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We’ve defined several situational spots below and their respective matches in the first round of March Madness for Friday and Saturday's games. While we’re not necessarily advising to blindly bet these spots, these are some useful tidbits below when placing your weekend wagers in the 2021 NCAA Tournament:
Last Week: We got back in the black with a profitable 3-2 week!
Flat Spot: Our pick was FSU, but Georgia Tech won the game as a short underdog in the ACC finals.
Letdown Spot: We cashed both our tickets here as we gave out two letdown spots in the Big East and Pac 12 Championship games. Both underdogs (Georgetown/Oregon State) came through for us.
Revenge Spot: Ohio State delivered for us as well in the Big 10 semifinals against Michigan.
Get-right Spot: Wichita State fell short in the American Athletic Conference's semifinal round as a short favorite against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Now the Shockers season is over after losing to Drake in the First Four on Thursday night. That’s what they get for losing when we back them, right?
Flat spot: A game in which a team might not be fully motivated for given a lackluster opponent and other scheduling circumstances that do not result in full intensity.
Abilene Christian vs Texas (9:50 p.m. EST Saturday on truTV)
Line: Abilene Christian +8
Analysis: We’ve written about this before - while the Big Ten conference got plenty of love this year as the nation’s best conference, it's the Big 12 conference's top-end teams that can hang with anyone. That includes Texas, as the Longhorns are fresh off winning the Big 12 conference tournament championship game. That’s exactly why we’re fading Shaka Smart’s team here in its first tournament game, however, as we wouldn’t be surprised if Texas is a little fat and happy coming into this one. There’s also a few statistical things we like here too. Abilene Christian is the better three-point shooting team, which is always nice when you’re backing a dog. These two teams grade out pretty evenly in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric as well, with Abilene coming in at 36th and Texas at 32nd. I see value with the dog at +8.
Letdown spot: The next game for a team after its previous one was closely contested, and often a win, against a marquee opponent.
Georgetown vs Colorado (12:15 p.m. EST Saturday on CBS)
Line: Colorado -6.5
Analysis: If this game was played one month ago on a neutral floor, then this line is at least -10 in Colorado's favor. The Georgetown Hoyas got hot down the stretch and won the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden in fashion, doing so as the conference’s eighth seed. Georgetown making the field is a nice story with head coach Patrick Ewing getting his alma mater to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his four seasons there, but this is where the rubber meets the road for the Hoyas. Don’t forget, while Georgetown stole a bid in the Big East, Colorado’s loss to Oregon State in the Pac 12 conference title game resulted in the Beavers stealing a bid as well. I’d expect that to be on Colorado’s mind here and would think the Buffaloes would want big margin in this one as opposed to being the team that lost back-to-back games in March against teams that on merit aren’t good enough to be in the field.
Look-ahead spot: A team may overlook its current opponent due to a “bigger” upcoming opponent.
Iona vs Alabama (4:00 p.m. EST Saturday on TBS)
Line: Iona +16.5
Analysis: This is not your typical look-ahead spot, as we can’t be sure of Alabama’s next opponent like we would be in the regular season. I’m not even suggesting that there’s anything specific about UConn or Maryland that would have Alabama looking ahead to that particular game either. What I am saying, however, is that with all the hype that the Crimson Tide men’s basketball program generated on the heels of another football national championship for the school - and then winning the SEC Tournament - it wouldn’t shock me to see Alabama already penning itself into the Sweet 16. I’m sure many college hoops fans would love to see the potential matchup with Texas in the East regional semifinal too. We wrote earlier this week about the mental toughness of Iona getting through two COVID-19 pauses and winning the MAAC Tournament as a #9 seed. Here they are now as a #15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and it looks like the Gaels are peaking at the right time. I like this game to go right down to the wire, and certainly for Iona to cover the big number against an Alabama team that might be puffing its chest out a bit.
Get-right spot: A game in which a struggling team with expectations for more should find a way back into the win column.
Utah State vs Texas Tech (1:45 p.m. EST Friday on TNT)
Line: Texas Tech -4
Analysis: While it was only two losses against Baylor and Texas, those are the most recent games for Chris Beard's Red Raiders, and they have been spaced out enough to where I believe Texas Tech is ready to unleash the dogs on Utah State. Tech’s regular season ended with a double-digit loss in Waco against Baylor, and the Red Raiders also lost by just one point in the Big 12 quarterfinals against Texas. Utah State, on the other hand, didn’t look all that impressive in the Mountain West conference championship game against San Diego State. So you're telling me that I get the defending national runner-up (out of the Big 12, no less) against an at-large Mountain West team, and I only have to give four points? Yes, please.
Sandwich Spot: A combination of both the letdown and lookahead spots here. The team featured in this spot likely has just played one of its bigger games of the season, and has another big game on deck.
St. Bonaventure vs LSU (1:45 p.m. EST Saturday on TNT)
Line: St. Bonaventure +1.5
Analysis: I’m saving the best for last, as this is my best bet of the first round. The Bonnies flew under the radar all season as the Atlantic 10 was a very disappointing league - the team St. Bonaventure defeated in the conference championship game, VCU, is its only other team in the NCAA Tournament. But do not let this conference’s ineptitude impact your view of St. Bonaventure this season. KenPom has the Bonnies ahead of LSU in its power ratings, and I can see why. The Bonnies come in having covered seven of their last eight ATS and have won six of their last seven games straight up. LSU is also a whopping 125th in the nation in defensive efficiency, and while the Tigers are a great team when clicking offensively, there’s a reason they’re just a #8 seed. Now let’s get to the actual situational spot within this handicap:
The Tigers just played a highly emotional SEC title game against Alabama and covered in the 80-79 loss to the Crimson Tide. Should LSU advance here, it would likely square off with Michigan in the Round of 32, the #1 seed that most believe is the most vulnerable. So LSU just played Alabama and could get Michigan next, and all that lies in between is some team from the Atlantic 10? LSU comes into Saturday's contest having covered four straight point spreads, but if you look at the Tigers' schedule, the only thing they've been good at this year is being inconsistent. It has been a season loaded with ups and downs for LSU, which makes the Tigers the perfect team to buy low and sell high on. We’re selling high on them here because we simply don’t trust them to win the game leading up to Monday’s potential tilt with Michigan.