March Madness predictions: Best bets for Saturday’s Round of 32 slate

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When I am old(er) and gray(er) and my grandchildren ask me what I remember most about covering Caitlin Clark in Iowa City decades ago, it will probably be the surprise snowstorm that sent a Chevy skidding just past me outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, nearly preventing this story from being told.

Dayton (+9.5) over Arizona

The Flyers will not go quietly. They never do. They didn’t against Nevada, with a 17-point deficit and less than eight minutes on the clock. They haven’t all season, losing just one game by double-digits — a 14-point loss to 1-seed Houston, when Dayton shot 4 of 18 on 3-pointers. The combination of the third-best 3-point shooting team in the nation and 6-foot-10 All-American DaRon Holmes II will keep the Flyers — 4-1-1 against the spread as an underdog — close. Arizona’s annual struggles in March, including back-to-back years under Tommy Lloyd, only help.

Texas (+6.5) over Tennessee

The Vols remain my pick to win it all, but Rick Barnes is in for a fight against the program he led for 17 years. Texas is the rare team prepared for the nation’s third-ranked defense, having already had three meetings against the top two, which featured an overtime loss to Houston and five-point defeat to Iowa State.

The Longhorns have the balance, talent and experience — they are the fourth-oldest team in the nation — to pull the upset, led by former tournament star Max Abmas.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes Getty Images

Washington State (+6.5) over Iowa State

Few coaches in the country are better with X’s and O’s than Kyle Smith. That was obvious during his six seasons at Columbia, which culminated with a 25-win season. It was clear during three seasons in San Francisco, where the Dons had three straight 20-plus win seasons for the first time in nearly four decades.

It has been reinforced in Pullman, which has its first NCAA Tournament team in 16 years. Now, the nation gets to know the coach who led the Cougars to a regular season sweep of 2-seed Arizona this season.

Betting on College Basketball?

Oakland (+6.5) over NC State

Sometimes, you have to ignore analytics. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t adhere to logic. This is the moment Greg Kampe — Division I’s longest-tenured coach — has waited for since he came to Oakland’s campus in 1984. “We’re not a Cinderella story,” said Jack Gohlke, the hero of the first-round upset of Kentucky. He’s wrong, but it certainly helps that the Golden Grizzlies — 10-3 against the spread as an underdog — don’t see it that way.

This season: 18-20 2011-23 record: 349-308-12

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