Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:40 AM EST.
Second Round of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Viejas Arena - San Diego, California
9:40 PM EST. This #13 versus #5 matchup has a little more sizzle than your average second-round game. You see, every year from 1977 to 2015 these two in-state rivals played until West Virginia coach Bob Huggins pulled the plug in a decision that didn't sit well with Marshall head man Dan D'Antoni. At the time D'Antoni suggested the Mountaineers were scared of the Thundering Herd, to which Huggins responded by ripping Marshall's RPI, it's home crowds and its lack of coverage in the local papers. Yesterday, Huggins dodged the questions about a rivalry renewed, but it's unlikely he's forgotten about that time little brother decided to take a swing. This game is more than just a shot at a Sweet Sixteen birth. If the Mountaineers crush Marshall, then their head coach may finally be able to silence his counterpart in D'antoni, who hasn't stopped his needling with quotes like, “We are playing West Virginia University. I coach Marshall University, where West Virginians play.” Marshall features eight in-state recruits, while UVW has two that barely play. Those locals got the job done for Marshall against Wichita State in a stunning first-round upset that gave the Herd its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, but remember, Marshall was just the fourth-place team in Conference USA before making an improbable run to the championship that was aided after top-seed Middle Tennessee State was booted by Southern Miss.
West Virginia is a tournament mainstay after making it to the Sweet Sixteen in three of their last four trips to the NCAAs. We could pour over the X's and O's, but not shockingly, the Mountaineers are the much better team here. Usually you pay a premium to back them when facing less than adequate competition, but with the Madness in full force, the market is hungry for the underdog. Upsets are a hallmark of this tournament, and with four double-digit seeds making it out of the first round, it's easy to get excited about a Cinderella story, but if the performance by Buffalo in round two is any indication, when the market comes to the window eager to take back a pile of points, we're on notice. Much has been made about how this year's version of "Press Virginia" isn't as strong as it usually is after the Mountaineers allowed 2.5 points per game more than they did last season, but none of that matters now. In a vacuum, UVW is underpriced and underappreciated in this game. While spotting double-digits usually isn't in our repertoire, there are exceptions to every rule. The Mountaineers are very capable of going gate-to-wire in what could be a very ugly game. We'll gladly swallow these points with confidence.
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#722 West Virginia -12½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)