Round 1 of March Madness is in the books! After a long wait, it definitely did not disappoint. We saw a 2-seed, a 3-seed and two 4-seeds go down, in what I consider one of the greatest two-day spans on the sports calendar. If you had followed our advice for every game in Round 1, you would have had yourself a nice day, as the Rahl Reviews predictions went 40-22 after all Round 1 games concluded! I am not going to promise the same type of result for Round 2, however, as this may be one of the most unpredictable events in all of sports, but that is why we love it!
- ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (24-6)*
- LOYOLA-CHICAGO RAMBLERS (25-4)*
Illinois -7.5 / 133.5
Illinois is rolling right now, and I do not think they are about to slow up against Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers are a solid team, who just put up an excellent performance against an undermanned Georgia Tech team, but Illinois possesses a level of talent that they simply have not seen this year. They did play one Big Ten opponent in the regular season, and they lost that game by 14 as Wisconsin easily dispatched them. I expect a similar result from the Illini.
Picks: Illinois -7.5 / Over 133.5
- HOUSTON COUGARS (25-3)*
- RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (16-11)
Houston -8.5 / 132
Here we a have a matchup between two defensive juggernauts. Houston’s defense is allowing an eFG% of just 43%, which is tops in the country. Rutgers is up there as well, at 54th, allowing 47.4%. The difference between the two is the explosive offense that Houston puts on the court. A Cougars team that scores 78 points per game should overpower a Rutgers team that looked timid in Round 1. The question is will Houston be able to perform without PG Dejon Jarreau? The Houston guard went down in Round 1 and did not return. He runs the offense, won AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors, and, more importantly, is the undisputed leader of this team. At the time of writing this, his status for Round 2 is uncertain. That being said, my advice would be to take the Scarlet Knights and hope he sits this one out. Even if he does play, 8.5 points is a nice cushion against a team whose leader is banged up.
Picks: Rutgers +8.5 / Under 132
- WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (19-9)
- SYRACUSE ORANGE (17-9)
West Virginia -4.5 / 147.5
I am surprised that Buddy Boeheim will be able to play in this game. I thought he would have to sit this one out due to back problems. After all, he put the entire team on it during Round 1 and carried them to a victory over San Diego State. I sincerely hope we get a scoring duel with Boeheim and West Virginia’s Miles McBride. We deserve it. I expect that the two will lead their respective teams in scoring, but both teams are defensively sound enough that they may not produce the fireworks that we desire, and I expect they may make a total of 147.5 tough to get to. As far as the spread goes, McBride clearly has the superior supporting cast, so I am going to have to back them, even though it is reckless to bet against the Orange in March.
Picks: West Virginia -4.5 / Under 147.5
- OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (21-8)*
- OREGON STATE BEAVERS (18-12)*
Oklahoma State -6 / 141
The Beavers made a fool out of me in Round 1, disposing of a Tennessee team like they were a high school squad. The Beavers clearly have a lot of momentum coming into this one, but so does Oklahoma State. Both teams rely on their guards for scoring, as most teams do this year, so I am going to back the team with the better group of guards. That would be Oklahoma State, led by the elite Cade Cunningham.
Picks: Oklahoma State -6 / Over 141
- BAYLOR BEARS (23-2)
- WISCONSIN BADGERS (18-12)
Baylor -6.5 / 136.5
It would appear that the Badgers have come to play in Indiana, but this will be their toughest test in this tournament unless they make it to the Final Four. The Badgers will try to frustrate Baylor with their slow-tempo game. I am not counting on it working. The Bears trio of Butler, Mitchell & Teague should be able to control the tempo with their speed and tempo, which could get the Badgers out of sorts.
Picks: Baylor -6.5 / Over 136.5
- FLORIDA GATORS (15-9)
- ORAL ROBERTS GOLDEN EAGLES (17-10)*
Florida -8.5 / 148.5
Oral Roberts was the talk of the town on Day 1 after they sent the 2-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes packing in OT, after Ohio State F E.J. Liddell failed to seal the deal in regulation, missing the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have given the Buckeyes a 4-point lead. Now they will face the 7-seeded Gators, who despite missing team leader Keyontae Johnson, defeated Virginia Tech in Round 1, also in OT. This Gators team has battled through a ton of adversity after losing Johnson, so I do not think Oral Roberts is the team to knock them out, but I think they will give them a run.
Picks: Oral Roberts +8.5 / Under 148.5
- ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (23-6)
- TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (18-10)
Texas Tech -1.5 / 140.5
Trap city? The line is kind of forcing my hand here with this pick. A lot of people will like Arkansas as a 3-seed getting points from a 6-seed, so I am going to go in the opposite direction. Although, it may be a smart move to just take the over and hope for entertainment.
Picks: Texas Tech -1.5 / Over 140.5
- VILLANOVA WILDCATS (17-6)
- NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN (18-9)*
Villanova -5.5 / 127
I advised fading Villanova in Round 1, as they are forced to make do without the services of PG Collin Gillespie after losing him for the remainder of the season due to a torn MCL. It turns out that was poor advice. Well, I am going to double-down in Round 2 and say to take the Mean Green with 5.5 points, as the Wildcats will have to feel the loss of Gillespie eventually.
Picks: North Texas +5.5 / Over 127