NCAA Scores 2021: Odds, Spread Predictions, Betting Advice for Latest Bracket

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2021

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn shoots a free throw during the first half of a first round NCAA college basketball tournament game Friday, against Drexel March 19, 2021, at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis .(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament has a high standard to live up to after the chaos that erupted in the first round.

Five of Sunday's eight round-of-32 matchups involve double-digit seeds, but there is no guarantee any of them will advance. The South and Midwest Regions could revert to chalk or more unpredictable results could occur across the Indianapolis area.

The West Virginia Mountaineers and Villanova Wildcats are among the established programs that will try to avoid upsets to move on to the Sweet 16.

Villanova was impressive Thursday in dealing with the upset threat posed by the Winthrop Eagles. Jay Wright's team appears to be fine without Collin Gillespie, and it has a chance to prove that again in a clash with the North Texas Mean Green.

The Illinois Fighting Illini will not face a double-digit seed, but they could take on the toughest matchup of any top seed in the second round. Brad Underwood's team faces the No. 8 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who may be able to neutralize some of Illinois' strength and have recent Final Four experience.


Sunday NCAA Tournament 2nd-Round Schedule

No. 1 Illinois (-7.5) vs. No. 8 Loyola-Chicago (12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 1 Baylor (-6.5) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 3 West Virginia (-3.5) vs. No. 11 Syracuse (5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech (-2) (6:10 p.m. ET, TNT) 

No. 2 Houston (-7.5) vs. No. 10 Rutgers (7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)

No. 7 Florida (-8.5) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts (7:45 p.m. ET, truTV)

No. 5 Villanova (-5) vs. No. 13 North Texas (8:45 p.m. ET, TNT)

No. 4 Oklahoma State (-6.5) vs. No. 12 Oregon State (9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)

Predictions against the spread in bold.


Betting Advice

Loyola-Chicago (+7.5) vs. Illinois

Illinois deserves to be a 7.5-point favorite because it topped what we thought was the most difficult conference in the country. Loyola-Chicago comes from the Missouri Valley Conference and played a schedule that paled in comparison to Illinois'.

Despite those differences, the Ramblers should keep their in-state battle with Illinois close for 40 minutes thanks to their defense and the paint presence of Cameron Krutwig.

Porter Moser's team is known for its defense, which limited the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to 60 points on Friday. That total is on the high end of concessions for the eighth-seeded team. It held 17 consecutive opponents under 60 points from January 11-March 6.

The Ramblers could take Illinois out of its rhythm by using Krutwig to contain Kofi Cockburn in the paint. Krutwig averages 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, but his most important attribute could be the experience he gained on Loyola's Final Four run in 2018.

The senior big man should not be intimidated by the challenge presented by the towering Cockburn, who had at least 16 points in each of his past four games. If Krutwig makes life difficult in the paint or gets Cockburn in early foul trouble, the rest of Loyola's defenders can focus on containing Ayo Dosunmu and Illinois' guards.

While Loyola can keep the game close with its defense, it may not have the offensive firepower to finish off the contest.

The Ramblers have a single player that averages more than 10 points per game, while Illinois has three. The Illini are also deeper at guard with Andre Curbelo, Trent Frazier and Adam Miller thriving in supporting roles of late.

In the first-round win over the Drexel Dragons, Frazier and Miller joined Cockburn and Dosunmu in double figures. If Illinois spreads the ball around well once more, it should get into the Sweet 16, but it may not cover if Loyola plays tough defense for long stretches.


Villanova (-5) vs. North Texas 

Villanova went from the most vulnerable No. 5 seed to a potential Sweet 16 side in a matter of days.

The Wildcats appeared to be susceptible to an upset since they struggled in their first two games without Gillespie, who leads the team in assists and is second in scoring. But on Friday, the Big East regular-season champion proved it could play just fine without its top distributor, beating Winthrop by 10.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will once again be the best player on the floor Sunday, and he could be the key to get Villanova to the second week of the tournament. Robinson-Earl finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists Friday.

Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels and Caleb Daniels all reached double digits as well to make the Gillespie loss feel less painful than it was against the Providence Friars and Georgetown Hoyas.

Villanova may face a tricky test against a stingy North Texas team that is known for its defense, but it may have too many offensive weapons for the Conference USA tournament champion to stop.

North Texas found success against the Purdue Boilermakers because it controlled the impact of Trevion Williams in the paint. The Mean Green also won the guard battle against Jaden Ivey. Villanova will not let that happen so easily, as it boasts experience across the floor and could shut down Javion Hamlet.

Hamlet has three 20-point outings in his past five games, but his impact could be limited by Samuels or Daniels, both of whom are upperclassmen. Villanova could also put Robinson-Earl, the best NBA-caliber talent on its roster, on Hamlet to decrease his outage.

If the Wildcats do that and continue to spread the ball around offensively, they should cruise to a berth in the Sweet 16.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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