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NCAA Tournament Saturday Mega Betting Guide: Full Breakdowns, Odds, Picks for Each Game

NCAA Tournament Saturday Mega Betting Guide: Full Breakdowns, Odds, Picks for Each Game article feature image

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Bruce Pearl celebrating with Auburn Tigers mascot Aubie

We’ve got a jam-packed Saturday slate of high-quality NCAA Tournament hoops on tap. Lucky us.

We’re here to bring some clarity to the madness with our detailed breakdowns of each game. Below, you’ll find matchup analysis, some trends to know and our experts’ favorite bet in all eight Round of 32 contests.

Enjoy — and good luck!

#3 LSU vs. #6 Maryland NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: LSU -2.5
  • Over/Under: 145.5
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 12:10 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Jacksonville, Fla.

>> All odds as of Friday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAA Tournament odds and live win probabilities on your bets.

By Ken Barkley

LSU and Maryland each took different paths to the Round of 32.

LSU had an up-and-down, athletically dominant win over Yale, which couldn’t make a 3 to save its life until the final minutes. Maryland, meanwhile, was in big trouble against Belmont but rallied to win a nail-biter.

Is there anything about those games that can help us when these teams play each other?

The Tigers Are A Blast to Watch

LSU is fun to watch.  Really fun. The Tigers’ athleticism is just off the charts. Their point guard can score in the paint with flair, and their big man can shoot 3s. Their malleability makes them very difficult to defend.

The paint will be fascinating because of the statistical profiles of each team. LSU is extremely good at crashing the offensive rebounds; in fact it was the best team in the SEC in that metric.

But Maryland, because of its two big men, Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith (each 6-foot-10), was the best in the Big Ten at not allowing offensive rebounds. That battle will be critical.

It will also be interesting to see whether Fernando or Smith tracks Naz Reid around the perimeter, and if they can do so without needing help.

The point guard matchup between LSU’s Tremont Waters and Maryland’s Anthony Cowan is phenomenal, but Maryland has guys in both of those positions who can at least limit the Tigers’ most potent weapons.

Can Maryland Clean Up on the Offensive Glass?

The Terrapins can be a little tough to watch sometimes.

Against Belmont, the Terps got in real trouble because in the half-court because their 3s weren’t falling early. What brought them back into the game was their incredibly physical advantage inside with Smith and Fernando.

Belmont had absolutely no answer, and Maryland had 15 offensive rebounds, with each big man having a double-double. The two big men absolutely saved Maryland’s season, because somehow the team was able to win a game where it shot 6-for-22 from 3 and forced only five turnovers. Those extra possessions were critical.

Against LSU, you would think that physical advantage for Maryland would be gone, but not so fast.

LSU basically plays four smaller players around Reid most of the time, and despite the fact we think of the Tigers as very athletic, they were miserable at keeping teams off the offensive glass this year — 263rd in the country.

It got a little better in conference play, but not by much. The way Maryland won the Belmont game, the Terps can absolutely win this game, too.

For Maryland, getting those extra possessions with offensive rebounds will be critical, but the Terps need to limit their turnovers, something they’ve had a really hard time doing this year.

LSU likes to get up and down the court (as we just saw against Yale) and the Terps were dead-last in the Big Ten in turnover percentage. That’s really bad news, and along with offensive rebounds, is the area that may decide the game.

Analysis, Bet to Watch

We all just watched LSU run back and forth for two hours the other day, and I think there’s an expectation that the same thing can just happen again. But that was against Yale, who likes to play really fast anyway, and can’t stop anyone at the basket.

Maryland would be crazy to want any kind of pace in this game. I would expect the strategy (as it has been a lot of the year) for the Terps is to be very deliberate, take open 3s when they come, and have their bigs try to get offensive rebounds.

LSU doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, so it’s possible Maryland could have a clean game there (much like against Belmont) and prevent run-out opportunities. I like the under here, as I think both teams are going to be forced into a physical game in the half-court.

Ken’s Pick: Under 145.5

Sean Koerner’s LSU-Maryland Projections

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: LSU -1
  • Total: 144
  • Proj Score: LSU 72.5 | Maryland 71.5
  • Win Probability: LSU 50.2% | Maryland 49.8%

#2 Kentucky vs. #7 Wofford NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Kentucky -5.5
  • Over/Under: 141
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 2:40 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Jacksonville, Fla.

By Mike Randle

Kentucky (28-6) enjoyed an easy 79-44 win over Abilene Christian in the opening round of the tournament. The Wildcats won without their leading scorer, PJ Washington (14.8 ppg), who will also be out for this game with an injured ankle. The Wildcats moved to 18-15 against the spread with the cover in Round 1.

Wofford (30-4) defeated Seton Hall 84-68 in its first game. In that contest, senior Fletcher Magee broke the all-time NCAA record with his 505th 3-pointer. The Terriers are now 17-11 ATS, including an impressive 10-4 on the road.

Let’s take a look at which team will advance to the Sweet 16.

Can Kentucky Survive Again Without PJ Washington? 

The Wildcats rolled in their first contest without Washington, but Wofford presents a much more difficult matchup. The Terriers rank 62nd in the country in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and are also one of the few teams that can battle Kentucky on the offensive boards.

Wofford ranks 29th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, which will limit one of Kentucky’s main offensive weapons. The Wildcats out-rebounded Abilene Christian 44-17, holding a 14-3 advantage on the offensive glass.

Wofford also excels at limiting its opponents’ efficiency from 3P, which becomes a bigger problem for Kentucky in the absence of Washington. The 3P efficiency for the Wildcats improved throughout the year to their current mark of 36.2% (85th in the country), but they only shot 28.6% (4-of-14) against ACU, which doesn’t defend the arc nearly as well as Wofford does.

The Terriers held opponents to 32.8% from 3P, which ranked 74th best in the country.

Kentucky will need a repeat performance from guard Keldon Johnson (13.8 ppg), who scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed six rebounds in the opening round win.

Wofford Will Not Be Intimidated

Head coach Mike Young challenged his team in the non-conference schedule to prepare his team for games just like this one. Last season, the Terriers won at North Carolina 79-75, this season the Terriers played admirably at Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kansas and Mississippi State.

Wofford had tremendous success against a strong defensive Seton Hall team in the opening round. The Terriers shot 46.4% (13-of-28) from 3P, led by Magee and Nathan Hoover, who combined to shoot 58% (11-of-19) from deep.  Their offense is perfectly balanced, as illustrated by their third-best overall effective field goal percentage.

The Terriers will need to find a way to keep senior forward Cameron Jackson (14.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) out of foul trouble.  He is Wofford’s primary inside presence of the Terriers and needs to repeat his double-double (14-10) performance against Seton Hall.  If Jackson stays out of foul trouble, his presence is a huge advantage over a Washington-less Kentucky team.

The Pick

If you ask the casual fan who wins this game, the answer would always be Kentucky.  However, the Terriers are the hottest team in the country and have played non-conference teams just as difficult as the Wildcats. This game is close with PJ Washington, but without him?

The Terriers have a good chance to win and an excellent chance to cover.

Mike’s Pick:  Wofford +5.5, wouldn’t bet it past +5

#2 Michigan vs. #10 Florida: NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Michigan -7
  • Over/Under: 121
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Des Moines, Iowa

By Eli Hershkovich

The Wolverines (20-15 against the spread) have covered in five of their past seven affairs, including their 74-55 win over Montana in the first round — both outright and ATS. On the flip side, the Gators (17-18 ATS) have notched five straight victories ATS while their improved play was showcased in their win (+3) over Nevada on Thursday.

Which team presents more value in this West Region matchup? Let’s break it down.

The Charles Matthews Effect

The 6-foot-6 wing missed the Wolverines’ final three regular-season games with an ankle injury. Matthews was limited in their trio of Big Ten Tournament affairs, as well, but he appeared refreshed in their first-round victory over Montana with a 22-point, 10-rebound showing in 35 minutes.

An effective Matthews provides another floor-spacing ball-handler in John Beilein’s starting lineup, along with one of the premier on-ball defenders at his position. He’ll likely go up against Gators wing Jalen Hudson, who’s beginning to regress positively after slumping to 9.2 points per game this season.

Florida’s Refined Offense

Mike White’s crew has reverted its attack to the interior during its two straight-up wins in its past three duels, generating 52.0% of its offense from that vicinity. The 6-foot-9 Kevarrius Hayes has been a critical part of that success, tallying 14.3 points per game while shooting 76.2% from the field over that span.

Despite Matthews’ return, Michigan’s defense inside the arc has struggled all season. It let up the highest 2-point scoring rate in the entire country (60.0%), and those struggles continued in Big Ten play, as well.

The 7-foot-1 Jon Teske is a fine defender in the low-post, but I’m expecting the reinvigorated Hayes to provide an inside-out presence for the Gators’ perimeter offense. Even though Beilein’s bunch is letting up the fifth-lowest perimeter clip (28.7%) in the nation, it has been susceptible off the dribble drive and via playing inside-out.

The Wolverines will showcase a size advantage over Florida, but expect the Gators’ quintuplet of ball-handlers to create enough mismatches. That should create its fair share of opportunities from deep.

Will Michigan Avoid a Lengthy Scoring Drought?

Beilein’s 19th-rated Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (115.5 points per 100 possessions) is guided by the Wolverines’ leading-scorer: The 6-foot-9 Ignas Brazdeikis (15.1 ppg).

The Wolverines have dealt with inept scoring stretches of late, though, highlighted by the Spartans’ 13-3 run to wrap up a 65-60 win in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

A major reason why stems from relying on their perimeter attack — when their half-court sets breakdown. Michigan delivered the second-highest 3-point scoring rate (33.7%) in its conference docket, and Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole and even Zavier Simpson tend to get shot-happy in those instances.

Not only has Florida accrued the 15th-ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (92.0 opponents’ points per possession) in the country, but White’s crew has limited its opponents to the 36th-lowest 3-point clip (31.6%) as well.

Expect the Gators’ defense to keep this score tighter than the line indicates.

Eli’s PICK: Florida +7, but wouldn’t bet it past +6.5

Our Projected Odds: Michigan vs. Florida

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Michigan -8.5
  • Total: 121.5
  • Proj Score: Michigan 65 | Florida 56.5
  • Win Probability: Michigan 81.7% | Florida 18.3%

#4 Florida State vs. #12 Murray State NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Florida State -4.5
  • Over/Under: 144.5
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 6:10 p.m. ET
  • TV: TNT
  • Location: Hartford, CT

By Mike Randle

Florida State (28-7) survived a three-point barrage from Vermont in the opening round to win 76-69. The Catamounts shot 42% (18-of-43) from beyond the arc, but the Seminoles still secured the victory. Florida State did not cover the 8.5 point spread despite a chance to score as time expired.

Murray State (28-4) put forth a masterful performance in an 83-64 drubbing of Marquette.  Sophomore guard Ja Morant (24.4 points per game, 10.6 assists per game) continued his scintillating play with a triple-double (17 points, 11 rebounds, 16 assists) against the Pirates.  The Racers easily covered the 3-point spread.

Seminoles Need To Score Inside

Florida State usually holds a significant height advantage on the interior and will do so again today. The Seminoles are led by 6-foot-10 Mfiondu Kabengele (13.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) who has the ability to connect from 3-point range as well (36.1%).  They also have 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje (6.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg), which gives them options on the interior.

The Seminoles are 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency and are fantastic from the free throw line (74.5%). The free throw shooting prowess can often compensate for their three-point shooting weakness.

The Seminoles only shot 3-of-12 from deep against Vermont, but more than made for that by shooting 31-of-37 from the foul line.

Florida State may again be without Senior forward Phil Cofer (7.4 ppg) who missed the opening round game with an ankle injury and learned of the passing of his father immediately after the game.

What Can Morant Do For An Encore? 

Murray State’s entire offense is driven by the spectacular Morant. The Racers scored at will against a Marquette team that ranked 39th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Racers shot 53.6% from the floor and 50% (9-of-18) from 3-point range.

They will need to keep that efficiency from deep to have a chance at the upset. As a team, Murray State is only shooting 34.8% from beyond the arc. However, the Seminoles are vulnerable to the long three, ranking 12th in ACC conference play at limiting the opposition from deep.

In every other offensive area, Florida State’s defense matches up very well. Overall, the Seminoles rank as the 10th best team as per adjusted defensive efficiency.

As expected, the Seminoles are top 30 in defensive block percentage, putting an even bigger premium on the 3-point efficiency.


The Morant effect will be limited by Florida State’s superior defense, leaving Murray State’s supporting cast to carry the offensive load.

That will not happen, and the Seminoles’ huge advantage inside will put an end to a spectacular season by Morant and the Racers.

Mike’s Pick:  Florida State -4.5, would bet up to 6.5

Sean Koerner’s Florida State-Murray State Projections

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Florida State -7.5
  • Total: 141.5
  • Proj Score: Florida State 74.5 | Murray State 67
  • Win Probability: Florida State 76.8% | Murray State 23.2%

#1 Gonzaga vs. #9 Baylor NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Gonzaga -13.5
  • Over/Under: 148.5
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

By Collin Wilson

Gonzaga (22-12 against the spread) started its tournament with a junior varsity-like 87-49 blowout win over 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights were on their second game in three days off a First Four victory, while the Bulldogs made a statement on the offensive and defensive ends.

Baylor (17-14-2 ATS) won the battle of zone defense in its 78-69 victory over Syracuse, limiting the Orange to 41% shooting from the field. The win broke a four-game losing streak for the Bears, who had won only four games since Feb. 3 leading into the NCAA Tournament.

How Baylor’s Win Translates to Round of 32

A closer look at the box score shows a Baylor team that shot a ridiculous 47% from 3-point range. Instead of attacking the Syracuse zone, Baylor put up 34 attempts with 16 successful from behind the arc.

The Bears were middle of the pack nationally in 3-point percentage with a rank of 167th during the regular season, but they do rank second in the nation in offensive rebound percentage. So second-chance points are nothing new for the Bears.

And in order to beat Gonzaga, it’s imperative that a team gives its best shooting and rebounding performance.

Saint Mary’s victory over Gonzaga in the WCC Final was a result of poor shooting from the Bulldogs thanks to pesky defense. The Bears are 52nd in opponent 2-point percentage, which gives them a chance to give the Bulldogs shooting issues.

Can Gonzaga Work Around the Baylor 1-3-1 Zone?

The 11% three-point shooting performance for Gonzaga against Saint Mary’s might have been an anomaly: The Bulldogs are the best 2-point shooting team in the nation.

While blocks are Baylor’s mission objective in the zone defense, Gonzaga is the best team in the nation in avoiding blocked shots.

Offensively, Gonzaga does not turn the ball over, shoots well from deep and is the best in the nation in getting a clean shot. Defensively, Baylor is a lowly 339th in offensive blocks, translating to a Bulldogs defense that should have plenty of deflections.

Finding Value

The point spread might seem large for a Round of 32 game, which could draw plenty of folks to the Baylor side of the ticket writing.

The Bears would have to replicate a near 50% 3-point effort with 30-plus attempts to beat Gonzaga — Syracuse could not expose Baylor’s faults in blocked shots, turnovers or defensive rebounding.

While Gonzaga is top 20 in free-throw shooting percentage, Baylor ranks 294th from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs should start down low with excellent passing and high percentage shots before taking some chances deep.

Unless Baylor shoots lights-out from long distance again — and the advanced stats say they won’t — the cover should be all Gonzaga as the Bulldogs march to the Sweet 16.

THE PICK: Gonzaga -13.5 (up to -14)

Our Projected Odds: Gonzaga vs. Baylor

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Gonzaga -12.5
  • Over/Under: 147.5
  • Score: Gonzaga 80 | Baylor 67.5
  • Win Probability: Gonzaga 89.6% | Baylor 10.4%

#2 Michigan State vs. #10 Minnesota NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Michigan State -10
  • Over/Under: 142
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 7:45 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Hartford, CT

By Mike Randle

Michigan State (29-6) is coming off a huge opening round scare to No. 15-seeded Bradley, escaping with a 76-65 win. The Spartans did not cover that game but are still 23-11 against the spread including 9-6 on the road.

Minnesota (22-13) was a surprise winner over Louisville, 86-76. The Golden Gophers won the game outright despite being a five-point underdog. They moved to 18-15 this season ATS.

Are the Spartans Wearing Down?

Michigan State has been battling injuries all season long. Guard Cassius Winston (18.9 ppg, 7.5 apg) has been fantastic but is still battling knee tendinitis and a toe injury.

Forward Nick Ward (13.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) has returned, but is not anywhere near his pre-injury efficiency. He has played less than 10 minutes per game on average over the last three games.

Against Bradley, the Spartans continued to have problems taking care of the basketball. The Braves forced 18 turnovers, and held the Spartans to just 26.3% from beyond the arc.

Bradley was able to disrupt the Spartans offense and force them out of their comfort zone. On the season, Michigan State shoots 38.1% from deep.

Can Minnesota Stay Hot? 

The Golden Gophers had a prolific offensive performance against the Cardinals. They shot 40.7% (11-of-27) from beyond the arc, which is much higher than their team average of 32.5%.

Minnesota also took care of the basketball, only producing five turnovers against the Cardinals pressure defense. They also enjoyed a balanced scoring attack, with five players in double-digit scoring.

Junior Amir Coffey (16.3 ppg) has raised his offensive game and senior Jordan Murphy (14.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg) has been a force inside while avoiding foul trouble.


While Michigan State defeated Minnesota 79-55 back on Feb. 9, these are two teams that are very different from that initial meeting.  Michigan State is winning close games and is still battling injuries.

Minnesota defeated Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and just upset Louisville. The point spread is simply too high for these familiar foes.

Take the 10 points and expect the Golden Gophers to keep this game close until the end.

THE PICK:  Minnesota +10, would bet down to Minnesota +9

Sean Koerner’s Michigan State-Minnesota Projections

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Michigan State -11
  • Total: 139.5
  • Proj Score: Michigan State 75.5 | Minnesota 64.5
  • Win Probability: Michigan State 86.3% | Minnesota 13.7%

#3 Purdue vs. #6 Villanova NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Purdue -3.5
  • Over/Under: 137
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 8:40 p.m. ET
  • TV: TNT
  • Location: Hartford, Conn.

By Stuckey

We have now arrived at the business portion of the tournament, and this is one of the best matchups on Saturday’s slate. Purdue will try to take out the defending champs and prevent them from getting a ridiculous third title in four years. To put that into perspective, Purdue has never won a national championship and has appeared in only two Final Fours (none since 1980).

Let’s take a closer look at this matchup between two teams that have a lot in common.

When Villanova Has the Ball

It’s Villanova, so you know where we have to start. The Cats are one of the most 3-point reliant teams in the country with a 3-point rate that is even high for a Jay Wright team. In fact, only two other teams in D-1 shot more 3s per field goal attempt during the regular season.

We naturally have to next look at the Purdue perimeter defense. Well, while Saint Mary’s hardly ever allowed 3s (one of the reasons we bet the Gaels), Purdue does.

St. Mary’s allowed an opponent 3-point rate of 31.8% — the ninth-lowest in the country and second-lowest among teams in the NCAA Tournament field. Purdue is at 42.8% — 300th nationally and fifth-most among all tournament teams. 

The Cats should also generate great looks from the outside after misses. Purdue can be exposed on the offensive glass, as seen in the Old Dominion game. The difference is Villanova will make the shots that Old Dominion didn’t when open. If Purdue doesn’t rebound better than it has lately (ninth in the Big Ten in opponent offensive rebounding percentage, per KenPom), Villanova will crush them on kick-outs and crisp ball movement to hit wide-open 3s.

Villanova will get its 3-point looks — although having a healthy Nojel Eastern will help Purdue tremendously on the defensive end.

Other Factors to Consider

These teams are actually very similar on the offensive end. Villanova just wants to chuck from beyond the arc, and that’s exactly what Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline want to do as well. And you can get perimeter looks against this Villanova defense.

Both squads are snails. Nova more so than Purdue, but neither is a speed-racer. That said, I actually think the over/under is a tad low, especially considering both teams have capable 3-point shooters and should get plenty of open looks in a gym they both just played in. I’d make it 140, which means 137 warrants a bet.

In regards to the side, I’ve been lower on Villanova than the market for weeks now — and, fortunately, that has paid off. That’s the case once again, but it’s not by a material amount. I’d make this Purdue -4.5, which might not be enough to pull the trigger on 3.5 in a game that will essentially swing on 3-point variance (see: Phil Booth’s banked-in 3 late vs. St. Mary’s).

Fading the Big East has been a profitable strategy this tournament, and I think the last remaining team from that conference goes down today. But I will just wait to see if I can get a live line of PK or better on the Boilermakers in a game that should have plenty of runs.

Stuckey’s Pick: Over 137

Our Projected Odds: Purdue vs. Villanova

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Purdue -4.5
  • Over/Under: 141
  • Score: Purdue 73 | Villanova 68.5
  • Win Probability: Purdue 66% | Villanova 34%

#4 Kansas vs. #5 Auburn NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Auburn -1
  • Over/Under: 142.5
  • Date: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 9:40 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

By Eli Hershkovich

The Tigers (18-16-1 against the spread) failed to cover their win over New Mexico State in the Round of 64, as Aggies forward Trevelin Queen missed a game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer. On the flip side, the Jayhawks (16-18-1 ATS) covered in a dominant 87-53 win over Northeastern.

Which side presents more value in this Round of 32 matchup? Let’s dissect the most critical factors.

Will Auburn Excel Within its Situational Spot?

Coming off an loss ATS this season, the Tigers are 2-4 (33.3%) in attempt to cover the ensuing matchup. But their second win ATS came vs. Tennessee on Sunday, notching a 20-point victory after failing to cover against Florida in the SEC tournament semifinals.

New Mexico State closed the game on a 16-8 run, aided by Jared Harper’s two turnovers in the final minute, so expect Bruce Pearl’s troops to come out revved up because it couldn’t put the Aggies away on countless occasions.

Bill Self’s crew looks to be in a letdown spot after cruising past Northeastern in the Round of 64. Guided by a freshman-driven backcourt in Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, there’s plenty of potential for a cruise control-like performance in the early goings of the first half.

Tigers’ Perimeter Attack

Kansas is allowing the 42nd-highest 3-point scoring rate (36.5%) in the country, yet Northeastern couldn’t take advantage in transition or half-court sets. Expect Auburn to be much better there and hit 3s.

Pearl’s squad boasts the 23rd-highest 3-point clip (38.1%) in the country, as well as the seventh-highest scoring percentage (43.5%) from behind the arc. Tigers guard Bryce Brown never discovered a rhythm against New Mexico State, shooting just 2-of-8 from distance.

Whether Self plugs Grimes or the fellow 6-foot-5 guard Ochai Agbaji onto Brown, he won’t have nearly as sound of a ballhawk as Harper, who will be dealing with Dotson.

Moreover, Auburn and its offensive rebounding rate (32.3%, 55th-best in the country) should be a factor off its long misses from the perimeter. Kansas doesn’t have the size to keep Chuma Okeke & Co. off the offensive boards, either.

Matching Up with Dedric Lawson

The Tigers’ small-ball lineup isn’t equipped to handle the 6-foot-9 Lawson (19.1 ppg) one-on-one. He continued to prove how critical he is to the Jayhawks’ 29th-ranked Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (113.5 points per 100 possessions) against Northeastern.

But Pearl’s unit will likely throw traps his way, with the 6-foot-8 Horace Spencer off the bench, to keep the Kansas big off-balance. It should be able to create havoc via that philosophy, as well, and Auburn is already manufacturing the highest opponents’ turnover rare (25.3%) in the country.

The Jayhawks inexperience was on display in Big 12 play, accruing the conference’s second-highest turnover percentage (20.1%). Auburn forces turnovers better than anyone, and the aforementioned Harper, Samir Doughty and Malik Dunbar are in position to expose them in another area.

Eli’s Pick: Auburn -1, but I wouldn’t bet it past Auburn -2.5.

Sean Koerner’s Auburn-Kansas Projections

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Auburn -0.5
  • Total: 143
  • Proj Score: Auburn 72 | Kansas 71.5
  • Win Probability: Auburn 50.1% | Kansas 49.9%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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