My six favorite picks for the Round of 32. Decisions and analysis made using KenPom data.
Baylor has the edge here, obviously, but this matchup is mostly even. Strength versus strength. Baylor's offense is third-best in the country, while Wisconsin's defense is only ten spots behind at No. 13. The other side of the court is similar, Wisconsin's offense is No. 26, while Baylor's defense is No. 35. Checking how they compare at rebounding, both teams again effectively cancel each other out. When looking at these teams side-by-side, it appears they aren't too far apart from each other. Baylor has the shinier record, and it's tough picking against a one-seed, but this one is close enough for me to feel comfortable taking the points.
Rutgers / Houston Under 132
Both teams have excellent defenses, ranking top-15 in terms of adjusted efficiency, and both teams prefer playing at a slow tempo. The perfect set-up for an under. Houston's defense is so stout, it holds opponents to the lowest effective field goal percentage in the country. This will be a major problem for Rutgers because the Scarlett Knights were inconsistent on offense this year, which is why their offense is ranked No. 76 in the country. We have a low number to beat, but I like our chances based on the matchup and expected pace of the game.
Oral Roberts / Florida Over 148
The Golden Eagles are a run-and-shoot team, playing with a fast tempo, strong offense and zero defense, ranking No. 249 in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency. This last note is particularly relevant because Florida's offense is ranked No. 40, so it should be able to take advantage even though Ohio State inexplicably struggled. Florida also has a massive offensive rebounding advantage, giving them extra opportunities to finish plays and help us reach our goal.
Not only is Michigan elite, but it's extremely proficient on both sides of the ball, ranking top-10 in both offensive and defensive adjusted efficiency. LSU, on the other hand, has an elite offense but its defense is ranked No. 123, good for second-worst in the SEC. This is in stark contrast to Michigan, which had the best defense in the Big Ten during conference season. On top of all that, Michigan also has a significant edge with grabbing offensive rebounds. I know LSU is a talented bunch, but I don't see the Tigers covering the number unless they change their defense overnight, or if Michigan forgets how to shoot.
With the first round of the tournament in the books, Alabama now has the best overall adjusted defensive efficiency in the country. Maryland had the fourth-worst offensive efficiency in the Big Ten during conference play, so it will likely have a difficult time scoring against the top-ranked defense. On the other side of the ball, Maryland's defense is solid overall, ranking No. 25, although it's been noticeably weak at guarding against 3-point field goals. This pretty noteworthy considering Alabama led the SEC in both three-point attempt rate and three-point percentage during conference season. All in all, this matchup noticeably favors Crimson Tide.
Oregon and Iowa have somewhat similar profiles. Both have elite offensive attacks, with both defenses lagging behind. One interesting matchup note is that Oregon's defense led the Pac-12 in terms of the highest forced turnover rate, while Iowa's defense had the worst forced turnover rate in the Big Ten during conference season. If this game stays close, or if Oregon needs a quick rally, Oregon can make a play if it needs it. When it comes down to it, these teams are close enough on paper that I'll certainly take the points. Dana Altman and the Ducks always seem to make a push in March. Expecting we'll see it once again, for one more game at least.