March Madness 2022: Second Round picks and predictions
Shane McNichol finds the value and picks out his best bets for the Second Round of March Madness.
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The first two days of the NCAA Tournament rarely disappoint and 2022’s opening round was certainly no exception. March has truly been mad, starting with major upsets and overtime classics in the Round of 64.
The tournament now turns to the second round, with a coveted spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. This round goes a long way to determining championship contenders, successful seasons, and the tone for the rest of this month’s action.
Some of the best teams in the nation, who faced little opposition in the first round, will face their first real test. For bettors, lines tighten and regular season lessons start to fade away.
Here are my favorite bets on the board for the round of 32.
March Madness Second Round picks and predictions
Earlier this season, Baylor looked to have one of the best chances to repeat as national champions as any recent title winner. The Bears did enough to win the Big 12 regular season crown and earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Baylor team that accomplished those feats, however, is not the one we’ll see on the floor in Fort Worth on Saturday. The Bears have lost guard LJ Cryer and center Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to injuries and neither will be available against Carolina in the second round.
Baylor coach Scott Drew had been playing an eight-man rotation, but it has thinned to just six players he trusts on the floor.
That is a scary proposition against a North Carolina team that thrives on aggression. Armando Bacot is a beast in the paint and on the glass. He will give the Baylor frontline tons of problems and could pile up foul trouble for the Bears.
Bacot’s advantage in the paint should be enough to keep the Heels in this game and cover the 5.5-point spread, or even steal an upset win.
This West Coast matchup will be fascinating, especially when UCLA has the ball. Saint Mary’s skews its defense towards stopping the 3-point shot and forcing opposing teams into isolation. UCLA’s offense is built to take mid-range jump shots and score in isolation. That could feel like an advantage for the Bruins, yet really should favor the Gaels.
Saint Mary’s won’t allow UCLA to get to its preferred spots. The Gaels are built to thrive against mid-range jump shots.
On the other end, Saint Mary’s slows the pace down to glacial rates. The patient Gaels should be able to find the looks they want on the offensive end, facing a Bruins’ D that has some holes on the perimeter.
This game is a toss-up at worst, so happily take the points and the Gaels.
Arkansas will look to turn this game into a track meet, having played as one of the faster tempo teams in college basketball this season.
New Mexico State will counterpunch by slowing things down and getting the ball to star forward Teddy Allen. He slots in nicely as a mismatch for Arkansas, able to score in the post or on the perimeter against whomever the Razorbacks match up against him.
If there’s a way for Arkansas to spurt away from the Aggies, it would be via points off turnovers. New Mexico State struggled to take care of the ball this season, but the Aggies have been better in that regard lately. Over New Mexico State’s last four games, the Aggies have averaged 10 turnovers, after posting north of 13 turnovers per game in their first 29 games.
If you’re catching on to a theme with these picks, you’re right. There’s a value to be had on the underdogs getting points this weekend. Yes, there’s a chance one of the favorites I’m picking against shoots the lights out and runs away from their second round opponent, but given the format of this tournament and the quick turnaround to the second round, underdogs have a chance to take advantage.
Auburn has been playing with fire for weeks, winning close games against weak opponents and losing four of its last nine, after a 22-1 start. The Tigers were flirting with Jacksonville State, before charging away.
They won’t be able to do the same against Miami. The Hurricanes’ guards will test Auburn’s perimeter defense and challenge Walker Kessler at the rim. With a strong shooting night, the Canes should have a chance to knock off second-seeded Auburn.
The Wildcats and Buckeyes are both plenty capable of playing a low-scoring game. Each saw plenty of grind-it-out games in their respective conference schedules this season.
Yet when facing other strong opponents, both are more than comfortable in a shootout. The over hit in eight of Villanova’s 13 games against a ranked opponent (62 percent) and five of Ohio State’s seven contests against ranked foes.
Villanova ended the regular season with the over hitting in seven of nine games, after sportsbooks pegged the Wildcats as a low possession, slow tempo team. That corrected a bit with three unders at the Big East Tournament and is due to swing back again. Take the over in Sunday’s meeting with the Buckeyes.