Round Two, March Madness Picks 2018: Spread & Predictions

As we proceed to the next slew of intense college basketball affairs, fans and pundits alike are most likely still reeling from the shocking upsets and contentious contests that were apart of the first round of March Madness. However, there is little time to emotionally recover from these momentous displays of competitiveness as round two of the NCAA Tournament will most likely offer even more of the same with blue bloods attempting to advance on to next week while the underrated teams attempt to keep their dreams alive by pulling off more dramatic upsets. For anyone who’s bracket is still unbusted, prepare to endure more anxiety as this grueling yet incredibly exciting tournament wears on. For those whose bracket is already busted, do not be devastated. On the bright side, you can now sit back and comfortably enjoy the forthcoming madness without being completely beholden to the emotional turmoil that comes when your bracket inevitably becomes a hot mess.

Alabama Crimson Tide (9) vs. Villanova Wildcats (1)

The resurgent Crimson Tide emphatically proved that they have every right to be a participant in this tournament after they won a shootout against the accurate shooters of Virginia Tech. Unsurprisingly, Collin Sexton was the star of the game as he made 50% of his shots from the field. However, Sexton was not the only one who was feeling it from a shooting perspective as the Crimson Tide as a whole shot 44.4% from three-point range. Although it’s difficult to gauge the competitive presence of a one seed when they crush a 16 seed in the first round, the Wildcats certainly looked the part of an elite program as they shot over 50% from three-point range, which was the result of the impressive unselfish play by everyone involved (20 assists against Radford). While the Crimson Tide have the physical athletes that can test and overcome Villanova’s relatively weak defense, the Wildcats have the more dynamic shooters that are as cerebral as they are deadly when it comes to shooting the basketball from anywhere on the court.
Final Score: Crimson Tide 78 Wildcats 84 Spread: Villanova -1.0

Rhode Island Rams (7) vs. Duke Blue Devils (2)

Impressively, the Rams were able to beat the Sooners at their own game in the first round of the tournament by winning a shootout in dramatic fashion. Shooting 39.3% from three-point range, the Rams persistence when it came to shooting the basketball was refreshing for a program that struggled mightily when it came to producing offensively throughout the regular season. Although Duke’s ultimate victory over Iona was not pretty at the start of the contest, the Blue Devils eventually were able to establish their burgeoning zone defense while their guards and Marvin Bagley III provided more than enough on offense for their team to run away with the victory in the second half. While Rhode Island has the opportunistic defenders that are adept at stealing the basketball from their opponent, Duke’s abundance of elite playmakers should be more than enough for them to move on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Final Score: Rams 69 Blue Devils 77 Spread: Duke -9.5

Buffalo Bulls (13) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (5)

I don’t care if you’re a Power 5 Conference program or a relatively unknown Mid-Major team. If you can outplay the physically gifted Arizona Wildcats offensively, you deserve a tremendous amount of praise. Although you could point to the Bulls incredible accuracy from the three-point range as the catalyst for their success against the Wildcats (50%), it was actually their ability to dominate Arizona on the defensive glass that was the difference maker in this contest (24 defensive rebounds for the Bulls, 19 defensive for the Wildcats). Although Kentucky struggled mightily to run off Davidson’s perimeter shooters, they were able to get to the basket on offense consistently while making clutch free throw shots down the stretch of the game (81.3 FT%). If the Bulls can be as accurate at shooting the deep ball as they were against Arizona, the Wildcats will have a difficult time keeping up offensively as they are inconsistent at shooting from beyond the perimeter. However, Kentucky’s adeptness at rebounding the ball off of the defensive glass will give them the edge over the Bulls in the end.
Final Score: Bulls 81 Wildcats 86 Spread: Kentucky -6.0

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (11) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (3)

As they had done throughout the regular season, the Ramblers were highly efficient both defensively and offensively in a thrilling victory over Miami. Despite being outrebounded, the Ramblers were able to hang tough as they turned the basketball over just 10 times (16 turnovers for Miami) and were unafraid to shoot from three-point range, which was the reason for their buzzer beater victory. Against Wright State, the Volunteers played to their impressive strengths by dominating the defensive glass while holding the Raiders to a minuscule to a 31.7 shooting percentage from the field. However, even more importantly, the Volunteers were able to take advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line (87.5 FT%), something that the Ramblers were abysmal at against Miami (44 FT%). Although the Ramblers possess the better shooters, the Volunteers are better at rebounding the basketball, which will be vital in what should be a gritty defensive grudge match.
Final Score: Ramblers 67 Volunteers 75 Spread: Tennessee -6.0

Seton Hall Pirates (8) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (1)

Despite averaging under 80 points per game during the regular season, the Pirates were finally able to utilize their skilled playmakers as they made 48.3% of their shots from the field. Better still, the Pirates only gave up seven turnovers against NC State, which is stunning when you consider that Seton Hall averaged 13 turnovers per game in the regular season. While the Jayhawks eventually pulled away against the Quakers in their first-round contest, it was by no means a pretty victory. Thanks to their clutch free throw shooting and rebounding dominance, the Jayhawks were able to deprive the Quakers of much-needed opportunities down the stretch of what was a surprisingly close contest. Although the Jayhawks will most likely win this contest as they have the consummate ball-facilitators, they need to be wary of a Pirates program that loves to attack the glass, which will be vital in deciding the outcome of this game.
Final Score: Pirates 77 Jayhawks 80 Spread: Kansas -4.5

Ohio State Buckeyes (5) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (4)

Although the Buckeyes victory over the Jackrabbits was closer than they probably would have liked, the fact that they were able to hold one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball to 38.1% shooting from the field is actually stunning. Even struggling to shoot the basketball themselves, the Buckeyes were still able to put up 81 points as they were able to garner themselves ample scoring opportunities by tenaciously attacking the defensive glass. While it would be easy to look at the Bulldogs close victory over UNC Greensboro and assume that they are in serious trouble, they actually overcame one of the toughest defenses in the country that is known for blocking out scorers when they attempt to shoot from three-point range. If anything, the Bulldogs close victory was indicative of how far their much-improved defense has come this season, something that will be vital against an offensively gifted program. Without a doubt, this will be an incredibly close contest with both programs attacking the glass ferociously. However, Gonzaga is just a bit better at rebounding the basketball, an advantage that will allow them to win another close game.
Final Score: Buckeyes 72 Bulldogs 74 Spread: Gonzaga -3.5

Florida Gators (6) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3)

Offensively inconsistent throughout the regular season, the Gators still struggled to be efficient at scoring the basketball in their victory over St. Bonaventure. However, it was Florida’s oppressive defense that was on full display as they held the Bonnies to 35.4% shooting from the field while garnering 11 steals. Even more importantly though was the Gators disciplined nature when securing the basketball (nine turnovers), something that was vital in preventing the Bonnies from making a comeback in what was an entertaining contest. Although the Red Raiders struggled mightily to shoot from the perimeter (25 3P%), their exceptional play defensively proved to be enough to shut down the tenacious offense of the Lumberjacks as they held them to shooting just 38.3% from the field. While the Red Raiders have the better rebounders and are more consistent defensively, the Gators are better at protecting the basketball and will be able to focus their defensive pressure solely on preventing Texas Tech from getting to the basket.
Final Score: Gators 73 Red Raiders 68 Spread: Texas Tech -1.5

Houston Cougars (6) vs. Michigan Wolverines (3)

While the Cougars had a poor showing offensively against San Diego State, they were able to win during the waning seconds of the contest thanks to the clutch lay-up by their athletic guard in Rob Gray (39 points eight rebounds). As a team, the Cougars were able to avoid costly turnovers and continually feed their consummate playmaker in Gray, which ended up being enough for them to win. However, against the well-rounded defense of Michigan, the Cougars may have to come out with an alternate strategy if they hope to move on to the Sweet Sixteen. Holding Montana to just 32% shooting from the field, the Wolverines never allowed the Grizzlies to find open looks and were able to hold them to just 47 points as a result of their oppressive defense. Although Rob Gray is a clear difference maker and will undoubtedly make some noise in this affair, the Wolverines are far too efficient and cerebral defensively to allow the Cougars to continually feed their star playmaker.
Final Score: Cougars 66 Wolverines 70 Spread: Michigan -3.0

Butler Bulldogs (10) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (2)

Although the Bulldogs were not a great defensive or rebounding program throughout the regular season, they managed to be exceptional at both in a dominant victory over Arkansas. Outrebounding the Razorbacks 45-25, the Bulldogs provided their streaky yet relentless offense with ample opportunities to score consistently. While the Boilermakers would normally have the recipe for slowing down the tenacious Bulldogs in big man Isaac Hass, the dynamic playmaker sustained a broken elbow in Purdue’s round one victory over Cal State Fullerton. Although both Vincent Edwards and Carsen Edwards are both capable defensive rebounders themselves, they do not provide the same physical post presence that Haas does offensively. In a battle of streaky offenses, the Bulldogs have the slight edge as their outside shooting capabilities combined with their newfound rebounding prowess will allow them to win a thrilling contest against Purdue.
Final Score: Bulldogs 75 Boilermakers 70 Spread: Purdue -3.5

Syracuse Orange (11) vs. Michigan State Spartans (3)

Holding two powerhouse offenses in Arizona State and TCU to under 60 points, the underrated defense of the Orange is starting to shine brightly when it matters the most. Against TCU, the Orange were highly effective at blocking out their opponents three points shooters, which allowed them to win a low scoring contest. Although the Spartans normally tough-minded defense struggled mightily to contain Bucknell’s tenacious offense in the first round, Michigan State was at least able to rectify the issues of their struggling offense as they scored 82 points against the Bison. Most notably, it was the Spartans adeptness at rebounding the basketball that allowed them to be highly productive offensively, something that has to continue if they hope to move on to the second weekend of the tournament. While the Orange’s defense is playing at an elite level, their anemic offense has held them back this year and will ultimately prevent them from overcoming a Spartans program that is capable of dominating a game on both sides of the court.
Final Score: Orange 62 Spartans 71 Spread: 

Texas A&M Aggies (7) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (2)

While Texas A&M had one of the more tumultuous seasons in college basketball in terms of success this year, the resilient Aggies were able to stave off one scoring run after another against the Providence Friars in their first-round contest. Playing to their strengths, the Aggies effectively utilized their size to dominate the Friars on the boards (44-26 in favor of the Aggies) and were efficient at making the most of their opportunities when scoring near the basket (50 FG%). As the top rebounding program in college basketball this season, the Tar Heels demoralized Lipscomb in their first-round matchup as they outrebounded the Bisons 47-29. However, what was even more impressive than that was North Carolina’s athletic guards stepping up and hitting their long-range shots (40.9 3P%), something that the Tar Heels were streaky at accomplishing during the regular season. While the Aggies have the bigger bodies and much more physical playmakers, the versatility of the Tar Heels when it comes to scoring and rebounding will allow them to eventually overwhelm the one-dimensional athletes of Texas A&M.
Final Score: Aggies 77 Tar Heels 86 Spread: North Carolina -6.0

Nevada Wolf Pack (7) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (2)

After being down by double-digits throughout most of their contest against the Texas Longhorns, the Wolf Pack were able to make several clutch three-point shots in overtime to persevere in the first round of the tournament. Shooting 50.8% from the field, the Wolf Pack stayed true to their competitive style of moving the ball to their open shooters and making high-percentage shots from a variety of areas on the court. Conversely, the Bearcats had to grind out what was eventually a comfortable win over Georgia State by ferociously attacking the glass (outrebounded the Panthers 46-26) while being disciplined in not fouling the Panthers constantly (Panthers shot just three free throws). Defensively, the Bearcats were fantastic at guarding the perimeter as the Panthers were only able to make 29.6% of their three-point shots. In a matchup of two polar opposite programs in terms of competitive styles, I like the Bearcats to ultimately take advantage of a Wolf Pack program that can be a bit hasty and streaky when taking and making long-range shots.
Final Score: Wolf Pack 69 Bearcats 73 Spread: Cincinnati -7.0

Clemson Tigers (5) vs. Auburn Tigers (4)

Going up against one of the most efficient defenses in college basketball, Clemson was surprisingly able to score 79 points while shooting 55.9% from the field. On top of that, Clemson was incredibly disciplined at securing the basketball as they only gave the ball away eight times, which was vital in allowing them to win their first-round contest fairly comfortably. Unlike Clemson, Auburn looked lost offensively in their ugly win over Charleston as they shot just 35.6% from the field and turned the ball over 12 times. Interestingly, it was Auburn’s tenacious defense that saved the day as they recorded 10 steals while Charleston’s offense turned the ball over 21 times. Against Clemson, Auburn cannot expect to reap the same type of benefits as they did against Charleston. Considering how strong Clemson is at rebounding and defending the basketball, Auburn’s only hope of moving on to the Sweet Sixteen is to make more than half their shots, something that they have struggled mightily to do recently.
Final Score: Clemson 77 Auburn 67 Spread: 

UMBC Retrievers (16) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (9)

Not only did the Retrievers become the first 16 seed to upset a one seed in NCAA Tournament history, they did so in a dominant fashion as they crushed the Cavaliers by a score of 74-54. Abusing the Cavaliers when it came to rebounding (outrebounded Virginia 33-22) the basketball, the Retrievers were able to convert those extra opportunities into multiple scores on offense thanks to their cerebral ball sharing abilities (16 assists). Although the Wildcats victory over Creighton was not nearly as impressive by comparison, they were able to stifle a prolific offense in Creighton by outshooting them from three-point range while preventing the Blue Jays from making those same long-range shots. More importantly, it was the Wildcats discipline when it came to not recklessly fouling the Blue Jays that allowed them to win down the stretch despite scoring just 69 points. While the success story of the Retrievers is legendary, the Wildcats oppressive defense combined with their patience on offense will allow them to extinguish the confidence of UMBC in the second round.
Final Score: Retrievers 63 Wildcats 75 Spread: 

Florida State Seminoles (9) vs. Xavier Musketeers (1)

Although Missouri was able to hold their own when it came to rebounding the basketball, they were unable to get their offense going against a Seminoles program that was much more fluid in that regard from the opening tip-off. Recording 18 assists while shooting 46.7% from three points range, the Seminoles intelligently bided their time until open scoring opportunities presented themselves. Unsurprisingly, Xavier’s dreadful defense barely held up against Texas Southern, but the Musketeers were able to overcome this deficiency by making 54.7% of their shots from the field while garnering 32 defensive rebounds against the Tigers. Strangely, despite giving up 83 points, the Musketeers recorded 10 blocks against Texas Southern, an interesting stat that will most likely not be repeatable against the much more sizeable athletes of the Seminoles. While I do like the exceptional shooters of the Musketeers to ultimately win this affair, their lack of a decent defense could put them in a dire situation going forward if their offense goes cold at some point during the tournament.
Final Score: Seminoles 81 Musketeers 89 Spread: 

Marshall Thundering Herd (13) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (5)

Going shot for shot with one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball, the Thundering Herd’s confidence never wavered as they were able to make several clutch three points shots and an emphatic dunk down the stretch to send the devastated Shockers back to Wichita. Turning the ball over just nine times, the Thundering Herd were able to cover up their issues defensively by being disciplined and patient when finding their open shooters. In a blow out victory over Murray State, the Mountaineers were able to intimidate the Racers with their full court press as they garnered 9 steals while holding their opponent to shooting just 30.4% from three-point range. Offensively, West Virginia made the most of their opportunities near the basket as they shot 51.6% from the field while scoring 85 points in the contest. While the relentless shooters of Marshall could befuddle the Mountaineers defense initially, West Virginia’s commitment to trapping and garnering steals will eventually stifle the Thundering Herd down the stretch.
Final Score: Thundering Herd 74 Mountaineers 80 Spread:

Round Two, March Madness Schedule 2018: TV Schedule & Games
Round Two, March Madness Schedule 2018: TV Schedule & Games
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