Step aside, March. Let’s change this year’s tournament name to “Upset Madness.” The dogs aren’t just barking. They’re biting. Viciously.
For those keeping score, underdogs are an incredible 28-15 against the spread through the first 43 tournament games. It makes sense when you consider the betting public loves betting favorites. The sportsbook is, of course, racking it all in, but we took a little piece of that pie Sunday. Let’s try to carry that success into Monday.
I mentioned in Sunday’s column that betting lines continue to get sharper. We’re seeing it on full display for the second day of Round 2. Monday’s games are TOUGH to gauge. However, there are two underdogs I like to cover their spread, and an over I feel is a must-play. Let’s will ourselves to another successful betting day.
Before we dive in, all odds in this article come from our partners at the FanDuel Sportsbook. Right now, new FanDuel Sportsbook users can make their first bet risk-free up to $1,000. If your bet loses, the FanDuel Sportsbook will refund you in site credit. New users can sign up for this incredible offer by clicking this link.
(Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook; subject to change.)
No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 2 Iowa (-5) – 5:15 p.m. ET
Would the return of March Madness be complete without a team dropping out over COVID issues? It’s an unfortunate reality, but Oregon advanced to the second round after VCU pulled out of the tournament. The Ducks are the first team ever to advance without stepping on the court.
They’ll take on an excellent Iowa team coming off a big first round win over Grand Canyon on Saturday, 86-74. The Hawkeyes shot an impressive 54% from the field, quickly taking care of the Antelopes in a game that was never close. They improved their average points per game total to 83.8 after the win.
Led by probable Player of the Year Luka Garza, Iowa has one of the country’s best offenses, dominating opponents down low and closing games with strong 3-point shooting. They currently have the seventh-best odds (+1600) to win the national championship and are taking on an undersized Oregon team that is exploitable in the paint.
Still, Oregon presents a significant challenge. They’re one of the most balanced offenses in the NCAA, averaging 74.4 points per game and ranking 27th nationally from beyond the arc. Five Ducks players average double-digit points each game. Oregon also ranks 14th in offensive efficiency and is coached by one of the most successful coaches in the tournament, Dana Altman. If there’s one thing we love backing during March Madness, it’s an elite coach.
But the Ducks also have rest to their advantage since their first round game was canceled due to VCU’s COVID concerns. While many will consider Oregon’s ten-day layoff disadvantageous, an extra break didn’t hurt any teams with a bye or canceled game in conference tournaments. The Ducks will have the freshest legs of any team by a wide margin Monday, a situation I want to put money on.
While I’m going to take Oregon (+5), there’s risk involved. Iowa is the best team the Ducks will have faced so far, and if Oregon can’t suppress Garza, there won’t be many avenues to pull away. Plus, the Ducks are a west coast team playing the early game.
Despite all of that, the Ducks still present solid value, but it’s not my favorite play for this game. My favorite bet of the day is on the total. I mentioned that both teams average a high number of points per game, but they’re also trending toward eclipsing the over. Oregon has gone over the total in seven straight games, while Iowa easily covered their over against Grand Canyon on Saturday. Oregon presents a much more efficient offense than GCU, making the over an obvious play, one I’ve got to get on (though I hate betting totals in general).
The sharp money is there, too. According to oddsFire, the over has 77% of the handle on just 48% of bets. Let’s follow the money and see where it goes.
The Picks: Over 148 and Oregon (+5)
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 1 Michigan (-5) – 5:15 p.m. ET
I’ve gone on record for weeks stating my position on Michigan. I loved them to win the National Championship so much that I placed a +1000 wager on them to win it all a few months ago. I’ve since backed away from that position after their best player, Isaiah Livers, suffered a likely season-ending injury. The Wolverines weren’t the same in their Big Ten Tournament loss against Ohio State.
Admittedly, I didn’t trust the Wolverines much in their first round game against Texas Southern, but their elite defense flexed their muscles, and their offense did plenty to convince us they still deserve top billing. Though they didn’t cover their massive 24.5-point spread, Michigan took care of Texas Southern handily, 82-66, and shot an impressive 48.1% from the field.
But there’s a massive drop-off in talent from Texas Southern to LSU, who are undoubtedly one of the hottest teams in the NCAA Tournament, winning five of their last six games. The Tigers are also on an impressive six-game winning streak against the spread, and if we’ve learned anything over the past few days, it’s that hot teams can beat elite teams.
I liken this matchup to a heavyweight fight. LSU has a very efficient, explosive offense fully capable of keeping pace with a dominant Michigan squad. But their suspect defense will undoubtedly give Michigan opportunities to stay in the game, which is why I’m not confident taking LSU on the moneyline. But at five points, I’ll take a shot at another solid underdog against the spread, especially against a team whose most recent losses came against Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois — three teams no longer in the tournament.
The Pick: LSU (+5)
Let’s rally these dogs to bite! Best of luck to all, and enjoy the rest of Round 2 action.