11 Injuries to Monitor Before Filling Out Your Bracket – 2022 March Madness

BY MATTY D.

Before you find that printable bracket to fill out, find out the updated injury statuses below for these important NCAA Men’s Basketball players. Find the teams impacted in alphabetical order.

The website covers.com is cited in this article. We are also following some key beat reporters.

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Arizona Guard Kerr Kriisa Ankle Injury Update

Kerr Kriisa was in street clothes to watch Arizona beat UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship after suffering an ankle injury late this season. Ankle injuries are among the most common injuries in basketball, but have varying grades of severity.

By the looks of it, Kerr Kriisa’s severity of a sprain is high and he won’t play this week…

Baylor Guards LJ Cryer and Kendall Brown listed with leg injuries

Kendall Brown played in Baylor’s last game, a loss to TCU, while LJ Cryer did not.

LJ Cryer has been listed as day-to-day for nearly two months, but has only played one game in the past several weeks. Cryer was Baylors leading scorer.

Connecticut Guard Jordan Hawkins Suffers a Concussion mid-March

Freshman guard Jordan Hawkins has provided quality scoring punch and range off the bench for the Huskies, but he was unavailable for their last game in a loss against Villanova.

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Georgia State Guard Nelson Phillips Listed Day-to-Day with Undisclosed Injury

Nelson Phillips averages 7.7 points per game and plays about 20 minutes per game.

Houston Veteran Fabian White Jr. Was Questionable with a Back Injury

In a season where the Cougars have seen crippling injuries, its mainstay veteran forward Fabrian White Jr. is battling a new one. However, White Jr. played the most minutes for his Cougars team in an AAC Championship game. Because it’s a back injury, it should be monitored, but for now it looks all good.

Illinois Guard Jacob Grandison Nursing a Shoulder Injury

The graduate transfer can get hot from deep, so this is a secret weapon that the Illini might have to get accustomed to playing without.

A beat reporter covering the Illini tweeted this on Monday:

Illinois beat reporters will be tracking this story all week.

Memphis Forward Jalen Duran Injures Hand in AAC Semifinal

Jalen Duran looked fine in the AAC Championship game after injuring his hand in the semifinal game. There was one fast break in particular where he sprinted and finished with a forceful dunk, showing no outward signs of pain. Head coach Penny Hardaway updated reporters about Duran’s injury after the semis, saying that it was an unknown diagnosis.

Michigan State Point Guard Tyson Walker Dealing with Ankle Injury

Counter to tradition, Michigan State has actually struggled to find consistent play at point guard since Cassius Winston’s graduation. If the Spartans don’t have Walker in the lineup, that is a serious consideration. He is not only a stable orchestrator of the offense, but he showed his ability to score in bunches this season as well.

Detroit Free Press beat writer Chris Solari reported on Monday that head coach Tom Izzo is making contingency plans to play without Walker in the lineup. Here’s what he said about backup (and sometimes starting) point guard, A.J. Hoggard.

Ohio State Buckeyes Monitoring Zed Key’s Ankle Injury

EJ Liddell is one of the nation’s best post players, but he needs help. Key is a key to the Buckeye’s having enough beef down low.

Ohio State basketball reporters are monitoring this situation closely.

San Franscisco Forward Yauhen Massalski Sidelined with Knee Injury

Yauhen Massalski was unavailable for the Dons semifinal matchup against Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, and it showed how San Francisco was minus some size against the talented Gonzaga front-line.

Photo courtesy: usfdons.com
According to CBS Sports College Basketball insider Jon Rothstein, Massalski will play.

Bonus #12: Seton Hall Guard Bryce Aiken Largely Unavailable Late This Season

Point guard Bryce Aiken has been out for weeks, so this would be a huge bonus if he re-emerges.

Honorable Mention: Some teams are still recovering from the sting felt after losing a key player late in the season. Baylor and Creighton would certainly qualify as they’ve lost Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Ryan Nembhard respectively.

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Upset Alert Teams to Win a College Basketball Conference Tournament during “Champ Week”

BY MATTY D.

Cinderella can reside in the Power 5. In 2021, Georgetown surged in unlikely fashion after a horrible regular season. The Hoyas went dancing in March Madness as the Big East Tournament winner. The team had only gone 7-9 in the conference regular season and had an overall record of .500 (13-13).

Similarly, Oregon State went from an expected pre-season bottom feeder in the Pac-12, to The Elite 8.

Here are seven teams that could burst a bubble team’s dreams. It shouldn’t shock anyone who is watching college basketball to see these teams in a conference tournament championship game.

Maryland Terps 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Big Ten Conference

In an era of global turmoil, it’s safe to say that Maryland still had a rocky season. They brought in two highly touted transfers in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. However, the Terps season got off to a slow turtle crawl. They lost to in-state non-rival George Mason. And Head Coach Mark Turgeon and the administration, reportedly, agreed to part ways mid-season.

Danny Manning took over as head coach. As you watch the team play, they are slowly rounding into form. A game against Nebraska in mid-February showed off their ceiling. Yes, it’s a lousy Nebraska team, but you saw freshman forward Julian Reese show off his stuff.

The roster is still beefed up with veteran players who have been in plenty of March Madness battles. Eric Ayala and Donta Scott come to mind. It was Danny Manning and the Miracles which made one of college basketball’s most magical runs ever. If some Big Ten teams get complacent during their conference tournament, it could be the Terps that go on a miraculous run.

Photo courtesy umterps.com

Florida Atlantic Owls 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Conference USA

By NCAA Tournament standards, Conference USA is a major conference. Just in the last decade, look at what Middle Tennessee and North Texas have done to wreak havoc on the bracket. UAB, North Texas and even Louisiana Tech have been on the radar for modest at-large chances this season. However, the Florida Atlantic Owls are staying up late into February with relevant play in its league. In a seven game stretch over January to February, they won 6 of 7 games in conference. That includes the Owls’ dominating win against Louisiana Tech where the Owls shot 52% from the field, 45% from 3 point territory, and led by as many as 20 points.

Like many deep sleepers, this team features some sizable international talent. Its front-court features size and versatility with players from Kosovo, Russia, Senegal and Kongo all contributing.

Arizona State Sun Devils 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Pac 12 Conference

This one is simple. You cannot watch the Arizona State Sun Devils inspired play against Final 4 favorite UCLA and not be inspired to think they can go on a magical run. After an era of Arizona State pumping guards into the NBA, its powerful forwards forced the action against UCLA late. They beat the Bruins and the Oregon Ducks in February. They also scored a win against Colorado and were very competitive against an AP Top 5 team in Arizona.

Forwards like Jalen Graham are dropping double digits with regularity late in the season.

Bobby Hurley is one of the sports all-time great point guards. Perhaps he can be the floor general as head coach of the Sun Devils and lead them to a conference crown.

Utah State 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Mountain West Conference

Google the phrase college basketball elder statesman, and Brock Miller’s mug shot might pop up. This team is as aged as the sandy ledge of a mountain boarding the small town of Sandy, Utah. And they can shoot. Sure, big man Neemias Queta moved on to bigger and better things. But there’s still plenty of residue remaining to roll up a run. You could look at their record and say they’re toast. Or, you could look at their record and give props to just how good the Mountain West has been this year. Wyoming, Colorado State, and San Diego State are likely tournament teams regardless of what happens in the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies are only middle of the pack in terms of college basketball’s best three point shooting team. On February 24th they ranked 159th in the nation with a pedestrian 34% from 3PT. However, that’s not indicative of the shooting stroke you could see from senior leaders Miller and Justin Bean. So why not let loose in Vegas and roll the dice with a bunch of bombs from downtown during Champ Week?

This list included Mizzou and Northwester weeks ago, but their play has since soured.

George Mason 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Atlantic 10

The Atlantic 10 is filled with teams that are capable of “stealing a bid.” In fact, it will likely happen. Davidson has enjoyed a lead atop the league for most of the season. However, they face stiff competition with St. Louis, VCU, Dayton, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and George Mason, to name a few. George Mason is coached by former Mizzou baller Kim English Jr. They are a bit of a mystery, with a lots of bad losses on their record. However, they have one of the conference’s purest shooters in Colorado transfer D’Shawn Schwartz. 6-9 forward Josh Oduro is having a solid season. He averages 18 points and 7 rebounds on the season. Their wins over St. Bonaventure, Dayton and Richmond should be noted as proof this team could compete for the conference championship.

George Mason is an up-and-coming program in college basketball.
Photo courtesy: gomason.com

Best Longshot Odds to Win a College Basketball March Madness 2022

BY MATTY D.

The parody of the college basketball landscape in 2022 offers no shortage of long-shots with intriguing values. Many people (including myself) consider 7 or 8 teams that could easily win it all this year. However, none of those teams look like Baylor and Gonzaga did last year. It appeared inevitable those teams would face each other in a 2021 Championship game. Instead, those favorites right now are priced in the 4-1 to 6-1 territory. That’s teams like Gonzaga and Arizona. It would be hard to swallow paying a price in the 7-1 to 18-1 territory for any of these teams without the conviction of seeing them surge the way Gonzaga and Baylor had last season.

And so when the Madness of March begins, those 7 or 8 championship contenders could get upset and the list of possible champions would grow. Below are some of my favorite long-shot value picks to find themselves in the mix. If you’re considering any of these bets, please look at both the Final Four odds in addition to a National Championship ticket. The last thing you want is to have two of the four teams make the Final Four, neither win a national championship, and for you to not cash a ticket.

Read also my favorite 14 picks ATS on Thursday and Friday by clicking here.
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Editor’s Notes: This article has remained intact as-is for over a month. I will stick with my gut here and roll with the teams that I had hand-picked in mid-February. Subtle edits have been made to the start of the summary for each team below.

[At the start of February, I picked 5 teams in a YouTube video. Things have changed considerably since then… ]

Updated: Best Longshot Odds to win March Madness 2022

Here are 5 teams that are the best value bets right now for college basketball futures. You could call them sleeper teams, although their likelihood to make the NCAA Tournament at this point is better than them not.

Best Long-shots to win March Madness 2022 by future values

5.. UAB BLAZERS BASKETBALL FUTURES ODDS 400-1

According to FanDuel Sports App, UAB will enter March Madness as a 400-1 underdog to win a national title. The Blazers earned a 12 seed and will play against Houston in the first round.

Here’s what I had written earlier in the season…

These Blazers were trailblazing their way to a regular season conference championship, until they stubbed their toes at Old Dominion on Super Bowl weekend. Its stock sunk some 50-1 points. Still, they make my top 5.

Coached by former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, the Blazers are as dangerous as they come. Conference USA has continued to play the disruptor role in the NCAA Tournament. And with no shortage of size on this UAB roster, the sky could quite literally be the limit.

On January 22nd the Blazers beat current conference rival LA Tech in their house, securing (for now) an inside track to its conference championship. Jordan “Jelly” Walker scored 37 points in that game. As you know, a sub 6’1″ scorer is a hallmark sign of a dangerous Cinderella program.

UAB’s stock did slip in the following days after being upset by Marshall. This puts the Blazers in jeopardy of not winning its conference regular season. Regardless, Conference USA will likely be a one bid league. Therefore, if you invest in UAB you’ll need them to win their conference tournament.

Jordan Walker can drop 30 at any point. Photo courtesy: uabsports.com

Assuming it wins its conference tournament, UAB would likely get a 12, 13 or 14 seed. That means they could play an LSU, Texas Tech, or other middle-of-the-pack team from a Power 5 school. UAB has a 7 footer at center in Clemson transfer Trey Jemison, so size won’t intimate them. The Blazers can score the ball, ranking just within the top 50 on Kenpom’s score for efficiency. If you like UAB at 250-1 to win a national title, you’re going to love them at 65-1 to make the Final 4.

Responsible sports betting is possible when a 10 cent wager can win you 6 bucks. This wager was placed January 26, 2022 and reflects the “Vegas odds” at that point.

After its dramatic game-winning buzzer beater win by Jelly Walker at Western Kentucky, UAB stood as the 41st ranked KenPom team on January 28th. Meantime, they were 37th in the NET rankings. Therefore, a legitimate case can be made for UAB as an at-large bid, even if they don’t win their conference tournament.

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4. SAN FRANCISCO DONS BASKETBALL FUTURES 250-1

San Francisco drew a 10 seed and will play against a dangerous 7 seed in Murray State. Both of these programs are actually very dangerous in this position. Murray State is an even better value from a high-ceiling perspective. They enter the tournament at 500-1 to win a title according to FanDuel.

Here’s what I had written earlier this season…

There is a clear turning point in San Francisco’s season that has it skipping the line and getting into the middle of the mix as a great long-shot. After taking a large lead in pivotal games in January against Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, San Fran squandered those opportunities to punch their tickets. However, when February came, they blitzed BYU at their house. The Dons came out of halftime and continued pressuring the (weakened) post of BYU. They got out in transition and guarded well in transition. They took the life out of the crowd. It was the opposite of what those games in January looked like, and it could be a turning point for San Francisco to be considered one of America’s most dangerous underdogs.

San Francisco is lead by super senior point guard Jamaree Bouyee. He is one of the top 6-1 and under guards poised to upset some people in March Madness. They also have size down low, which is always a challenge for mid-major teams. San Francisco was available on the DraftKings app at 60-1 to make March Madness on February 3 and it’s unlikely that value will remain for long.

San Francisco stood at 200-1 to win a National Championship (and 80-1 to make the Final Four) on DraftKings on Valentine’s Day. Betters will love them even more if they can win a late February home game against Gonzaga before the tournament begins. They missed an opportunity to beat Gonzaga late in February, but the St. Mary’s Gaels did it on that same California road trip for the Bulldogs. The WCC has the pedigree to pull some upsets in this tournament.

Photo courtesy usfdons.com/ Christina Leung

3. DAVIDSON WILDCATS BASKETBALL FUTURES ODDS 400-1

Davidson draws a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and plays against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team. That’s bad news for Wildcats fans. However, Michigan State is beatable and so is Duke in the (possible) following round. I am rolling with Davidson at 400-1 here.

Here’s what I had written earlier in the season…

At the end of January, Davidson finally cracked into the AP Top 25 and officially became the most dangerous underdog in America. After the Wildcats went undefeated in its first six conference games with wins at St. Bonaventure and at VCU, they were honestly long overdue for this position. Throw in the fact that they beat Alabama and its Elite 8 pedigree.

The problem with Davidson going into the conference tournament “Champ Week” is that it faces about 5 other teams from the Atlantic 10 that could easily steal a bid. Richmond, VCU, Dayton, St. Louis and St. Bonaventure are all worthy opponents. Most of those teams are borderline tournament teams. Davidson finished February as a projected 11 seed in the tournament. That doesn’t leave much margin for error for Davidson to lose its conference tournament. If that happens, we could be looking at two A10 tournament teams, or a damn good Davidson team in the NIT.

A tempting bet in this direction is to take the Atlantic 10 at around 65-1 to have its team with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s a great value if two teams make the tournament. It’s a lousy bet if only one does.

Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer gets the headlines as people talk about this team, but it’s really an extremely balanced squad. Loyer leads the team in assists. Four players average 12 or more points. Power forward Luka Brajkovic offers great hands and skill down low. The senior from Austria averages 7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Michael Jones showed everyone during a nationally televised game against Richmond that he can light it up. Jones was un-guardable that night as he scored 29 on 8 of 9 from the 3 point line. The Wildcats leading scorer is actually South Korean guard Hyunjung Lee. Lee averages 16 points per game with 6.7 rebounds with it. The stability of this upperclassman roster is anchored by a longtime winner, head coach Bob McKillop.

In his last bracket projection of January, Joe Lunardi had Davidson has a 9 seed. This is the type of mis-seeding that often happens to a mid-major team. This Davidson program probably had no business being a 10 seed with Stephen Curry before it made its magical Elite 8 run.

And while you can debate what Davidson’s seed would be, it’s not debatable anymore that it’s a tournament team. Therefore, even if you snag Davidson at 150-1 you could hedge it by taking the eventual round one matchup (today projected as BYU as a 125-1 underdog) and have some high ceiling options headed into the field of 32.

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2. USC COLLEGE BASKETBALL FUTURES 200-1

USC’s value doubled as the bracket got announced, which means the payout is twice as great. I am doubling down on this team as they play a smaller Miami Hurricanes squad to start their March Madness journey.

Here’s what I wrote earlier this year about the Trojans…

USC defeated Oregon in their place on February 26th to bounce the Ducks from this list and insert themselves onto it.

I will admit to overlooking USC after one of its Mobley brothers (Evan) went to the NBA this season. While Evan Mobley is the likely NBA Rookie of the Year with the Cavaliers, big brother is one of the nation’s best veteran players. The 6-10 big man features great hands, range, rebounding, and the ability to orchestrate the offense from the post. Boogie Ellis is the actual orchestrator at point guard. He transferred from Memphis. Ellis is a streaky shooter who can definitely get hot. Shooting guard Drew Peterson is playing some really confident ball right now. He hit a dagger three to win that Oregon game and also went buck-wild against UCLA in a game that Mobley missed in early February.

USC has a front line of muscular forwards who can outwork people on the offensive glass if defenses aren’t aware. Head coach Andy Enfield has already taken the college basketball world by surprise in his career (see Dunk City). This USC team was in the Elite 8 last year. Many players on the current roster played key roles in a Sweet 16 win against Oregon.

A bet worth looking at is the Pac-12 around 5-1 to have a national champion. Obviously, you’d get a favorite in Arizona, a preseason favorite in UCLA, and throw in a high-upside USC team at that rate. If a surprise team like Arizona State (see our list of possible Cinderellas for Champ Week), Colorado or Stanford win the Pac-12 tournament, you could have 4 or 5 teams for that one cost. Oregon is the unknown as a bubble team.

1. LSU COLLEGE BASKETBALL FUTURES 120-1

March Madness is all about unlikely outcomes. What is more unlikely than your coach getting fired for multiple violations stemming from an FBI investigation… and you still advance to the Final Four.

I actually love LSU as they draw Iowa State to start their March Madness journey. They would have to become the first 6 seed in 30 years to make a Final Four, however, if they have a magical run on their mind. Below is what I had written about the Tigers earlier this season…

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE 6 SEED CURSE AND OTHER TRENDY TRADITIONS

On February 15, LSU stood at 16th overall in the NCAA Net Rankings, but still had a long-shot odd to win a national title. The Tigers were then 15-1 to reach the Final Four and 80-1 to win a national title. Those numbers don’t reflect how this team is getting healthy at the right time. Coming out of the SEC, which has two legitimate title favorites (unlike any other conference), the Tigers will be eager to devour any other competition aside from their in-conference opponents. Point guard Xavier Pinson has brought a lightning quick dimension to the offense. And this team gets after it on the defensive end unlike most teams. They are consistently top 5 in forced turnovers, defensive efficiency, and outright steals. LSU won’t come back from large deficits with three point prayers, but they might outwork their opponent on the offensive glass to get back into a game. They are mostly young and hungry, with a few key veterans like senior Darius Days. LSU has been flirting with the Elite 8 and Sweet 16 for the past few years, and shouldn’t be overlooked as players like Days and Pinson have returned from injury and are finding a rhythm. LSU plays a marquee matchup against Kentucky in late February. This can serve as a stress test to measure how legit they are. For now, the eye test says they are much better than 80-1 to win it all.

HOST CITIES FOR THE FIRST ROUND OF MARCH MADNESS 2021-2022

Portland
Buffalo
Milwaukee
PIttsburgh
Fort Worth
Greenville
Indianapolis
San Diego
*These are also the sites of the second round.

Best College Basketball Handicappers Picks for Suspect Spreads Saturday

BY MATTY D.

The best college basketball handicappers all share one common trait: Wins! And the against the spread picks by collegebasketballeyetest.com have had a successful 2021-2022 season. Every Saturday, Matty D. shares his picks on Twitter on the hashtag #SuspectSpreadsSaturday. The phrase alerts fans about which Vegas spreads look suspect, or questionable. During the regular season, this website boasted a 70-49 record against the spread. That’s a winning percentage of 59%.

Now, this hashtag is getting taken over for March Madness 2022 picks!

Looking for the best long-shots to win March Madness? CLICK HERE!

My record against the spread this season is 70-49-2 as of March 7, 2022.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL PICKS FOR FIRST/SECOND ROUND OF THE TOURNAMENT:

These picks appear in order of confidence level, from the lowest confidence pick at 12 all the way down to the most confident pick at number one.

14. Delaware Hens +15.5 vs. Villanova
13. Longwood Lancers +16.5 vs. Tennessee
12. Providence Friars -2.5 vs. South Dakota State
11. Davidson +1.5 vs. Michigan State
10. UCLA -13.5 vs. Akron
9. Arkansas -5.5 vs. Vermont
8. New Mexico State +7 vs. UCONN
7. LSU -4 vs. Iowa State
6. Norfolk State +21.5 vs. Baylor
5. Richmond Spiders +10.5 vs. Iowa
4. Loyola -1.5 vs. Ohio State
3. UAB +8.5 vs. Houston
2. V-Tech +1.5 vs. Texas
1. USC -1.5 vs. Miami

Honorable mention: If you are a fan of Big Ten basketball, a 3 team money line parlay with Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois could make sense. Each team will fluctuate between a 4 to 7 point favorite, but could all win a close game. If you like Indiana, they sit in a similar position as a small favorite against Wyoming in the play-in game.

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Select the seed to survive and advance to the next article!
The collegebasketballeyetest.com bracket features a 12 seed in the national title game.

Matty D’s Philosophy for College Basketball Picks Against the Spread

Just like a Thursday or Friday in mid-March, a Saturday offers the widest sample size of games to choose from. If you’re a college basketball fan, you’re probably familiar with the power 5 schools. If you’re a better, it’s also good to get familiar with a few mid-major conferences. For example, I have gotten cozy with the Conference USA and American conferences over the years. This familiarity helped me go undefeated with 7 correct picks (and one tie) in the selections below.

Underdogs like Providence and Western Kentucky proved their worth early in the season.

My rule is to always bet any 6 point (or more) underdog to cover the first half. If and when an underdog challenges a favorite, it’s normally off of adrenaline and a lack of familiarity in the first half. I would always wager a dollar amount equal to, or slightly more than, the entire point line for the game. I would also traditionally bet 10-30% of that dollar amount on the money line. If I really believe that a 6 point underdog will win the game, I might bet 30% of my point line bet on the money line. For example, if I bet $10 on Providence to cover a 6.5 point spread, I would bet $3 on them to win the game outright. The money-line odds in that situation would be somewhere in the ballpark of 2-1 or 3-1. The advantage to being able to play on sports betting apps is that you don’t have to pay the traditional $5 or $10 minimums per bets at the physical casino. This helps betting on a budget. On FanDuel’s app you can make a minimum bet of 9 cents whereas DraftKings offers a 10 cent minimum.

If you or someone you know is struggling to set limits with sports betting, help is available.

Matty D’s Running Tally of ATS Picks for College Basketball Season

Here is a running tally of the college basketball sports betting picks for the 2021-2022 season with the newest up top.

These picks on February 5, 2022 went 6-5 on the week.
Pick are always published on Twitter before tip off on Saturdays with the same hashtag.

Please follow on Twitter to join the conversation!

College Basketball’s Hybrid Weekend of Important In and Non-Conference Games

BY MATTY D.

It’s the season of giving and college basketball is delivering in its last weekend before Christmas.

The schedule for Saturday, December 18th features critically important games in-conference and out of conference.

Let’s start with the much-maligned Memphis Tigers. They have caught criticism because brining on two 17-year-olds (who re-classified in high school) top NBA prospects hasn’t jived yet. After a four game losing streak, they stopped the bleeding with a season saving resume building win against highly ranked Alabama. Today, they have another important regional and non-conference matchup. They catch Tennessee as a 5 point underdog.

Tennessee just recently played Texas Tech in a game that was probably the ugliest watch of the season among top 50 teams. Although Texas Tech has retained its toughness epitomized by since departed coach Chris Beard, neither team could score the ball. Texas Tech won, but it wasn’t pretty. If the Red Raiders show any signs of those same offensive struggles, they’ll get run out of the gym against Gonzaga. The Zags are one of America’s best offenses.

And let’s spend some time with Conference USA. This conference never gets any credit, despite pulling upsets repeatedly in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. You’ve heard of the Hilltoppers because Western Kentucky is always dangerous. Last year, North Texas beat Purdue outright in the field of 64. This year, LA Tech is a real threat with big man Kenneth Lofton, Jr.

On this date, Conference USA gets a chance to prove itself again. UAB is a favorite hosting West Virginia. LA Tech battles with LSU. And Western Kentucky hosts Louisville. No one should be surprised if the conference nets a 2-1 record there.

Meantime, one conference is diving into its conference season full steam ahead. And that’s the Big East. Friday night Creighton blew Villanova out of its gym to immediately shake up the power structure of the conference. On Saturday, Providence has an opportunity to validate its own strong start. They open up conference play, surprisingly as a 6.5 point underdog, against UCONN. Ed Cooley is doing it again. His Friars have started the season 10-1 with wins against top 50 (if not top 25) teams Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Texas Tech. The Friars only loss is to (embattled) Virginia.

A night cap to keep an eye on is the Oregon Baylor game. At first glance, this looks like it should be a blowout for Baylor. But true college basketball fans know better. Oregon has embraced a litany of transfer students and they’re paying the price of patience for that decision. Coach Dana Altman has to, once again, prove his worth as a top coach when it comes to development and continue grooming this group. Right now it’s mixed bag of talent that hasn’t clicked. Meantime, Baylor lost four starters from its national championship team and hasn’t missed a beat. They’ve surprised a lot of people being voted this week as the #1 overall team in the AP Poll.

Friars wrap up their pregame prep prior to their first game in Hartford since 2008.Photo Courtesy: Providence Friars Men’s Basketball/Twitter.

Thanks for reading this article. Follow CBBEyeTest on Twitter, where author Matty D. shares his observations and predictions. Ahead of every Saturday, he shares his picks against the spread. The current record for his “Suspect Spread Saturday” series is 13-6-1 early in this 2021 season.

Best College Basketball Games for December 2021

BY MATTY D.

Here are December’s most epic match-ups around the college basketball 2021-2022 season.

These are my choice for the top 4 games in December and why…

4. December 30, 2021 Arizona vs. UCLA

Before the season tipped, it was a foregone conclusion by the “experts” that UCLA would win the PAC-12 conference in convincing fashion. And as Arizona State head football coach would say, “that’s why you play the game.”

Arizona will visit UCLA at the end of the month in what I consider to be the biggest barometer game of the month to figure out how good these teams really are. UCLA got blown out by Gonzaga, which brings up a lot of questions about its previously vaunted defense. Meantime, Arizona has risen from a 80-1 favorite to win it all to the 25 or 35-1 territory. This happened pretty fast. Arizona’s dominant win against Michigan opened a lot of eyes. They also handled a very underrated Wichita State team. One of these teams has built a strong out-of-conference case for having a top seed in the tournament, and it’s not UCLA. This is a true test.

3. December 7, 2021 Villanova vs. Syracuse
Madison Square Garden

You better start Googling Big East Basketball history if you don’t know the significance of this matchup and this location.

2. December 11, 2021 Cincinnati vs. Xavier i.e. “The Crosstown Shootout”

This would be a bad day to physically attend a game, because there’s going to be so much must-see TV drama in your living room. Xavier scraps with Cincinnati in what I consider college basketball’s longest-standing local rivalry with genuine bad blood. The last time tempers really flared up in this one, it involved former Cincy Coach Mick Cronin accusing JP Macura of throwing some F-bombs his way.

And it’s hard to believe that it’s already been 9 years since this all-out brawl at the Cintas Center:

  1. December 11, 2021 Missouri at Kansas
    Allen Fieldhouse

This matchup is what history is made of, literally.  The rivalry between the Jayhawkers of the Free State and the confederate forces of Missouri is well documented.   The hatred lasts to this day.  And Missouri left the Big 12 in recent years to join the SEC.  Without it, there was no natural meeting between these two heated opponents.  With conference re-alignment tearing at the fabric of what makes the regular season great, this is a big win for college basketball that this rivalry is renewed.

More Honorable Mentions and Notes for Upcoming Dates:

Dec 4:  Buffalo Bulls at St. Bonaventure Bonnies 

St. Bonaventure fell hard outside of the top 25 after taking a tough 10 point loss to Northern Iowa.  However, St. Bonaventure should still be everyone’s underdog darling after the way it waxed Marquette (and others) during the “Feast Week” holiday platform.  This Buffalo team was perhaps where St. Bonaventure is ascending to, now.  They are both often overlooked schools in Upstate New York that play for formidable basketball conferences.  Buffalo rose to respectability (and a 2018 tournament game win) under coach Bobby Hurley’s watch.  St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt has been with the Bonnies since the 2007-2008 season and has built a similar threat upstate.  In fact, St. Bonaventure has been considered by some a top 10 mid-major program for a few consecutive years.  This contest could determine who, if, and whether both teams can make a NCAA Tournament with some juice.  

Dec 5:  Richmond vs. Northern Iowa 

It’s not only power 5 conference bubble teams that need to score some out-of-conference wins before the winter officially kicks off.  Richmond and Northern Iowa play each other in a similar, possible, resume building spot.  Richmond was a darks horse candidate to make some noise around the pandemic shortened and canceled seasons.  The same can be said for Northern Iowa.  Big picture, these programs could be on the decline in terms of their bids for an at large in any upcoming tournament.  A game like this could prove otherwise.  

Dec 6:  Iowa vs. Illinois 

Dec 7:  Villanova vs. Syracuse (at MSG) 

Dec 8:  Utah St. vs. BYU 

Dec 9: Iowa vs. Iowa State 

During a week when in-state rivalry let rip, a role reversal might play itself out in the Hawkeye State.  The Cyclones were picked to finished last in the Big 12.  Yet, they found themselves ranked 19th in the AP Top 25 at the start of December.  With Iowa figuring its identity out without graduated Luka Garza, this could be an Iowa changing of the guard.

Dec 10:  Murray State at Memphis 

The school that helped produce the blossoming legend of Ja Morant visits his new home (of the Memphis Grizzlies).  And when it comes to which team has inherited the best new crop of point guard talent, the edge might go to Murray State.  The Racers enter December with only one loss at the top of the Ohio Valley conference.  Memphis, despite having NBA talent, is struggling to run its offense in simple terms.  

Dec 11:  Missouri at Kansas 

This matchup is what history is made of, literally.  The rivalry between the Jayhawkers of the Free State and the confederate forces of Missouri is well documented.   The hatred lasts to this day.  And Missouri left the Big 12 in recent years to join the SEC.  Without it, there was no natural meeting between these two heated opponents.  With conference re-alignment tearing at the fabric of what makes the regular season great, this is a big win for college basketball that this rivalry is renewed. 

Dec 12:  Rutgers vs. Seton Hall

Dec 13:  UMBC vs. Princeton 

Dec 14;  Alabama vs. Memphis 

Dec 15:  UC Irvine vs. USC 

Dec 16: UT Arlington vs. Oral Roberts

Dec 17: St. Mary’s vs. San Diego State

December 18-19: This weekend featured a grand finale of the out-of-conference season.

December 22-25: For college basketball, The Diamondhead Classic is likely the most relevant action around the Christmas holiday itself. BYU has looked awesome at times, but slipped outside of the AP Top 25 ahead of this holiday tournament. Still, the Cougars can score the ball in a variety of ways and come in as the betting favorite. Meantime, a first round matchup between Liberty and Northern Iowa features two mid major programs that have been extremely relevant in the past 3-5 years. A lot of talent has passed through each of these programs, but they remain legitimate threats to pull an upset win, especially in a tournament scenario like this one. Each team retains consistency at the head coaching position. Ben Jacobsen has been leading Northern Iowa since 2006 and Ritchie McCay has made an impact at Liberty almost immediately when getting the job in 2015.

December 30, 2021 Arizona vs. UCLA: UCLA had to pause its activities a week before this game because of COVID-19 issues. Meantime, Arizona drives through a brutal stretch of games around this holiday. The Wildcats play Tennessee after the Vols had ample time to prepare on the heels of Memphis canceling their game in last minute, dysfunctional fashion.

Whichever team, Arizona or UCLA, can navigate the adversity best might find itself as a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament come March.

How to Bet March Madness on a Budget

As the country slowly re-opens while more states have legalized sports betting, here are tips for betting March Madness on a budget.

Click here to watch the haymakers strategy for more low risk high reward fun.

If you are struggling with gambling addiction, you are note alone. Please seek help. Click here to visit a national helpline or seek other safe avenues. Good luck to everyone out there!

Here is my entire 2021 March Madness bracket filled out on March 15, 2021.

People line up ahead of sports book opening during March Madness

CollegeBasketballEyeTest.com Author Matty D’s March Madness 2021 Picks

BY MATT DE SARLE

When it comes to college basketball experts, I am the 15 seed. I play with an independent league of opinionated amateurs on Facebook and Twitter, but I am also the budget bettor that no sports book “wants to see” in its bracket. There’s no major sponsor or platform here.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s roll into my official picks for March Madness 2021!

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball West Region

When it comes to this West Region, I agree with CBS’s Gary Parrish. There is no imagination coming from the committee when you have the possibility of rematches between Gonzaga and either/all of Kansas, Iowa, and/or Virginia. And that’s why I think only one of those rematches will happen: the most important one. This is also why I think Iowa is the first sexy futures bet at 16-1 as of March 16th. A rematch is always tricky for any victor. And in the December showdown between Iowa and Gonzaga, the Hawkeyes were simply blown out. Although Iowas has since lost Jack Nunge, the cliche is true when you can say they are “battle tested” by a historically great Big 10. I mean, to put the greatness of the Big 10 into context, this COVID-19 shortened season still cost the jobs of Indiana coach Archie Miller and 8 year head man at Minnesota, Richie Pitino. But I digress. Iowa can legitimately beat Gonzaga, I would comofortably have them covering any 2-3 possession line, but I have to go with Jalen Suggs and Gonzaga to advance.

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Everyone is picking against Creighton, and they clearly had a rough start to the month of March. But maybe they’ll be the team that goes in like a lamb and out like a lion. Its win against a popular UConn team showed us what telnet they have. I am also taking Ohio because Jason Preston is someone I cannot root against. As ESPN documented in the game telecasts, he lost his mother as a 16-year-old to cancer. And he plays like the moniker says, “life is short.” His imagination passing the ball and risk taking could capture the nation’s imagination. That’s the emotional side of my brain on that pick. The logical side of my brain also says that UVA is having a rough patch with COVID-19 scares and may not even play the game as the 4 seed there.

The West Region can include a Sweet 16 of two Pac-12 teams

Oregon and USC will represent the PAC-12 well in this region. Each had disappointing losses in the conference tournament, but should not be the judge of how talented each team is.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball East Region

I watched Colorado and Texas all season. They’re too talented to come up short in this tournament. And I also watched Saint Bonaventure shred VCU in the A-10 Championship game. That game was not as close as the score would lead you to believe. I have major upsets happening in this region, because you’re not truly picking a March Madness bracket without the madness part. I will have 9 seed advance to the Elite 8 and 3 seed Texas represent the region in the Final Four.

The triangles that you see on my bracket are the underdogs who I like to cover the point spread along the way.

Skip all the clicking steps. HERE’S THE PRINTABLE BRACKET.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball South Region

When you look at the history of the bracket, the cumulative total when you add up all the seed number is the Final Four is normally almost always 10 or more. And so this is where I am picking the hometown team Purdue Boilermakers to represent the South region as the highest seed to enter the Final Four and get my cumulative seed count up to 10 exactly. Everyone and their mom expects UNC’s size and muscle to give Baylor a run for their money. But I am looking a step ahead and saying that Purdue’s size will actually give Baylor trouble, paired with the Boilermakers outstanding freshmen class. Players like Jaden Ivey just haven’t gotten enough publicity this season. I expect this team to be March Madness-ready after, again, the rigors of the Big 10 Conference have prepared them.

I also like 6 seeds to show up in the Sweet 16 this year and won’t be surprised if one of them break into the Final Four. A 6 seed hasn’t made the Final Four since 1991-1992 with the Fab Five.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Midwest Region

The committee did Illinois no favors in its draw. If we are looking for a 1 seed to have a difficult time, I think this would be the region for it. And who better to spoil the party than Cinderella herself, Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean? I would love to see a field of 32 matchup between Cam Krutwig and Kofi Cockburn. It would harken back to my childhood and watching giants tussle in the WWE (formerly WWF). Here are 8 other field of 32 player matchups I am hoping to see.

If Illinois avoids a field of 32 upset from a scrappy Georgia Tech or Ramblers bunch, they have #1 overall NBA pick Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State to look forward (potentially).

Texas wins the National Tittle among a Final 4 of Houston, Purdue and Gonzaga.

A team often overlooked is Houston because it plays in the American Athletic Conference (which got weaker with UConn’s exit). I also think the college basketball powers to be aren’t trying to promote Kelvin Sampson, a once-disgraced coach for NCAA infractions. However, with the shooting stroke of Quentin Grimes, return of Fabian White, and a great balance among other upper/underclassmen in the rotation, I think this team is destined for the Final Four. They return really the entire nucleus from a canceled 2019-2020 season with exception of Caleb Mills.

2021 NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments: Schedules, COVID-19 Updates

The 2021 NCAA Conference Tournament schedule is coming together for some regions. In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, decision-makers in college athletics are wrestling with the logistics of in-person events. That includes college basketball conferences across the nation, which are deciding how to crown its champions. One year ago the college basketball season was paused and then canceled altogether, literally as conference championship games were occurring live on television. This article provides major updates from the power 5 conferences and more for 2021’s evolving game-plan.

DEVELOPING NEWS: NCAA to allow 25% capacity for NCAA Tournament. Read more.

The ACC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Returns to Tar Heel State

The ACC Conference will go down in sports history as one of those conferences that had the unpleasant experience of literally pausing play on its basketball tournament as COVID-19 stopped the 2019-2020 NCAA season. It was also one of the major conferences to make early concessions for its 2021 tournament. The ACC announced in November that it would be coming home in a way, relocated its championship tournament to Greensboro. In recent years, the conference had played in perhaps sexier destinations such as New York City and Washington, DC. However, repositioning its conference tournament in the Carolinas obviously puts it closer to a majority of its teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Duke located in the Carolinas).

Big 10 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

In an era where the size of events is so often in question, the Big 10 Conference is making a statement on its tournament website: “all 14 teams will advance to the tournament.”

Currently, the Big 10 Conference is predicted to have 10 teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And so giving the other four teams an opportunity to compete for a bid brings back the true intrigue of March Madness.

According to its conference tournament website, the “Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held in Chicago for the 11th time and was last held at the United Center at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.”

Big 10: “All 14 Teams Will Advance”

Click here to read full details from the source.

The Big 10 Men’s College Basketball Championship game will be held on Sunday, March 14th. The conference hinted at it being aired on CBS Sports.

Big 12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

According to the Kansas City Star, the Big 12 will hold its tournament on March 10-13 at T-Mobile Center. As of February 1st, the conference had not decided on whether to hold the event without fans or at 25% capacity. The T-Mobile Center has a website ready to sell tickets, but the landing page currently has a “TBA” designation on the ticket sessions.

Still-frame Photo Courtesy ESPN Networks/YouTube

The Big 12 Conference had fans in attendance for its football championship on December 19 2020, although the state health and safety guidelines in Texas may differ from Missouri’s.

The newly named T-Mobile Center in Kansas City is set to host its first conference tournament.

Big East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

As of February 1st, the Big East hadn’t updated any news on whether the Big East Tournament will take place (with or without fans) at its normal home of Madison Square Garden.

On MSG’s event calendar, a concert for late March is listed as canceled.
However, you Justin Bieber fans will be excited that his concert is on!

The last men’s basketball action published on The Big East’s “master schedule” is on Saturday, March 6, 2021 with a flurry of marquee match-ups. In the event there is no tournament, you would assume Providence would have to beat Villanova and Seton Hall would have to defeat St. John’s to even have a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid.

In early February, the Big East “master schedule” showed its last action happening in early March.

Pac-12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

The Pac-12 may have been the most cautious major conference in terms of letting fans attend games this season. This winter they extended the prohibition of fans in attendance across the board. A footnote in the policy states that there is some discretion based on local and state regulations.

The Pac-12 has not yet made an announcement about whether players will compete in person this March for a conference champion. If recent tradition continued, the Pac-12 would be playing its conference tournament in Las Vegas between March 10-13. The Bay Area News Group/East Bay Times is reporting that conference Athletic Director Larry Scott showed no signs of cancelling that version of the event during a recent meeting.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 recently announced in January that Larry Scott will serve out his contract and move on June 2021. Read the full statement here.

Click here to read the full report by the East Bay Times.

With projections showing that the PAC-12 has five teams in great position to make the NCAA Tournament with at-large bids, there is an argument to make for canceling the tournament. This is because the sixth best team in the conference currently, Arizona, is ineligible for postseason play because of violations. This almost makes the decision of punting on a conference tournament as “easy” (relative terms here) as it may ever be for a power 5 conference.

SEC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

On January 20, 2021, the SEC Conference posted an article on its official site announcing the in-person conference tournament schedule for mid-March. It takes place in Nashville, Tennessee.

In late January, the Southeastern Conference announced its in-person conference tournament

Much to Kentucky Head Coach John Calapari’s shagrin, the SEC championship game itself will take place on Selection Sunday (March 14th)!

Read more “Championship Week” updates from non-power 5 conferences below…

The American East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament tweaks its format

The American East announced it will host its conference tournament over two weeks and in regional pods. The American East Men’s College Basketball Championship game will take place as it traditionally does, on the Saturday morning before Selection Sunday.

The American Athletic Conference 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

According to the most trusted source of news on the Internet, Wikipedia, the tournament will be played at the Dickie’s Arena in Texas. Read more.

The Atlantic 10 Tournament 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

The Atlantic 10 took a unique approach to managing its conference tournament during COVID-19. Two rival schools will co-host the event. In early January, the conference announced it is pulling out of the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn amidst pandemic concerns. Two weeks later it announced that the event will be co-hosted by two schools in the city of Richmond.

Click here to read the official announcement from the A-10 Men’s Basketball Conference.

CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reports that the Atlantic 10 will play to a limited crowd.

Conference USA Champions “Pod Integrity” in its plans to crown a Champion

The Conference USA plans to host its conference tournament at “The Star in Frisco,” which is a massive training facility for the Dallas Cowboys. According to the venue’s website, tickets will be on sale. A COVID-19 protocol fact sheet is included on its website. The protocol calls for pods of tickets where groups of people who know each other are admitted. It stresses “pod integrity,” meaning that tickets aren’t relayed to unknown parties.

The Star in Frisco posts a throrough COVID-19 protocol list to protect fans and participants

Conference USA plans on having 12 teams participate for the men’s basketball tournament March 10-13, meaning that the last place team from the two divisions would not qualify for the playoff.

Mountain West Conference Championship set to peak with matinee matchup

The Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament will continue its recent tradition of battling in Las Vegas and playing its championship game on a late Saturday afternoon. This game is normally shown on Network TV, with Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan calling the game in recent years on CBS. All 11 seeds are slated to play each other in person over four days (March 10th-March 13th). This sets the table for Utah State to have a chance to 3-peat as the Mountain West Conference Championship on Saturday.

Western Athletic Conference Championship Also Returns to Vegas

The WAC returns to the Orleans Arena, but didn’t have much info about tickets in late February.

Mid-season Suspect Spreads Saturday

The College Basketball Eye Test blog went 65-53 against the spread in the 2018-2019 NCAA Basketball Season.  Click here to see that season’s thread on Twitter.

The picks are made by me, Matty D, an avid college basketball fan with no ties to a specific team.  I challenge my first-hand observations about teams by trying to beat the spread.  Whether those picks are simply tweeted for pride, or cashed in at a sports book, it’s all in good fun.  Below are my picks for an important mid-season Saturday.

Ohio State -1 at Penn State:
Early in the season, I loved the Buckeyes at 55-to-1 to win it all.  Coach Chris Holtman is a proven coach and he has a well constructed roster.  However, his decisions and that roster are at a breaking point right now.  After reaching a #1 overall ranking earlier this season, Ohio State has lost 4 of its first five Big 10 games.  Sandwiched in that losing streak was the absence of hustle player forward Kyle Young (appendix surgery).  Holtmann suspended two players in recent days for conduct detrimental to the team.  (Updated status for 11 a.m. EST Saturday: https://twitter.com/CBBEyeTest/status/1218558064598700032).  I think today’s game against a much improved Penn State program can quite literally be a playoff seeding game that dictates whether a team will be slated as a 3/4 seed or a 6-10 seed come March.  A 6 seed hasn’t reached the Final Four since the Fab Five in 1992.  You don’t want to slip into that 6-10 seed lottery.  I don’t think Ohio State is the #1 overall team as it was ranked earlier this season.  But I also don’t believe they’re a 6-10 seed.  They’ll respond today with whichever players are ready for battle and stop the bleeding.

Seton Hall -5 at St. John’s
Seton Hall is on a serious rise right now.  With star scoring guard Myles Powell missing much of December with multiple injuries, the rest of the roster responded.  They beat then top 10 ranked Maryland with a skeleton crew.  Now Seton Hall is at full strength and brings in two waves of 7-plus-footers at center.  Most of their roster is constructed of tristate guys, so playing in front of a feverish New York City fan base shouldn’t phase them.  Although St. John’s has perhaps overachieved this season in taking on coach Mike Anderson’s 40 minutes of hell mantra, I’m taking Myles Powell and his now proven supporting cast minus the five points at St. John’s.

Screen Shot 2020-01-18 at 10.04.05 AM

Courtesy: SHUPirates.com

Read more about Seton Hall’s resurgence from SHU Pirates.com. 

Clemson +7 at NC State
How is Clemson getting 7 points on the heels of its dramatic and sound victory over #1 ranked Duke this week?  That’s the definition of a suspect spread!  I won’t be scared by it.  These are both effectively bubble teams in a bizzarely down year for the ACC.  In reality, I don’t think either team will make the tournament.  But, while each does think it has a shot, I am predicted a close game here.  Clemson is now playing with house money in the national playoff picture, so I would hammer the +7 with a little fade on the money line today.

Each year, I also publish a top 5 best future values for the season.  Here are the teams I predicted would be good values in the first week of November:

Read more about the author.