Finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor is tough come tournament time. But we peel back some of Sunday’s Round of 32 matchups, looking for some underlying mismatches that could make or break your college basketball bets this March.
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Florida Gators (-8.5, 122.5)
Golden Gophers’ aggressive attack vs. Gators’ passive offense
Minnesota doesn’t shy away from contact and will be looking to attack Florida’s superior frontcourt when these teams tangle in the Round of 32. The Golden Gophers rank 40th in the land in free throws attempted per game (22.5) and draw an average of 19.2 fouls per game.
The Gators need to keep their big men Patric Young and Erik Murphy on the floor if they want to avoid an upset. Florida doesn’t have the same knack for getting to the line, drawing just 15.7 fouls per game (320th) and shooting only 16.1 freebies per game. This spread and total could be decided from the stripe Sunday.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Miami Hurricanes (-6.5, 128.5)
Illini’s bean poles vs. Hurricanes’ girth
The Hurricanes catch a lot of flak for their age but the fact of the matter is Miami is “man strong”. That’s a big difference maker in college sports when playing against teenage kids. Illinois has some height, with big men like 6-foot-11 shot swatter Nnanna Egwu, but there’s not much meat on those bones. They've been bullied by bigger, badder teams this season.
The Canes can push around most teams, which is why they dominate the glass and score a ton of second-chance points. Miami’s bruiser Kenny Kadji is a beast on the blocks and should go to work against a weaker Illini frontcourt Sunday.
La Salle Explorers vs. Mississippi Rebels (-3, 144)
Explorers’ hot shooting vs. Rebels’ shot blockers
La Salle has shocked its way to the Round of 32 thanks to red-hot shooting, knocking down 53 percent of their field goals (52 for 98) including 46 percent (18 for 39) from beyond the arc. The Explorers, however, won’t have a chance to get comfortable from outside with Ole Miss’ SWAT team hounding them.
The Rebels’ defense has improved drastically during the postseason. They’ve allowed only 55.75 points during their SEC title run and opening NCAA win over Wisconsin. A huge part of that is Mississippi’s ability to block and change shots. Ole Miss ranked 20th in the country in blocks (5.1) and sent six shots away versus the Badgers – five of those from forward Reginald Buckner. La Salle’s shooting touch will be tested with the Rebels constantly getting a hand in the face.