If you are playing in a very large March Madness pool and seeking some advice on how to gain an edge, then you must correctly guess those difficult No. 8 seed versus No. 9 seed battles.

Tacko Fall UCF
UCF center Tacko Fall (24) alters a shot from Cincinnati’s Mamoudou Diarra during a game in Orlando, Florida. (Image: USA Today Sports)

This year there are great #8 vs. #9 matchups with VCU/UCF, Syracuse/Baylor, Ole Miss/Oklahoma, and Utah State/Washington.

Every game is vital in March Madness pool, so do leave any free points on the table by overlooking the 8 and 9 seeds. Many of your competitors are going to rush their picks at the last minute, which means they do not have the time for in depth research. When faced with a coin flip like an 8 vs. 9, they will more often pick the better seed and go with the #8 team. That means you can possibly grab an extra point for scouting out the right #9 teams.

The #9 teams this year include Baylor, Oklahoma, Washington, and UCF, which is led by7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall.

East: #8 VCU vs. #9 UCF

The battle of the mid-majors. UCF (23-8) is the team that cannot get any respect. It doesn’t help that the American is not on the same level as the SEC. UCF ended the season with two losses, but they upset Houston at Houston which is no small feat. UCF’s big man Tacko Fall left his home in Senegal seven years ago to hone his craft as a potential NBA recruit.

VCU (25-7) was a March Madness darling a decade ago when Chaka Smart coached the team, but he’s not there anymore. The current Rams are then tenth-best defense in the nation allowing only 61.6 points per game. VCU finished atop of the Atlantic 10 in the standings, but they were picked off by Rhode Island in the A10 tournament. That snapped a 12-game winning streak.

This game is a pick’em. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, VCU is ranked a little better at #37 versus #46 for UCF.

West: #8 Syracuse vs. #9 Baylor

The ACC and Big 12 clash in this coinflip game. Syracuse (20-13) stunned Duke at Duke this year, which does not happen very often. Tyus Battle, 6-foot-5 junior guard, leads the Orange with 17.2 points per game. Battle will try to correct the ship that lost six of their last nine games.

Syracuse’s zone could spell trouble for Baylor (19-13) if they can’t hit their perimeter shots. Baylor only hits 33 percent of their three-pointers Tristan Clark, 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, leads the Bears in scoring with 14.6 points per game, but he only hits 25 percent of his treys.

Baylor is stumbling into the tournament with four-straight losses to Big 12 competition. They were also beat down by tough conference foes like Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech.

Syracuse opened as a 2-point favorite. According to Ken Pomeroy, Syracuse is ranked #35 and Baylor is not far behind at #41. Syracuse got beat up by the big dogs in the ACC. They lost to Duke (twice), Virginia, North Carolina, FSU, and Virginia Tech. They also have non-conference losses against Buffalo and Oregon.

South: #8 Ole Miss vs. #9 Oklahoma

Two more Power Six teams go head-to-head. This one is the Big 12 versus SEC. Oklahoma (19-13) would love to have Trae Young back in the lineup. Alas, he’s tearing it up for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA, while the Sooners are flipping coins with Ole Miss.

Oklahoma finished at the bottom of the Big 12 with a 7-11 record. They were 12-2 in all other games. They head into the tournament with a two-game losing streak including a one-point loss against West Virginia. That one stung for the Sooners.

Ole Miss (20-12) dropped five out of their last seven games. They got beat up by the better teams in the SEC like Kentucky and Tennessee. They also lost to Cincy and Iowa State.

Breein Tyree, a 6-foot-2 junior guard from New Jersey, leads the Rebels with 18.2 points per game. Tyree is fun to watch if he gets hot.

Ken Pomeroy ranked Oklahoma at #38, while Ole Miss is #44. Despite that, Ole Miss opened as a 2-point favorite.

Midwest: #8 Utah State vs. #9 Washington

A pair of western teams meet in a coinflip game. Utah State won Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas, while Washington lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

Washington (26-8) is the best team from the Pac-12, but that is not saying much because the Pac-12 is not very deep this year. They are sending three teams to the Big Dance this year, but that’s only because Washington lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

Utah State (28-6) is nearly impossible to beat at home in Logan, Utah in front of their frenzied fans. They still ran the table in the Mountain West tournament. Junior shooting guard Sam Merrill leads the Aggies in scoring with 21.2 points per game. Perhaps they will let Merrill go nuts in March Madness and he can drop 40 on UW?

Utah State won ten games in a row and 17 out of their last 18 games. They have losses to Houston, Nevada, and Arizona State.

Utah State opened as a 2-point favorite. Ken Pomeroy lists this as the biggest mismatch of the coinflip games. Utah State is ranked #34, while Washington is #51. UW has losses against Oregon (twice), Cal, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, Minnesota, and Auburn.

Check out our other March Madness coverage that includes four players to watch, which 12 seeds will beat 5 seeds, and do not sleep on the #13 seeds either.

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