Underdogs were active during Thursday’s Round of 64 games with 10 such teams covering the spread. In fact, at one point late Thursday afternoon, underdogs had either already covered or were covering in every game. Still, despite so many favorites struggling against the number, 12 of 16 higher seeds managed to survive and advance, setting up an intriguing Saturday set of games. If you’re anything like me, filling out a bracket and joining a pool is fun, but loading up on individual games is my favorite way to do March Madness betting. So, let’s look at second round odds at New Jersey sportsbooks and run through some need-to-know information before locking in your picks.
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 6 Maryland
Neither of these teams was particularly impressive on Thursday. No. 3 seed LSU outlasted No. 14 Yale, 79-74, while Maryland barely survived No. 11 seed Belmont. Fortunately for both teams, they don’t award style points during the NCAA Tournament, and one of them is going to crack the Sweet 16.
But which team?
Let’s start with the matchup. No. 3 seeds are 17-6 straight up when playing a No. 6 seed since 2005, including wins in four-straight and in 7 of their last 8 games. Those same teams are also 13-9-1 ATS.
LSU opened as a two-point favorite, so let’s look at how higher seeds have played at the number. Teams favored by two points or less in Round of 32 games are only 16-12 straight up over the last 28 games, but No. 3 seeds favored over No. 6 seeds by two points or less are 3-1-1 ATS. Meanwhile, teams seeded exactly 3 spots higher than their opponent are 15-9-1 ATS in Round of 32 games since 2005.
LSU has also performed well ATS in neutral court and road games, going 9-5-2 ATS, while Maryland is 8-7 ATS this season.
Both teams have struggled in non-conference games. The Tigers are 5-8-1 ATS outside of the SEC, while the Terrapins are 4-7-1 ATS. In terms of recent play, LSU is 5-2 ATS over its last seven contests, while Maryland has struggled over its last five games, going 1-4 ATS.
I’ll take LSU. Initially, I thought the short spread might be reason for alarm, but favored higher seeds have historically performed well in this scenario, and I’m not a big Maryland believer, so I’ll lay the points.
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 6 Villanova
Let’s first attack this game situationally. As is the case with the LSU/Maryland matchup, teams seeded exactly 3 spots higher than their opponent are 15-9-1 ATS in Round of 32 games since ‘05. Additionally, No. 3 seeds are 17-6 straight up and 13-9-1 ATS against No. 6 seeds during that time.
In terms of the point spread, historical data favors Purdue. Teams favored by 3.5 points or less are 37-23 straight up and 12-6 straight up when favored between 3-3.5 points the last 18 times this situation has occurred.
Villanova finds itself in unfamiliar territory against Purdue given that it will be the underdog for only the sixth time this season, but that’s not necessarily an issue for Jay Wright’s squad. They’re 3-2 SU as an underdogs and 4-0-1 ATS.
Here’s some more good news for those backing Villanova. They are 6-2 straight up when facing a team shooting between 36-38% from deep. The Boilermakers are shooting 36.2% from beyond the arc this season.
Those that like Purdue will be happy to know it has performed well as a favorite this season, going 16-11-1 ATS, but is 5-8 ATS when favored on road or neutral court.
One thing is for sure: I won’t be going heavy on this game. I could totally see a scenario in which the battled-tested Wildcats grind and shoot their way past Purdue, yet the overall success of the No. 3 seed against No. 6 seeds in Round of 32 games gives me pause. Reluctantly, I’ll take Purdue to win and cover.
Quick picks and predictions
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 5 Auburn
No. 5 seeds are only 13-16 straight up against No. 4 seeds in this round since 2005, but are 3-2 when favored, as Auburn is here. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are also a dismal 1-5 both ATS and straight up as an underdog this season, and they’re only 9-16 ATS after a win. Kansas looked impressive in throttling Northeastern, but I’ve spent most of the season underwhelmed with Bill Self’s team, and I don’t trust it to reach the Sweet 16.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Baylor
Good news if you have Gonzaga going to the Sweet 16. Teams that are favored by 10 or more in the NCAA Tournament are 186-16 straight up since 2005. They’re 27-2 in Round of 32 games and an overwhelming 41-3 in such games after the opening round. Against the spread, teams favored by at least 10 points in Round of 32 games are 17-12 ATS.
TEAMS that are favored by 10 or more are 186-16 SU since 05. They’re 27-2 in Round of 32 and 41-3 after the Round of 64.
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Minnesota
Michigan State rocked Minnesota in a 24-point win back in February. The same trend in the Gonzaga game applies here. I don’t expect this game to be a repeat, but after its first round scare against Bradley, I expect the Spartans to bounce back with a win and cover against the Golden Gophers.
No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 4 Florida State
Teams that are 8 seeds higher than their opponent and favored by 5-5.5 points are 19-12 SU, but 11-19-1 ATS. I’ll roll with Murray State to not only cover, but to also grab an outright win.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 10 Florida
Teams that are eight seeds higher than their opponent and favored between 6-8 points are 19-14-1 ATS. I liked Florida to get by Nevada, but I think they’re stymied by an excellent Michigan defense here. Michigan with the win and cover.
No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 2 Kentucky
See that trend above in the Murray State/Florida State game? It applies here, too. This spread smells funny, and I’ll gladly roll with Wofford to cover the spread getting 5.5 points, but I like Kentucky to prevail. Wofford is a good team, but is 0-4 this season as an underdog against NCAA Tournament teams.