5 best NCAA Tournament predictions. What are the best bets and plays for the first round Friday games?
NCAA Tournament Top Picks Results: 3-2
5. Alabama vs Notre Dame
Line: Alabama -4
ATS Pick: Alabama
– Alabama vs Notre Dame Game Preview, Prediction
Tennessee might have been great on Thursday in its dominant win over Longwood, but Kentucky’s gack to Saint Peter’s and the rough outing by Arkansas against Vermont didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the SEC.
Even worse, Alabama has one just three games by more than four points since late January.
But just like the call of North Carolina to roll by Marquette, there’s the exact same reason for liking the Tide.
Notre Dame can hit the boards, and Bama isn’t North Carolina on the glass, but the Tide are going to fire threes, they’re going to be way too active on the glass, and the Irish are going to have problems on the offensive boards after giving up 13 to Rutgers.
Alabama is a mortal lock to come up with at least ten offensive rebounds.
Notre Dame is 4-3 when allowing more than nine made threes, Alabama has hit nine or more 16 times this year, and the block shots and inside presence won’t be there for the Irish enough in a fun shootout.
Continuing to live and die with the SEC …
4. LSU vs Iowa State
Line: LSU -4
ATS Pick: LSU
– LSU vs Iowa State Game Preview, Prediction
I know, I know, you want more of a real rationale than a gut-feeling belief, but from all indications it seems like LSU is going to be just fine in this despite the coaching change.
More to the point, if LSU loses to Iowa State, it won’t be because Will Wade was fired and Kevin Nickelberry took over.
On the contrary, the drama is over. The team has had more than a week to get past it, and now it gets an Iowa State team that has stopped scoring.
There are bursts here and there, but the Cyclones put up a whopping 36 on Oklahoma State in early March and got drop-kicked out of the Big 12 Tournament in a 72-41 loss to Texas Tech.
LSU has been extremely rocky since early January, but to get the gut aspect out of this, LSU is No. 1 in the nation in steals and Iowa State is about to give the ball away more than 15 times and probably closer to 20.
Add in LSU’s 10th best field goal defense in college basketball against a team that struggles to shoot, can’t hit free throws, and doesn’t come up with rebounds, and giving away 4 to an 11 seed might be a layup just after halftime.
3. Texas Tech vs Montana State
Point Total: 132.5
– Texas Tech vs Montana State Game Preview, Prediction
This is entirely about the Texas Tech defense that led the Big 12 in field goal percentage D, forces a ton of turnovers, and allows just 60 points per game.
This is also about high-end Power Five-level snobbery.
Montana State is amazing from the field, it scores in bunches, and it’s great at getting on the move … but it hasn’t dealt with anything like this D.
The Red Raiders got into a few shootouts, but it’s only allowed 70 points or more six times and gave up 60 or fewer 16 times.
Texas Tech isn’t likely to do anything crazy. It’s not going to want to get into any sort of an up-tempo game, it should win the battles on the boards, and the three point defense should be good enough to hold up.
Montana State can play a little defense, too.
It blocks shots, it led the Big Sky in field goal percentage D, and it’s not bad at guarding the three.
You’ll have to sweat it out late, but Texas Tech has allowed 55 points or fewer in three of its last four games and in five of the last eight.
The intensity will be turned up a few notches.
2. Arizona vs Wright State
Line: Arizona -21.5
– Arizona vs Wright State Game Preview, Prediction
The 21.5 has stayed rock steady ever since it opened, but …
Have you seen the 1-16s so far?
Gonzaga was sleepy and in a dogfight with Georgia State … and then won 93-72. Two late Panther free throws with the Bulldog scrubs in and whiffing on threes were a backbreaker on the Gonzaga cover, but the game got out of hand.
Kansas got up 47-19 on First Four winner Texas Southern and cruised to a 33-point win in a light scrimmage. There was zero problem covering the 21.5.
Baylor needed about ten minutes to warm up, and then it went through the polite exercise against Norfolk State in an 85-49 win that easily blasted past the 20.5
Arizona is more rested, it’s healthy again, and it’s about to play in Tucson West – Viejas Arena in San Diego – against a Wright State team that scores a ton, but doesn’t have the size to hold up and can’t hit threes to keep up.
Arizona’s average margin of victory is 17 points. You’re asking for just a few more to keep up with the rest of the 1s.
And finally …
1. Houston vs UAB
Point Total: 136
– San Francisco vs Murray State Game Preview, Prediction
This isn’t the under gift from the gods that Murray State – San Francisco was – that was just comically off – but it might be close.
Why is this so low? Houston has the No. 1 field goal percentage defense in the country and it keeps teams to under 59 points per game.
Yeah, this D is the real deal, but it hasn’t exactly gone against a bunch of offensive killers inn the American Athletic Conference.
UAB has scored 80 or more in each of its last five games, averages 81 points per game, and the defense is just okay.
The Blazers made ten or more threes in five of their last six games, they’re strong on the free throw line, and they generate enough steals for easy transition points.
Are they going to beat Houston? Nah, but they should be able to hang at least 65 on the board.
Houston might be a defensive team, but it scored 70 or more in 26 of its 34 games. Who’d it struggle against offensively?
Virginia. Wisconsin. Memphis – twice. Cincinnati. The Cougars are going to hang up more than 70 and closer to 80 if the Blazers can make this interesting and get on the move.
Hope for closer to 150 combined points in this than 135.