Thursday and Friday’s Round of 64 was filled with Spartans (the Norfolk State variety), Mountain Hawks and — in general — a worldwide busting of millions of brackets.
Here’s a quick betting rundown of the last 48 hours.
* * *
WHEN UPSETS HAPPENED, THE TOTAL WENT UNDER
First off, it’s probably rare that you’ll see this in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, but the point spread made almost no difference in the opening round. Underdogs posted a 13-18-1 ATS record, but they also went 11-21 straight up, so I hope underdog bettors were also sprinkling some cash in on the money line.
The only two underdogs that covered in a loss were Western Kentucky (+26.5 in an 81-66 loss to Kentucky) and St. Bonaventure (+6.5 in a 66-63 loss to Florida State). Every other underdog that covered also won the game outright.
Secondly, when those underdogs won the game, the total went under eight out of 11 times. Is that evidence that part of an underdog’s recipe for success is to slow the pace down and shorten the game? Probably not enough of a sample size, but it’s still interesting nonetheless.
* * *
Sixteen teams scored less than 60 points in their opening-round game, and four teams — Colorado State (41), Temple (44) Virginia (45) and Montana (49) — failed to reach 50.
It should come as no surprise, then, that 21 of 32 first-round games went under the total.
Highest scoring game: Missouri-Norfolk State, 170 points.
Lowest scoring game: Colorado State-Murray State, 99.
* * *
BIG EAST HAS GOOD EARLY SHOWING
How do you like ‘em now? The Big East, as usual, was criticized for more than half its league being selected to the 68-team field. Teams like South Florida were perceived to be unworthy of a bid given their exceedingly soft regular-season schedule, but the Bulls are one of six Big East teams to advance to the Round of 32.
Elsewhere, the Big Ten put together a strong opening round showing, as the league advanced five of its six teams. The lone blunder was fourth-seeded Michigan, which fell to MAC champ Ohio as 6-point favorites.
The biggest disappointment? The Mountain West, which gave us no reason to take it seriously despite getting a conference-record four teams in. Prior to the tournament, we predicted they’d go 0-4. Instead, they went 1-3, with the lone victory coming from fifth-seeded New Mexico.
Big Ten: 5-1
Big East: 7-3
Big 12: 4-2
Atlantic 10: 2-2
Mountain West: 1-3
* * *
DUNPHY DROPS ANOTHER
Rick Barnes might have a clone.
Temple’s Fran Dunphy, already known as one of the NCAA Tournament’s five biggest choke artists, saw his team turn in another opening-round stinker in its humiliating 58-44 loss to South Florida on Friday. The Owls played lock-down defense in the first half, holding the Bulls to just nine percent shooting and forcing twenty-two straight missed shots at one point.
Their halftime lead? 19-15.
South Florida stormed back (by “stormed back,” I mean they made three or four baskets) early in the second half, increased its lead to double figures and then cruised to the 58-44 victory.
Dunphy is now 1-10 straight up and against the spread in the NCAA Tournament, both at Temple and at Pennsylvania, his previous stop.
* * *
TEAM TO WATCH
A popular preseason futures bet should become a sexy pick once again, especially at the current odds being offered.
Xavier, which began the season ranked in the top 25 before a brawl derailed its season, defeated No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the opening round. Now, Bovada sportsbook has the Musketeers listed at 75-to-1 to win the national championship.
On paper, no team has an easier Round of 32 opponent than Xavier, which will take on 15th-seeded Lehigh. A win would give Xavier its fourth Sweet 16 appearance in the last five years, and remember, this is a team that’s just four years removed from a trip to the Elite Eight.
With Tu Holloway in the backcourt hitting big shots as he usually does, the Musketeers will be a difficult out. While a potential matchup with Kentucky looms in the Elite Eight, it might be worth a crack anyway at the current odds.
* * *
HISTORY IS MADE
When most people filled out their NCAA Tournament brackets, the first thing they did was fill in the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to advance to the Round of 32. More likely than not, they probably didn’t even check to see who each team was playing.
After Friday’s action, we’re all wishing we had.
By day’s end, two No. 2 seeds were ousted from the tournament, which has never happened. The last time a No. 2 seed fell in the opening round was 2001, and No. 15 seeds entered this year with a 4-104 record in 27 years.
No. 15 seed Norfolk State, listed as a 21.5-point underdog against Missouri, completed the largest upset in NCAA tournament history (based on the moneyline). Most folks picked the Tigers to reach the Sweet 16 and beyond.
In all, seven of the 16 games played on Friday technically resulted in “upsets,” with the lower-seeded team advancing to the Round of 32.
If you’re wondering what effect these outcomes had on NCAA tournament brackets: The timing of the Tigers’ loss knocked down the number of perfect brackets in ESPN’s Tourney Challenge from 1,607 to just two. Later, St. Louis’ mini-upset of Memphis did in the final two perfect brackets, and the best record for any of the 6.45 million brackets is 30-2.
* * *
Like many, President Obama had Missouri going to the Final Four, so that will certainly hurt him in the long run. But other than that, the Commander-In-Chief actually fared pretty well through the opening round.
Obama went 24-8 to rank in the 97th percentile of ESPN brackets. Not bad after such a crazy Friday. Besides Mizzou, he lost two other Sweet 16 teams (Duke and Michigan), but he still has seven Elite Eight selections alive.
To view all of President Obama’s selections, visit ObamasBracket.com.