NCAA Tournament Survivor Guide for Round 1 (Friday)

Mar 16, 2022 - 8:16 PM

In yesterday’s column, we discussed the differences between an NCAA tournament survivor pool and a more traditional NFL survivor pool. Many of the strategies are different, and contestants should be aware of all rules and nuances before entering. An NCAA survivor pool takes much more future planning, whereas one can win an NFL survivor pool by taking a week-to-week approach.

Though no games have officially been played yet, we are giving you our planning advice well in advance of the first set of games so that you can plan accordingly. And if you do not feel like waiting until the First Four games conclude to make your selections, you should be able to find great picks from the remaining 12 games.

Throughout the tournament, one has to make eight picks: two from the First Round (one for each day played), two from the Second Round (one for each day played), and one from the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship.

Each round, we will provide our analysis broken down by the following categories: Best Picks, Favorites on Upset Alert, and Teams That Should be Saved for Later Use.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their Round 1 matchups on Friday (odds courtesy of BettingPros consensus).

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Best Picks

Duke -2500, Auburn -2000, Purdue -1667, Houston -400

While many bettors project the Duke Blue Devils to at least advance to the Elite 8, we are not as high on them as most others. The Blue Devils have an interesting storyline surrounding them, this being Coach K’s farewell season. However, Duke has too many defensive issues to be considered a national championship contender. For example, the Blue Devils rank outside the top 200 in offensive rebounding percentage allowed and outside the top 300 in turnover percentage. The winner of the Michigan State-Davidson game could give Duke plenty of problems, so the Blue Devils are an excellent top seed to use early in survivor pools and likely won’t be needing them late in the tournament.

Similar to Duke, Auburn is another high seed that has the potential to make a Final Four run but is more likely to get tripped up early. The Tigers are a much different team away from “The Jungle,” going 8-3 and beating inferior teams like Missouri and Georgia by a combined three points on the road. Auburn needs to win six neutral site games to cut down the nets, but this team has not inspired confidence they can do so. If you agree with Auburn’s limited potential going forward, it would be wise to select them in survivor pools now.

The Purdue Boilermakers were widely thought of as the most talented team in the Big Ten, so it must be disappointing that they failed to win a regular-season conference championship or conference tournament championship. The Boilermakers at one point were ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, but an inconsistent defense and intense competition in their conference led to seven losses along the way. The Boilermakers rank 100th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric and are not a harassing defensive team, forcing the 13th-fewest percentage of turnovers in the country. Thus, Purdue would have to have an exceptional tournament offensively to win six games, but it is unlikely they will be able to hold up defensively for that period. With a tricky Round of 32 game against the Texas-Virginia Tech winner looming followed by a likely daunting Sweet 16 game against Kentucky, using the Boilermakers while you can against an inferior Yale team is an intelligent play.

The Houston Cougars are also a solid first-round play if one was concerned about using top three seeds like Duke, Auburn, or Purdue this early in survivor pool competitions. Houston is favored by 8.5 points over UAB and has the defensive makeup to take the Blazers’ Jordan Walker out of the game. Despite losing two of its best players to early-season injuries, Houston is too well-coached to be eliminated by a UAB team with 20 combined Quad 3 and 4 wins but just five combined Quad 1 and 2 wins.

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Favorites on Upset Alert

Illinois -420, Wisconsin -345, Alabama -182, LSU -182, USC -125, Michigan State -120, Texas -115, Seton Hall -114

Teams That Should be Saved for Later Use

Arizona (-10000), Villanova -1751, Texas Tech -1667

We project Arizona, Villanova and Texas Tech as Sweet 16 teams (worst-case scenario), but each has favorable matchups looming in the Round of 32. Therefore, we prefer to use them in later rounds when the matchups get more challenging and there are fewer teams from which to choose.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

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