1-star (720) Xavier -5.5 over Florida State. 8:40pm ET. Xavier is on a 18-6-1 ATS run in the NCAA tournament and didn't extend a lot of effort in the blowout win over Texas Southern on Friday. While Florida State looked good in their blowout win over Missouri, Terance Mann injured his groin and is doubtful here. Mann is a very key piece for the Seminoles as he averages 12.8 ppg, 5.6 rebounds per game and 2.7 assists per game. Xavier has been a good bully in non-conference action this year at 11-3 ATS and FSU's running style will play right into their hands
Forced Lean: (709) Texas A&M +6.5 over North Carolina 5:15pm ET. I'm not extremely high on this lean but it is notable that North Carolina is one of the most popular public bets of the first two rounds of the tournament so far (around 80% of the tickets). Texas A&M has the better defense (No. 12 vs No. 35), while the Aggies also have the size advantage down low. Texas A&M is better than record indicates (were 0-5 when they were missing 3 starters in late Dec/early Jan).
Forced Lean: (711/712) UMBC/Kansas State UNDER 136. 7:45pm ET. Kansas State beat Creighton without their leading scorer Dean Wade who is likely out again here. The Wildcats controlled the game from start to finish and shut down Foster for Creighton. UMBC obviously off historical upset but how do they handle spotlight? Both teams have better offenses than defenses and the UMBC/UVA game should have went under the total if not for some late game scoring.
Forced Lean: (714) Purdue -3.5 over Butler. 12:10pm ET. Isaac Haas is likely out for Purdue with a fractured elbow. He wants to play with a brace but his head coach Matt Painter said he was doubtful. The 7-foot-1 Haas averages 15 ppg, 6 rpg and replacing him is a 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms (5 ppg, 3 rpg). Purdue won 82-67 in the earlier meeting. On the other side, Butler is now 18-6-1 ATS in the NCAA tournament last 10 years. However, regardless of sport, other players tend pick up their game after a starter gets hurt at least for a one game setting and that is why I'm leaning with Purdue here.
Forced Lean: (715/716) Syracuse/Michigan State UNDER 128.5. 2:40pm ET. While Syracuse probably didn't deserve to make it to the NCAA tournament the Orange are built for the tourney as they are now on a 17-8-1 ATS run as an underdog with 13 outright upsets. The Syracuse zone defense creates a unique matchup edge, they play a slow tempo and have a veteran coach. On the other side there was a misleading final in Michigan State's (-14) 82-78 win over Bucknell as with two minutes left, it was 75-59 Michigan State. However, Bucknell went 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the final two minutes! Michigan St is 12-1 SU but just 2-9-2 ATS in their last 13 games. I think Syracuse could be tired here playing 3 games in 5 days and the Orange starting 5 averages more minutes than any other team in country! If you can attack this game in alternative betting. I like Syracuse +5 in the first half and then will bet Michigan State in the second half.
Forced Lean: (717/718) Nevada/Cincinnati UNDER 137.5. 6:10pm ET. I feel like both teams are OVERRATED. The only time Cincinnati was covering vs Georgia St happened in the final :41 due to free throws. Cincy has the worst defense (No. 50) out any team in the Top 25 of my power ratings. Meanwhile we had a misleading final and bad beat in the Nevada/Texas game the other day. In the final 38:02 of regulation, Nevada never led and were down by as many as 14 in second half. Nevada didn't take the lead until 2:26 left of OT. The game went over due to 34 points in OT (3rd most ever in an NCAA Tournament game. Cincy plays a slow tempo and I look for a lower scoring game.
Forced Lean: (722) West Virginia -6.5 (in the first half) over Marshall. 9:40pm ET. Marshall's star player John Elmore (averages 24 ppg) had 27 points in the big upset over Wichita State on Friday. However, Elmore has a tough test today as he will be defended by Devan Carter for West Virginia (one of nation's best defenders). Marshall likes to run (Top 10 in tempo) and that's not always a good look vs West Virginia as there are likely more turnovers. Press Virginia's style takes a half to get used to and that's why I like the Mountaineers in the first half.
Forced Lean: (723) Clemson +1.5 over Auburn. 7:10pm ET. I want to fade both teams especially in the next round vs Kansas. Clemson was much more impressive in the first round game as they took it to a popular New Mexico State team (in the betting markets) from start to finish. Meanwhile, we easily cashed fading Auburn in their near upset loss vs Charleston. Clemson has the better defense (No. 9 vs No. 31) and has played tougher schedule (No. 30 vs No. 56). Finally, Auburn is 3-4 SU/1-6 ATS without McLemore.