The first round of the NCAA Tournament gives us Cinderella teams every year. The trick is in finding those Cinderella teams before it is too late to make a profit off their on-court success.
Which double-digit seeded teams are best ready to make a run, and which top-seeded teams are just ripped for an upset? Let’s take a closer look.
Been There, Done That
Well, we have sure seen this script before with Loyola-Chicago as a double-digit seed and an underdog. In 2018 the Ramblers rode the 11-seed all the way to the Final Four with wins over Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State. Last year they were an 8-seed and knocked off Georgia Tech before upsetting No. 1 Illinois.
This year they face No. 7 Ohio State, and the Ramblers opened as just a slight underdog, +110 on BetMGM. Loyola is 25-7 overall, 13-3 away from home and they have a neutral site wins over San Francisco and Arizona State this year.
While the Ramblers have won eight of their last nine games, Ohio State is just 1-4 since winning at Illinois on February 24. They were outrebounded in four of those five games. Ohio State has only scored more than 70 points once in the stretch.
Loyola will challenge the Buckeyes defensively, and don’t be all surprised if the Missouri Valley champs advance once again.
Without a Coach, LSU in Trouble
The LSU Tigers fired head coach Will Wade last weekend after the NCAA released their infractions against the program. The No. 6 Tigers are 22-11 overall but just 3-4 down the stretch with two losses to Arkansas, one to Kentucky, and one to South Carolina. Kevin Nickelberry is the interim coach for the tournament, and minimizing distractions might be his biggest task of the week.
Iowa State’s offense has looked awful in two of their last three games, with 36 points against Oklahoma State and 41 against Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament. However, this is a team that hung with Baylor in the final regular-season game, scored 84, 74, and 75 in a 3-game stretch in late February, and they can defend.
Izaiah Brockington is a matchup nightmare at guard, averaging 17.2 ppg and 7.1 rpg, both leading the team. This will be a low-scoring game; both teams rank in the top 30 nationally in points allowed, defensive efficiency, and 3-point percentage defense. Iowa State is +150 on FanDuel to win outright and head to the second round.
Jackrabbits On a Streak
Maybe no one in the nation is playing better heading into the tournament than South Dakota State. The No. 13 seeded Jackrabbits are 30-4, and they last lost before Christmas, falling to Missouri State on December 15. South Dakota State swept the Summit League, and they are 6-1 in neutral site games.
South Dakota State is extremely proficient on offense. They rank second in the nation at 87.2 ppg, first in 3-point shooting at nearly 45%, first in FG shooting at 53%, and they are top 10 in the nation at 1.3 points per possession. They have scored 82 or more in eight of the last ten games. Providence has accomplished that feat just twice since February 1.
The Friars had the best regular season in school history with a Big East regular-season title and high AP rankings. But they are 1-2 in the last three games, shooting 37% from the field in those games and getting outrebounded by 3.5 per game. Providence was one-and-done in the Big East tournament shooting under 33% from the field as they were routed by Creighton 85-58.
BetMGM has the Jackrabbits at +120 no knock of the 4-seeded Friars, and that’s the way to go with a double-digit seed who knows how to win.
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