs. Wisconsin
Pick: Wisconsin -4.5 (-110)
The Badgers survived without covering against Colgate, but I think they’ll have an easier time here. Iowa State played a distracted and offensively-challenged LSU squad in round 1 and won the game their way by playing great defense. But Wisconsin is neither of those things. The Badgers are a smart, well-drilled team that should be a lot more relaxed after avoiding the big upset.
Frankly, I think Iowa State is going to struggle to keep up in this one. The Cyclones have done well to get this far, but beating Wisconsin in Milwaukee requires good shooting. That is not something Iowa State has, which suggests that this one won’t be all that tight of a game.
Houston vs. Illinois
Pick: Illinois +4.5 (-110)
If you watched Illinois battle Chattanooga, you know that the Fighting Illini were lucky to survive against the Mocs. But it looks like things are overcorrecting here, as Illinois is a better team than it showed on Friday. Houston didn’t rebound all that well in the win against UAB, and the Cougars are going to need to give a much better showing on the glass to find an answer for Kofi Cockburn.
This is a perfect situation for Illinois, which has been at its best when it has Cockburn on the floor and few expectations. The Illini have the ability to dominate the offensive glass in this game, and with everyone expecting Houston to live up to its analytics, I think Illinois is going to remind people why it was the Big Ten’s regular season champion.
TCU vs. Arizona
Pick: Arizona -9.5 (-110)
The way that you beat Arizona is by shooting the 3-pointer and taking advantage of the Wildcats’ suspect perimeter defense. That’s exactly what TCU doesn’t do well. The Frogs have actually shot the 3-pointer better in the postseason than they did in the regular season, but they’re still one of the worst teams in the nation at perimeter shooting, hitting just 29.9 percent for the year.
At some point, the Frogs are going to start missing from deep, and TCU doesn’t exactly seek out the 3-pointer all that often anyway. When the misses come, TCU is going to have a hard time winning the rebounding battle against Christian Koloko and the rest of the Arizona big men. The Frogs might keep the game close for 30 minutes, but they will likely fade down the stretch.