The weekend of March Madness concludes on Sunday with Round of 32 action, will the upsets continue?
After the likes of No. 1 Purdue and No. 2 Arizona lost in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, are any other title favorites in danger of going down in Sunday’s second round competition?
Here are two live underdogs that our staff is eyeing for the Round of 32 that could make surprise entrances into the Sweet 16 next weekend.
St. Mary’s vs. UConn prediction and pick
One of the ways that UConn beat Iona was they pounded them on the boards with Adama Sanogo. Sanogo had 28 points and 13 rebounds in the win and as a team they had a 45-29 rebound advantage.
n the season, Danny Hurley’s group is the No. 1 team in offensive rebound percentage. A lot of winning games in March is earning extra possessions and UConn has a turnover margin of +0.2, essentially even. However, the Huskies are 18th in field goal attempt margin which is a good way to measure those extra possessions and that’s because of their effectiveness on the glass.
That strategy of physically dominating inside might not work against Saint Mary’s. The Gaels with their big man, Mitchell Saxon in the middle, are No. 3 in defensive rebounding percentage, so they’ll mitigate the Huskies edge. The Gaels have a 1.6 turnover advantage and if they can get the UConn guards to make mistakes and turn the ball over, they’ll have the edge.
Saint Mary’s plays with a very methodical pace and I think if they slow down UConn too much, the Huskies have a tendency to take some bad shots. Saint Mary’s is 18th in opponent two point shooting percentage, so I think they’re going to take away Sanogo, as much as anybody can and keep this very close, if they don’t simply win outright.
PICK: Saint Mary’s ML (+145)
TCU vs. Gonzaga prediction and pick
Gonzaga’s inability to slow down the TCU transition attack will be their downfall in this one. The Bulldogs are 189th in effective field goal percentage allowed in transition, which is the Horned Frogs preferred method of attack, a team that is top 30 in the country in transition rate.
As well, TCU is incredibly reliant at getting downhill and finishing at the rim. The team is top five in the country in average shot proximity, per Haslametrics, and Gonzaga is right around the national average in that regard. If the Horned Frogs are getting to the cup, they are going to be able to stay within a few possessions and have a chance at an outright upset.
On defense, TCU’s heavy ball pressure can give issues to Gonzaga’s ball handlers that have struggled against the likes of Texas and Baylor, each Big 12 defenses that are top third nationally in generating turnovers. While the team has elite numbers at protecting the ball, they have pumped their stats up to 11th in the country in turnover percentage against limited ball pressure defenses.
Gonzaga lost both those games and had a combined 38 turnovers, an ominous sign for this one. While Jaime Dixon’s bunch doesn’t have the offensive prowess from the perimeter like the Texas and Baylor, they are 336th in three-point percentage, they are going to be able to get to the rim with ease against a defense with limited options to slow down the likes of Mike Miles, Emmanuel Miller or Damion Baugh.
I don’t trust Gonzaga’s defense that is 173rd in raw defensive efficiency and can’t limit TCU where they are strongest. I think TCU is live for the upset on Sunday night.
PICK: TCU ML (+160)
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.