Pick #17 Furman +6 (-110) FanDuel
Furman didn’t exactly stun the world by beating Virginia on Thursday. The Paladins were only about a 4.5-point underdog heading into the game, and the Cavaliers have a habit of keeping teams in games thanks to their plodding approach.
Still, the ending to the game made it an instant classic, with Furman point guard JP Pegues hitting a dramatic three-pointer after Virginia coughed up the ball to give the Paladins a 68-67 win in their first tournament appearance since 1980.
You can argue that Furman’s path to victory was something of a fluke. But regardless of how the last 10 seconds of the game played out, there’s no denying that the Paladins hung in with Virginia for 40 minutes and took advantage of the opportunity presented to them. Now, they get the chance to play a similar team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State doesn’t play as slowly as Virginia, because virtually nobody does. However, the Aztecs are still a defense-first team that looks to control the pace to some extent. San Diego State holds opponents to just 64.4 points per game on 29.8% shooting from 3-point range. KenPom.com rates the Aztecs ninth in the country in defensive efficiency, just behind teams like the Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas Jayhawks.
Like Virginia, San Diego State lacks dynamic offensive weapons, with senior guard Matt Bradley (13.1 ppg) the only player averaging double-digit points on the year. The Aztecs also have trouble blowing out opponents at times. Two of their three conference tournament games were decided by five points or less, while they only beat Charleston by six points after some free throws padded the margin in the final minute.
While Furman didn’t exactly dismantle the Virginia defense, it did enough to get the job done against the Cavaliers. The Paladins shot 10-for-28 from beyond the arc, and had four players in double figures. Furman should benefit from a better game out of senior guard Mike Bothwell (17.8 ppg) in the second round, after he fouled out and scored only 11 points in 20 minutes of play on Thursday.
San Diego State is the better team here, and the Aztecs are arguably a tougher test than Virginia. But the Paladins are more than capable of staying in this game and certainly have a shot at a second straight upset.