Friday’s SportsBIT Show: Previewing Saturday’s Round of 32
The first day of the NCAA Tournament was very chalky straight-up as only two higher-seeded teams won.
However, underdog bettors had a good opening day as many dogs covered the against the spread number offered by online sportsbooks.
Teddy & Pauly now take a look at Saturday’s Round of 32 matchups.
Northwestern Is Unbeaten!
Is Northwestern the only unbeaten team in NCAA Tournament history? The Wildcats are at the moment as they beat No. 9 Vanderbilt on Thursday in their first-ever Big Dance appearance. Northwestern had been the only Power 5 school to never play in the NCAA Tournament. The Cats caught a major break late when Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably committed an intentional foul with his team up one point. Fisher-Davis thought his club was down by one. NU made the two free throws and that was the winning margin. It was one of the few dramatic endings Thursday. Could Northwestern be a Cinderella? It plays No. 1 Gonzaga in the West Region on Saturday. Since 1985, only three first-timers have reached the Sweet 16 before being eliminated: 1986 Cleveland State (14 seed), 1987 Florida (6 seed) and 2013 FGCU (15 seed). The Zags didn’t play particularly well in the first round against South Dakota State, shooting less than 40 percent and with more turnovers than assists. They are still double-digit favorites again.
Notre Dame vs. West Virginia
Chalk matchup here between the No. 4 Mountaineers of the Big 12 and No. 5 Irish of the ACC in the West Region – the schools once were Big East foes. It’s also the early game on Saturday with a 12:10 p.m. ET tip from Buffalo. This is a battle of WVU’s athleticism and tenacity against Notre Dame’s skill and poise. The Mountaineers use full-court pressure defense whenever possible and ranked second nationally in forcing turnovers. The Irish are a cerebral team that led the country in fewest turnovers committed. A key here could be the officials and if they let WVU play aggressively without calling fouls. Notre Dame also led the country in free-throw percentage, although it struggled from the line in escaping Princeton in Round 1. Teddy & Pauly’s “Play of the Day” is Notre Dame +2.5.
Virginia vs. Florida
Another chalk matchup, this time from the East Region as the No. 5 Cavaliers of the ACC take on the No. 4 Gators from the SEC. It’s in Orlando, so UF should have a massive fan advantage as that’s a short drive to the school’s Gainesville campus. Orlando is a Gator town itself. Don’t expect much offense here as both teams ranked in the Top 5 nationally in defense. They go about it very differently. Florida uses pressure all over the court, while Virginia relies on Coach Tony Bennett’s famous “packline” defense. UVA also plays at a very slow tempo. First, one to 60 might win. If either gets to 60. Bench scoring could be vital.
Middle Tennessee vs. Butler
Don’t call the No. 12 seed Blue Raiders a Cinderella as this team has won 22 of its past 23 games and was a slight favorite over No. 5 Minnesota in the first round. Oddsmakers know how talented the Conference USA champions are. Last year, Middle Tennessee shocked No. 2 Michigan State in the first round but was then shelled by Syracuse. The players have a different mindset now. They aren’t simply happy to be in the Round of 32. No. 4 Butler led from wire-to-wire in its opening win over No. 13 Winthrop. The Bulldogs are deep, and that was on display with eight players making contributions. Kelan Martin, the team’s leading scorer this season, comes off the bench and played only 17 minutes in the first round.