March Madness bracket betting: Can Princeton and Furman keep it going? Spread picks for Saturday
Furman winning on a steal and 3-pointer in the final seconds as a No. 14 seed should have been the most memorable moment of Thursday's NCAA tournament games.
Then Princeton became the 11th No. 15 seed to upset a No. 2 seed. Then Fairleigh Dickinson really stole the show on Friday.
The second round starts on Saturday, with the main question being if those two double-digit seeds can advance to the Sweet 16. Here are the picks against the spread for Saturday's game, with the odds from BetMGM:
Furman (+5.5) over San Diego State
Furman never looked overmatched against Virginia. In the second round it gets another defensive-minded team that doesn't score easily, this one being from the Mountain West and not the ACC. San Diego State is better than Virginia, but Furman won't be scared.
Duke (-3.5) over Tennessee
The spread indicates oddsmakers are high on Duke. And they should be after the Blue Devils have been on fire the past month-plus. Oral Roberts isn't a bad mid-major and Duke ran ORU off the floor in the first round. Tennessee will play strong defense and it's not like a No. 4 seed can't beat a No. 5 seed, but Duke is playing on a higher level lately.
Kansas (-4.5) over Arkansas
Arkansas looked very good in the first round beating Illinois, and it's obvious the Razorbacks have talent that didn't always result in strong play throughout the season. There is a fallacy in believing they have just turned it on for the tournament. It's just an inconsistent team, and they're not facing Illinois this round. Arkansas has the talent to knock off a No. 1 seed, but I don't quite trust the Razorbacks yet.
Princeton (+6.5) over Missouri
If a No. 15 seed wins in the first round, it doesn't do bad in the second round either. According to Matt Eisenberg's tournament guide, No. 15 seeds are 3-3 in the second round dating back to 2007, and 3-3 against the spread too. Florida Gulf Coast (2013), Oral Roberts (2021) and St. Peter's won straight up. Missouri has a weak defense, so Princeton can keep it close as long as Mizzou doesn't have a great shooting day.
Houston (-5.5) over Auburn
Houston's injuries are concerning. I just don't know that Auburn is the team to take advantage. The Tigers lost nine of their 13 games before the NCAA tournament. Auburn is bad in preventing offensive rebounds, which is bad against Houston. At some point the Cougars will be tested and maybe it's by an Auburn team out of a tough SEC, but I think Houston can win comfortably here.
Penn State (+5.5) over Texas
Texas is one of my Final Four picks, but this game should be close. Penn State is playing very well and they can shoot well enough to cover. The Nittany Lions nearly pulled off a great comeback in the Big Ten tournament final against Purdue, a No. 1 seed in the tournament. This might be a fun game.
UCLA (-7.5) over Northwestern
This is a big spread but UCLA just keeps playing well, like the Bruins aren't dealing with any injuries at all. I'll trust UCLA to keep it going, through Northwestern's backcourt is pretty good and could keep them in the game. The line feels about right.
Maryland (+8.5) over Alabama
Alabama is on a hot streak and it'll be scary to take a mediocre Big Ten team against the Crimson Tide. But this is a big number for a second-round game between two power conference teams. Maryland is going to have to hit shots against a very good defense, but it's an experienced team that has played top competition, is solid all around and is getting a lot of points.
Friday first-round record: 8-8
Tournament to date: 15-21