March Madness really begins around the NCAA Tournament on Thursday with the first 16 games of the Round of 64. And two of the four top seeds will be in action: Villanova and Kansas. Of course, a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 and just four of the past 80 No. 1 vs. 16 games have even been decided by single digits.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Villanova’s line is TBD against the winner of LIU Brooklyn-Radford in Tuesday’s First Four, but it will be massive. Kansas is -14 against Ivy League champion Penn.
One of the shortest lines on the Thursday board has No. 7 Rhode Island as a 2-point favorite over No. 10 Oklahoma. The Rams were the Atlantic 10 regular-season champions but lost by a point in the conference tournament final to Davidson. The storyline to watch there is in the backcourt with Rhode Island’s excellent senior duo of Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews against Sooners freshman sensation Trae Young.
Some believe that Oklahoma only got into the Big Dance because Young is such a big star after leading the nation in scoring and assists. The Sooners were just 4-11 in their final 15 games. Young’s next loss will surely be his final college game as he’ll be an NBA lottery pick this summer.
A No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 seemingly every year in the NCAA Tournament, and many experts believe that No. 12 South Dakota State could upset No. 5 Ohio State on Thursday, with the Buckeyes as 7.5-point favorites.
OSU was just 2-3 in its final five games, while SDSU is a tested team in the NCAA Tournament for a third year in a row. The Jackrabbits nearly upset Maryland in the first round in 2016 and are led by two-time Summit League Player of the Year Mike Daum. The junior averages 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds on the season. South Dakota State is 1-0 vs. the Big Ten this year, beating Iowa in November.
The largest current spread for Thursday is No. 2 Duke at -19.5 against No. 15 Iona. The Blue Devils have been massive upset victims in the recent past, losing as a No. 3 seed to No. 14 Mercer in 2014 and as a No. 2 to No. 15 Lehigh in 2012. It was one of only eight times in tournament history that a 15 seed upset a 2.
Iona is just 1-12 all-time in the Big Dance, and that 1980 victory over Holy Cross was later vacated.