Top Trends for the Opening Round of the Tournament.
14 Seed vs. 3 Seed, and 15 Seed vs. 2 Seed
Last year, every first-round game involving a 14 or 15 seed went “under,” except one. The one exception in eight such games was Bucknell against Michigan State.
Kansas: In NCAA Tournament games, the Jayhawks are on a 7-2 “over” run. Kansas has had a prolific offense in recent years and ranked much higher in offensive efficiency than defensive efficiency. KU scored at least 90 points in three of four of its tournament games in 2017 and at least 79 points in four of five in last year’s tourney games.
Virginia: In the respective first-round game in the past four tournaments, whenever Virginia covered the spread, the game went “under.” The lesson is: If you like Virginia, bet “under.” In the three “overs” — against Belmont in 2015, UNC-Wilmington in 2017, and UMBC in 2018 — Virginia’s opponent averaged 10 made three-pointers. It’s really hard to drive and succeed in the post against Virginia’s pack-line defense. So it makes sense for teams to try their luck from behind the arc. Those teams who have covered against Virginia did so largely by draining many threes. They also did a good job of influencing the tempo in the game. Virginia likes to take its time on offense, grind the clock with a lead, and play suffocating defense. UVA did these three things well in its 2016 first round cover against Hampton, which also went “under.”
Bucknell: The Bison love to speed up the game tempo and have had success doing this when they make the tournament. The “over” is 2-0 in their last two first-round appearances, which have come in the past two years.
Duke: If you’re able bet on team totals, get ready. Duke tends to come out firing, scoring at least 85 points in the first round of its last four tournament games. They’ve thrived either by bullying teams inside or knocking down a double-digit number of perimeter shots.
Virginia Tech: Since Buzz Williams became Virginia Tech’s head coach in 2015, the Hokies have yet to make it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But their shortcomings do not include a lack of offense. The “over” is 2-0 in their two first round losses, each one coming in the past two years.
Cincinnati: Year after year, the Bearcats boast one of the tournament’s better defenses, but also one of its worse offenses. The disparity between Cincy’s offensive and defensive efficiency is always immense. Nevertheless, oddsmakers consistently post a total that is too low for their games. The “over” has hit in three of Cincinnati’s last four first-round games.
Bruce Pearl-led teams tend to struggle to score in the opening round. They average 56 points in their last three openers. Last year, Pearl’s Auburn Tigers scored 62 points in its opener, a near-loss against College of Charleston.
One And Done
Teams who played only one game in last year’s tournament went 21-11 for the “under.”