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Previewing the Late Night Thursday NCAA Tournament Games

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Alright, we made it. Well, most of us made it. We’re here for the final four games of the NCAA Tournament opening day. It’s been a pretty wild day with an awesome start with the OU/URI game. UNC-Greensobro/Gonzaga and Penn/Kansas followed that. So now here we are with what should be four awesome games.

I’m going to try and break down these previews to four games at a time so they aren’t as clunky and less than 4,000 words. I’ll be making picks for every single NCAA Tournament game, but let me know what you like, what you hate and talk about the games @barstoolreags.

No. 8 Virginia Tech vs No. No. 9 Alabama – 9:20 pm, TNT
Line: Virginia Tech -2.5

One of the games that everyone will be locked in on simply because Collin Sexton is that good and entertaining. That said, Virginia Tech has its own star in Justin Robinson who leads the team with 13.8 per game. He shoots 40% from three and likes to really push the tempo. That’s going to be the key in this game. If the game is slowed down and limited possessions, Alabama is set. If the game is sped up and played at a rapid pace it actually favors Virginia Tech. I know, that’s a weird thing to say with Collin Sexton, but Bama wants to run when they can, just not all the time. Keep an eye on if Donta Hall plays for Alabama or not. Right now he’s a game-time decision due to a concussion.
Bracket pick: Virginia Tech
ATS pick: Virginia Tech

No. 4 Arizona vs No. 13 Buffalo – 9:40, CBS
Line: Arizona -8

It’s the Deandre Ayton show out here. In all seriousness, Buffalo is one of the scarier mid-majors. The Bulls have some stars in their own right with guys like Wes Clark and CJ Massinburg. That’s where Buffalo can attack. They’ll look to ISO on the wing and then draw Ristic/Ayton out of the lane and attack that way. It’s been the recipe to how to beat Arizona so far this season. But, the real question is how does Buffalo slow down Ayton? Buffalo does foul quite a bit, which means Ayton could be eating at the free throw line. Also keep an eye on Arizona on the offensive glass as Buffalo does rank 175th in defensive rebounding.
Bracket pick: Arizona
ATS pick: Arizona

No. 3 Michigan vs No. 14 Montana – 9:50 pm, TBS
Line: Michigan -10

Here’s what I’m most curious about here. Can Michigan continue the play it had to end the regular season and through the Big 10 Tournament? It’s obviously weird being on a 2-week delay after winning the Big 10 Tournament, but you heard Beilein ran some scrimmages and whatnot to keep them used to playing games. There’s one individual matchup to watch here. Zavier Simpson vs Ahmaad Rorie. Simpson has turned into one of the better defensive point guards in the Big 10 and the country over the last couple of months. He does an excellent job of using his lower body to hold position and then doesn’t reach. If you shut down Rorie you beat Montana. Rorie isn’t going to kill you from outside as he shoots just 35%, but he’d rather create off the dribble. Simpson needs to avoid foul trouble and stay in front of him. On the flip side I don’t think Akoh can stick with Wagner.
Bracket pick: Michigan
ATS pick: Michigan

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No. 6 Florida vs No. 11 St. Bonaventure – 9:57pm, TruTV
Line: Florida -6

Chris Chiozza vs Jaylen Adams is something that I’m incredibly here for. Throw in guys like Matt Mobley, Courtney Stockard, Jaylen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen and this game could be the one to watch despite all the ridiculousness we’ve seen so far this year. It’s simple for Florida. If they are making jumpers, they don’t lose. The problem is they rely on that so much. The key for Florida is the fact they can throw Chiozza on Adams. Chiozza is one of the best defenders in the SEC and does an excellent job of simply bothering people. The other thing to watch is if St. Bonaventure can force turnovers. The Bonnies do an excellent job of forcing turnovers, ranking 48th in the country. They turn those into points because they tend to be live ball turnovers. That’s what happens when you have two guards in Adams and Mobley who can turn those live ball turnovers into automatic points.
Bracket pick: Florida
ATS pick: Florida