NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview and Best Bets

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

By Phil Simon
College Basketball March Madness Bracket

The field is set and it’s time to fill out your NCAA Basketball bracket as the most glorious three weeks in sports is about to begin. The field will be cut in half over the first two days as teams make their way to the ultimate destination – Minneapolis in three weeks. The journey starts here, however, and for some highly regarded teams it will end in disappointment. That’s just the way it is. You can ask Tony Bennett and his Virginia Cavaliers, who last year became the first No. 1 seed in tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed.

Duke is the overwhelming favorite to capture the 2019 national championship and Coach K’s kids will attempt to make their last three weeks together memorable. As long as they have future No. 1 NBA draft pick Zion Williamson playing the way he did in the ACC Tournament, they are nearly unbeatable. And I say nearly because this is March Madness and anything can happen.

2019 ACC Tournament Schedule

Thursday, March 21 -- First Round *Eastern Time

  • No.10 Minnesota vs. No.7 Louisville in Des Moines, 12:15pm CBS
  • No.14 Yale vs. No.3 LSU in Jacksonville, 12:40pm truTV
  • No.12 New Mexico State vs. No.5 Auburn in Salt Lake City, 1:30pm TNT
  • No.13 Vermont vs. No.4 Florida State in Hartford, 2pm TBS
  • No.15 Bradley vs. No.2 Michigan State in Des Moines, 2:45pm CBS
  • No.11 Temple/Belmont vs. No.6 Maryland in Jacksonville, 3:10pm truTV
  • No.13 Northeastern vs. No.4 Kansas in Salt Lake City, 4pm TNT
  • No.12 Murray State vs. No.5 Marquette in Hartford, 4:30pm TBS
  • No.10 Florida vs. No.7 Nevada in Des Moines, 6:50pm TNT
  • No.15 Abilene Christian vs. No.2 Kentucky in Jacksonville, 7:10pm CBS
  • No.11 Saint Mary's vs. No.6 Villanova in Hartford, 7:20pm TBS
  • No.16 PV A&M / FDU vs. No.1 Gonzaga in Salt Lake City, 7:27pm truTV
  • No.15 Montana vs. No.2 Michigan in Des Moines, 9:20pm TNT
  • No.10 Seton Hall vs. No.7 Wofford in Jacksonville, 9:40pm CBS
  • No.14 Old Dominion vs. No.3 Purdue in Hartford, 9:50pm TBS
  • No.9 Baylor vs. No.8 Syracuse in Salt Lake City, 9:57pm truTV
Basketball Sports Betting

The only No. 1 seed in action on the first day is Gonzaga, which lost some points with the selection committee after losing the West Coast Conference final to Saint Mary’s. The Zags did enough, however, over the course of the season to maintain a top seed in the West, and the region doesn’t appear as strong as the others, giving the Zags a nice path to the Final Four. The Zags will be a huge favorite over either Prairie View A&M or Fairleigh Dickinson, whichever wins the play-in game. It’s not much of a prize for the winner, but it beats the alternative.

Gonzaga is still reeling from its loss, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened to them. The Zags cruised through the WCC slate and hadn’t been tested since December. That outing was a wakeup call, and it allowed two conference teams into the Dance.

There are a couple of upset specials on the board with LSU suffering the backlash of the FBI investigation into college basketball. Coach Will Wade was suspended and Javonte Smart missed the Tigers’ final regular season game. Good news from the Bayou was that Smart was deemed eligible. But the Tigers lost to Florida in their SEC tournament opener. This is a fragile team and Yale is ready to pounce.

Marquette stumbled down the stretch losing its final four regular season games and falling in the second round of the Big East Tournament. Ja Morant and the Murray State Racers are feeling good after winning the OVC, and Morant rivals Markus Howard as one of the most prolific scorers in the country. The Golden Eagles are laying 5-points and I like Morant and the Racers to keep this one within reach in what should be an offensive showcase.

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Friday, March 22 -- First Round *Eastern Time

  • No.10 Iowa vs. No.7 Cincinnati in Columbus, 12:15pm CBS
  • No.9 Oklahoma vs. No.8 Ole Miss in Columbia, 12:40pm truTV
  • No.14 Northern Kentucky vs. No.3 Texas Tech in Tulsa, 1:30pm TNT
  • No.13 UC Irvine vs. No.4 Kansas State in San Jose, 2pm TBS
  • No.15 Colgate vs. No.2 Tennessee in Columbus, 2:45pm CBS
  • No.16 Gardner-Webb vs. No.1 Virginia in Columbia, 3:10pm truTV
  • No.11 St. John's/Arizona State vs. No. 6 Buffalo in Tulsa, 4pm TNT
  • No.12 Oregon vs. No.5 Wisconsin in San Jose, 4:30pm TBS
  • No.9 Washington vs. No.8 Utah State in Columbus, 6:50pm TNT
  • No.16 N.Carolina Central/N.Dakota St vs. No.1 Duke in Columbia, 7:10pm CBS
  • No.14 Georgia State vs. No.3 Houston in Tulsa, 7:20pm TBS
  • No.12 Liberty vs. No.5 Mississippi State in San Jose, 7:27pm truTV
  • No.16 Iona vs. No.1 North Carolina in Columbus, 9:20pm TNT
  • No.9 UCF vs. No.8 VCU in Columbia, 9:40pm CBS
  • No.11 Ohio State vs. No.6 Iowa State in Tulsa, 9:50pm TBS
  • No.13 Saint Louis vs. No.4 Virginia Tech in San Jose, 9:57pm truTV

Heading into this season, Bennett said his team was going to use the first-round upset loss as motivation. It worked out during the regular season as the Cavs beat everyone on their schedule not named Duke. But with a chance to carry some momentum into the NCAA Tournament, the Cavs were upset in the ACC semis, and the questions started all over again. They won’t stop until UVA makes a deep tourney run and this group has the potential. But so did last year’s, or so we thought.

The defense is as stingy as ever and the Cavs are an extremely efficient team on offense. They are averaging the most points per game in Bennett’s tenure and they haven’t sacrificed anything on the other end of the court. The Cavs opened as a 24.5-point favorite over Gardner-Webb and I can’t see them taking this one lightly, especially after what happened last year. The Cavs are going to pour it on and there’s nothing GW can do about it.

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