Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and (sometimes) what to drink while doing it. This week our annual special edition for March Madness: #tourneytime #MarchDadness

By Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen

Kyle is poolside at the Wynn in Vegas with Pete Rose talking about O.J.’s return to the memorabilia game (or face-down in Svedka-and-soda No. 7 with his pasty Midwestern friends at The D downtown–choose your own adventure!) and A.J. is practicing these eyes to see if his old lady will let him hitch up to Sac to watch the Ducks, and hold onto the peas chilling your fresh vasectomy scar because IT’S TIME FOR MARCH MADNESS.

AJ,

I’m usually all thrown off by college basketball’s silly season. As a native Michigander and long-time mountain-dweller, March is usually kind of a bacchanal. I meet my boys in Vegas for great weather, out-of-conference games in rapid succession and the Swedish demon that antagonizes me until baseball season starts. March Madness is usually cognitive dissonance, a weird reward for putting in hard work during basketball season: afternoons and evenings spent screaming from the couch as the wind and snow outside howls over me. A majority of the college basketball I enjoy from the Big Ten is contested during the dark of winter, in bright gyms cocooning their inhabitants from the biting chill in an analogous manner to my own living room. I generally resent the nice-weather interlopers for enjoying the payout on a parlay they really only bet the last leg of.

This year, not so much.

I’m writing this from my deck here in San Diego: the door and every window is open to 72 and sunny, my dog is lounging on the couch and I realize that aside from a pretty respectable championship-week binge, I didn’t watch a helluva lot of non-Michigan State hoops this season. I saw enough of Gonzaga to know you all should be rightfully scared shitless, and enough of Virginia to know their games are a great time to contract pink eye. But, TBH, most of my picks are going to be generalizations. Here’s a solid way to make a pick when you’re a johnny-come-lately:

How Italian are the coaches?
• Vitale calls everybody whose last name ends in a vowel a fucking paisan, but I’ll cast my lot with a dude who plays an accordion or a guy who actually wears these shoes like they’re people footwear. Really play the WOP card if you want a pick from me.

Who’s the highest seeded coach on Larry Brown’s coaching tree who’s not Larry Brown’s successor?
• ROCK. CHALK.
• AJ, I think you’ll agree with me that Coach Brown this season took his final step to becoming basketball’s The Conjuring ghost. His irascible fuck-it-I-quit act at everywhere he’s ever been is only topped by his flirtation with success at those same spots, where any glory you may earn in the wake of his selfish-ass departures is somehow still within his ability to claim on a job resume. Less than a year after Larry-ing his way out of SMU, the ponies are AAC Champs and a No. 6 seed… with Brown’s recruits. He’s like the first student loan bill you’re sent after that degree lands you a job

How rapey is the school’s football program?
• Points are docked if you, a once-charming gridiron also-ran with a competently-run hoops program exactly none of your regents cared about, have utilized the powers of closed-door meetings, the most expansive-possible definition of the word ‘consent’ and Art Briles to grab your way to the top in college’s other big sport. This is the land of points-shaving and payouts from imaginatively-named characters like Ed Martin. Keep your small hands away from our sport.

There you have it AJ, my calculus for many or even most of this year’s selections. I’ll pass it over to you with a ballad from the one, the only, Peter Monroy, who will be playing live with his eponymous band under the banners of every major D1 basketball school and banner of heaven (the Fremont Street Experience) at 10 p.m. on Wednesday. WELCOME TO THE FUCKING JUNGLE, MY FRIEND.

 

Kyle,

First off, thank you for the cover band walk-up music …and for heeding the clarion call of the Pints and Picks feature on the Ides of March. It is, without a doubt, my greatest privilege to be able to share my ephemeral pre-tip wants and desires with you. And, wow did that just sound like the beginning of some trashy bro-lit gay romance (is there such a genre?) There should be.

You captured the palm sway of the West Coast’s commitment to college hoops season better’n I, a native of these lands we took from Mexico but reeling as some now feel compelled to build a kind of half-assed multi-billion-dollar “bad-guy” border cheesecloth that could only be the fever dream of someone who’s all the way spent because their synapses are clogged with cable news and arteries crusted with the plaque of decades of overcooked beef (and catsup), could ever dare.

A-hem.

…Truly we take much for granted here in the West, water — for starters, but we also know some things as well. We do once in awhile peek under the hood of the Big 12 and the ACC …hell, even the Patriot and Ivy leagues (more on them below.) We, after all, had friends who went away to college and came back with stares cooler and better drinkers.

But that’s all, along with the picks, going to have to wait for a moment because I have to alert the reader that you, for the first time, are taking that trip. The life-changing or life-affirming or life-endangering, however it should shake out, journey through the Mojave. In a car. Oft-referenced, always revered. Hunter’s read-no-further opener, “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold” to Trent and Mike’s Vegas Baby:

…that singular trip, in the singular classic American car, eating singularly forgettable American Mexican fast food. American men (and women), somehow unlocked and hesitantly flapping to see if those wings still do their job like a couple of budgies sprung from their now beloved cages with the sunspot blind with the notion that they are, somehow, going to end up getting comped the Hangover Suite at Caesars and wake up next to Margot Robbie (speaking Australian), a stack of chips on top of a pile of coke, a lost phone that didn’t ask nor tell nor record any of the action and one, literal plastic Amex Black-sized card resting on their chest that is embossed with the words: “Hall Pass.” All he has to do is stick it in the room key box upon checkout and the bad deeds will be wiped from the record, bank accounts replenished, clothes washed, both shoes found and headache gone in the TSA line.

It takes a man at least a half-dozen trips and the expansion to completion of his frontal lobe (i.e. the entirety of his 20s) to develop an actual keen sense of Vegas.

For you Kyle, and for our loyal readers who’ve been with us since the get was go, I feel like I got to see those waning moments of what Vegas meant to a younger you — the possibility fade and the probable outcome realized as sure as sun-up as the page turned into your thirties.

No longer were you drowned in recoil with the bent-billed and cargo-shorted masses. Maybe it was time to dress up, to look up, to mix in a pint of water every three. The burger joints with the flat beers and the flat screens and the $140 lunch tab for no reason? Pfft. Should we get a cabana? no. The answer is always no. Line to the club? Fuck it all. The deplaning of Kansas and Kentucky and Florida and the Carolinas, the cheap stares at the women who are paid to get harassed for a living, but not enough, never enough. The jealous regaling and reaping of the cover bands, the stammering couple dragging a child, a fucking child, god’s last gasp at proof before he sits us all down and thwacks us across the thighs and says science does, in fact, exist, evil does, in fact, persist and what the fuck are you people doing? What good can come of all this besides pictures of your toes as you hold up a drink in the foreground? These are all things the younger you once overlooked en route to the window that you can’t help stare at unambiguously now.

I know. I’ve been there too.

Vegas isn’t clean. It’s not adult Disneyland as they like to say. There is some very real realness behind the sheen. That’s real money in those chips. Those are real fish pulled from real oceans put on real ice and displayed to rot. Those are real people, shuffling, choking. There’s this cliche of death all around you dealt with every six of clubs as the up card in Las Vegas but nary a stench of it, just a palpable resonance that everyone gets their check dropped and table turned eventually.

That stool, that perfectly unoccupied stool you found at the end of the bar, the game you wanted to see but didn’t know what was on, above you. The bartender a face you recognize, maybe from your time back there in another life among the sweet rot of bar mats and thrown away shots. His retinas bulge with cordial familiarity as he serves you up something with actual alcohol and care mixed in it, not the thing that’s turning the girls’ — tiny plastic penis on the fasteners in their hair — lips four shades of tell-tale blue. And you sip and you feel the iodine sting in your molars and think of what it must’ve been like in the ‘70s. And you wait for your boys to get back from the book or the bathroom or the other bar or wherever, but take your time boys. You close your eyes like you do on a long solo hike when you’re about to summit and squeeze out involuntary tears and breathe in the exhaust of whatever is behind the car wash strength perfumes — sweat off the nervous palms, heartbeat down in the fingertips pushing the rent on the table of the tens of thousands who are about to see their earnings split in half and chopped into that little slot on the table to the far right of the shoe, gone forever, recycled not won.

Vegas from ground level is Vegas realized …Vegas in full — dare I say, a locals’ kind of Vegas.

You have come to in in past years as a tourist aboard the silver-tipped wings of Southwest. One or two crinkled drink coupons that came from your work printer that morning, rotting with the keys you didn’t need to bring mingling with them at the bottom of your deep short pockets. You magically turned the papers into Miller Lites. You stood up to the chagrin of the fertilizer salesman sitting next to you trying to add a new image of a tractor to slide 17 of his PowerPoint deck and cheers’d your buddy in 16 D. And there it was, popping out from the desert on your descent, nothing but a mere mini-golf course, you saw right through it then, the mirage, the literal Mirage…

You knew that you would take a piece of the town down.

Even as you made your way, wearing a fucking backpack, serpentine though the red carpet maze of McCarron’s main terminal to be sprung instantly into the beep and luggage roller, and woo-girls on the asphalt stink of it, that dream didn’t somehow vanish. A sign. A cab number with most of the digits of your birthday, a girl with a butterfly anklet tattoo looking at you twice before she shut the door of the blue mini van with the middle seats removed. A guy popping out of a gypsy limo sunroof in adulation at the the four-lane left turn to get onto Tropicana Avenue. Your airy approach gave a springboard-like effect one that buoyed you all the way to the home tarmac.

There are people who admire deserts. I am one of them. I don’t call them beautiful or mysterious as much as revere them for their necessity. The suggestion of life as we’re bound to leave it. Nature’s five o’clock shadow and our inevitable recompense to sit out there, alone for all time, sand whittling down our bleached bones to mere grains for us to join the grains over the eons as the future drives by. You will, on that cold hard fossil-fueled hammer down on 1-15 at one point see the vultures circle something a half mile off the road. You won’t think of it much. Don’t worry if you do. It’s not a symbol or a metaphor or a foreboding image. Just remember though, they’re viewing you from above and they know, better than anyone in a car headed to Oz ever has, the eventual outcome.

Now onto the picks.

AJ,

I want all of that. The dirt, the desperate push past Riverside before rush hour, the build to Vegas that’s realer than any touchdown at Senator Pat’s airport ever could be. I want to see capitalism’s overstuffed cosmetics bag from the land approach.

To do that, though, I need a reason. Something more than Britney swinging on faux vines and Corona cans on the lazy river. I need hoops. So, for the first time this year, let’s bet.

THURSDAY

Princeton +7.5 vs. Notre Dame
The Tigers are a team-sized offspeed pitch. Not only does the backdoor offense keep defenses from really doubling, but Princeton runs a 9-man rotation as opposed to Notre Dame’s 7 man plus platoons. They returned four starters from last year’s team and managed a 10.6 point win margin this season. The Irish are a talented squad and Bonzie Colson can do a little bit of everything, but ND just doesn’t have the shooters to put the Tigers away big.

UNCW vs. Virginia -7.5
Tony Bennett’s Virginia team is one of the most terrifying to take the court at this tournament. The Hoos are 18-12 against the spread and played the ninth-hardest schedule in the country. On top of that, they strangle the life out of their opponents like Bennett’s father’s Wisconsin teams used to. UNCW lives and dies by the three, which Virginia’s brutal pack line defense should negate. Just four opponents scored 70-plus points against the Hoos, and multiple teams couldn’t limp over the 40-point barrier. You’d better hit every shot you see against UVa, because the tempo their defense forces won’t let you see more. UNCW isn’t the team to do it.

SDSU vs. Gonzaga -22.5

A haiku of Gonzaga:
By twenty-three points,
Gonzaga wins its games big,
Final Four bound team.

Bucknell vs. West Virginia -14
OK, I see that I’m getting chalky here, and WVU isn’t my favorite pick in the world. But, the Big 12 was a murderer’s row this year, and Huggy’s squad plays at a frenetic pace. Bucknell was 2-2 against tourney teams this season and didn’t see anyone above a 13-seed. I’m betting the Mountaineers are too much for the Bison on Thursday.

Middle Tennessee PUSH vs. Minnesota
If this line shifts anywhere near Minnesota’s favor, bet the living shit out of the Blue Raiders. They were 23-10 ATS this season and won by an average of 11.7 points. Minnesota struggled in the decidedly flat B1G and, save a late-season win over Michigan State, hasn’t looked convincing against a tournament-bound team in three weeks.

Northwestern +1 vs. Vanderbilt
Go Cats!

Xavier vs. Maryland -2
Two is about as much as I like Maryland. I’m basing that maybe entirely on Melo Trimble. The junior guard leaned into this season and found his way back to scoring prominence after struggling in his first season as ‘the man’ last year. He’s not the revelation he was as a freshman, though. Trimble is a tough, not-very-efficient scorer who turns the ball over only slightly less than he dishes dimes, at 3.0 and 3.7 per game, respectively. Still, he’ll likely be the most talented kid on the floor Thursday, and that counts for something.

VCU vs. St. Mary’s -4.5
This isn’t Shaka Smart’s VCU team—the 26-8 Rams gave up two losses in a row almost every time they lost one game this season, as six of their losses came during three back-to-back stretches. Aside from that, St. Mary’s is the more veteran team with three starters back from last year’s squad and they were 15-12-2 ATS this season.

Va. Tech vs. Wisconsin -5.5
Don’t like that you’re not seeing too many upsets here? Too bad. There’s a reason those come along about as frequently as whooping cough did pre-Anti-Vax era. Pull the plunger back, stab the needle in and let the Badgers deliver the sweet fiduciary protection only five returning starters, an 11.3-point winning margin and superior strength of schedule can deliver. Your doctor says so.

North Dakota vs. Arizona -17
God, Vegas is going to be lousy with Bearcat guy. Dude rolls in, inevitably in a visor, bitches about the cold, openly pines for Tiff at the Kilt in Scottsdale and his boys at Spring Training, then screams BEAR DOWN as robustly as his Marlboro-stained lungs will let him. He’ll definitely find some way to get on the Wynn course, hate it like everyone does, and stiff his caddy with an ‘I’ll pick you up after I hit the 19th.’ Good thing that bigass viking Lauri Markkanen has his back.

Nevada +6 vs. Iowa State
156.5 OVER

Here’s how betting the over goes for me:
Me: I’ll take THE OVER in the 177 game.
Bookie: OK.
Me: YOU GOT THAT SIR/MA’AM!? THE OVER. THE 177 GAME.
Bookie: Sure.
Me: OK, can I get those drink tickets?
Bookie: You didn’t play more than $300
Me: //fumbles in pockets, glowers, wonders if I’ll clear that mark if I ever ticket I play that day hits.
Me: I’ll be back for those drink tickets.
Me: //stumbles toward the Sbarro.

FRIDAY

MSU vs. Miami -2
Let’s not even talk about this line. Or, you know what, let’s! The ‘Canes play good defense and this particular Michigan State team is the most inconsistent I’ve seen in a decade-plus. It’s usually a good thing when a different guy steps up for your team every night. That’s how broadcasters have told you every baseball team (non-MadBum edition) since 19-dickety-two has won the World Series. In basketball, though, you kinda need a ‘the man.’ Michigan State has Myles Bridges, who is a freak-of-nature three who disappears for stretches at a time. If he steps up, this team can test and maaaaaybe beat Kansas on Sunday. I don’t see it, though.

OSU +2.5 vs. Michigan
Oklahoma State played the nation’s toughest schedule, and that has to count for something. They’ve also got Vegas’ number, clocking a 16-11 ATS record this season. I’m betting Ann Arbor money pours in on this game and you can get them at a wider spread than is recorded here. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Michigan squeak by with the literal slimmest of margins.

Seton Hall vs. Arkansas -1
The Hogs just saw the fully-operational battle station that was Kentucky in the SEC tournament, and they’d put together an impressive tourney run before that. I’m guessing they can handle the Pirates.

Jacksonville St. vs. Louisville -19.5
Get 19.5 if you can. Take 22 if it’s on the board. This Louisville team spaces the floor like an NBA squad and played through a gauntlet in the ACC this season.

Marquette +2.5 vs. South Carolina
This game will be soft as a sock. Neither team is even good on the boards, but where Marquette is balanced, South Carolina leans heavily on Sindarius Thornwell. If the Cocks’ guard can’t find the bucket from the field, Carolina loses, regardless of how well he does at the charity stripe. The bad news is that he’s been shooting at about a .350 clip over SC’s last two games, both Ls.

Kent St. vs. UCLA -17
The boys from Westwood are a trendy pick this tournament, and with good reason: Their 15 ppg winning margin is one of the best in college basketball. But, until Coach Steve Alford can get to AND do something on weekend #2, we’ll just call them a lock for the opener, for now.

Alright AJ, bring us home.

I gotta admit Kyle, I’m a bit jealous of how dialed you are when it comes to the next 72 hours. You have your Honda Fit gassed up with plenty of Trader Joe’s organic fruit snacks in the center console, reservations at Caesars are printed out and stuffed in your shirt pocket and your bets are already scratched on a note that you can just slip ‘em through the window whether you’ve been roofied at the Spanish Steps or not. Plus, you get to drop a mutherfuckin’ pin on the Barstow Del Taco dead ahead on the g-maps as you get passed on the right going 90 through Primm.

Me, it’s not so easy. Oregon, my alma mater, tips off at 11 a.m. at the Golden 1 Center (<– btw is the new home of the NBA Kings the first — and only — stadia named after a credit union? Say it ain’t so. Follow-up question: Are credit unions the new savings and loans?/Fannie and Freddie?) in Sac.

Originally, I was thinking the game would be more in prime time and I could sneak out around noon, be up well in time for a 5 p.m. tip, enjoy a couple flat green brews, crash at my sister’s in nearby Davis, up early and home in time for a Saturday a.m. Starbucks run.

But the Ducks/Iona match up is decidedly an undercard on Friday. Or maybe it’s the undercard’s undercard. The junior featherweight tilt of the day. I could, conceivably, leave home at 6 a.m. and be up there by 10, 300 miles, exactly on the odometer. Scalp and enjoy and be back on the road by 2:15 in time to pick up a Wombo Combo at Round Table on the way back into town. A half-decade ago this type of Cannonball Run fueled by Howard Stern, 5-Hour Energy and a big and worthless lip of Red Man (has there ever been once be a more racist and harmful product?) would be a no-brainer. It would’ve been a bigger challenge asking me to go the the grocery store to buy milk and eggs. But the times, they have-a-changed.

Now, I’m pretty sure my partner in crime would be more than willing to have me drive 8 hours in instead of me grousing on the couch — but do I wait and see how game one shakes down? In other words, the Ducks, sans the services of senior forward/glue guy Chris Boucher (the Pac-12 leader in blocks lost for the season/knee during the Pac-12 championships — ugh!), are now vulnerable against the Gales who are making their first tourney appearance since ‘12 with depth (seven players who have scored 20 or more this season) and a spate of MAAC wins to cruise into mid-March.

This is what’s called “fan bargaining.” If Oregon drops a first-rounder to Iona, at least I don’t have a four-hour drive back down to think about it. If they move on to Sunday, I can continue the debate …again, all while you sit Caesar’s poolside and juxtapose the color of the water to the sky and back to the water and back to the sky and back to the sky …till they all blend into the singular color of a test tube shot that somehow found its way into your paw.

Decisions decisions.

To the picks:

THURSDAY

Princeton +7.5 vs. Notre Dame
A kind of classic 12-5 match up that will have lots of folks (including me and you) betting the underdog Tigers — but for good reason. The Ivys were solid this year, as they are nearly every year. They come to win first-round games (four of their last ten as heavy dogs) and they always keep ‘em to one score/the final possession. Princeton didn’t lose a league game this year and, as you mentioned Kyle, has good mid-range shooters that Notre Dame with all its physicality will have a tough time taking a step out and defending. Though from beyond the arc Princeton isn’t all that (.381) they do tend to get a hot hand. I expect Notre Dame to advance but if you want to start Thursday with a little pocket change take Dean Cain’s alma mater.

Nevada +6 vs. Iowa State
Kyle, I couldn’t agree more about putting everything on the over here and making that your marquee bet of the first round. The verily underestimated and underwatched Mountain West (hell, I could barely find a Wolfpack Game at Crosby’s) has produced one of the tournament’s most up-tempo teams in Nevada. Former Golden State and Sacramento (that’s NBA holmes) HC Eric Musselman put in a pro-set offense which is a kind of strange hybrid of Mike D’Antoni meets Don Nelson…in other words, they pass fast and shoot a shitton. Senior Marcus Marshall, a transfer from Missouri State, and his 19.8 ppg, possesses NBA second-rounder stuff and has found new life in the rarified air of Reno. The Cyclones, however, are equally adept at scoring and running and spreading it around. The winners of the Big 12 tournament will be outsized by the Pack (and will be the small team for most of the tournament should they advance) but they’re fast and they ball. A 190 under would still be a safe(ish) bet here and I like this game to be pinball scoring and knotted till the final two minutes with the Cyclones finally tiring the Pack in the waning :90 and sinking a three-dagger to advance.

Bucknell +14 vs. West Virginia
For continuity sake, I don’t like betting against you Kyle, but with the Bison I must side. Agree that 4 seed WVU had to overcome struggles to end up near the top of the Big 12 and Bucknell was only .500 against quasi-ranked opponents, but there’s also a manner of the Mountaineers trying to contain Patriot League Player of the Year Nana Foulland, who is a force inside and opens things up for the team’s leading scorer Zach Thomas (16 ppg) on the outside. Foulland is also shooting 62.8 percent from the field and pads his scoring stats with 2.1 blocks and 7.8 rebounds per game. Granted, WVU’s defense is relentless but if they take the bait and key on Foulland, the Bison should have plenty of opportunity to hit from beyond the arc. If they can get in rhythm, they’ll keep it single digits till the buzzer.

Minnesota PUSH vs, Middle Tennessee State
The second one we don’t totally agree on Kyle, but with all due respect I feel like you’ve still got a hangover from Middle Tennessee State’s first-round dismissal of your Spartans last year. Don’t believe the hype. The Blue Raiders aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year as senior Reggie Upshaw comes into the matchup with more than 1,000 points, 500 boards, 200 assists and 100 steals for his career, not bad. The Gophers, after Richard Pitino (son of Rick) turned around an 8-23 squad to float atop the Big Ten (thanks to the conference’s defensive player of the year, Reggie Lynch), should slow the Raiders’ roll and give them a taste of their own one-and-done medicine Thursday. It’s important to note the the Gophers have also gotten progressively better as the calendar page turned to March, including some inspired play in the Big Ten tourney. Because of seeding, they’re a darkhorse Sweet 16 squad if they get past Thursday and the Big Ten team to avenge Sparty’s early exit in ‘16.

Gonzaga -22 vs. South Dakota State
I saw you steered clear of this one, Kyle. I get it. I get it. This has EVERY sign of a first-round nail biter. The clearly superior in every aspect Bulldogs vs. a happy-to-be-there Jackrabbit squad. The one that truTV cuts to when the Butler game gets out of hand. Again, I get it. But Zags are gonna find their legs in the first four minutes and won’t look back. They should cruise to a 33-point victory even with starters pulled over the course of the last nine minutes.

FRIDAY

Marquette +2.5 vs. South Carolina
This game is at the ass-end of a 48-hour hoops orgy and you may not want to even wait around to collect should the Golden Eagles win, but it is as close to a sure-thing “upset” that there is in the opening round. Marquette (five players averaging double-digits and a nation’s best three-point percentage at 43.1) is too much for Frank Martin’s Gamecocks. Even though SC is playing in the homey confines of Greenville, S.C. the team is undisciplined with the ball and faces an annoying Marquette squad which forces more than 17 turnovers per game. I suspect Chris Farley’s alma mater will advance to the round of 32 by close to double digits.

UCLA -17 vs Kent St.
I truly want to believe that this is UCLA’s year. Coach Steve Alford and shooting guard son, Bryce (a senior) want to take this act as deep into the tournament as the fates will allow. Kent State, winners of nine of their last ten, look to play spoiler, but Golden Flashes coach Rob Senderoff has seen nothing — maybe in his career — like this Westwood squad. Six Bruins average double-digits in scoring and they put up a nation-leading 90.4 ppg. Sheeeeit. Senderoff’s staunch defenders might not find their footing in time, and I like something in a 93-67 final score.

MSU +2 vs. Miami
Kyle, you’re backing off MSU for all the right reasons (this year’s streaky and a bit frazzled and anemic Sparty squad and hedging your bets to get not-too-hopeful about making it out of the first *gulp* round, I get it.) And truly for this rag-tag MSU v. ‘1.7 it seems logical to not want to pay too much attention or get aspirations going past St. Paddy’s. But real money (albeit a small amount) should be placed on their minor upsetting of the ‘Canes. Miami, it should be noted, has beaten Duke, Virginia and North Carolina, but their bench is thin and Izzo is planning to use this first-round game (before they hit the Kansas buzzsaw) as a coming out party for freshman Miles Bridges, whose physical and frenetic play will give an already strained Miami D fits and supply MSU with the edge it needs to go up in the late second half. This game, and your bet, rides on whether the suddenly young again Spartans can make their free throws.

…Which brings me full-circle to:

Iona +15 vs. Oregon
Kyle, I just scolded you for betting against your boys, but Oregon’s only double-digit wins this year were against schools like Oregon State and Arizona State. In other words, the fast-paced Ducks managed to play scant enough defense to keep close games close. The loss of forward Boucher cannot be underestimated, especially for an Oregon squad with a nothing bench. Not only did his absence cost the Ducks the Pac 12 tournament championship but dropped them from a potential no. 1 to three seed. For their part, Iona is 18-1 when it sinks double digit 3s and could come to City of Trees firing from the outside. The Ducks do still have Dylan Ennis, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, three of the nation’s best on offense, but if the Gaels heat up they could keep it close. Look for an 8-point Duck victory and on to face… Rhode Island (upset alert) Sunday.

For what it’s worth, if you find yourself at the window before tip tonight, I like UC Davis to play in to face Kansas on Friday. Hey, an Aggie can always dream.

 

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