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NCAA Tournament Survivor Guide for Round 1 (Saturday)

by March 17, 2021
Shaka Smart

In yesterday’s column, we discussed the differences between an NCAA tournament survivor pool and a more traditional NFL survivor pool. Many of the strategies are different, and contestants should be aware of all rules and nuances before entering. An NCAA survivor pool takes much more future planning, whereas one can win an NFL survivor pool by taking a week-to-week approach.

Though no games have officially been played yet, we are giving you our planning advice well in advance of the first set of games so that you can plan accordingly. And if you do not feel like waiting until the First Four games conclude to make your selections, you should be able to find great picks from the remaining 12 games.

Throughout the tournament, one has to make eight picks: two from the First Round (one for each day played), two from the Second Round (one for each day played), and one from the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship.

Each round, we will provide our analysis broken down by the following categories: Best Picks, Favorites on Upset Alert, and Teams That Should be Saved for Later Use.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their Round 1 matchups on Saturday (odds courtesy of BettingPros consensus).

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Best Picks                                                                

Iowa (-1667), Texas (-435), Oregon (-240)

The Iowa Hawkeyes have the best odds of any No. 2 seed to win the national championship. Aside from having surefire Player of the Year Luka Garza on their roster, I am not sure they are deserving of those odds, given they are in Gonzaga’s bracket. With the Bulldogs seemingly having an easy path to the Elite 8, that is where the path should end for Iowa, if not before then. The Hawkeyes have a tricky Round of 32 matchup waiting with the winner of the Oregon-VCU matchup. With that game not being a guarantee, a smart play in survivor pools would be to use a two seed that is not likely to reach the Final Four.

The Texas Longhorns are riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament after securing their first Big 12 Conference tournament championship in school history. There is some risk involved in picking the Longhorns this early, considering they have the talent to win their region. However, the athletic Longhorns should prove to be too much for Abilene Christian, so take the win where you can get it. The Longhorns possess one of the most athletic and versatile frontcourts in the country. Jericho Sims, Greg Brown, and Kai Jones are a matchup nightmare and do a great job of challenging shots at the rim. If this game were to get close, Texas has a distinct advantage at the free-throw line. Abilene Christian ranked eighth in the Southland Conference in free-throw shooting, while Texas’s top-three scorers (Andrew Jones, Matt Coleman III, Courtney Ramey) all shoot better than 82% from the free-throw line.

It may seem like a risky proposition to select a No. 7 seed over a No. 10 seed in the first round of a survivor pool, but the Oregon Ducks were an under-seeded seven seed, in my opinion. Before losing in the PAC-12 championship game to Oregon State, the Ducks had rolled off 11 wins in their previous 12 games. Oregon is a team that has historically gotten better later in the season under head coach Dana Altman. The Ducks had to navigate COVID-19 pauses and several injuries but are finally healthy at the right time. The Ducks are a nightmare to prepare for as they have five players averaging in double figures and shooting better than 36% from beyond the arc. VCU ranked tenth in the Atlantic 10 Conference in effective field goal percentage and does not have the offensive firepower to beat Oregon.

Check out all of our 2021 March Madness coverage >>

Favorites on Upset Alert                                                                                                            

Kansas (-625), Virginia (-360), Creighton (-286), Colorado (-215), Connecticut (-148), Oklahoma (-130), LSU (-125)

Teams That Should be Saved for Later Use                                                                                     

Alabama (-2108), Florida State (-652)

Alabama and Florida State are both Final Four caliber teams. Keep them handy for the later rounds when they are still prohibitive favorites while fewer teams are available to choose.     

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

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