When I came out with my picks on Thursday, you might’ve thought: Who in the hell does this chump think he is photoshopping his face on $100 with a catchy title making picks against the spread? Or, look at this clown thinking he can beat Vegas.

Bank on Hank: March Madness First Round Edition

To be honest with you, I had the same exact thoughts when my picks started 0-5. I started doubting myself and worrying that my new column flopped right out of the starting gate. I thought I was losing the little credibility my post had, and on top of that, I was losing my own money.

But after the ROUGH start, the Bank on Hank picks clawed back to a respectable 13-17-2 record. “There’s a reason Vegas still exists,” my Dad always tells me shaking his head when I place wagers. “And I don’t think you’re smart enough to bring all the casino’s and bookies’ to their knees,” he religiously preaches to follow.

He’s usually right. But the Bank on Hank picks were nine total points away from being 18-14. In addition, some of the pregame analysis were spot on. Others, not so much. But hey, that’s why I’m not a handicapper.

As far as getting back the money I had lost in the early part of the day, I played some second half spreads and money lines to cover the majority of my bets. Hammerin’ Hank managed to make it out of the first two days a couple bucks above water.

The first round of the tournament is in large part a crap shoot. You might’ve seen me use that word in some of my descriptions, purposely to drive the point home.

While outlets clamored the first round of the tournament was a “snooze fest,” us gamblers had ourselves some thrilling endings. From the OK State meaningless garbage time three as time expired to pull within one. To the missed free throws late in a number of games and even higher seeded teams getting the Vegas favor and holding on for  coverage.

ESPN and Bleacher Report didn’t get the casual fan madness they were hoping for, but those of us that made the games more ‘interesting,’ we had ourselves quite a ride.

Now, lets move into the second round. This is where the bread and butter is made or lost. After seeing how players respond to the pressure of the tournament, it’s a great opportunity to compare how teams will match up. This round can be harder to win because in most cases, the teams only have one day to prepare for the team their facing.

Let’s move into some picks. But first, I rehash on my disclaimer from Thursday:

Let me start by saying I am in no way, shape or form a handicapper. I don’t have the intention of becoming a handicapper with these columns either. My goal is to present the information and discuss what Vegas thinks about the matchups. Notice the carefully worded title, “Bank ON Hank,” not “with.” Meaning take the information I present and make your own assessment. IF I’m right, I’ll pat myself on the back and count my dollars. But WHEN I’m wrong, cast your stones and call me an idiot for thinking I could beat Vegas. That’s what I’m here for.

If I were a handicapper, I wouldn’t be sharing my picks for free. I also wouldn’t need to be in graduate school majoring in journalism. If I were a handicapper I’d be parked in a Vegas sports book with a cigar in mouth and taking full advantage of buffet. This article gives all you ‘degenerate’ readers out there to take a glance at the picks, and either ride with Hank or fade Hank.

 

Here are Saturday’s games, in order of game time. Spreads are what they opened at, money lines and public money percentage are where they currently stand as I publish this article.

Sunday’s information and picks will get published Sunday morning.

1. 12:10 PM: 4 WVU (-3 / -145) vs. 5 Notre Dame (+3 / +125)

Public Money: 55% Notre Dame

Neither of these teams looked impressive in their games against Bucknell and Princeton. The Mountaineers couldn’t put the Bison away and Notre Dame let the Tigers get back to within striking distance after covering in the second half.

Notre Dame was uncharacteristically horrendous from the free throw line, but if they can that back on track they’re a better shooting team and should withstand West Virginia’s defensive pressure. Bonzie Collson is an intriguing player with a tough nosed approach to compliment Notre Dame’s outside shooting. I’ve got the fighting Irish covering, also winning.

2. 2:40 PM: 1 Villanova (-5 / -270) vs. 8 Wisconsin (+5 / +220)

Public Money: 58% Villanova

Wisconsin got through a tough Virginia Tech team in the first round behind Bronson Koening’s 28 points (school record eight three-pointers). Virginia Tech also missed some free throws late that would have covered the five points, but that’s neither here nor there.

One of the hardest parts about the second round games for one seeds is that they go from abysmal competition to serious competition in just two days. They can’t get comfortable with the level of competition in game one because they can get their ass kicked in game two real easy.

Villanova probably has the toughest matchup in round two, and I think a one seed loses this weekend. Just not this matchup. Badgers still cover.

3. 5:15 PM: 1 Gonzaga (-10.5 / -710) vs. 8 Northwestern (+10.5 / +505)

Public Money: 55% Gonzaga

Now this is where I think we might see a five-seed tumble. I think Northwestern is on one of those inspired basketball trains that could transport them to the sweet sixteen by day’s end. 10.5 points is far too many in my opinion, and I even think there’s some value to throwing a couple bucks on the Wildcats money line.

Gonzaga probably ends up winning this game, but I see Northwestern sticking around to the very end. Wildcats cover.

4. 6:10 PM: 3 Florida State (-5.5 / -275) vs. 11 Xavier (+5.5 / +225)

Public Money: 50% Xavier

Florida Gulf Coast gave the Seminoles everything they had in round one, while the Xavier Muskateers dominated the Terps in the second half. Xavier lost a lot depth throughout the season to injuries, and I think it costs them against a very talented Florida State squad.

Florida State definitely wins this game, but Xavier might just cover. I would suggest waiting to place a second half wager to see how these teams matchup.

5. 7:10:  4 Butler (-4.5 / -185) vs. 12 Middle Tennessee St. (+4.5 / +155)

Public Money: 61% Middle Tennessee State

With an overwhelming amount of money on the Blue Raiders to cover, it makes sense to pick Butler to cover. I had Butler losing to Winthrop straight up, but my Eagles couldn’t even cover the 11-point spread. Butler looked much tougher than I gave them credit for. Middle Tennessee State shed the glass slipper and no longer looked a Cinderella team with their dominating performance over the fifth-seeded Golden Gophers.

When in doubt of who to pick, go against the public. That’s why I’m picking the Butler Bulldogs to cover and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

6. 7:45 PM: 2 Arizona (-2.5 / -225) vs. 7 St. Mary’s (+2.5 / +185)

Public Money: 67% Arizona

This is one of the most head scratching spreads. It makes you wonder if Vegas knows something we don’t. The opening 2.5-point line has now stretched to five points, which most handicappers still think there’s high value in picking the Gaels to cover.

This odds making has to do with St. Mary’s ability to play lockdown defense. But watching most of their games against a more talented Gonzaga, they didn’t impress me. I’ve got Arizona as my national championship team, and I think easily cover this game.

I’m as confident in five points to go as far as looking for alternative lines up to 10 or 12 points to get better odds. Arizona is too good to only be a 2.5 or point favorite against the Western Athletic Conference’s second best team.

7. 8:40 PM: 4 Florida (-1.5 / -135) vs. 5 Virginia (+1.5 / +115)

Public Money: 55% UVA

Florida looked better than I gave them credit in their first round game against East Tennessee State. I had ETSU upsetting the Gators, but Florida’s speed out of the guards was too much. However, against the nation’s best defensive team, it won’t be as successful. Virginia struggled against UNCW early, but eventually powered their way back to advance.

I’ve got Virginia covering this game and probably winning, huge value in their money line. I think Virginia is a better team with deeper talent against Florida. Defensively, their too strong to lose in the second round of the tournament.

8. 9:40 PM: 4 Purdue (-1 / -110) vs 5 Iowa State (+1 / -110)

Public Money:  50% Iowa State

The NCAA scheduling committee saved the most intriguing matchup of the day for last. The Cyclones and Boilermakers are both dark horse Elite Eight/Final Four picks in a lot of brackets. This game will feature two contrasting styles, as Iowa State likes speeding up the game with experienced guards. Pushing the tempo against Purdue’s tendency to slow it down and feed the duel big-men should be interesting to watch tonight.

The spread has moved from favoring both teams by one at certain points to PK currently. Straight up, I’m gonna pick Purdue to cover, with their seven-pecentage-point difference in Free Throw Percentage the big difference in this game. At 76-percent, Purdue will make the most of their opportunities at the charity stripe and it will cost Iowa State if they send Purdue to the line.

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Author Details
Falcons, SEC and occasional Braves writer. Built like a former prototypical private school defensive tackle. You can’t say I didn’t play the games because I was one helluva scout team All-American in practice and I watched intently from the bench during games. Born and raised in the city of Atlanta, I’m scarred by the playoff and championship disappointments but I continue to look forward to Atlanta’s next opportunity to blow a 28-3 lead. Always critical and skeptical because no lead is ever safe.
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Falcons, SEC and occasional Braves writer. Built like a former prototypical private school defensive tackle. You can’t say I didn’t play the games because I was one helluva scout team All-American in practice and I watched intently from the bench during games. Born and raised in the city of Atlanta, I’m scarred by the playoff and championship disappointments but I continue to look forward to Atlanta’s next opportunity to blow a 28-3 lead. Always critical and skeptical because no lead is ever safe.

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