One of the best basketball days of the year is finally here, as the Round of 64 for the Men’s March Madness tournament tips off of 11:15am CST, with games continuing non-stop until the final tip at 9:05pm. Feel free to hang around and talk hoops or anything else in the comments today as we collectively pull games up on our phones and work computers to get through the day in the cubes. Here are the five games I’m most interested in, with odds via DraftKings.
One quick disclaimer, these picks are purely meant to be for fun and not meant to be taken as advice. My closest friends will gladly tell you the same about my gambling advice. Cool? Cool. Let’s get to the games.
Boise State Broncos vs Northwestern Wildcats (-1.5)
6:45pm CST tip on TruTv
This should be a relatively low-scoring game with a total of 128, but I find it interesting because it’s hard to buy into either of these teams. Northwestern finished second in the Big Ten, yet are still a difficult team to buy into. They’re led by point guard Boo Buie, but the Wildcats just aren’t the type of team that puts fear into an opponent. On the flip side, you’ve got Boise State who finished third in the Mountain West Conference. In their last 12 NCAA Tournament games, the Mountain West is 1-11 as a conference. That’s pretty brutal. Someone has to win though, and I believe more in Boise’s ability to get the Mountain West moving in the right direction than I do Northwestern.
The pick: Boise State +1.5
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles vs Duke Blue Devils (-6.5)
6:10pm CST tip on CBS
Duke is a solid favorite here, but the 5-12 matchups never fail to bring chaos to the Round of 64. Duke comes in winners of nine in a row with an uber-talented roster, but their opponent will not be intimidated. Oral Roberts, led by Max Abmas, made a run to the Sweet 16 in 2021 as a 15-seed. They’ve been in this spot before, whereas Duke’s talent is mostly very young. For example, impressive guard Tyrese Proctor is an extra young freshman after reclassifying in the summer. I like the Golden Eagles to, at a minimum, make things difficult for the Blue Devils right down to the wire.
The pick: Oral Roberts +6.5
Utah State Aggies (-1.5) vs Missouri Tigers
12:40pm CST tip on TNT
While there aren’t big names here, this game has potential to be the highest-scoring game of the day. The total is set at 155, which has us set up for fireworks. Utah State ranks 13th in offensive efficiency this season according the KenPom, with Missouri coming in just ahead of them at 8th nationally. On a related note, the Aggies are 64th in defensive efficiency and the Tigers are a ghastly 179th in defense. It’s killing me that this game is on during the work day, especially since the live box score may not be able to keep up with the buckets.
The pick: Utah State -1.5
Charleston Cougars vs San Diego State Aztecs (-5.5)
2:10pm CST tip on CBS
It seems that the only time it’s smart to be in agreement with the public on a pick or a bet is in a 12-5 matchup, and this is likely the sexiest upset pick of the day. Charleston is an absurd 31-3, led by Minnesota native and former Braham and Cretin Derham-Hall point guard Ryan Larson. To be 31-3 and yet only 73rd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency is almost impressive, and while it does suggest Charleston was a little lucky in earning such a strong record, it also speaks to how good their guard play is. They’re legit, and if SDSU doesn’t come out ready to go, Kawhi Leonard’s alma mater will experience a short stay in the Dance.
The pick: Charleston +5.5
Illinois Fighting Illini vs Arkansas Razorbacks (-1.5)
3:30pm CST tip on TBS
This game should just be an absolute treat. We’ve got two uber-talented teams that have underachieved to a certain degree this season, but are both extremely dangerous in a single-elimination tournament. The other fun part here is that there are a bevy of NBA Draft prospects to keep an eye on. Terrance Shannon Jr. is the leader of the Illini, while Eric Musselman’s stud freshman duo of freshman in Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black all likely to expect to go in the first round of the draft. In particular, Smith Jr. and Black are looking to solidify themselves as upper/mid lottery picks. This might be a middling 8-9 matchup, but these are two supremely talented teams. I trust the combination of talent and coaching more on the Arkansas side, though.
The pick: Arkansas -1.5