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March Madness is now underway! Here is our picks for opening day!
Belmont vs. Maryland
Nobody scores more than Belmont in the first half of the game. They are so nonsensically good in the first 20 minutes that I'm not sure why Vegas doesn't make a first half spread for Belmont's games independent of the full game spread.
Belmont leads the country in first half scoring, hitting an average of 43.8 points in the opening half. That’s their average. How in the world is anyone supposed to compete with that? Clearly, nobody can, because Belmont has an 8.5-point average first half scoring margin. Belmont has led at halftime in 4 of their last 5.
Meanwhile, Maryland is not nearly as good to start out games. While Belmont ranks 1st in first half scoring offense, Maryland ranks 200th with an average of 33.1 points per first half. Maryland has led at halftime in just 2 of their last 5.
If their massive first half scoring differential wasn’t enough, consider this: Belmont is two days removed from a convincing win against Temple while Maryland, thanks to their early exit in the Big 10 Tournament, hasn’t seen the court in a week. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Maryland come out of the gate a little slow and rusty.
1u - Belmont To Win the 1st Half (Draw No Bet) - @+113
Florida vs. Nevada
Nevada is poised to make a deep run in this tournament and it starts today with a beatdown of Florida.
Nevada is significantly better on the offensive side of the ball, averaging more points, a better shooting percentage, a better 3-point shooting percentage, more assists, and less turnovers. Nevada has been held under 70 points just 4 times all season; Florida hasn’t cleared 70 in 19 of their 34 games. Nevada’s offense should roll here.
On the defensive side, they’re pretty split stat-wise: Nevada has the edge in shooting percentage allowed, rebounds, and blocks while Florida has the edge in points allowed, 3-point shooting percentage allowed, and steals. The bigger factor here is size: Nevada’s starters have, on average, 2.4 inches on Florida’s.
Nevada has been stellar in neutral site games this year, winning all but one (a game in which they were missing team leader Jordan Caroline). Florida is a decent 5-3 in neutral site games (including a win over severely outmatched FGCU).
Nevada’s size, offensive capability, neutral site prowess, and seniority (Florida starts 2 freshmen, Nevada starts all seniors) should lead them to a comfortable win here.
1u - Nevada (-2.5) @-110
Seton Hall vs. Wofford
Wofford is just a stronger team on both sides of the ball than Seton Hall.
This season, the Terriers average more points (by 7.3) and a better shooting percentage (by 4.5%) than the Pirates. Wofford has the 3rd best offensive efficiency in the country; Seton Hall is 154th. Wofford is also hotter in recent games: in both teams’ last 3 outings – all of which are neutral site games -- Wofford is averaging 83.3 on 53.8% shooting and Seton Hall is averaging 75.3 on 41.0% shooting.
Wofford also wins the defensive battle, allowing 67.5 points on 43.6% shooting per game compared to Seton Hall’s 71.5 points on 42.7% shooting. Only two teams have put up more than 70 on Wofford in the past month; only two teams haven’t put up 70 on Seton Hall in the past month.
The kicker here is the deep ball. The Terriers are especially dangerous from beyond the arc, shooting 41.6% (good for 2nd in the country). Luckily, the Pirates aren’t anything special at guarding the 3-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 33.6% from 3 (good for 125th in the country). Fletcher Magee and Nathan Hoover – two of the nation’s top-25 3-point shooters – shouldn’t run into too much resistance.
Both of these teams are probably a bit under-seeded in the tournament, but Wofford outclasses Seton Hall nearly everywhere.
1u - Wofford (-2.5) @-120
By Luke Greenberg