The Mayhem of March – Day 1

March 21, 2024

NCAAM: (10) Drake vs. (7) Washington State 

10:05 p.m. ET, truTV

Drake -1.0 (-110) | O/U 138 (-110)

© Kelsey Kremer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Everyone loves to pick the famed 7-10 first-round matchup, and tonight’s 7-10 game featuring Washington State and Drake figures to be one that should be a doozy; it’s undoubtedly a great way to put the wraps on Thursday’s opening slate.

Drake’s ride to the No. 10 seed was a fun one, as the Bulldogs won three straight games to claim the Missouri Valley Conference. So, right off the top, if you enjoy playing the hot hand, Drake, a 1-point favorite heading in, might be the pick for you.

Washington State, the higher seed and 1-point dog, comes in on a less-enthusiastic note. As the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12, the Cougars were bounced unceremoniously by No. 3 Colorado in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

How much you value the conference tournament results is up to you, but for reference, Washington State finished the year with 24 wins and a 15-2 conference record. In late January, they whipped up on the same Colorado team that beat them in the tournament, and on Feb. 22 stunned the Pac-12’s top team, Arizona, in Tucson. Drake, on the flip side, finished 28-6 overall and 16-4 in conference. The Bulldogs were dominant at home, going 16-0 when hosting. Those marks are certainly impressive, but Drake also never played a team in the top-25 this season. As is often the case in the 7-10, there’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison to overcome.

Making matters trickier is that this is a game that pits two contrasting styles. Washington State is big, physical and built on defense. Drake, conversely, plays fast and relies on its high-scoring offense.

How should you bet? It’s darn-near a pick-em for a reason, and essentially why they call it “madness.” 

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Drake -1.0 (-110) 

Washington State feels like the classic overvalued, power-five team. They don’t do much to wow anyone, and Colorado’s performance in the First Four – an ugly win over Boise State on Wednesday night – might indicate how uninspiring the Pac-12 really is. If Washington State’s performance in the conference tournament seemed sluggish, well, it (and they) was (and were). The Cougars do play defense well, but more often than not, offense is the key in the tourney. Drake’s top offensive player, Tucker DeVries can score from everywhere on the court. The Cougars defense is particularly good against the three-pointer, but DeVries is versatile and doesn’t need the longball to put up big numbers. Ride the hot hand and take Drake, as the Bulldogs feel like they could be an early tourney darling from the jump.


NCAAM: (10) Colorado State vs. (7) Texas 

6:50 p.m. ET, TNT

Texas -2.0 (-110) | O/U 144 (-110)

© Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

There are two ways to interpret Colorado State’s First Four blowout victory over Virginia. First, Virginia is a team that had no business being included in the NCAA Tournament bracket. And second, Colorado State came into the tournament highly underrated, if not a team that should be taken very seriously.

On Tuesday night, Niko Medved’s Rams put the clamps on Virginia in a major way. In fact, the Cavaliers were held to 14 points (!) in the first half (that’s not a misprint). The 67-42 drubbing wasn’t just about defense though; Colorado State showed that it has versatility on offense, as Joel Scott paced the Rams with 23, while Nique Clifford pitched in a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Notice that star point guard Isaiah Stevens wasn’t mentioned. CSU’s all-time leading scorer wasn’t necessarily even required to beat Virginia, as he posted an unusually quiet five points. Point being, CSU won easily and did so with more than just defense. The Rams look to be a very well-rounded team.

Texas plays in one of college basketball’s blue-blood conferences, and didn’t necessarily shine. They finished 9-9 in conference and 20-12 overall. They also lost their first game in the conference tournament, effectively getting bounced early by Kansas State and not showing the committee much of anything. Yet., the Longhorns were given the benefit of the doubt through their conference affiliation and were somehow awarded a No. 7 seed.

This feels like a classic 7-10, and it’s somewhat head scratching as to how the Longhorns

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Colorado State ML (+120) 

If there’s any reason not to pick Colorado State in this game, it’s only because they won’t be overlooked after Tuesday night’s play-in game. Still, that’s not a reason not to pick them. The Rams were ranked as high as 13th in the country this season and the Mountain West looks like one of the most undervalued conferences in the tournament. Texas is a “name” that hasn’t done much to deserve its middle-seed. Take the Rams with confidence and if you want to double down, choose the UNDER-144, too, as Medved’s team will likely slap a long and aggressive defense on the Longhorns.