I get the feeling there won’t be any kids sneaking hand-held radios into their seventh-period French class to listen to the games, like I was on this day 20 years ago.
Purdue (-9) over Vermont: The Catamounts haven’t lost since Dec. 21, but they haven’t faced anyone like the Boilermakers since then. In three games against NCAA Tournament teams this season (South Carolina, Providence and Butler), Vermont lost by an average of 17.3 points per game, and after getting beaten on the boards by Albany, Vermont will be helpless to stop Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan and fellow big man Isaac Haas from dominating inside.
East Tennessee State (+10) over Florida: Star guard T.J. Cromer is one of four senior starters for the Buccaneers, who hit over 38 percent of their 3-pointers as a team and rightfully have become a popular upset pick.
St. Mary’s (-4) over VCU: If you saw the Gaels this season, you probably saw them lose, with three of their four losses coming against No. 1 Gonzaga, but they are one of the most balanced teams in the country, featuring terrific team defense and incredible shooters. VCU is always tempting to take this time of year, but these aren’t Shaka Smart’s Rams.
Northwestern (-1) over Vanderbilt: The Wildcats better win because they might not be back for 80 years.
Florida Gulf Coast (+12) over Florida State: Dunk City won’t be overlooked this time, but they are talented enough to win against a loaded Seminoles team that coasts on its talent too often, has no NCAA Tournament experience and has all the pressure.
Winthrop (+11) over Butler: Everyone points to the Bulldogs’ two wins over Villanova, but their two-game losing streak and earlier losses to St. John’s, Georgetown and Indiana State are much more relevant here.