Josh Safran’s guide to a fun and profitable March
The fun stuff: Upsets, Cinderellas, and Value
To make the Sweet 16:
South Dakota State: +800
Here comes one of the most cherry picked stats of the entire tourney… South Dakota State is the #1 three point shooting team in the country at 44.2%. They have 30 wins this year and their head coach was the assistant for 3 of South Dakota State’s tournament teams (2016-2018). The moment is not too bright for the Jackrabbits and they’re getting respect from Vegas as a +2 underdog against the 4 seed Providence. Providence doesn’t do anything particularly well… Simple as that. I can very easily see South Dakota State winning their opening matchup against Providence, then from there they play either Iowa or Richmond. Honestly I can see Richmond winning but wouldn’t put all my chips on it. Regardless of who wins, the Jackrabbits have a puncher’s chance with that three point shooting percentage. Richmond would be ideal, but I’ve seen the Hawkeyes completely shut down offensively this season. The Jackrabbits at +800 to make the sweet 16 might be the most fun and realistic bet in the whole tournament.
A team some people may have actually heard of, Miami. The Hurricanes come into this tournament as a 10 seed, another sign of disrespect this Hurricanes team has faced all season. At 23-10, Miami have been left out of the top 25 practically all season. This comes as a result of a watered down ACC and some untimely losses. That being said, Miami went to #2 Duke and beat them earlier this season, they’ve proven they can take down a top dog. The Hurricanes are extremely efficient on offense while taking care of the ball, (19th in shooting percentage, 9th in turnovers/game). USC has a major edge over Miami in the rebounding category, but the Trojans are one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers. USC has really dropped off towards the end of the season and I anticipate Miami being able to control this game and (slightly) upset USC in round 1. The next matchup would be Auburn who ALSO have severely dropped off late in the season. After a great first half of the year, Auburn looked extremely mortal away from home. They dropped road games to Tennessee, Florida, and Arkansas, as the season closed out, then proceeded to lose their first game in the SEC tournament. Auburn is not a team I have a lot of faith in at this point and could very much see a Hurricanes run.
To win the Championship
While I don’t advise changing your bracket winner to these teams, here are a couple of my favorite plays based on path to the tournament and pure value…
Wisconsin +8000 ($1 wins 80)
Time for a cliche! What wins tournament games? Good guard play, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better guard in the tournament than Johnny Davis. Davis averages 19.7 ppg (26th) and is surrounded by an experienced unit who’s been to the tourney before. The midwest region is one that shapes up pretty weak in my opinion aside from the 1 seed Kansas. This is a school that has not won an NCAA tournament since 1941 and something about that just doesn’t seem right. Badgers are a fun play at such high value.
Talk about a team coming on in the second half of the season, the Razorbacks closed out the season with a 15-3 record. Out of all of the tournament teams, Arkansas has the 6th fastest pace of play. They’ve used that pace of play to their advantage, scoring 76.9 PPG (27th in the country). Usually teams with such fast pace of play will give up lots of points, but Arkansas is only giving up 68.5 PPG. Much like Wisconsin, Arkansas has an elite guard in the form of JD Notae, and 4 out of Wisconsin’s 6 key contributors are all seniors. Guard play + senior leadership = winning time.
Photo: SDSU Athletics