NCAA Tournament Picks: Run With Utah ATS vs. Fresno St. In Round 1

Joe Gavazzi

Thursday, March 17, 2016 2:00 PM GMT

The Fresno St. Bulldogs and the Utah Runnin’ Utes meet in the altitude of Denver for this 1st Round NCAA matchup. See who will be my NCAA Tournament pick.

Fresno St. vs. Utah
As is true of many 1st Round meets, this one features a quality mid-major team in Fresno vs. a team from the upper-echelon of a power conference.  If that power team is coming off a loss, as is Utah and they are facing the inferior team off a CCT underdog victory, the emotion of the evening often falls to the favorite.  

Anyone who witnessed Fresno’s lethargic defensive performance in their (95-82) 6% victory over UNLV in their first CCT game, must wonder how they could have held Colorado St. and San Diego St. to a combined 119 points in sweeping to the MWC CCT crown.  I know I sure do!  Now, the Bulldogs enter the rarified air of the NCAA Tournament on runs of 9-0 SU, 8-1 ATS.  

Loaded with veteran perimeter talent led by Marvelle Harris, the underrated coaching of HC Terry and a better than advertised defense allowing just 42%, there is lots to like about the (8.3) 3* fundamentals of Fresno.  And, remember that last year, CCT winners went 17-8 ATS as 1st Round dogs in the NCAA.  Though each of these teams went 10-7 SU away from home, the Utes did so against a much more difficult schedule.  And, for as well as Fresno played down the stretch, Utah was equally as hot!  

Entering the CCT Finals against Oregon, the Utes were on a 9-0 SU, 7-2 ATS run, having just knocked off USC and California.  But, the bottom fell out in an (88-57) embarrassment to Oregon in the Final, leaving the Utes with full focus for today’s matchup with no look ahead to Saturday’s game.  Utah’s defensive numbers, against the far superior schedule, are a virtual mirror image to Fresno.  But, the offensive numbers in which they average 78 PPG on 49% shooting far outweigh the Bulldogs.  

Jakob Poeltl is a big edge up front against the smaller, Edo, of the Bulldogs, while Utes’ HC Krystkowiak is seldom outmatched on the pine.  In addition, this has been a profitable role for the western version of Coach K, who has covered 70% of the time in his career as a favorite of this magnitude.  A slight edge in fundamentals is abetted by a huge situational advantage, making the Utes worth a play in this Round 1 matchup.

I invite you to put the NCAA Tournament odds in your favor and join me in my NCAA Tournament picks on Utah tonight.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Utah -9
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes