March Madness tipped off with a bang on Thursday with a number of great games, and that should continue on Saturday. Here is what to look for.
(5) Saint Louis vs. (4) Louisville – Midwest, 2:45 PM ET
Odds: Louisville -9
The Bilikens needed a furious comeback to take North Carolina State to overtime, where they eventually won, while the Cardinals showed why they are the defending champs by outlasting a scrappy Manhattan team. This game could be decided on turnovers as Saint Louis can struggle with those at times and the Cardinals’ high-tempo press can force the opposition into making some poor plays. They forced 15 against Manhattan and that allows Louisville to get out and run. Louisville won three of five meetings with Saint Louis between 2002 and 2005, and they are favored by nine here on the college basketball betting lines.
(7) Texas vs. (2) Michigan – Midwest, 5:15 PM ET
Odds: Michigan -4.5
The Longhorns needed a last-second bucket from Cameron Ridley to eliminate Arizona State, while the Wolverines used a 14-point first-half advantage to beat Wofford. Michigan has to do something about Texas on the boards because the Longhorns can dominate in this aspect of the game and they are third in the country in offensive rebounds, and that means second chances for this young Texas team. However, Michigan can flat out shoot the basketball from pretty much anywhere on the floor. The Longhorns beat the Wolverines in the 1996 Tournament, the only time these programs have met, and Michigan is favored by 4.5.
(11) Dayton vs. (3) Syracuse – South, 7:10 PM ET
Odds: Syracuse -6.5
The Flyers didn’t look nervous or overmatched at all in upsetting Ohio State in the very first game of the Tournament, and they will need more of the same against the Orangemen, who swept away Western Michigan quite easily. Everyone knows the key to playing against Syracuse is the ability to hit the three-pointer against their 2-3 zone, and the Flyers have hit 37.5% of their attempts from beyond the arc this season. However, the Flyers also have to deal with the duo of C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis as they come into their first meeting with Syracuse as 6.5-point underdogs on the college basketball odds.
(7) Connecticut vs. (2) Villanova – East, 9:40 PM ET
Odds: Villanova -3.5
These former Big East rivals meet as the Huskies needed a huge game from Shabazz Napier in an overtime win over St. Joseph’s, and the Wildcats romped to a 20-point win over Milwaukee. This will be a game of offense versus defense as the Wildcats are 29th in the nation in points scored, while UConn is 37th in points against, but the Huskies might have the best player on the floor in Napier and that can count for a lot when it comes down to crunch time in the Tournament. UConn won four of their last five meetings with Villanova before leaving the Big East for the American conference, but it is the Wildcats to enter this game as 3.5-point favorites in a game that should have a ton of intensity, even for a March Madness matchup.