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Thursday March Madness Picks: 2 Upsets for Round of 64 (March 21)

Forget the First Four: We know the Round of 64 is the true first round of men’s March Madness. The NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday with a stacked schedule that carries over Friday as well. I’ll be breaking down my top plays for the Round of 64, specifically underdogs I’ve got an eye on during Thursday’s slate. So let’s get to our Thursday March Madness picks, including our key eye on the Round of 64 upsets! 

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Thursday March Madness Picks | Underdogs

Oregon (PK) vs. South Carolina 

We’re cheating a little bit here because Oregon is hanging around a pick’em or -1 at some places. The 11-seeded Ducks could sneak into plus-money before tip, though, against the No. 6-seed Gamecocks.

Oregon got hot at the right time and won the Pac-12 Tournament after an inconsistent season, mainly due to injuries. Health is no longer a factor after earning the automatic bid.

Oregon is 59th in the NET and 55th in KenPom. The Ducks are good (but not great) on both offense and defense, with a 114.0 adjusted offense rating and a 100.6 adjusted defense rating in KenPom, good for 50th and 70th, respectively.

Five different Ducks average double-digits in scoring, but the two biggest keys are seniors N’Faly Dante at 16.2 points per game and 8.8 rebounds and Jermaine Couisnard who averages 15.4 points and 3.3 assists per game. It is also worth noting Oregon takes care of the basketball, only averaging 10.2 turnovers per game.

The metrics don’t love the Gamecocks (NET ranking of 51, 49 overall in KenPom). They’re inefficient offensively, only averaging 43.89 percent from the field overall. Only three players average over double digits, with Meechie Johnson leading the way at 13.8 points per game.

Oregon has more experience and the better players in this game. The Gamecocks do not have an answer for N’Faly Dante down low and Couisnard’s experience in the backcourt should be a big difference. Dana Altman is also a great coach and has the advantage over Lamont Paris. The run ends for the Gamecocks and the Ducks continue their hot streak into the Round of 32.

Samford (+7 vs. Kansas)

Samford is a team that is ripe to bother the Jayhawks and pull the big upset, especially after it was revealed Kansas would be without Kevin McCullar Jr.

The Samford Bulldogs play “Bucky Ball,” a name that comes from their head coach Bucky McMillan and features up-tempo pace and a very deep rotation. Their offense is the key to their success with a top-five scoring offense at 86 points per game. They also average 17.5 assists per game and shoot 39.3% from three-point range. Four different players average over double digits with Achor Achor leading the way at 15.8 points per game.

On defense, they are one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers at 16.6 per game. The Jayhawks are basically limping into this game. Expect Samford to close out the first night of Madness with a massive win and upset in the first round.

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