NCAA Tournament: Preview & Picks for Sunday's Early Second-Round Games


March 18

Another great day of March Madness hoops awaits, with an eight-game slate that surely will break our brackets and glue us to our seats. Let’s dive into our favorite plays for the first half of the day.12:10 p.m. ET | #11 Pittsburgh vs. #3 Xavier | CBS

From a bettor’s perspective, this line could be wrongly perceived. Xavier nearly lost their opener to fourteen-seed Kennesaw State, but it felt as if they needed to get the tournament jitters out of them. They overcame a 13-point second-half deficit for a confident and resilient win. The type of win that carries over.

Pitt carried their First Four momentum into a dominating win over Iowa State, so I can see the public overvaluing the Panthers as a result. I liked this line much more when it was at -4.5, but I’d still lean toward the Musketeers at -5.5, with my favorite play being Xavier’s first-half spread with them carrying over their comeback win.

Pick: Xavier 1H -2.5 

2:40 p.m. ET | #6 Kentucky vs. #3 Kansas State | CBS

I understand people being down on Kansas State as a true national championship contender, but I think they’re disrespected here. Kentucky did put together a nice win over a good Providence team, yet nothing wowed me on Kentucky’s end besides Oscar Tshiebwe’s 25 rebounds, good grief.

Kansas State is battle tested from the Big 12 and plays loose and intelligent. If they’re vibing in their locker room pregame like this, the brights aren’t too bright for them. I don’t think Kansas State should be an underdog here, as Kentucky’s been incapable of stringing together good wins all year. I’ll ride with Kansas State in the battle of the Wildcats.

Pick: Kansas State +2.5

5:15 p.m. ET | #7 Michigan State vs. #2 Marquette | CBS

I targeted Marquette as a team to fade leading into the tournament, and I’m sticking to it. Marquette comes in with the national backing after their strong Big East tournament showing, but I don’t trust them to keep it up. Marquette’s offense has been tough to keep up with, but Marquette’s defense looked pretty rough on Friday against Vermont, and I can see the door cracked open enough for Michigan State to match their pace.

I also was shocked that the line was so low as the only other 2-7 matchup of the weekend had a spread five points higher in the advantage of the two-seed (UCLA). The books tell me they want you to bet on Marquette, making Michigan State the true side. Let’s trust Tom Izzo.

Pick: Michigan State +2.5

6:10 p.m. ET | #5 Saint Mary’s vs. #4 UConn | TNT

I’ll start off by saying that Saint Mary’s pleasantly surprised me in their win over VCU, but I put UConn a tier above them. The Huskies utterly dominated their first-round matchup in all facets over Iona.

Adama Sanogo was a runaway freight train, setting the tone on the entire court with his 28-point, 13-rebound performance. His interior dominance will help the Huskies capitalize in a slower-paced game, with the Huskies moving onto the Sweet 16 impressively, making themselves the favorite to come out of the West region in the process.

Pick: UConn -3.5

Thumbnail photo via Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

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