Happy Monday! I'm Chris Bengel and I'll be filling in for Tom Fornelli today since he is just distraught over Illinois being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, I'm right there with him as I, along with many others, had Illinois winning the national title in my bracket. But hey, it's hard to get too angry at Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago for giving us one of the more awesome storylines of the tournament thus far.
As for my loyalties, I'm a diehard Maryland fan (somebody has to carry the Big Ten!), so I could be in the same boat as Tom depending on what happens later tonight against Alabama. I'll be praying for yet another upset, which has certainly been the theme throughout the opening weekend of March Madness. Oral Roberts upsetting Ohio State and then upsetting Florida was something that no one saw coming. Then Sister Jean used her magical powers to help will Loyola Chicago to victory.
I honestly might prefer this setup for the NCAA Tournament. We got the First Four games on Thursday as an appetizer, then bedlam from Friday until today. College basketball on Monday is something I could get used to. Considering I work from the comfort of my couch, having basketball on TV beginning at noon on Monday is pretty sensational.
We have eight more games on Monday to finalize the Sweet Sixteen. Let's get to it!
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
No. 10 Maryland vs. No. 2 Alabama, 8:45 p.m. | TV: TNT
The Pick: Alabama -5.5 (-115): Obviously, I'd love to pick with my heart here, but I just can't do it. Maryland has had a great season in what was expected to be a down year. Guys like Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith were gone from the program and the Terps depended on a veteran backcourt that featured the likes of Eric Ayala, Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins. Morsell earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors and for good reason. Maryland showed their defensive chops in Saturday's NCAA Tournament win over Connecticut.
However, Alabama is much more talented team than what Maryland saw in UConn. The Crimson Tide had the top record in the SEC (25-6, 16-2) throughout the regular season and also topped LSU in the SEC Tournament title game. Forward Herb Jones has been an absolutely dominant force all season as he took home SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors during the regular season. In a game that Alabama got everything they could handle from Rick Pitino's Iona squad, Jones poured in 20 points on a very efficient 8-of-15 shooting performance and continued his dominance.
Alabama holds opponents to 69.3 points-per-game while Maryland holds the opposition to 64.6 points per contest. This is going to be a physical game that features some strong defense from both teams. Maryland might even come out strong in the early going, but I just think there's too much firepower on Alabama's roster. If you want to play the safe route and roll with the Alabama moneyline, I wouldn't blame you. However, Alabama should be able to cover the 5.5 points when it's all said and done.
Key Trend: Alabama is 6-2 ATS at neutral sites during the 2020-21 season
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has a slight lean on the over/under
💰 The Picks
🏀 College Basketball
Since 2011, just three teams that won First Four games have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. UCLA has a chance to do just that when they face Abilene Christian on Monday. A matchup between No. 11 and No. 14 seeds isn't exactly what many envisioned with a Sweet Sixteen berth on the line. However, UCLA is yet another example of why more people need to throw some respect on Pac 12 teams.
UCLA looked dead in the water in the final minutes in their First Four game against Michigan State, but the deadly combination of Jamie Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang combined to score 50 points and led the Bruins to a massive overtime win. Juzang picked up right where he left off against No. 6 BYU and willed UCLA to another upset victory on Saturday. The Bruins are averaging 79.5 points-per-game in their two tournament contests and have looked like a juggernaut so far.
Meanwhile, Abilene Christian may be the biggest surprise not named Oral Roberts. This is a team that upended No. 3 Texas in the Round of 64 and looked good doing it. While it was a low-scoring affair, Abilene Christian got it done with defense as they forced Texas to turn the basketball over on 22 occasions. If you're forcing that many turnovers, you don't exactly need to score a ton of points.
However, UCLA is simply the better team and their offense is absolutely clicking on all cylinders right now. While it wouldn't shock me to see Abilene Christian hang around for a while, I believed the Bruins are just too talented on the perimeter and can cover the 5-point spread in the end.
Key Trend: UCLA are 16-7-1 ATS in their last 24 games following a win
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 5 Colorado, 7:45 p.m. | TV: TBS
The Pick: Colorado +1.5 (-110): There wasn't a trendier upset pick in the opening round than No. 12 Georgetown over No. 5 Colorado. The Hoyas rolled through the Big East Tournament and earned the automatic bid despite barely having .500 record. However, Georgetown ran into an absolute buzzsaw when they took the floor against Colorado as the Buffaloes rolled to a dominant 96-73 victory. One of the biggest reasons for the win was the stellar shooting performance from reserve forward Jabari Walker. Walker connected on nine of his 10 shots, including knocking down all five shots he took from beyond the arc.
On the other hand, Florida State is coming off a regular season in which they finished second in the ACC. The Seminoles are one of just two ACC teams that remain in the NCAA Tournament. Florida State used a balanced scoring effort to defeat No. 13 UNC Greensboro, but the game was within single digits a good amount of the way. In addition, it's worth noting that Florida State is 6-5 coming off a double-digit win this season.
These are two teams that rank in the top 25 when it comes to three-point shooting. This one certainly could come down to who excels in that department. While I'm not sure I expect Colorado to shoot 64 percent from deep like they did against Georgetown, I think this is a group that will have a good amount of success and win this game outright.
Key Trend: Colorado is 5-1 ATS in games following 20-point wins
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's Advanced Computer Model only has one A grade after simulating all of Monday's tournament game. That grade pertains to the over/under of the Villanova vs. Baylor game.