It's a little weird to think that we're about to get some Monday afternoon NCAA tournament action.
Because of the shift in the schedule this year, there will be Monday games. In a tournament that has been defined by underdogs, an exciting first week will end with eight games, including some great matchups.
Here are the picks for Monday's games, with spreads from BetMGM and all times Eastern.
No. 2 Iowa (-5) vs. No. 7 Oregon, 12:10 p.m.
How can we know how not playing a first-round game affects Oregon? This is unprecedented. Oregon advanced to the second round when VCU had to drop out due to a COVID-19 issue, Are the Ducks better rested? Did not playing at all throw them off? I trust Dana Altman to turn it into a positive, and beyond that, Oregon has been playing good basketball, the Pac-12 has been solid and this is the tournament to back underdogs.
Pick: Oregon +5
No. 1 Gonzaga (-14) vs. No. 8 Oklahoma, 2:40 p.m.
After Gonzaga covered the first 30-point spread in the NCAA tournament in six years, and covered that spread by double digits, it seems crazy to go against them. Gonzaga is an absolute machine and while taking the only double-digit favorite of the second round seems square, it isn't fun to be holding a ticket against this Gonzaga team. The Bulldogs are as good as anyone we've seen in many, many years. If they win five more games, we'll have to look into their place in history.
Pick: Gonzaga -14
No. 11 UCLA (-4.5) vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian, 5:15 p.m.
There's usually a spread or two after the first round in which a Cinderella from the first round is getting fewer points than you'd expect. But Abilene Christian is a good team that never looked bothered by Texas in that first-round upset. UCLA has looked fantastic since the last 10 minutes or so of their First Four game against Michigan State, and obviously the Bruins are the more talented team. Still, if your first thought is that this line is too low, KenPom projects it to be a 4-point UCLA win. Hey, why not.
Pick: Abilene Christian +4.5
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 13 Ohio, 6:10 p.m.
Creighton escaped when UC Santa Barbara missed a short shot at the end. Ohio caught a Virginia team that was disrupted by COVID-19 the week before its first-round game, but give the Bobcats credit. They played well. This is a team that lost by only 2 to Illinois early in the season (and yes, that's still impressive even after Sunday's Illini loss). They won't be overwhelmed. Ohio and 5.5 points looks like a pretty good play.
Pick: Ohio +5.5
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 8 LSU, 7:10 p.m.
Simply, LSU has much better talent than its seed would indicate. It's fair to ask why they were relatively disappointing in the regular season, but the first-round win over a good St. Bonaventure team was a reminder of how good LSU can be. Michigan didn't miss injured Isaiah Livers in the first round, but I still think the Wolverines will at some point. And it's not a bad year to pick against the Big Ten, it seems. LSU has a shot to win.
Pick: LSU +5
No. 4 Florida State (-1.5) vs. No. 5 Colorado, 7:45 p.m.
If Colorado shoots like it did in the first round, the Buffaloes will make a deep run. Of course, nobody shoots like Colorado did in the first round. What a performance. Florida State is a team that looked like a potential Final Four contender all season, with its overwhelming size and solid 3-point shooting. I trust the Seminoles as a small favorite.
Pick: Florida State -1.5
No. 2 Alabama (-6) vs. No. 10 Maryland, 8:45 p.m.
As of Sunday morning, the biggest wager BetMGM had taken on the tournament was on Alabama -5. It was a $330,000 bet. Since then the line has moved. That move makes sense. Although Alabama didn't look dominant in the first round, it's a team that has been strong most of the season and will have a performance that confirms they deserved their standing as the top No. 2 seed in the field. One bettor hopes it happens Monday.
Pick: Alabama -6
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 6 USC (-1.5), 9:40 p.m.
USC is a really talented team. Evan Mobley, who is going to go very high in the NBA draft, could end up being a player that even casual fans know by the end of this month. Drake is not a bad team but USC made the Bulldogs look bad. Kansas is not bad but not a vintage Kansas team either, and I agree with the lower seed being favored here.
Pick: USC -1.5
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