#1 Seed – Virginia
The Cavaliers got an eye-opener in the first round when little Coastal Carolina held a five point lead after the first half of play. And while that proved to be the death knell for any chance of getting a cover in college basketball odds by the heavily favored Cavaliers, it did awaken a sleeping giant. Virginia steamrolled the overmatched Chanticleers in the second half and cruised to a 70-59 victory but still fell well short of a cover.
Virginia apparently learned their lesson when they took the court against eighth seeded Memphis in the round of 32 and vaulted to a 15 point first half lead en route to an effortless 78-60 win and an easy cover for their backers as 6 ½ point favorites. The victory ticketed the Cavaliers to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1995.
Virginia has now tied the school record for most victories in a season and secured their first ACC tournament title since 1976. They are the number one team in the nation defensively, allowing a paltry 55.5 points per game. In their victory over Memphis, the Cavs hustled for every loose ball and out-rebounded the Tigers to the tune of 40-28. It was pure Virginia basketball and Memphis had no answers to the questions posed by a stingy Virginia defense.
#4 Seed – Michigan State
Those punters who bet MSU early in the opening round were rewarded in their NCAA basketball picks because the oddsmakers were dealing a line that was sharp but not quite sharp enough to reap the big bucks being sent in on the heavily favored Spartans. Michigan State cruised to a 93-78 win over Delaware which spelled a narrow cover for anyone getting down early on MSU-14. But for those who waited until the spread climbed to 15, it was like kissing your sister. No saliva swapped or in this case, no money exchanged.
In the following game, MSU picked up right where they left off as they opened up a 12 point lead at the half over what looked like a star-struck Harvard squad. But the smart kids from Cambridge proved to be a plucky bunch when they roared back in the second half to take the lead but ultimately fell 80-73. It was a good day for the Spartans’ fans but a bad beat for those who backed MSU as 8 ½ point chalk. Junior hybrid forward Branden Dawson led the way for Michigan State with a career high 26 points and a team high nine rebounds.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick:
Virginia has had an outstanding season as evidenced by their number one seed in the East region and an ACC tournament title in the bag. They have won their first two games in the Big Dance yet are rewarded for all their hard work as an underdog by the oddsmakers in their tilt with fourth-seeded Michigan State. Why, oh why, the Cavaliers fans ask? Well, this tournament ain’t about fanboys for those who peruse the galleries of SBR, it’s about getting down on the right side of the game. That’s why the oddsmakers have this one right. MSU will win and they will win by five or better.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo is about as good as it gets in college basketball. He’s been there, done that and even has the T-shirt to prove it. This is a seasoned, veteran coach who knows all the pitfalls when the games matter. Though Virginia’s formidable defense will be a challenge, it will be their lack of an offense that will see them fall behind once the Michigan State train gets rolling. We have seen ironclad defenses defeat offensive juggernauts before (think Super Bowl XLVIII) but not here.
NCAA Tournament Pick: Spartans -1 ½ at Bet365.com.