Welcome to the greatest sporting weekend on anyone’s calendar. We are one day into the NCAA Tournament, and we already have multiple upsets impacting the future of this bracket. Few brackets remain perfect after Princeton shocked Arizona and Furman upset the Virginia Cavaliers.
With multiple title contenders already gone, we have to wonder which teams are next to go. Half of the teams have yet to play, and plenty of upsets could happen today.
With that in mind, what are the best NCAAB picks to make this Friday? Who will make it to the Round of 32, and who will be going home before they have time to dance? Let’s start with an SEC team looking for redemption.
Providence vs. Kentucky: Providence +4.5 (-114) at FanDuel
Grand Canyon vs. Gonzaga: Grand Canyon +16 (-110) at Caesars
Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Purdue: Fairleigh Dickinson +22.5 (-102) via FanDuel
Providence Friars vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Friday, March 17, 2023 – 07:10 PM EDT at Greensboro Coliseum
Last year, Kentucky was a 2-seed and lost to Saint Peter’s. This team expected to compete for a title, but they didn’t even make it out of the first weekend. With a loss like that, it’s safe to say the returning Wildcat players are looking for revenge.
They’ll play against Providence, a team that’s better than the 11-seed suggests. Playing in the Big East, they had a tough slate of conference games against teams who are still dancing. However, Providence is limping into the NCAA Tournament. They are 1-4 in the last 5 games, and they don’t have many things to be proud of in that stretch. While the losses were to quality teams, they’ll face an equally good team in Kentucky.
This game will truly come down to how Providence plans to stop Oscar Tshiebwe. He is a rebounding machine, and second-chance points can be heartbreaking in an environment like this. The Friars win the rebounding margin by 4 on average, and they need to do something close to that against Kentucky. I think they have it in them to limit the Wildcats in the paint, which is why I have the Friars covering the spread.
NCAAB Pick: Providence +4.5 (-114) at FanDuel
Grand Canyon Lopes vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Friday, March 17, 2023 – 07:35 PM EDT at Ball Arena
Some teams have a reputation for being disappointing in the NCAA Tournament, and Gonzaga is unfortunately one of those teams. They’ve reached the Final Four in recent years, and they even made it to the National Championship with players who remain on this team. However, they never live up to the standard set by the talent on the roster.
Gonzaga has been one of the best teams in college basketball for the last half-decade, and they have no title to show for it. They’ve brought in one-and-done superstars, and they’ve been led by some of the best upperclassmen in college basketball. No combination has been enough for them to overcome adversity.
This year, Gonzaga has one of the worst rosters they’ve seen. It’s still a spectacular roster led by Drew Timme, but it is nothing compared to the talent we’ve seen each of the last two years.
Grand Canyon isn’t a world-beater by any means, but they’re well-coached and have a solid guard in Rayshon Harrison. They’ve won six straight games to reach the NCAA Tournament, and they do a solid job of limiting turnovers and fouls.
I still expect the Bulldogs to advance, but this could be a sneaky upset contender. While I won’t go that far, I’ll still pick Grand Canyon to cover the spread.
NCAAB Pick: Grand Canyon +16 (-110) at Caesars
Fairleigh Dickinson Knights vs. Purdue Boilermakers
Friday, March 17, 2023 – 06:50 PM EDT at Nationwide Arena
If I’m being honest, this is more a principle than anything else. I realize that Purdue is one of the best teams in college basketball, and Fairleigh Dickinson is a 16-seed for a reason.
However, I refuse to pick a team favored by over 20 points in the NCAA Tournament. There are too many factors that go into 40 minutes of play. 16-seeds can start off hot due to the fact that they are playing with house money. Purdue can come out sluggish. Nerves will play a factor, and I don’t trust a team that’s been upset multiple times this year to win easily.
Now, I still think that the Boilermakers win this one by a wide margin. Still, a blowout can happen without Purdue covering the spread. This happened to Alabama yesterday. The Tide dominated the entire game and won by over 20, but they still didn’t cover. Instead, they let stars rest for the next game and gave bench players memories that will last a lifetime.
NCAAB Pick: Fairleigh Dickinson +22.5 (-102) at FanDuel