Free NCAA Tournament Picks: Oregon To Fly Over Holy Cross

Jason Lake

Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:34 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016 3:34 PM UTC

The No. 1 Oregon Ducks are one of the most profitable basketball picks in the March Madness tournament. But nobody can hold a candle to the No. 16 Holy Cross Crusaders.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 16: 18-12 ATS, 1-2 Totals

Hold onto your hats, folks, because March Madness is about to get politically incorrect. The No. 16 seed in the West Region has been decided: It's the Holy Cross Crusaders of the Patriot League. Holy Cross and Valparaiso are the only colleges left in Division I that call their teams Crusaders. They're both private institutions, Holy Cross being Jesuit and Valpo being Lutheran. Fun facts.

Here's another fun fact: Holy Cross is perfect against the spread this year. Okay, 6-0 ATS isn't earth-shattering by any means, but it's definitely worth noting as we get ready for Friday's first-round matchup (7:27 p.m. ET, truTV) with the No. 1 Oregon Ducks, whose name is offensive because it rhymes with... um, trucks. We're still waiting for the first lines on this game to hit our NCAA Tournament odds as we go to press.


Patriot Lames
Guess we'll have to make some lines of our own. Let's dust off the old TRS-80 Model III and see what happens when we plug in our favorite hoop nerd projections:

FiveThirtyEight (Elo): Oregon –17 to –17.5
Sports-Reference (SRS): Oregon –29.07

Great, they just broke my TRS-80. We're dealing with perhaps the biggest mismatch in this year's Tournament; as we've seen in our other NCAA Tournament picks for the West Region, Simple Rating System is not a fan of the teams from the lower conferences. The Patriot League itself ranks No. 27 out of the 32 conferences in Division I, by the way. And Holy Cross (14-19 SU) was their second-worst team during the regular season. Welcome to the Big Dance~!


Duck and Cover
Well, let's dial that assessment back a little. Holy Cross had the second-worst record in the Patriot League at 5-13, but at –10.9 SRS, they performed better than the 9-9 American Eagles (–14.0 SRS), and nearly as well as the 8-10 Loyola Greyhounds (–10.6 SRS). Maybe they're not so bad after all. No, they are: Holy Cross checks in at No. 268 overall (No. 298 offense, No. 215 defense) on Ken Pomeroy's efficiency charts.

And yet Holy Cross went a perfect 4-0 SU and ATS during Champ Week, then they beat the Southern Jaguars (–2.5) 59-55 during Wednesday's First Four game in Dayton. That's five straight upset victories. If this team were playing someone other than the Ducks (28-6 SU, 19-12 ATS), we'd be more than happy to recommend Holy Cross without even knowing the odds.

But Oregon is on the ascendancy at 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS in their last six games, earning the surprise No. 1 seed in the process. The Ducks steamrolled the Utah Runnin' Utes (speaking of politically incorrect) by 31 points in the Pac-12 final, too, so running up the score is obviously not an issue for them. Let's roll with Oregon, and may the sphere be with you.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Oregon -23
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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