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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 had a nice 4-1 first round!
Flat Spot: Abilene Christian vs Texas. Our pick was Abilene Christian +8 and we cashed with ease as the underdog Wildcats won this game outright.
Letdown Spot: Georgetown vs Colorado. Another easy cash on the Buffaloes (-6.5) as Georgetown got blown out, losing by a whopping 23 points.
Look-ahead spot: Iona vs Alabama. The Gaels covered the big +16.5 number for us, as Rick Pitino's squad suffered a 68-55 defeat to Alabama.
Sandwich spot: St. Bonaventure vs LSU. Our one loser came on the Bonnies, who dropped a 76-61 decision to LSU as +1.5 point underdogs.
Get-right Spot: Utah State vs Texas Tech. The Raiders cashed for us as well, as Chris Beard's club won by 12 points and easily covered the -4.
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.
Creighton vs Gonzaga (1:10 PM ET Sunday on CBS)
Line: Creighton +13.5
Analysis: If you don’t want to step in front of the freight train that is Gonzaga, I don’t blame you. However, the oddsmakers are fully aware of the Bulldogs’ dominance as of late, and it has been been catching up to them, as Gonzaga is just 3-3 against the spread in its last six games. One of those ATS victories was a cover by the hook, as 15.5-point chalk against Oklahoma in the Round of 32. As good as Gonzaga may be, it’s still difficult to cover double-digit spreads repeatedly in the NCAA Tournament. After all, we’re into the Sweet 16 now. Creighton looked good at times in the regular season but never really appeared to be a national title contender. I don’t believe beating UC Santa Barbara and Ohio in the first weekend has altered that perception. Therefore, I look for Gonzaga to remain in cruise control and not cover the big number here, especially against a Creighton team that has a lot of experience and should fight to the end.
Letdown spot: The next game for a team after its previous one was closely contested, and often a win, against a marquee opponent.
Villanova vs Baylor (5:15 PM ET Saturday on CBS)
Line: Baylor -7
Analysis: Getting to the Sweet 16 sans Collin Gillespie is a pretty good accomplishment for Jay Wright’s squad, albeit beating a pair of double-digit seeds in the process. No, Winthrop and North Texas weren’t marquee opponents for Villanova, but a team down its senior leader still making the Sweet 16 has to make the locker room feel good nonetheless. This is why the Wildcats make our letdown spot in the regional semifinals against the top-seeded Baylor Bears. Coach Scott Drew's squad looks like the dominant team that was running through a good Big 12 conference during the regular season (and before its COVID-19 pause in February). That’s nothing like Winthrop or North Texas. Bears win this one by at least 15.
Look-ahead spot: A team may overlook its current opponent due to a “bigger” upcoming opponent.
Syracuse vs Houston (9:55 ET Saturday on TBS)
Line: Syracuse +6
Analysis: Illinois, the #1 seed in the Midwest Region, was eliminated in the Round of 32. Loyola-Chicago, the team that bounced Illinois, is garnering a lot more attention leading up to the second weekend than Houston is, despite the fact that the Cougars are now the highest seed left standing in the region. Should Loyola-Chicago advance in the first game on Saturday, I’d certainly believe the Cougars would be licking their chops to knock out the media darling and get to the Final Four. Even if Oregon State pulls the upset, then the Cougars know that it would just take beating a pair of double-digit seeds to earn a National Semifinal appearance. In both cases, I expect a possible look-ahead situation for Houston here.
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.
Oregon vs USC (9:45 ET Sunday on TBS)
Line: USC -2.5
Analysis: I’ll start by saying this is not your textbook sandwich spot - although Oregon did lose its regular-season meeting to Southern Cal by 14, I can’t help but think the Ducks are riding their high horses a little bit after upsetting second-seeded Iowa in the West region. You don’t think those Oregon kids haven’t thought about a possible regional final with Gonzaga up next? Meanwhile, here comes USC entering the Sweet 16 with a pair of double-digit wins in the tournament already. I would've liked to have seen Oregon square off with VCU in the first round, rather than benefit from a COVID-19 problem within the VCU program. VCU is a much better defensive team than the Iowa team Oregon just upset. USC, on the other hand, is fifth in the nation in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric and sixth in KenPom’s overall power ratings, compared to Oregon’s 17th. That would suggest this line is a bit short at just 2.5 on a neutral.