The beauty of March Madness is the unpredictability.
The NCAA tournament has surprises every year, and there was no bigger surprise in the first round games on Friday than Ohio State falling as a No. 2 seed to Oral Roberts. Now whenever CBS or TruTV or whoever shows that list of 15 seeds who won, Oral Roberts and Ohio State will be on it.
There were some bad beats as usual and a lot of teams that came out of nowhere to win, and (especially in this space) a lot of losing picks. Let's hope the second round is better:
No. 1 Illinois (-7) vs. No. 8 Loyola Chicago 12:10 p.m.
I like Loyola Chicago and have been on the Ramblers for a while, but this is a lot to ask. Illinois has been great. Their obliteration of Drexel wasn't unexpected, but a reminder of their top gear. When the committee gives an unfair seed to a mid-major — and make no mistake, Loyola was ridiculously under-seeded — it affects multiple teams. Georgia Tech didn't deserve facing an 8 seed that could have been three or more seed lines higher. Illinois gets the toughest 8 seed in the field and it's not close. But the team that gets hosed the most is of course the Ramblers, who had legitimate Sweet 16 potential but gets the best non-Gonzaga team in the tournament.
Pick: Illinois -7
No. 1 Baylor (-6.5) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin, 2:40 p.m.
There was absolutely nothing in Wisconsin's season to indicate a blowout of North Carolina was coming. Was it just a hot shooting night and the right matchup? Or perhaps the Badgers are happy to be freed of the Big Ten, which (Ohio State and Purdue jokes aside) doesn't really have any nights off. Baylor is a good team and the Bears looked good in the first round, but this has at least a little whiff of 2017, when a lackluster Badgers regular season turned into a second-round upset of top seed Villanova.
Pick: Wisconsin +6.5
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Syracuse, 5:15 p.m.
Syracuse's zone ate up another team. San Diego State, a good team in the regular season, looked absolutely helpless on Friday night. Conference foes get used to Syracuse's defense but it's hard to prepare for, especially on a short turnaround. West Virginia has a tough draw here and while Syracuse wasn't great all season, the Orange might be another team that is simply happy to see some new opponents who aren't used to their style.
Pick: Syracuse +3.5
No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech (-1), 6:10 p.m.
Friday was a reminder that Texas Tech coach Chris Beard is one of the best. The Red Raiders looked very good. It's still a team that didn't do great against the.best competition (5-10 in quadrant 1 games, 13-0 in all others) and Arkansas is a very good team. The Razorbacks didn't lose to a non-tournament team all season and are 13-2 since Jan. 16. I get why Texas Tech is favored as the lower seed, but I'll still roll with Arkansas.
Pick: Arkansas +1
No. 2 Houston (-8.5) vs. No. 10 Rutgers, 7:10 p.m.
The highest spread of Sunday's games. There's no reason to doubt Houston, it's a good team that can make a Final Four and maybe more. Still, Rutgers is battle tested after the Big Ten season, battled hard in the first round against Clemson and perhaps the Scarlet Knights' defense can keep the Cougars offense from running away. This spread is just a little too high for me.
Pick: Rutgers +8.5
No. 7 Florida (-8) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts, 7:45 p.m.
The Cinderella teams are always a little tough to back in the second round. You don't want to fall for recency bias. There's a reason ORU was a No. 15 seed after all. Also, Oral Roberts just had a win those players will be remembered for the rest of their lives, and how do you come right back from that 48 hours later for another game? Still, Oral Roberts battled bard against just about every tournament team it played this year, is the nation's best free-throw shooting team and one of the best 3-point shooting teams. It will not turn the ball over and Max Abmas, the nation's leading scorer, is a legit talent. Florida is a typical mid-seed power-conference team, losing a lot of games and fully capable of a bad performance. I get why there's a massive bet at BetMGM on Florida for this game, but I think Oral Roberts has earned some respect.
Pick: Oral Roberts +8
No. 5 Villanova (-6.5) vs. No. 13 North Texas, 8:45 p.m.
Villanova played very well, putting to rest a lot of questions about whether the Wildcats could win without injured guard Collin Gillespie. North Texas is a solid team and had a great win over Purdue, but I went against Jay Wright once against a double-digit seed, and can't do it again.
Pick: Villanova -6.5
No. 4 Oklahoma State (-5.5) vs. No. 12 Oregon State, 9:40 p.m.
Anyone who caught on to Oregon State a few weeks ago is already playing with house money. The Beavers have covered in 11 of their last 12 games. The Beavers' recent 3-point hot streak doesn't match up with anything they did in the regular season, but it continued in the blowout against Tennessee. Oklahoma State is a good team and should win, but I'm going to have at least one more Oregon State ticket before the Beavers' season ends.
Pick: Oregon State +5.5
Record to date
First Four: 2-1-1
First round, Friday: 4-12