The NCAA Tournament used to be perfect. Sixty-Four is half of 32, the number of conferences in D-I College Basketball. It also divided perfectly into four square regions of 16 and allowed us to whittle the field down to 32 by Friday night and 16 by Sunday.
But we people complained about bubble teams not getting in, as if there won’t always be a bubble, and now we’re stuck with 68 teams and that same ruthless bubble.
One of my least favorite parts about the First Four is that the games start on Tuesday, 48 hours after the Selection Show. So there are more teams to consider and significantly less time to do it. Tuesday and Wednesday were important days to consider the perfect 64-team bracket in the past; now four play-in games divert our attention.
At least the games are good and the late game tonight should be especially so. UCLA plays St. Bonaventure in Dayton for the right to play Florida as an 11-seed on Thursday. The Bruins are 3.5-point favorites.
I have St. Bonaventure beating UCLA, Florida and either Texas Tech or Stephen F. Austin so my play to take the points tonight could be a result of being overly bullish.
But St. Bonaventure had a tremendous season. There were some good teams in New York state this season but the Bonnies had the best. They won at Syracuse (a tournament team), at Siena, at Canisius, at Buffalo (a tournament team) and against Fordham.
Their leading scorer Jaylen Adams, a senior, had his finest season yet. Adams averaged 19.8 points per game, which was slightly under his mark from last season, but he was more efficient in everything he did: fewer turnovers, a better field goal percentage and a much-improved mark from three (over 45 percent).
Adams is joined in the backcourt by a fellow senior, Matt Mobley, whose 18.5 points per game on 38.7 percent from three don’t look so good next to his teammate’s numbers.
The key name to watch is Courtney Stockard. The junior forward is the team’s third-leading scorer and was on a tear before he strained his hamstring in a quarterfinals win over Richmond. Stockard finished that game with 19 points, had 22 in the game before that against Saint Louis, 31 before that against Davidson and 21 before that against VCU. He sat against Davidson in the semis and his team lost by 12.
Stockard is a game-time decision for this one. There really isn’t much information out there now but I’m going forward and assuming he will play and play close to 100 percent because it’s possible the injury report would be more pessimistic if that weren’t the case. That doesn’t, however, guarantee anything. So long as he does play, we’re getting some nice value with the 3.5 points.
Free Pick: St. Bonaventure +3.5