Our handicapper knows which teams he will be watching for valuable betting lines come tournament time. Read on as he explores three dark horses that should not be overlooked for NCAA Basketball picks in the NCAA Tournament for ATS bettors.
The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are one of the most culturally important sporting events in the country. Office bracket pools are won and lost by who can pick out those teams that can beat a big-name favorite. Commonly known as Cinderella’s, these teams are important to bettor’s as they are almost always money line and ATS underdogs as they match up with teams with public name recognition. The following are just a few teams we will be watching here at SBR, as they could bring big wagering value against the March Madness odds in possible runs to the Sweet Sixteen.
Monmouth Hawks (25-6): Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Monmouth was so pleased with the outcome of their regular season that they extended their head coach, King Rice, to a five-year extension through 2021. The Hawks clinched the regular season title with the Iona Gaels (19-10) one game behind in conference play. These teams split their two games in the regular season and had one fist fight for good measure. With an RPI ranking of 52, the Hawks probably still need to win their conference tournament for a sure bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Should they get through, Monmouth has the wins over quality opponents that make you believe they could make a mess out of your bracket. The Hawks have beat two top-50 RPI teams this year in Notre Dame and USC, and have other quality wins against UCLA and Georgetown. They have a dynamic player in diminutive junior guard, Justin Robinson, who doesn’t care that he is 5’ 8” while putting up an average of 20.2 points per game.
Currently projected to be an 11 seed, look for Monmouth to have a favorable matchup against a 3rd or 4th place team from a major conference such as California, Louisville, or Baylor in the first round.
Dayton Flyers (22-6): Atlantic 10 Conference
The Flyers are coming into the NCAA Tournament on a weak note, which is exactly why they could be overlooked in the first two rounds. Dayton’s non-conference schedule has been aggressive this year, and they’ve racked up some signature wins in getting their RPI up to a respectable ranking of 25. The Flyers have top-75 RPI wins over Iowa, St. Bonaventure, Vanderbilt, Monmouth, Alabama, George Washington, Davidson, and William & Mary.
I particularly like Dayton because their starting roster is full of upper classmen. Experience helps in the tournament as nerves fray under the pressure. They also have one of the best names in college basketball with junior guard, Scoochie Smith. Who doesn’t want to root for a guy named Scoochie?
Currently, the Flyers are projected to be a 6 seed in the tournament. While that doesn’t exactly spell for an upset in the first round, the Seniors of Dayton could be more than enough to handle for the projected 3 seed matchup in the second.
Colorado Buffaloes (21-9): Pac-12 Conference
Colorado is projected to be a 6th or 7th seed at the moment and those in office pools will want to make the trendy March Madness pick and have them getting bounced by a mid-major in the first round. I’m here to tell you that is not a very good idea. Now, it is really hard to call a team from the Pac-12 a Cinderella, but the Buffaloes will be overlooked by many in this tournament field. They just aren’t in this position often, and have already tied the school record for most regular season wins this year.
Holder of an RPI ranking of 28, Colorado has quality wins over top-35 RPI teams in Oregon, California, Arizona, and Oregon State, as well as six more wins against teams in the RPI top-100. Colorado is another team with mostly upper classmen in their starting five, and they are led by 6’ 10” senior forward, Josh Scott, who averages 16.7 points per game along with 8.8 rebounds.
Colorado was 16-1 at home this year, so pay special attention to them if they get a close assignment in the first two rounds of the tournament such as Spokane, Oklahoma City, or Denver.