Day two of March Madness is here! Who are you betting on? We’re pulling for our projected winners with the help of our resident brackologist, Dr. Jason Senkbeil, who has had an incredible March Madness round 1 run so far.
Dr. Senkbeil Stats:
- Straight picks: 14-0
- Against the spread: 9-5 (64%)
Below, he shares games to watch and why, as well as his projected winner (marked with a “w”).
MICHIGAN (w) 2.5 vs. OKLAHOMA STATE
Two underseeded teams here, and if you like offense you better watch this game. The nearest statistical neighbor for both of these teams is UCLA. This is more like a 5 vs. 7. Ok State is the most efficient offense in the country and one of the most efficient in history, averaging almost 1.25 points per possession. Their coach, Brad Underwood, is sensational and won tourney games at SFA the last two years. He ditched his pressing defensive style to play to his team’s strength at midseason and decided to go all in on offense. Defense…UM NO (135 tempo 64). John Beilein Michigan is always an offensive stalwart, but at slow tempo (339). The wolverines (5,69) are almost as efficient as Ok State on offense but play better defense and just looked really good winning the Big 10 title. Tough prediction here with two excellent coaches, but the numbers favor Michigan to cover the 2.5–but not by much.
ARKANSAS (w) -1 vs. SETON HALL
Should you ever take an SEC team in basketball? This conference is characterized by great athleticism and poor shooting. Arkansas (26,99 tempo 96) likes to try and force turnovers and beat you in transition. Slow them down and make them play half court and make shots. The Hall (77,36 tempo 214) is a defensive team that fits this recipe closely enough, but are they athletic enough to beat Arkansas? They were blown out by guard-dominated Villanova twice, and up tempo and high OE Marquette beat them twice but lost to the Hall late in the season. The Hall surged late in the year. I do not want to pick sloppy Arkansas but I am going to uncomfortably do that.
SMU (w) -6 vs. USC
Ponies Ponies! (11,28, tempo 330.) The second most underseeded team in the tourney. Larry Brown accumulated a little talent and then abruptly resigned over the summer. This team is loaded. Rangy guards and wing players that can shoot. Their guards are big and their post players fairly small. They have been described as five mediums. They are vulnerable only to teams with size that try and pound them inside, but they can adjust to any style of play. Additionally, they have only seven scholarship players, so foul trouble is a problem and one injury means curtains for them. They are the only 6 seed that Vegas gave 30:1 odds to win the whole tourney. Since they are not a major brand name, they are likely to be undervalued on lines. SMU lost three games in November–including one to USC before switching to the position-less offense. They are 25-1 since December 2nd. I have the Ponies making noise in this tourney. Can USC (42, 91) beat them again? The number 11 OE goes against the number 91 DE. Looks like a mismatch.
RHODE ISLAND (w) vs. CREIGHTON pick em
Rhode Island (68,32, 244) is finally healthy and living up to its lofty preseason forecast. The A-10 tourney champs have talent! Their statistical profile is almost identical to Michigan State, but that is averaged over the entire season. They have won eight straight games, and in that span their OE and DE have been improved so that sample of games should be used to forecast them. Creighton (31,39, tempo 50) was an amazing offensive team with Maurice Watson, but he is gone for the season. They are only 7-8 in their last 15 games. This sounds like two teams going in opposite directions, but Creighton is still a good team. Rams are the better option here with an even line.
WICHITA STATE (w) -6 vs. DAYTON
The shockers got robbed with a 10 seed. Wichita (12,19, 133) is balanced and ranked 8th overall at kenpom. They started slowly before finding their groove. The last time the shockers were underseeded they went to the final 4. Their nearest statistical neighbors are 2 seed Kentucky and SMU. A huge, athletic Kentucky team ruined the shockers perfect season a few years ago when Wichita was a 1 seed. I smell a motivated shockers team that wants to advance and play UK again. Dayton (50,45, 137) is a good team that is seeded appropriately. I would take them against a normal 10 seed. I think they are hitting a buzzsaw here.
CINCINNATI -3.5 vs. KANSAS STATE (w)
Kansas State (already previewed two days ago) looked good against no-defense Wake Tuesday night as predicted. BUT, Cinci (35, 10, and slow 327) is a different type of team. Statistically, they are almost identical to Wisconsin. They are the only team to beat SMU since December (66-64), and they tend to get into low-scoring slugfests. They guard and get in your face with very few uncontested shots (I love this). Kansas State is capable of speeding them up and beating them from outside like SMU did twice this year. BUT, SMU is more athletic than K State and shoots better. I think K State will have the ball working for a last shot to tie the game, but Cinci blocks the shot. K state covers the 3.5 but Cincinnati wins. UCLA is next and they don’t like teams such as Cincinnati that actually play defense.
MIAMI (w) -2.5 vs. MICHIGAN STATE
Ok, so this is my “who cares?” game. Both these teams are very close statistical neighbors, so it is almost a coin flip. When Tom Izzo has talent you don’t ever pick against him. He doesn’t have it this year MSU (67,33, 241 tempo) and so this bunch is more blue collar than usual. They can’t score like previous MSU teams, yet Izzo still got them to the tourney. Miami (71, 20, tempo 338) is classic Jim Larranaga who is one of my favorite coaches. The line is right where it should be. MSU goes down swinging by 1-4 points. I have to choose a side–so Miami, I guess–but neither team seems to have much potential in later rounds.
SOUTH CAROLINA Carolina -1 vs. MARQUETTE (w)
Two polar opposites! South Carolina is the most defensive team in the tourney (152, 3, tempo 171), which places them in a very unusual position without statistical neighbors. They can’t consistently score! Marquette is all offense (8, 155, tempo 77) and is statistically similar to Wake, who already lost. Neither of these teams should go very far in later rounds. South Carolina has looked bad at the end of the season losing their last two games. Marquette covers the 1 point and wins by 9.
March Madness Round 1, Day 1 Overview:
- West Virginia showed flashes of dominance but never pulled away from Bucknell, only winning by 6.
- Florida dominated ETSU and won by 15. I predicted an 8-9 point win and an ETSU cover.
- Purdue covered by 0.5 against Vermont. Narrow miss.
- Wisconsin covered against Virginia Tech.
- FSU never pulled away from FGCU, only winning by 6.