NCAA Tournament Picks of the Day: Top Plays for Thursday's Games

David Lawrence

Thursday, March 19, 2015 12:18 PM GMT

Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015 12:18 PM GMT

The NCAA tournament begins on Thursday with 16 games. We’ve got college basketball picks and previews up all over the site and below, we’ve got three more to get your appetite whet.

UCLA Bruins vs. SMU Mustangs 
Thursday, Approx. 3:10 PM ET Game in Louisville
Odds: SMU -4
This game is one that should be very even, at least to the extent that SMU won’t be able to cover NCAA Tournament odds. UCLA played Arizona close last Friday, and SMU does not face that kind of competition in its league, the American Athletic Conference. SMU has lost only three times in its last 21 games, but that is a reflection of how weak its conference is. UCLA has been tested by the likes of Arizona, Utah and Oregon, and that’s what’s going to carry the Bruins past the Mustangs in this game.

Free NCAA Tournament Pick: UCLA +4 at 5Dimes

 

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams 
Thursday, Approx. 4:40 PM ET Game in Portland
Odds: Ohio State -4
This game could be very close, not just because Ohio State has struggled this season, falling from a number six seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament to a number 10 seed this season. It should also be close because Virginia Commonwealth might not be a sitting duck. The Rams had lost five out of eight games late in the regular season. They were struggling without one of their spiritual leaders and most productive scorers, Briante Weber, who was also a catalyst for their extended pressure defense, nicknamed “Havoc.” However, Virginia Commonwealth caught fire in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, winning four games in four days to win the tournament championship. VCU head coach Shaka Smart might have found a way to win with Weber, and VCU should at least be able to play this game on equal terms, keeping it close.

Ohio State will probably win the game because freshman star D’Angelo Russell can be counted on to get big baskets late in a close one, but VCU is a good choice to at least cover the number.

Free NCAA Tournament Pick:  VCU +4 at The Greek

 

Wofford Terriers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Thursday, Approx. 9:50 PM ET Game in Jacksonville
Odds: Arkansas -7.5
This game could be a blowout, given that Arkansas is one of the top 25 teams in the nation in points scored per game. However, one thing Arkansas relies on is its defense’s ability to get turnovers, feeding the fast break and leading to easy baskets at the other end of the court. Wofford, though, is one of the top 80 teams in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. Given that there are 351 teams in Division I college basketball, that’s not bad at all. Wofford is not a spectacular team, but it’s solid at a lot of things. The Terriers are also a top-90 team in terms of shooting percentage.

Most of all, Wofford is in the top 50 in the nation in scoring defense. The Terriers do not allow their opponents to feel very comfortable on offense. Arkansas has an outstanding forward, Bobby Portis, who averages 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Wofford will have a very difficult time containing him as a scorer and on the backboard. However, Wofford’s balance as a group, with a very structurally sound team offense and team defense, will flummox the Razorbacks and keep this game very close. Wofford is a very good NCAA tournament pick to cover the spread, and it has a realistic chance of winning this game outright.  

Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Wofford +7.5 at Bodog

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