By Ryan Coleman
With Feast Week well underway, we’ve already had pretty much everything you could have possibly asked for: upsets, buzzer-beaters, breakout teams, you name it. The Battle 4 Atlantis gets started today, and I’m here to navigate the difficult spreads and to give you your best bets for the first four games of this November tournament.
Michigan (4-0) vs. Iowa State (3-1)
11:30 AM Central, ESPN
Spread: Michigan -3.5
The Pick: Iowa State +3.5
Don’t be deceived by the Wolverines’ undefeated record. They may have a win over Creighton but the Bluejays struggled offensively, even though the Wolverines defense barely falls into the top-30 per KenPom. Michigan is still finding ways to replace their top three scorers from last season as their offense ranks 42nd in the nation via KenPom. On the other side of the ball, Tyrese Haliburton has been playing well and is a future first-round draft pick. The Cyclones lone loss came to an underrated Oregon State team on the road. This game is a toss-up, but Michigan’s lack of depth and Iowa State’s efficiency on the offensive end should allow the Cyclones to take this one down.
North Carolina (4-0) vs. Alabama (2-2)
1:30 PM Central, ESPN
Spread: UNC -9.5
The Pick: UNC -9.5
I’m a bit surprised this spread isn’t closer to 13 or 14. Alabama has looked unorganized to start the season with losses over Penn and Rhode Island, both sub-90 ranked teams on KenPom. Meanwhile, Cole Anthony has looked unstoppable and the new Tar Heels have transitioned well into the rotation. Alabama is solid but young on the inside, and North Carolina will dominate them on the glass with their two-big lineups. With Alabama’s early inability to force turnovers, UNC will have plenty of opportunities to put the ball in the bucket. Even if UNC is off shooting the ball to start the game, the number of extra chances thanks to controlling the rebounding and turnover margins should lead UNC to cover.
Gonzaga (6-0) vs. Southern Miss (2-3)
6:00 PM Central, ESPNU
Spread: Gonzaga -24.5
The Pick: Gonzaga -24.5
Gonzaga so far is 4-2 ATS but Southern Miss is…not good. Their only two wins this year are against non-division one teams. The one area the Golden Eagles have thrived so far this season is on the glass, but Gonzaga’s depth and physicality up front provides a much stiffer test than what USM has seen so far. The Bulldogs play up-tempo with the 11th-quickest average possession length so far this season, so they should go on some runs in transition against Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles depend on the 2-point shot the most of anyone in the nation, with 76.8% of their points coming inside the arc. But with their 3-point shooting percentage being atrocious, Gonzaga can simply shrink the floor and use their size to dominate. It may seem like a lot to reach 24, but the Bulldogs should pull it off.
Seton Hall (4-1) vs. Oregon (5-0)
8:30 PM Central, ESPN2
Spread: Oregon -2
The Pick: Seton Hall +2
This is by far the toughest game to pick of the four, so I would advise caution. Early on, 99% of the money is on the Ducks to cover, so this is definitely the contrarian opinion. But I still think the public is behind on how good this Pirates team is. Myles Powell has staked his claim for player of the year, posting 37 points in a three-point loss to Michigan State. But the Pirates are a deep, talented team, with the 22nd-highest bench usage in the nation so far. Oregon is a young and impressive team with wins over Memphis and Houston with elite defense from beyond the arc. Seton Hall can use their size however to score from anywhere on the floor. Prayton Prichard has been solid for Oregon, but this team is still learning and inexperienced. The game will come down to the wire and again, I am not confident with this pick, but I think Seton Hall will surprise a lot of people with a win, putting them further onto the national radar.
Season total: 35-17