written by: Brady Kas and Garric Mathias
For the first time ever, the entire Division I NCAA Tournament will be held in Indiana. To mark this momentous occasion for the state, the Sports Innovation Institute wanted to help interested Hoosiers fill out their bracket for March Madness this year. This post is part of a 4-part series that is analyzed and written by the SII Data Analyst team to help you get ahead of the curve and have a leg up in your bracket pool using the power of data analysis. Today in this post I’ll be talking about sports betting, and how to bet the spread for every first-round game.
Reminder: While we can use data as a resource to create educated guesses on potential outcomes, this does NOT guarantee a particular result. Please do not take any tournament analysis as fact.
In today’s world, it’s hard to argue the rapid growth and acceleration of sports betting. With the use of technology, sports betting has become easier than ever using apps such as Fanduel and DraftKings, and fans are able to bet on almost anything and everything when it comes to a sports game. Today, I want to spend my time detailing to you how teams in this year’s tournament have done against the point spread (ATS), and hopefully, together we’ll be able to make a few bucks.
Before I go any farther, I want to note I’ll be using the numbers and spreads from the betting sites TeamRankings.com and Covers.com. With that being said, these numbers can fluctuate daily, so the numbers may not be the exact same, but they’re very close. I highly recommend checking these places out if you find this article interesting and want some more knowledge on this topic.
#16 Appalachian State (-3) Vs. #16 Norfolk State
Appalachian State – Record: 17-11 (ATS: 14-9-5, ATS Favorite: 5-5-3, ATS Underdog: 9-4-2)
Norfolk State – Record: 16-7 (ATS: 12-8-3, ATS Favorite: 8-5-1, ATS Underdog: 4-3-2)
Key Stats: Appalachian State is 5-5 in their last ten games ATS, and in that span, five of those times they have been favored. The Mountaineers went 1-4 in those games. In Norfolk State’s last ten games, they’ve been an underdog two times, and went 2-0 in those games. Bet the Spartans.
#11 Drake (+2) Vs. #11 Wichita State
Drake – Record: 25-4 (ATS 20-6-3, ATS Favorite: 18-4-2, ATS Underdog: 2-2-1)
Wichita State – Record: 16-5 (ATS: 9-9-3, ATS Favorite: 5-7-2, ATS Underdog: 4-2-1)
Key Stats: Drake has the second-best record in the nation this year ATS, and the best in this tournament as Navy, who is number one, did not qualify. However, they boast just a 7-6-1 record ATS in their last fifteen games after starting the season 13-0. While the Shockers have struggled overall ATS this year, in games in which they are a 5.5-point favorite or fewer, they are 4-2. I think this will be a close game, but Drake pulls it off in the end.
#16 Texas Southern (-2) Vs. #16 Mount Saint Mary’s
Texas Southern – Record: 16-8 (ATS: 12-10-2, ATS Favorite: 7-7-1, ATS Underdog: 5-3-1)
Mount Saint Mary’s – Record: 12-10 (ATS: 11-10-1, As Favorite: 7-5, ATS Underdog: 4-5-1)
Key Stats: Texas Southern are winners of nine in a row, and in that span, have gone 7-2 ATS. After a tough start, they seem to have put the pieces together. Mount Saint Mary’s this year has been in plenty of tight games, at least against the spread, and in games in which the Mountaineers were three points or fewer favorites/underdogs, they went 5-6 in those contests. Texas Southern wins by double digits.
#11 Michigan State (-1.5) Vs. #11 UCLA
Michigan State – Record: 15-12 (ATS: 9-18, ATS Favorite: 3-11, ATS Underdog: 6-7)
UCLA – Record: 17-9 (ATS: 12-14, ATS Favorite: 10-11, ATS: Underdog: 2-3)
Key Stats: Coach Izzo’s Spartans went through one of the worst stretches in basketball this season when they went 2-14 ATS over a 16-game stretch. The rest of the season: 7-4 ATS, including a 5-3 record to close out the regular season and B10 tournament. The Bruins are the opposite. They started out their season 9-3 ATS and have struggled mightily to finish the season going only 3-11 ATS in their last fourteen. Give me Sparty.
#1 Gonzaga (N/A) Vs. #16 Appalachian State/Norfolk State
Gonzaga – Record: 26-0 (ATS: 12-12-2, ATS Favorite: 12-2-2, ATS Underdog: N/A)
Appalachian State/Norfolk State – (See above)
Key Stats: While there’s a 99% chance Gonzaga will win this game, I’m not sure if that’s who I would bet on for the spread. While no spread is out, I think it’s safe to say the Zags will probably be around a 25-point favorite for this one. In games with this big of a spread in the season, Gonzaga finished with just a 3-8 record ATS. However, I think the Bulldogs come out and prove their worthiness of this number one seed. I like Gonzaga to win and cover.
#8 Oklahoma (-2) Vs. #9 Missouri
Oklahoma – Record: 15-10 (ATS: 12-13, ATS Favorite: 5-11, ATS Underdog: 7-2)
Missouri – Record: 16-9 (ATS: 12-13, ATS Favorite: 6-9, ATS Underdog: 6-4)
Key Stats: The Sooners have struggled this year as the favorite. They have an actual record of 11-5 in these games but are just 5-11 ATS. Missouri has had a bit more success as the underdog themselves but are just 3-7 in their last ten ATS. I like the Sooners in a close one.
#5 Creighton (-8) Vs. #12 UC Santa Barbara
Creighton – Record: 20-8 (ATS: 13-15, ATS Favorite: 11-14, ATS Underdog: 2-1)
UC Santa Barbara – Record: 22-4 (ATS: 14-10-2, ATS Favorite: 13-9-1, ATS: Underdog: 1-1-1)
Key Stats: Creighton has been favored in 90% of their games this season, and this first round is no different. The Bluejays were 8-point favorites or fewer in eleven games this year and covered the spread five of those times. The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara made their way into the tournament by dominating their opponents this year. They too have been favored a high majority of the time, and in the games they were the underdog, they did have one outright win, and were within three points in the others. Creighton wins the game, but UC Santa Barbara covers.
#4 Virginia (-10) Vs. #13 Ohio
Virginia – Record: 18-6 (ATS: 11-12-1, ATS Favorite: 11-10-1, ATS Underdog: 0-1)
Ohio – Record: 15-7 (ATS: 15-7, ATS Favorite: 9-5, ATS Underdog: 6-2)
Key Stats: Virginia is a team that has recently caught COVID-19, and its unsure who will actually be able to play in this game. Ten points is a big number against this Ohio team, and they have gotten hot as the season has gone along winning nine of their last ten and covering the spread in all nine of those wins. This Bobcat team is dangerous, and I like them upsetting the reigning National Champs.
#6 USC (N/A) Vs. #11 Wichita State/Drake
USC – Record: 22-7 (ATS: 16-13, ATS Favorite: 14-10, ATS Underdog: 2-3)
Wichita State/Drake – (See above)
Key Stats: My guess is the Trojans will probably be around a 3.5-point favorite in this matchup, and that should favor them. They have a solid record of 5-3 this year ATS when favored by fewer than five points. I think if Drake were to win, they could challenge this USC team, if Wichita State wins, I like the Trojans.
#3 Kansas (-11) Vs. #14 Eastern Washington
Kansas – Record: 20-8 (ATS: 14-12-2, ATS Favorite: 11-9-1, ATS Underdog: 3-3-1)
Eastern Washington – Record: 16-7 (ATS: 15-7-1, ATS Favorite: 12-6, ATS Underdog: 3-1-1)
Key Stats: Kansas is another team that has unfortunately been hit recently with COVID-19. Once again, we’re unsure of who will be able to play, and how effective they will be if they do. Eastern Washington posts a top 20 cover percentage this year, and I think they could keep this game closer than people think. This won’t be an easy game for the Jayhawks, but I like them to pull away late in the game and cover.
#7 Oregon (-5) Vs. #10 VCU
Oregon – Record: 20-6 (ATS: 14-12, ATS Favorite: 13-10, ATS Underdog: 1-2)
VCU – Record: 19-7 (ATS: 14-12, ATS Favorite: 10-8, ATS Underdog: 4-4)
Key Stats: The Oregon Ducks led by coach Dana Altman have closed out the regular season and Pac-12 tournament winning 10/12 and covering the spread in nine of those games. VCU is a tough team who will compete with the Ducks, but I think Oregon will pull away late and cover. The Rams are just 5-5 in their last ten ATS.
#2 Iowa (-15) Vs. #15 Grand Canyon
Iowa – Record: 21-8 (ATS: 15-13-1, ATS Favorite: 13-9-1, ATS Underdog: 2-4)
Grand Canyon – Record: 17-6 (ATS: 15-5-3, ATS Favorite: 10-5-2, ATS Underdog: 5-0-1)
Key Stats: This is one of the most interesting matchups I think in the first found. Iowa, led by Luke Garza, has been dominant at times this year, but at times, they have struggled against the spread. However, with that being said, the Hawkeyes are 4-1 in games this year where they were at least 15-point favorites. Now, the Antelopes post a top 5 cover percentage this year and are undefeated as the underdog this year. Led by a former Hoosier native and March Madness legend Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon could make some noise in this game. Grand Canyon covers, and if you’re looking for deep sleeper in this tournament, this could be your team.
#1 Michigan (N/A) Vs. #16 Mount Saint Mary’s/Texas Southern – (see above)
Michigan – Record: 20-4 (ATS: 17-7, ATS Favorite: 16-7, ATS Underdog: 1-0)
Mount Saint Mary’s/Texas Southern – (See above)
Key Stats: The Wolverines are another one of the top teams in the country this year in terms of cover percentage and were favored in every game except one (@ Wisconsin). Michigan projects to be about a 25-point favorite in this one, and they were 0-1 ATS this year in games where they were favored by that many points. They’ll win the game no matter who they play, but I think Texas Southern has a chance to cover if they win, while Mount Saint Mary’s has no chance.
#8 LSU (PK) Vs. #9 Saint Bonaventure
LSU – Record: 18-9 (ATS: 13-13-1, ATS Favorite: 7-6-1, ATS Underdog: 6-7)
Saint Bonaventure – Record: 16-4 (ATS: 14-5-1, ATS Favorite: 10-3-1, ATS Underdog: 4-2)
Key Stats: This is a classic 8/9 matchup. A Pick’em where nobody is favored. When just looking at the overall spreads from the season, Saint Bonaventure has the edge. However, LSU is 7-2-1 in their last ten ATS, and could make some noise in this tournament. I like the Tigers.
#5 Colorado (-4) Vs. #12 Georgetown
Colorado – Record: 22-8 (ATS: 17-13, ATS Favorite: 15-9, ATS Underdog: 2-4)
Georgetown – Record: 13-12 (ATS: 16-9, ATS Favorite: 3-2, ATS Underdog: 13-7)
Key Stats: If we were to just look at season stats, this looks like a blow out on paper. The Buffalos have been dominant all year, and as the favorite ATS, they have a strong cover percentage of 63%. However, Georgetown has found their stride, and looks poised to make a run. The one thing we can’t measure in stats is momentum, and it seems as though the Hoyas are riding higher than anyone else. They’re 8-2 in their last ten ATS, and don’t be surprised if these Hoyas are your Cinderella this year. The Hoyas stay hot and win this game outright.
#4 Florida State (-10) Vs. #13 UNC-Greensboro
Florida State – Record: 16-6 (ATS: 11-9-2, ATS Favorite: 10-8-2, ATS Underdog: 1-1)
UNC-Greensboro – Record: 21-8 (ATS: 17-12, ATS Favorite: 16-10, ATS Underdog: 1-2)
Key Stats: Florida State under Leonard Hamilton seem to have flown under the radar for years but have gotten the recognition they deserve here recently. However, on the season they went just 6-5-2 ATS when favored by ten points or fewer, so this could be a tough game for the Seminoles. UNC-Greensboro has posted a decent spread record throughout the season, but most of those games had them as the favorite. In their three games they were the underdogs in, they won by nine, but then lost the other two by 13 and 18 points. I like the Seminoles in a blowout.
#6 BYU (N/A) Vs.#11 Michigan State/UCLA – (see above)
BYU – Record: 20-6 (ATS: 14-8-4, ATS Favorite: 10-8-2, ATS Underdog: 4-0-2)
Michigan State/UCLA – (See above)
Key Stats: I project BYU to be around a 3-point favorite for this matchup, which could be interesting. Both MSU and UCLA are obviously from the Power 5, and this will be interesting to see how they matchup against either school. The Cougars did play a few other major schools outside of their conference and faired pretty well. They lost to a strong USC team, but beat St. Johns, Utah, and San Diego State. I think BYU covers and wins, no matter which team they play.
#3 Texas (-9) Vs. #14 Abilene Christian
Texas – Record: 19-7 (ATS: 12-13-1, ATS Favorite: 7-10-1, ATS Underdog: 5-3)
Abilene Christian – Record: 23-4 (ATS: 17-6-4, ATS Favorite: 14-5-2, ATS Underdog: 3-1-2)
Key Stats: When looking at this Texas team, it’s a little deceiving when you look at their record against the spread. They went through a tough ten game stretch in the middle of their season where they were 1-8-1, but besides that, have been a fairly good team to bet on going 11-5, including a 5-0 record in their last five. The Wildcats of Abilene Christian are not to be taken lightly though. They boast an 8-2 spread record in their last ten and played a very competitive game against Texas Tech early in the year losing 44-51, but more importantly for our discussion, they covered the spread in that loss. The Longhorns have finished the season strong, and I like them to win and cover in this one.
#7 UConn (-4) Vs. #10 Maryland
UConn – Record: 15-7 (ATS: 16-5-1, ATS Favorite: 13-3, ATS Underdog: 3-2-1)
Maryland – Record: 16-13 (ATS: 12-16-1, ATS Favorite: 7-7, ATS Underdog: 5-9-1)
Key Stats: The Huskies come into the tournament as the number three team in the country in terms of cover percentage at 76.2%. In games where they were 5-point favorites or less, UConn covered 6/7 times, and they look to be formidable again in this tournament. Maryland this year has struggled against the spread but have struggled at an even higher rate as an underdog. This is not good news for them. In their last five games ATS as an underdog, they’re just 1-4. My money says UConn.
#2 Alabama (-17) Vs. #15 Iona
Alabama – Record: 24-6 (ATS: 17-12-1, ATS Favorite: 15-11-1, ATS Underdog: 2-1)
Iona – Record: 12-5 (ATS: 11-5-1, ATS Favorite: 9-4-1, ATS Underdog: 2-1)
Key Stats: The Crimson Tide have been a great story this year, and coach Nate Oats has done a great job with his team over the last two years. In games this year in which the Tide were favored by at least 10-points, they went 5-1-1 ATS. For Iona, legendary coach Rick Pitino became just the third coach to ever lead five different teams to the NCAA Tournament. After a season filled with COVID issues, including a six-week layoff, the Gaels have made it to the Big Dance. The only high-profile non-conference opponent Iona faced was Seton Hall, who they lost to by 22 in their first game. Roll Tide in this one.
#1 Baylor (-24.5) Vs. #16 Hartford
Baylor – Record: 22-2 (ATS: 15-9, ATS Favorite: 15-9, ATS Underdog: N/A)
Hartford – Record: 15-8 (ATS: 14-8-1, ATS: Favorite: 7-3, ATS Underdog: 7-5-1)
Key Stats: For Baylor, I think you can divide their season into two parts: They started out the year 18-0, and had wins over Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Kansas. During this stretch, they won 16/18 games by double digits, and were 13-5 ATS. In their last six games, the Bears went just 4-2, and had just a 2-4 record ATS. As for Hartford, they probably do not have a realistic shot to win this game, however, they may have a shot to cover. In the two games this year where they were 20+ point underdogs, the Hawks went 1-1 ATS, but lost both games to UConn and Villanova. Baylor wins easily, but not by enough to cover the spread. Give me the Hawks.
#8 North Carolina (-1) Vs. #9 Wisconsin
North Carolina – Record: 18-10 ATS: 13-13-2, ATS Favorite: 11-9-1, ATS Underdog: 2-4-1)
Wisconsin – Record: 17-12 (ATS: 12-15-2, ATS Favorite: 10-12-1, ATS Underdog: 2-3-1)
Key Stats: The Tar Heels are back in the tournament this year marking it the 16th time in 18 years under Roy Williams. UNC had a tough start to the season where they went just 4-9-1 ATS but were able to turn it around towards the middle of the season and finished the last 14 games going 9-4-1 ATS. The Badgers are a team that has limped into the tournament going 2-6 in their last eight games. In those games, they had a slightly better percentage at covering the spread going 2-5-1. I like the Tar Heels.
#5 Villanova (-6.5) Vs. #12 Winthrop
Villanova – Record: 16-6 (ATS: 11-10-1, ATS Favorite: 11-10-1, ATS Underdog: N/A)
Winthrop – Record: 23-1 (ATS: 13-11, ATS Favorite: 10-11, ATS Underdog: 3-0)
Key Stats: Villanova has been hit hard by the injury bug here recently. They’ve lost one of their top players in Connor Gillespie and have not looked the same without him. They’re just 3-6-1 in their last ten ATS. For Winthrop, I think this is the perfect matchup for them. Their record speaks for itself, and don’t get too distracted by their spread record. This seems like a classic 12-5 upset, and I like the Eagles.
#4 Purdue (-8) Vs. #13 North Texas
Purdue – Record: 18-9 (ATS: 14-11-2, ATS Favorite: 9-6-1, ATS Underdog: 5-5-1)
North Texas – Record: 17-9 (ATS: 15-9-2, ATS Favorite: 12-6-1, ATS Underdog: 3-3-1)
Key Stats: The Boilermakers have one of the youngest, and most exciting teams in the country. They accomplished the rarest of rare when they had four different players win freshman conference player of the week honors, and the future is definitely bright. As for this tournament, Purdue enters on a hot streak. They have a record of 11-4-1 ATS in their last 16 after starting 3-7-1 ATS. For North Texas, they’ve won their last four ATS, and also boast an impressive 4-0 record at neutral sites. Earlier in the year, North Texas played two Power 5 schools in Arkansas and Mississippi State, and lost by 15 and 6 points, respectively. Boiler up in this one.
#6 Texas Tech (-4.5) Vs. #11 Utah State
Texas Tech – Record: 17-10 (ATS: 10-17, ATS Favorite: 9-14, ATS Underdog: 1-3)
Utah State – Record: 20-7 (ATS: 15-11-1, ATS Favorite: 14-8-1, ATS Underdog: 1-3)
Key Stats: The Red Raiders are just a few years removed from a Runner-up finish, and they’re looking to get back to the championship game. Tech has been successful this year on the court with their record, but ATS they’ve struggled. In games in which they were 5-point favorites or less, they went just 2-6 ATS. Statistically speaking, the Aggies have struggled in their past few games ATS. They have just a 4-6 record against the spread in their last ten, but my gut tells me this could be an upset. Look out for the Aggies.
#3 Arkansas (-8.5) Vs. #14 Colgate
Arkansas – Record: 22-5 (ATS: 17-9-1, ATS Favorite: 14-6-1, ATS Underdog: 3-3)
Colgate – Record: 14-1(ATS: 10-5, ATS Favorite: 10-5, ATS Underdog: N/A)
Key Stats: Arkansas has been one of my favorite teams to watch this year. Led by an animated coach in Eric Musselman, there hasn’t been a dull moment all season, and by the way, they’re also super talented. The Razorbacks have a 12-2 record in their last 14 games played, and they have posted a 10-4 record ATS during this same stretch. However, they’re going up against a super talented team in Colgate. The only blemish on their record is a two-point defeat in their second game of the season from Army. The Raiders have a 6-4 record in their last 10 games ATS, but I think this game goes beyond that. This is a Colgate team that has the manpower to win this game. As much as I like Arkansas and Coach Musselman, I think Colgate covers, but Arkansas finds a way to win.
#7 Florida (PK) Vs. #10 Virginia Tech
Florida – Record: 14-9 (ATS: 10-13, ATS Favorite: 7-8, ATS Underdog: 3-5)
Virginia Tech – Record: 15-6 (ATS: 11-10, ATS Favorite: 7-8, ATS Underdog: 4-2)
Key Stats: After everything the Gators went through early in the season, it’s amazing they have battled to get to where they are today. However, they have not fared well recently ATS. They post just a 3-7 record in their last ten games and were just a couple points away from being 1-9. For the Hokies, they’ve faired a little better here recently going 4-6 in their last ten ATS. This is a true Pick’em game, but I got Virginia Tech in a close one.
#2 Ohio State (-17) Vs. #15 Oral Roberts
Ohio State – Record: 21-9 (ATS: 17-12-1, ATS Favorite: 10-10, ATS Underdog: 7-2-1)
Oral Roberts – Record: 16-10 (ATS: 14-9-2, ATS Favorite: 5-6-1, ATS Underdog: 9-3-1)
Key Stats: Ohio State has been a little bit of a trendy team this year. They had a stretch in the year where they won 10/11 games, but then followed that by losing four in a row. Now, part of this is due to the competition in the Big Ten, but it looks like the Buckeyes may have figured it out a little bit in the conference tournament. Oral Roberts is a tough team, but I don’t think they have enough to pull off the upset. With being said, in games this year where they were 15-point underdogs or more, they were 3-0 ATS, but lost all three games. Buckeye’s win, but Oral Roberts covers.
#1 Illinois (-21) Vs. #16 Drexel
Illinois – Record: 23-6 (ATS: 18-10-1, ATS Favorite: 14-9-1, ATS Underdog: 4-1)
Drexel – Record: 12-7 (ATS: 12-5-2, ATS Favorite: 7-3-2, ATS Underdog: 5-2)
Key Stats: This season, the Illini are the second best B10 team in terms of cover percentage, and they look to continue this trend into the tournament. Illinois is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games, and in games this year in which they were favored by 20+ points, they were 2-0 ATS. Drexel has played well here lately winning the CAA conference tournament and earning the automatic bid. They’re 3-0-1 in their last four ATS, and in their one game earlier in the year where they played a Power 5 school, they lost by nine, but covered. However, I like the Illini to win and cover in this one.
#8 Loyola-Chicago (-2) Vs. #9 Georgia Tech
Loyola Chicago – Record: 24-4 (ATS: 16-9-1, ATS Favorite: 16-8-1, ATS Underdog: 0-1)
Georgia Tech – Record: 17-8 (ATS: 15-10, ATS Favorite: 7-6, ATS Underdog: 8-4)
Key Stats: Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean were the Cinderella in this tournament just a few years ago, but now, they’re the favorite in the First Round. The Ramblers are 17-1 in their last 18 games but are only 11-6-1 ATS in that stretch. Georgia Tech is another team in this tournament who is riding on their momentum. After winning the ACC tournament, Tech moved up to the nine-seed, and this is a favorable spot for them. The Yellow Jackets post a 67% cover percentage this year as underdogs, but I like Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean in this one.
#5 Tennessee (-9) Vs. #12 Oregon State
Tennessee – Record: 18-8 (ATS: 13-12-1, ATS Favorite: 13-11-1, ATS Underdog: 0-1)
Oregon State – Record: 17-12 (ATS: 19-9-1, ATS Favorite: 6-4-1, ATS Underdog: 13-5)
Key Stats: Statistically speaking, the 5 vs.12 matchups are where underdogs tend to shine. According to an article from Draft Kings, since 1985, there have been 140 of these matchups, and the twelve seed has won 50 of these games. So, with those odds, it’s more than likely one will happen this year. Give me the Beavers of Oregon State who are 9-1 ATS in their last ten games and have plenty of momentum after winning their conference tournament.
#4 Oklahoma State (-8) Vs. #13 Liberty
Oklahoma State – Record: 20-8 (ATS: 17-10-1, ATS Favorite: 5-6-1, ATS Underdog: 12-4)
Liberty – Record: 23-5 (ATS: 16-8-4, ATS Favorite: 12-7-2, ATS Underdog: 4-1-2)
Key Stats: Oklahoma State has been a powerhouse all year, and I was shocked to see them seeded this low in the tournament. Cade Cunningham, the likely No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft, has reshaped the Cowboys in one season. While there’s no denying OK State has been better this year as the underdog, they are 8-1 in their last nine ATS. As for Liberty, here’s the thing. I really do think they are a good squad, and could make a run, but not against Oklahoma State. The Flames do have some experience in playing Power 5 teams this year going 2-3 in those contests, but both wins came against teams who didn’t qualify for this tournament. Cowboys win in a blowout.
#6 San Diego State (-2) Vs. #11 Syracuse
San Diego State – Record: 22-4 (ATS: 14-12, ATS Favorite: 12-10, ATS Underdog: 2-2)
Syracuse – Record: 16-9 (ATS: 12-13, ATS Favorite: 9-7, ATS Underdog: 3-6)
Key Stats: San Diego State is another team I like a lot in this tournament. Their record this year ATS isn’t great, but they were double digit favorites in most of their conference games, which made them a bad team to bet on. In games this year where they were 5-point favorite or less, SDSU went 2-0. However, the Aztecs need to be careful in this first game. The Orange and Coach Boeheim are notorious for making runs as higher seeds in this tournament. Syracuse has struggled this year as the underdog ATS, but keep in mind Syracuse is in their midst of their best stretch this year covering the spread in each of their last four games. After saying all that, I think I still like the Aztecs to cover and win.
#3 West Virginia (-10.5) Vs. #14 Morehead State
West Virginia – Record: 18-9 (ATS: 13-14. ATS Favorite: 9-11, ATS Underdog: 4-3)
Morehead State – Record: 23-7 (ATS: 19-9-2, ATS Favorite: 7-6-1, ATS Underdog: 12-3-1)
Key Stats: West Virginia has had a very inconsistent year this year ATS. They’ve never covered in more than three straight games, and never didn’t cover in more than three straight games. In games this year where they were 10-point favorites or more, the Mountaineers went just 4-7 ATS, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this trend continue. For Morehead State, they have ranked near the top all season in terms of underdog cover percentage at 80%. The Eagles are winners of seven in a row and have covered the spread in four of those games, however, Morehead State went 2-0 ATS as an underdog during that same stretch. The Eagles cover and win the game outright.
#7 Clemson (-2) Vs. #10 Rutgers
Clemson – Record: 16-7 (ATS: 11-11-1, ATS Favorite: 8-6-1, ATS Underdog: 3-5)
Rutgers – Record: 15-11 (ATS: 13-12-1, ATS Favorite: 8-7-1, ATS Underdog: 5-5)
Key Stats: Clemson started out the year hot, winning five straight games, and covering in all five as well. Since then, the Tigers are just 6-11-1 ATS. The Scarlet Knights are in a very similar position, however, their streak came in the middle of season, where they went 5-1 ATS over six games. Both teams have cooled off after starting the season 5-0 and 6-0 respectively, and I could see this game being close. Give me Rutgers covering in the end.
#2 Houston (-18) Vs. #15 Cleveland State
Houston – Record: 24-3 (ATS: 18-8-1, ATS Favorite: 17-8-1, ATS Underdog: 1-0)
Cleveland State – Record: 19-7 (ATS: 17-8-1, ATS Favorite: 10-5-1, ATS Underdog: 7-3)
Key Stats: The Cougars from Houston are an exciting team to watch, and no doubt earned this No. 2 seed. They proved they could beat big competition when they beat Texas Tech, Boise State, and Wichita State. In games this year where Houston was a 15-point favorite or more, the Cougars went 6-2 ATS. However, Cleveland State should not be overlooked. They boast a top 25 cover percentage in all of college basketball and have strived as the underdog this year. The Cougars win, but Cleveland State covers.
To wrap everything up, I created this table that I think illustrates how teams perform against the spread a little bit easier than above. However, I simplified this table to just teams, overall ATS record, and spread for the first game.
|Team:||ATS Record:||Spread for First Round:|
|1. Drake||20-6-3||Underdog (+2)|
|2. UConn||16-5-1||Favorite (-4)|
|3. Grand Canyon||15-5-3||Underdog (+15)|
|4. Abilene Christian||17-6-4||Underdog (+9)|
|5. Saint Bonaventure||14-5-1||Pick’em|
|7. Drexel||12-5-2||Underdog (+16)|
|8. Houston||18-8||Favorite (-18)|
|9. Iona||11-5-1||Underdog (+17)|
|10. Eastern Washington||15-7-1||Underdog (+11)|
|11. Cleveland State||17-8-1||Underdog (+18)|
|12. Oregon State||19-9-1||Underdog (+9)|
|13. Morehead State||19-9-2||Underdog (+10.5)|
|14. Colgate||10-5||Underdog (+8.5)|
|15. Ohio||15-7||Underdog (+10)|
|16. Liberty||16-8-4||Underdog (+8)|
|17. Arkansas||17-9-1||Favorite (-8.5)|
|18. Illinois||18-10-1||Favorite (-21)|
|19. Loyola-Chicago||16-9-1||Favorite (-2)|
|20. Georgetown||16-9||Underdog (+4)|
|21. Hartford||14-8-1||Underdog (+24.5)|
|23. Oklahoma State||17-10-1||Favorite (-8)|
|24. Baylor||15-9||Favorite (-24.5)|
|25. North Texas||15-9-2||Underdog (+8)|
|26. Appalachian State||14-9-5||Favorite (-3)|
|27. Oral Roberts||14-9-2||Underdog (+17)|
|28. Norfolk State||12-8-3||Underdog (+3)|
|29. Georgia Tech||15-10||Underdog (+2)|
|30. Ohio State||17-12-1||Favorite (-17)|
|31. UNC–Greensboro||17-12||Underdog (+10)|
|32. Alabama||17-12-1||Favorite (-17)|
|33. UC Santa Barbara||14-10-2||Underdog (+8)|
|34. Utah State||15-11-1||Underdog (+4.5)|
|35. Colorado||17-13||Favorite (-4)|
|36. Purdue||14-11-2||Favorite (-8)|
|38. Florida State||11-9-2||Favorite (-10)|
|39. Texas Southern||12-10-2||Favorite (-2)|
|40. Winthrop||13-11||Underdog (+6.5)|
|41. VCU||14-12||Underdog (+5)|
|42. Oregon||14-12||Favorite (-5)|
|43. San Diego State||14-12||Favorite (-2)|
|44. Kansas||14-12-2||Favorite (-11)|
|45. Iowa||15-13-1||Favorite (-15)|
|46. Virginia Tech||11-10||Pick’em|
|47. Mount Saint Mary’s||11-10-1||Underdog (+2)|
|48. Villanova||11-10-1||Favorite (-6.5)|
|49. Rutgers||13-12-1||Underdog (+2)|
|50. Tennessee||13-12-1||Favorite (-9)|
|51. Clemson||11-11-1||Favorite (-2)|
|54. North Carolina||13-13-2||Favorite (-1)|
|55. Wichita State||9-9-3||Favorite (-2)|
|56. West Virginia||13-14||Favorite (-10.5)|
|57. Oklahoma||12-13||Favorite (-2)|
|58. Syracuse||12-13||Underdog (+2)|
|59. Missouri||12-13||Underdog (+2)|
|60. Texas||12-13-1||Favorite (-9)|
|61. Virginia||11-12-1||Favorite (-10)|
|62. Creighton||13-15||Favorite (-8)|
|63. UCLA||12-14||Underdog (+1.5)|
|64. Wisconsin||12-15-2||Underdog (+1)|
|66. Maryland||12-16-1||Underdog (+4)|
|67. Texas Tech||10-17||Underdog (-4.5)|
|68. Michigan State||9-18||Favorite (-1.5)|
Hopefully, you’re able to enjoy the tournament, and win a few bucks off of these picks, but just remember this one thing: good teams win, but great teams cover.
The Sports Innovation Institute is leveraging the expertise of faculty and students across the IUPUI campus, the Sports Innovation Institute blends academic thinking with an entrepreneurial spirit to create new products and research that help solve important problems in the sports industry.