NCAA Tournament Second Round Day 1 best bets from college basketball expert John Martin: Illinois keeps rolling

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John Martin


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NFL handicapper for Pickswise.
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The first round of the NCAA Tournament is in the books, and as it typically does, it delivered on its promise of absolute chaos. Auburn – one of the most popular national title picks – lost in the first round to 13-seeded Yale. Two other double-digit seeds – Colorado and Grand Canyon – are also moving on to the second round. Meanwhile, Northwestern blew a 10-point lead late in the second half, only to rally and dominate the overtime session in a victory. March Madness has truly arrived!

It’s likely your bracket is busted already. But hey, that’s okay! We can still win some bets Let’s get back on track with our March Madness best bets today, but make sure you also check out our college basketball picks for EVERY game throughout March Madness.

Oakland Grizzlies +6.5 vs NC State Wolfpack (-110)

Odds generally available at the time of publishing.

There was a revealing moment in the immediate moments after Oakland polished off the upset against Kentucky on Thursday night. Jack Golhke, fresh off a 32-point record-setting performance, looked at the camera after the interview was over and said: “We are not a Cinderella.” This Oakland team doesn’t have the feel of your typical Cinderella that is elated to have just won one game, like Fairleigh-Dickinson last season. This Grizzlies team wants a lot more.

KenPom isn’t kind to the Grizzlies’ resume – that’s mostly due to their conference – but this is a team that’s seen the likes of Drake, Michigan State, Illinois, Xavier, and other power structure teams. Therefore, they’re not going to be intimidated by an N.C. State team that wouldn’t have sniffed the tournament at all just a few weeks ago. Oakland coach Greg Kampe is a veteran and he’s got a plan to attack the Wolfpack by getting out and running. He said Friday that he wants to play them very differently than Kentucky; he wants to play in transition, push the pace, and really test the conditioning of the NC State big men. If he’s successful, this experienced group could even win outright.

Illinois Fighting Illini -10 over Duquesne Dukes (-110)

Odds generally available at the time of publishing.

On the other hand, I think we have the complete opposite in the Illinois-Duquesne game. The Dukes are deserving; they’ve been playing fantastic basketball this month and they’re clearly playing hard for their coach, Keith Dambrot, who announced this week he’d be retiring. But they already pulled off a major upset against BYU in the first round and the Dukes give me the vibes that they’re more or less satisfied with that, especially given where the program is now.

Conversely, Illinois is far from satisfied. This is a team hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2005, and Brad Underwood is surely reminding his players of that fact. Even when it looked like the Fighting Illini might be tested against Morehead State on Thursday, they outscored the Eagles by 15 in the second half and covered the closing number with relative ease. Between Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask, this team is very hard to stop once they get rolling. I can’t see Duquesne being able to do enough to keep this one close.

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