NCAA Tournament Survivor Guide For Round 2 (Saturday)

Mar 18, 2022 - 2:26 PM

The start of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday was anti-climatic, as favorites started 5-0, and 9-0 if you took the First Four games into account. And then, it happened. There are upsets, and then there are UPSETS. And No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s’ victory over Kentucky was one of the biggest surprises in NCAA Tournament history, busting many brackets along the way.

While Kentucky’s loss may have already forced you to rip up your bracket, you hopefully planned out a path in your NCAA Tournament survivor pools where you were planning to save Kentucky for later in the tournament. If you did, it is likely you instead selected other teams that seemingly did not have the same national championship hopes.

While the first-round losses by Kentucky, UConn, and Iowa (to name a few) may have you already knocked out of your survivor pool, such upsets breed new opportunities (if you are still in the competition) to use teams one never thought they would use at any stage of the competition. So, will you dare pick against the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, New Mexico State Aggies, and Richmond Spiders after impressive first-round performances?

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.

Starting with this round, we will rank all eight games in order of most confidence to least confidence and provide a short narrative for each.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their Round 2 matchups on Saturday (odds courtesy of BettingPros consensus).

Check out all of our 2022 March Madness Coverage >>

Best Picks in Order of Most-to-Least Confidence

Kansas -550

Deciding whether or not to use Kansas in survivor pools this early in the competition is an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, you may see the number of upsets so far in the tournament and worry that Kansas will soon fall as similar prey. However, others may look at inevitable upsets (like Iowa’s in Kansas’ case) and suggest now that the Jayhawks have an easier path, it would be wiser to save them for later rounds. Regardless of your strategy, the Jayhawks will beat a Creighton team without big man and defensive anchor Ryan Kalkbrenner, who suffered a knee injury in overtime of their win over San Diego State.

Gonzaga -900

Like Kansas’ outlook, if you think Gonzaga is still a serious threat for a national championship, you cannot select them this early out of fear that you will run out of teams to choose from in the later rounds. However, if you feel compelled to use them, we have the Bulldogs listed lower in our confidence ranks than Kansas despite much steeper moneyline odds because of the talent Penny Hardaway has on his Memphis roster. After starting 9-8, the Tigers have played much better basketball down the stretch, including two double-digit wins over Houston in that span. There is a scenario where Memphis can wreck the game defensively and pull an upset here, but either way, it is best not to get invested from a survivor pool perspective.

Murray State -385

Sometimes the survivor pool gods hand out gifts, as there was no scenario one was selecting Murray State to beat Kentucky with their survivor pool lives on the line. However, the Racers have a much easier path to the Sweet 16 in facing No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks are a tough physical bunch but may not have anything left in the tank after their monumental upset. While Saint Peter’s is certainly capable of an upset, Murray State is far and away the best value play in terms of confidence they will win and the ability to save the upper-echelon teams moving forward. So even if this pick does not work out, it is still the right play to make before the games tip-off.

Tennessee -250

Tennessee faces a Michigan team that may again be without point guard DeVante’ Jones, who missed the opening-round win over Colorado State as he remained in concussion protocol. While the Wolverines were able to get by Colorado State without him, they will not beat the Volunteers if he cannot play, as the physical Volunteers would be able to throw multiple bodies at Hunter Dickinson, thus limiting Michigan’s offensive ceiling.

Arkansas -275

One could argue Arkansas beat a more formidable opponent in the first round in No. 13 seed Vermont than the one they will face today in No. 12 seed New Mexico State. The Razorbacks are not a bad pick from a value perspective under the lens of survivor pools, considering it is unlikely you would use them going forward. But compared to Murray State, they are lower in our confidence ranks because of the flammability of Aggies’ stud Teddy Allen.

Baylor -235

When North Carolina plays its “A” game (like they did against Marquette), they can beat anyone in the country. Just ask Coach K. However, Baylor has more than enough talent to advance here, but they also do not make the most sense to select in survivor pools, given one may need their availability going forward.

Providence -150

If you had season tickets to Providence Friars game this year, you might have suffered multiple heart attacks by now. They continue to be doubted, and Ed Cooley’s bunch continues to deliver. But I want no part of backing them against an experienced Richmond squad that is developing quite the story with so many of their key players returning for this exact tournament run they envisioned.

UCLA -149

This Round of 32 matchup between UCLA and Saint Mary’s will be an absolute rock fight and is arguably the most intriguing game on Saturday’s slate. One could argue UCLA is favored on the merits of last year’s Final Four run, but no one can debate the impressiveness of Saint Mary’s season to this point.

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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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