Starting on Thursday afternoon, the NCAA tournament is going to engulf the sports world for the weekend. Even though a lot of the games have the potential to be lopsided, the unpredictable nature of March Madness always brings plenty of upsets.
Devouring the brackets, as you undoubtedly have the last two days, makes it impossible to find a favorite. Studying teams is great to get information, but at some point you bury yourself in numbers that it's possible to create a scenario where all four No. 16 seeds win a game.
Instead of overloading your brain, let us help you fill out a bracket by examining the best second-round matchups in the NCAA tournament. We will also look at these games against the spread, just to add a little more spice to the picks.
West Region: No. 7 Oregon (-2) vs. No. 10 BYU (O/U: 167)
Of all the tournament games listed right now, Oregon vs. BYU has the highest over/under at 167. It's easy to see why, as the Cougars rank third nationally with 84.2 points per game and the Ducks are 11th at 81.8 points per game.
That alone is enough to make this the must-see game of the tournament. Most of the teams at the top of the bracket (Florida, Virginia, Syracuse, Michigan State) play such a slow, plodding style of basketball that it's hard to watch.
At least Oregon and BYU will be fun and the two teams match up so well against each other that anything less than a close game at the end will be a disappointment.
Oregon does have better athletes and more diverse scoring across the board, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range. BYU doesn't have as much athleticism and is a lesser shooting team from beyond the arc (36 percent).
The Ducks will win in thrilling fashion, but take the over.
Prediction: Oregon 88, BYU 84
East Region: No. 5 Cincinnati (-3.5) vs. No. 12 Harvard (O/U: 124.5)
With all the love coming Harvard's way in this matchup, it's a surprise to see Cincinnati is still favored to win. It does make you wonder if Harvard is getting too much love coming into this game.
ESPN's Jay Bilas (subscription required) picked the Crimson to win this game, for no other reason than their scoring depth:
The Crimson have a good bench and great balance, with Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard leading the four-time Ivy champions to a showdown against the smashmouth defense of Cincinnati. The Bearcats have one of the great scorers in the field in Sean Kilpatrick and an excellent defensive and rebounding team. Still, the Crimson move on behind their terrific secondary breaks.
Which team has the best chance to pull off an upset?
There are times we get too caught up in who a team has played and/or beaten. Cincinnati had a strong season in the American Athletic Conference, finishing with the same 15-3 regular-season record as Louisville and going 27-6 overall.
The Bearcats have wins over Louisville and Connecticut, compared to a Harvard team that won two games against teams in the RPI Top 100. Those resumes point to a Cincinnati romp.
But you have to look at matchups. Harvard has five players averaging at least 10 points per game and shoots 39 percent from three-point range as a team.
Of course, Cincinnati has the best player on the court in Sean Kilpatrick. As we see every year in the tournament, one great, dynamic star can carry a team. It's going to be an excellent game.
Prediction: Harvard 57, Cincinnati 54
Midwest Region: No. 8 Kentucky (-4) vs. No. 9 Kansas State (O/U: 131)
There are three teams with the ability to fascinate and perplex in this tournament: Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kentucky.
Oklahoma State is playing well entering the tournament, with Marcus Smart playing up to his potential by averaging 19.6 points and five assists per game this month. Kansas has to play without center Joel Embiid until the second weekend, if the Jayhawks get that far.
Then there is Kentucky. John Calipari's group was supposed to be the greatest collection of freshman talent in the history of college basketball, even ranking No. 1 in the AP preseason poll.
Despite having all the talent in the world, youth and inexperience has hindered Kentucky all season. The Wildcats did have a strong showing in the SEC tournament, losing to No. 1 Florida by one point in the championship game.
That could be a sign Kentucky is starting to hit its stride, which makes it a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.
Of course, Kansas State has freshman Marcus Foster leading the charge and an excellent inside player in Thomas Gipson. These Wildcats have lost three consecutive games to end the year, but the last two came by a combined eight points.
If Kentucky's inexperience lingers, it's going to be an early exit for the greatest recruiting class ever. Don't count on it, though.
Prediction: Kentucky 67, Kansas State 62
Note: All odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
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