Round two of March Madness is here! Our bracketologist, Dr. Senkbeil, is still killing it. Saturday’s game picks are below. Who are you rooting for?
DR. SENKBEIL STATS:
- Straight picks: 29-3
- Against the spread: 11-10-1 push (Wichita vs. Dayton)
WEST VIRGINIA (-2.5) vs. NOTRE DAME
Projected Winner: West Virginia
West Virginia never pulled away from Bucknell and Notre Dame and could not shake Princeton. Neither team looked great. WVU is most statistically similar to Louisville, and Notre Dame split with Louisville this year winning and losing by 7. I think the WVU defense makes a difference here, but I can also see a game where Notre Dame continues to break the pressure and get open 3s. I will take WVU for the win, but Notre Dame on the cover in a close game.
VILLANOVA (-6) vs. WISCONSIN
Projected Winner: Villanova
Nova looked (insert your adjective here) against Mt. St Mary’s. Wisconsin looked solid against Va Tech. Villanova (3,10, and slow 323) is one of the most impressive statistical teams in the tournament. Wisconsin plays even slower than Villanova which makes me think that either team will struggle to establish a lead of more than 8 points. I do not see s statistical analog or similar team that Wisconsin has played this year. Nova beat Virginia 61-59, and the Cavs are similar to Wisconsin. Expect something resembling that game with a narrow Nova win, but Wisconsin stays within 6.
GONZAGA (-11) vs. NORTHWESTERN
Projected Winner: Gonzaga
Gonzaga (12,1, tempo 81) has the best numbers of any team in the tournament. They looked bad two days ago, but if this huge team wakes up they will be difficult to beat. You beat them with superior guard play and pressure, pressure, pressure. WVU will give them trouble if WVU can get past Notre Dame. Northwestern looks overmatched here and Vegas agrees. Gonzaga needs to shake off the rust and show the other teams that they are for real this year. Zags big.
FLORIDA STATE (-6.5) vs. XAVIER
Projected Winner: Florida State
Massive Florida State (28, 23, tempo 36) should be able to destroy almost anybody. That fast tempo does not match their size, and they get a little sloppy and/or undisciplined. Xavier continued its better late-season form in the last five games in dispatching Maryland. I picked FSU to blowout FGCU, and they did not. I cannot see them crushing Xavier. FSU wins but Xavier covers.
BUTLER (-3.5) vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Projected Winner: Butler
I love the Blue Raiders so let me disclose that bias and try to be objective. MTSU had no issues against Minnesota proving to be far more athletic, BUT when guard Giddy Potts got in foul trouble, the Gophers came back. Butler looked to be in its normal form against Winthrop. Butler plays well against guard-dominated teams and MTSU is driven by their star guard Giddy Potts. If Giddy gets in foul trouble, MTSU stalls a little. This should be a great game that Butler narrowly wins since they are statistically superior. Now the spread?? 3.5 sounds exactly right. I will lean Butler covering on free throws late, but I am rooting for the Blue Raiders and you will be able to hear me from miles away.
ARIZONA (-5) vs. SAINT MARYS
Projected Winner: Arizona
What a game here! Saint Marys is not a 7 seed and they carved up VCU as predicted. Saint Marys is slightly better than Arizona in both OE and DE. The easy first reaction is to say these teams are even and gladly take the 5 points and Saint Marys. This is especially true considering the preferred slow tempo of both teams. Arizona finished the season strong winning the pac 12 tournament. Saint Marys has beaten everybody but Gonzaga (0-3) and only had one fluky loss to a guard dominated NIT team. This one goes down to the wire and Zona escapes but 5 points here seems way too high and Saint Marys covers.
FLORIDA (-2) vs. VIRGINIA
Projected Winner: Florida
These two teams are statistical neighbors, although Virginia is more defense oriented and slower tempo. Virginia’s offensive ineptitude was on full display in the first half against UNCW. Then the Cavs got their D in gear and shots began falling and UNCW did not know how to react. Florida looked smooth against ETSU and ready to advance in this tournament. I like Florida here to win by 7-8 points.
IOWA STATE State vs. PURDUE pick em
Projected Winner: Iowa State
CONTRAST in this game. Iowa State plays small and fast with good OE that is increasing with every game (up another 2 points after Nevada win). Purdue cannot stop Monte Morris (who can?). Purdue will try and pound ISU inside, but like FSU they play faster than their size suggests. I see a lot of trading 3s for 2s in this game. I would have taken ISU at -4 so at pick em this seems like an easy decision.
NORTH CAROLINA (-10.5) vs. ARKANSAS
Arkansas is outmatched here, but instead of strategizing and figuring out how they can compete with UNC (5,22 tempo 53), they will play them straight up and try to outrun them. They tried to play Kentucky straight up and got killed twice. STUPID. I smell a blowout here for UNC.
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