Can Princeton and Furman keep it going? Spread selection for Saturday

Furman’s winning steal and 3-pointer in the final seconds as the No. 14 seed should have been the most memorable moment of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game.

Then Princeton became the 11th No. 15 seed to upset a No. 2 seed. Then Fairleigh Dickinson really stole the show on Friday.

The second round starts on Saturday, with the main question being whether the two double-digit seeds can advance to the Sweet 16. Here are the picks against the spread for Saturday’s game, with odds from BetMGM:

Furman (+5.5) over San Diego State

Furman never looked overmatched against Virginia. In the second round, it gets another defensive team that doesn’t score easily, this one from the Mountain West and not the ACC. San Diego State is better than Virginia, but Furman will not be afraid.

Duke (-3.5) over Tennessee

The spread indicates oddsmakers are high on Duke. And they should be after the Blue Devils have been on fire for the past month-plus. Oral Roberts isn’t a bad mid-major and Duke ran ORU off the floor in the first round. Tennessee will play strong defense and it’s not like a No. 4 seed can’t beat a No. 5 seed, but Duke is playing at a higher level lately.

Kansas (-4.5) over Arkansas

Arkansas looked very good in the first round, beating Illinois, and it’s obvious that the Razorbacks have talent that didn’t always translate to strong play throughout the season. It’s a fallacy to think they just turned it on for the tournament. It’s just an inconsistent team, and they don’t face Illinois this round. Arkansas has the talent to knock off a No. 1 seed, but I don’t fully trust the Razorbacks just yet.

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Princeton (+6.5) over Missouri

If a No. 15 seed wins in the first round, it doesn’t do badly in the second round either. According to Matt Eisenberg’s tournament guide, the No. 15 seed is 3-3 in the second round dating back to 2007, and 3-3 against the spread as well. Florida Gulf Coast (2013), Oral Roberts (2021) and St. Peter’s won outright. Missouri has a weak defense, so Princeton can keep it close as long as Mizzou doesn’t have a good shooting day.

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 16: Princeton Tigers players react after a first half play against the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at the Golden 1 Center on March 16, 2023 in Sacramento, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Princeton’s upset of Arizona was a highlight of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament action. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Houston (-5.5) over Auburn

Houston’s injuries are a concern. I just don’t know that Auburn is the team to exploit. The Tigers lost nine of their 13 games before the NCAA tournament. Auburn is bad at preventing offensive rebounds, which is bad against Houston. At some point the Cougars will be tested, and maybe it’s by an Auburn team from a tough SEC, but I think Houston can win comfortably here.

Penn State (+5.5) over Texas

Texas is one of my Final Four picks, but this game should be close. Penn State plays very well and they can shoot well enough to cover. The Nittany Lions nearly pulled off a great comeback in the Big Ten Tournament final against Purdue, a No. 1 seed in the tournament. This can be a fun game.

UCLA (-7.5) over Northwestern

This is a big spread, but UCLA continues to play well, like the Bruins have no injuries at all. I would trust UCLA to keep it going, through Northwestern’s backcourt is pretty good and can keep them in the game. The line feels about right.

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Maryland (+8.5) over Alabama

Alabama is on a hot streak and it will be scary to take on a mediocre Big Ten team against the Crimson Tide. But this is a big number for a second-round game between two power conference teams. Maryland is going to have to make shots against a very good defense, but it’s an experienced team that has played top competition, is solid all around and scores a lot of points.

Friday first round record: 8-8

Tournament to date: 15-21

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