Odds are a fickle thing when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
With potential traps in the form of bracket busters no matter which way bettors turn and little time to actually analyze each matchup, the smart play for most is to stay away from the contests with close spreads.
Not really. Close matchups can be intimidating, but the thrill—and financial reward—of properly nailing a projected close showdown may very well trump any feeling in sports.
Just be sure to bet wisely with the help of thorough breakdowns.
- Download the Printable Bracket
- Follow the Latest Bracket Updates Live
- Play the Free Bracket Challenge
Note: All odds courtesy of Vegas Insider as of 4 p.m. ET, Sept. 5.
Dayton Stuns Ohio State (-6)
Thad Matta and his Ohio State Buckeyes have no choice but to gut up and face an in-state team thanks to the committee's interest in exciting storylines.
It makes sense that the Buckeyes are favored in the matchup, but recent trends and the underlying details suggest the Dayton Flyers won't let Matta and Co. off easily. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports put it best:
Ohio State has absolutely NOTHING to gain by playing Dayton in the NCAA Tournament. Great game for the Flyers. Awful one for the Buckeyes.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 17, 2014
Look, the Flyers are on fire having won 10 of their last 12. Conversely, the Buckeyes are coming off a crushing defeat in the Big Ten tournament at the hands of Michigan—which exposed the fact that Ohio State cannot keep up if a team shoots efficiently from behind the arc.
In that contest, the Wolverines shot better than 50 percent from long distance to down the Buckeyes.
It just so happens that Dayton specializes in that category, primarily thanks to former Buckeye Jordan Sibert, who averages 12.5 points per game and 43.9 percent from deep.
Ohio State is 3-3 in its last six, with no victory coming by more than five points. Dayton has the firepower to down the reeling Buckeyes in a big way.
Prediction: Dayton 75, Ohio State 68
Saint Joseph's Exploits Connecticut (-4.5)
The Connecticut Huskies have some work to do in order to not be one of the most talked-about upsets in the early goings of the bracket.
Coach Kevin Ollie and his squad have had the look of a shaky unit for most of the season and are coming off a year in which they were forced to sit out of the Big Dance thanks to academic sanctions.
As Ollie points out, the Huskies are just happy to have an opportunity, according to The Associated Press, via USA Today:
"There were some dark days there," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "But everybody in life is going to have dark days. I'm just so proud of the guys, how they stayed together, planting seeds."
The A-10 champs are led by Langston Galloway, one of the tournament's best pure scorers who averages 17.5 points per game and is more than capable of carrying the team on a given night—as he did on March 14 against Dayton when he posted 31 points.
Not only do the Hawks have the offense to run away from the Huskies, the defense is also a stout unit. With Connecticut having questionable losses to teams such as SMU and Houston on the record, it is easy to see why the Hawks should be an upset favorite regardless of the spread.
Prediction: Saint Joseph's 69, UConn 63
Pittsburgh (-5.5) Blows Out Colorado
Interestingly enough, this game can be labeled as an upset special with the Colorado Buffaloes coming in one seed higher than the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The spread favors the Panthers for a reason.
Which team wins?
Colorado is simply unprepared for the amount of physicality Pittsburgh brings to the table, led by stars Lamar Patterson (17.6 points per game) and Talib Zanna (12.9 points, 8.8 rebounds).
Zanna in particular will make this an ugly contest. In his last three games, the forward has posted eye-popping stat lines that total 39 rebounds and 51 points in that span.
On paper, Colorado looks like a tough matchup, especially with a non-conference win over Kansas to brag about. But the loss of star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a torn ACL has changed the complexion of the team dramatically.
Now in its 12th Big Dance in 13 years, Pittsburgh is simply too experienced and physical to lose to the current Buffaloes squad.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 80, Colorado 71