Our NCAA Basketball picks and predictions for tonight's bubble games.

Anyone catch The General getting a little choked up this past weekend talking about his son's team making the NCAA Tournament? I was never sure if Bob Knight's voice cracked because he was proud of his son Pat's Lamar Cardinals, or if he was just upset at still being teamed with Brent Musburger for broadcasts. 

The Lamar Cardinals open the second night of the NCAA Tournament's first round against the Vermont Catamounts in a 6:40 PM (ET) telecast on truTV. That precedes a matchup between a couple of 12-seeds that you have to wonder if they'd be missed had they not been selected. Both contests will be played at the University of Dayton Arena.

Cardinals and Catamounts collide before Kamikaze mission 

Call it the traditional sake toast before lifting off the deck to commit basketball suicide. The play-in clash between 16-seeds Lamar and Vermont will lead to a Friday matchup in Greensboro with the North Carolina Tar Heels, seeded No. 1 in the Midwest and playing roughly an hour away from their campus.

NCAA Basketball odds makers have set Lamar at -3 with 130 for the total. A few college basketball betting shops that opened Lamar -3.5 came down to -3 as of Tuesday morning, while the total had dropped as low as 128.5 in some cases. 

Lamar begins play Wednesday with a six game win streak, three of which came during the Southland Conference Tournament after winning the East Division during the regular season. The stretch followed a mid-February tongue lashing by Knight who acknowledged he not only threw his team under the bus, but he was the bus driver. 

What the Cardinals lack in size, they make up for with experience. The top 5 scorers are all seniors, though Brandon Davis (9.1 PPG) is the tallest of the bunch at 6-6. 

Vermont placed second to Stony Brook in the America East before taking out the Seawolves on their home floor to win the conference championship. The Catamounts bring a four game win streak into the game, and are 14-1 since mid-January. 

Whereas seniors dominate Lamar's squad, a freshman and a sophomore lead Vermont. The frosh is Four McGlynn who tops the Catamounts in scoring (12.0 PPG); soph forward Brian Voelkel is only scoring 4.8 PPG, but leads the team in court time as well as rebounds (8.6) and assists (5.2).

Bears & Bulls Never Fulfilled Their Market Values 

Seriously, would anyone have complained if the California Golden Bears had been relegated to the NIT? How about the South Florida Bulls, if neither them nor the West Virginia Mountaineers made the tourney out of the Big East, how much bellyaching would be justified?

South Florida vs. CaliforniaDon't get me wrong; that backdrop doesn't diminish this matchup's intrigue, and even adds to its betting angle. Opening betting odds made Cal 2 point chalk with 115 for the total. Early sports betting action has pushed the Bears to -2.5 while the total remains stuck at 115. 

Just as we wouldn't have been too surprised to see the Bears or Bulls wind up on the wrong side of the NCAA/NIT bubble, I'm not sure we'll be too shocked if the eventual winner moves on to the Sweet 16. The 12-seed heads to Nashville and Friday's West Regional match vs. No. 5 Temple before potentially meeting No. Michigan on Sunday. Yes, the Owls and Wolverines are talented, but still vulnerable. 

South Florida is all about the defense after the Bulls ranked seventh in the country allowing under 57 points per game. They were particularly stingy giving up the three, 13th nationally at just 29.7%. That will be one key for the game's outcome as well as the total.

Cal is a guard-dominated group led by Allen Crabbe (15.3 PPG), and it will probably fall on South Florida's Jawanza Poland to stay on the Bears' leading scorer and 3 point threat. Another key matchup will be at the point where freshman Anthony Collins of the Bulls will draw sophomore Justin Cobbs of California.

South Florida has come out on top in 11 of its last 16 games, going 10-6 ATS in that span. Still, only two of those 11 recent wins came against teams with a winning record in Big East play. Profit in Bulls contests came in backing the UNDER which cashed in 22 of the 30 games to carry a total, and 13 of 16 since mid-January.

California has been a losing proposition the last few weeks, covering just two of the most recent six trips to the floor. The Bears also sport a tendency to the low side of the total, 13-17 O/U on the campaign.

It's been over 10 years since the Bears and Bulls met. South Florida coasted to a 79-59 victory in that matchup as 5.5 point chalk. If the Bulls score 79 on Wednesday, it will mean the game goes to a third or fourth overtime.

Taking a Chance: The experience factor is hard to overlook on Lamar, but do the Cardinals have anyone who can keep Vermont's Voelkel off the boards and harass him directing the Catamounts on the offensive end? California is my initial lean in the second contest, but South Florida's ability to slow games to a crawl is more enticing. My free college basketball picks will be Lamar -3 and UNDER 115 in the Cal-South Florida match.