Tennessee over Massachusetts for NCAA Tournament Picks

Ross Benjamin

Thursday, March 20, 2014 3:39 PM GMT

The #6 seed Massachusetts Minutemen (24-8) square off with the 11th seeded Tennessee Volunteers (22-12) on Friday in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional. Where does the best value lay for our NCAA Tournament picks?

According to college basketball betting odds there was no point-spread or total posted at the time of this writing. My personal power numbers indicate that Tennessee would be a 4.5 point favorite on a neutral court. My educated guess on the total would be on or around 139.5.Tennessee finished 4th in the SEC regular season standings, and advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals before losing to Florida 56-49. Massachusetts finished tied for 5th in the Atlantic 10, and then lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals to George Washington.

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Tough Turnaround for the Volunteers

This will be a difficult spot for the Tennessee Volunteers. They played in the late contest of the NCAA Tournament play-in-game on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, and then were extended to overtime in their 78-65 win over Iowa. They proceeded to jump on a plane and fly to Raleigh, North Carolina for their 2nd round game, and will have to face an opponent that hasn’t played since last Thursday, in addition to having an unfavorable early tip time. However, emotion and momentum can carry a team a long way at this time of the year. The Volunteers have plenty off that heading into this contest. They’ve won 6 of their last 7-games, and overcame an early 16-4 deficit versus Iowa on Wednesday. The Volunteers are an excellent defensive team that was 17th nationally allowing just 61.2 points per game. In their previous 6-games they’ve held opponents to a paltry 50.3 points per contest. Tennessee is also one of the premier rebounding teams in the country ranking 3rd nationally at a +8.9 differential per game.

Under the Radar

A lot of experts including myself were a bit surprised to see Massachusetts be awarded a #6 seed. Much of that feeling had to do with the Minutemen going 7-6 in their previous 13-games. After further examination you can understand what the tournament committee was seeing. The Minutemen posted wins this season over St. Joseph’s, George Washington, VCU, Providence, BYU, and New Mexico who are all NCAA Tournament participants. They also knocked off quality teams from power conferences like LSU and Clemson. This is a balanced club that has 7 players who average between 8.8 to 15.8 points per game.

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Intriguing Matchup

This contest looks like it will shape up to be one of the better 2nd round games of the tournament. Tennessee is a very difficult team to play against. The Volunteers play suffocating defense, and are monsters on the boards. Massachusetts has played a very tough non-conference schedule while doing more than hold their own in doing so. The Minutemen’s own conference (Atlantic 10) received 5 at-large bids to the “Big Dance” which shows the quality of competition they faced this season. My past experiences have showed me that when you have a lower seed this early in the tournament as a favorite over a higher seed, that more times than not the lower seed prevails. That being my only precedent right now, and being at a disadvantage to what the official line will be, makes my smallest of leans going toward Tennessee for my college basketball picks.

NCAA Tournament Pick: Tennessee over Massachusetts