The Mayhem of March – Day 2

March 22, 2024

NCAAM: (12) James Madison vs. (5) Wisconsin

9:40 p.m. ET, CBS

Wisconsin -5.5 (-110) | O/U 145 (-110)

© Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

James Madison has one of the best records in all of college basketball at 31-3. Winners of the Sun Belt tournament, the Dukes earned themselves a No. 12 seed in March Madness and have drawn a team that is essentially the polar opposite of them.

Wisconsin is just 22-13, yet they landed a No. 5 seed in the dance. A strong finish in the Big Ten tourney turned heads and their early season wins over Marquette, Northwestern, Nebraska and Michigan state were apparently enough for a high seed.

The Badgers aren’t a particularly fast team. Their 75.1 points per game ranks 110th in the nation. They also don’t have a stout defense like some other teams in the tournament. Wisconsin gives up 69.9 PPG, which ranks 99th in the nation.

James Madison, on the other hand, does like to play fast. Their 13th-ranked offense scores 84.4 PPG. Their defense also ranks higher than Wisconsin’s as they give up just 69.2 PPG.

The only knock on James Madison is the fact that they haven’t played many, or any, good teams this season. They have played just two schools that are currently in the tournament, Akron and Michigan State. They were able to come away with wins against both, but Wisconsin poses as the biggest threat they have had to face yet.

The Dukes haven’t been to the tournament since 2013 when they were a No. 16 seed that lost badly to Indiana after surviving the First Four. This is the highest seed they have been since 1983 and will be looking for their first tournament win since that same year.

The Dukes have been to the tournament a total of six times, which is 21 times less than the Badgers. Since 1999, Wisconsin has made the men’s tournament 22 out of 24 years and are back in the tournament after missing last season.

The Badgers are hoping that history does not repeat itself in 2024. Wisconsin has been a No. 5 seed in the tournament four times in the past. They have been one-and-done in three of those appearances.

They are currently 5.5-point favorites and are looking to keep their hot streak going. But hot streaks cannot be discussed without discussing James Madison’s. The Dukes are currently on a 13-game win streak and will look to make it 14 with an upset over Wisconsin.

That’s where the public is leaning, as 85% of point-spread bets are coming in on the Dukes. Nonetheless, the line has still shifted 2.0 points in favor of the Badgers.

The key to victory for the Dukes will be their three-point shot making. They are 37% on the season and Wisconsin has a tendency to let teams get hot from deep. If they can knock down the three-point shot, it may be tough for Wisconsin to handle, as they shoot just 34% from beyond the arc.

The key for the Badgers will be to slow down the game. The Dukes like to play fast and score as many points as possible, so a slow paced game might just be the way to go.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: James Madison +5.5 (-110) 

The pick for this game is James Madison. The Dukes are high flying, extremely talented and are poised for an upset as they prove why they deserve to be in the tournament. Wisconsin may be getting hot, but they are still a Big Ten team that lost 13 games. James Madison plays in an easier conference, but they are the better team. Play the odds and take the Dukes +5.5.


NCAAM: (12) Grand Canyon vs. (5) St. Mary’s 

10:05 p.m. ET, truTV

St. Mary’s -5.5 (-110) | O/U 131.5 (-110)

© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Grand Canyon is back in the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year and are in the best position they’ve ever been in to make some noise. The Antelopes have made the dance twice before, as a No. 15 seed in 2021 and as a No. 14 seed last year. This year, they enter as a 12 seed with a much higher possibility of getting their first-ever tournament win. They will face the St. Mary’s Gaels and are just 5.5-point underdogs.

The Gaels are a tough draw as a No. 5 seed, though. With a net rank of 16, they are the highest ranked fifth seed in the tournament. The Gaels have won 18 out of 19 games, including a 69-60 win over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference championship. They are a team that loves to slow things down and beat opponents with defense.

The Gaels offense ranks 153rd in the country, much lower than where a top-64 team would usually be. Instead, it’s their defense that has gotten them this far. The Gaels have the second-ranked defense in the nation, behind only Houston, a No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Gaels give up just 59.7 PPG and are not a fun team to play against.

Grand Canyon is not used to a slow-paced game. The Lopes are top 50 in total offense and love to play fast around Tyon Grant-Foster, a senior with NBA potential. Grant-Foster is the 37th-highest scorer in the nation, averaging 19.8 PPG.

Of late, Grant-Foster has been even better. He averaged 25.0 PPG in the WAC tournament and helped the Lopes finish out their best season in school history.

The Gaels will be a No. 5 seed in the tournament for the third-straight year. In both 2022 and 2023, they were able to win their first-round matchups but were bounced in the second round.

They are hoping history doesn’t repeat itself as they look to make a deeper run in this tournament. However, even if history does end up repeating itself, it still doesn’t bode well for the Grand Canyon Antelopes.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: St. Mary’s ML (-220) 

It’s been a historic season for Grand Canyon, but it seems as if it might come to an end as they face St. Mary’s and their stout defense. A slow paced, physical game that favors the Gaels is what one can expect when watching the final game of the first round of March Madness. Expect St. Mary’s to win a close one.