There's always something just a little weird and unsatisfying about First Four games. They are fun to watch, and both of the games last night were at least entertaining, but the stakes just don't feel the same. I know that it's official an “NCAA Tournament victory”, but it doesn't feel that way.
Regardless, we have one more night with a couple of games before the real fun starts tomorrow at noon.
Also, remember that my full NCAA Tournament previews game by game are all posted here. Use that to guide your bracket picking.
Let's get to the games:
Yesterday ATS: 1-1-0
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)
North Carolina Central (-3.5) over UC Davis: North Carolina Central is, from a raw talent perspective, just a better team than UC Davis. And computer ratings aside, North Carolina Central went out and repeatedly played major conference teams competitively, including winning at Missouri and nearly winning at Ohio State. UC Davis only played California, and they got smoked. In addition, UC Davis was a team that depended heavily on FT shooting, leading the Big West in FTRate. That is a dependency that tends to lead to a higher-than-normal homecourt advantage, and UC Davis was 9-0 at home versus 5-9 on the road.
USC (-2.5) over Providence: Generally with a spread as small as 2.5 points I just pick the team I think will win. Providence was an ugly 5-9 team away from home this season, and is a decent all-around team that just doesn't excel anywhere. USC has a player in Jordan McLaughlin who can dominate the ball and who I trust more than any other player in this game. I don't have any strong feelings about picking this game, but Providence simply does not have an obvious match-up advantage, so I'll take USC.