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NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Betting Predictions: Clemson vs. Rutgers (March 19)

NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Betting Predictions: Clemson vs. Rutgers (March 19) article feature image

Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images. Pictured: Ron Harper Jr.

  • Rutgers is the only higher seed favored to win in the first round as it faces a Clemson team that really struggles on offense.
  • While the Tigers thrive defensively, the Scarlet Knights are a tough team that will make life difficult for any opponent.
  • Our staff breaks down their Rutgers vs. Clemson pick for Friday night.

Clemson vs. Rutgers Odds

Clemson Odds+1.5
Rutgers Odds-1.5
Moneyline-125 / +105
TimeFriday, 9:20 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday evening and via BetMGM.

This is one of the most intriguing first-round games from a betting perspective.

The Scarlet Knights are the only higher seed favored to win in the first round, currently a 1.5-point favorite at most books. While the game should be close, it might not be the most fun one on Friday. This game features the second-lowest total of the opening round at just 125.5.

This has the makings of a chess match between two teams that are great defensively and play at a slow pace. We could be looking at a spot in which the first team to 60 wins.

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Pat McMahon: Clemson is one of the least popular at-large bids in this tournament given its boring style of play and early exit in the ACC Tournament.

Many people have pointed to the Tigers as one of the most overseeded teams, but they do boast one of the nation’s best non-conference resumes. The Tigers were a perfect 6-0 outside the ACC with neutral-site victories over Alabama and Purdue and a home win over Maryland.

The identity of Brad Brownell’s team is its defense. This unit has been rock solid all season, ranking 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Tigers were especially tough on defense down the stretch, allowing more than 70 points just once since the start of February.

On the season, Clemson has the 14th-best scoring defense in the nation, giving up just 62 points per game. The Tigers are extremely disciplined in the half-court, and they force opponents to use most of the shot clock.

Their slow pace frustrates teams, and they do a great job of forcing opponents into bad shots and turnovers. Clemson causes turnovers on 21.2% of its opponents’ possessions, the 46th-best mark nationally, per TeamRankings.

While the defense has been fantastic, the Clemson offense leaves a lot to be desired.

The Tigers rank 99th in adjusted offensive efficiency and shoot just 42.8% from the field. All-ACC forward Aamir Simms is reliable in the paint and the only double-digit scorer on the team (13.3 points per game).

Clemson has a number of solid guards but no real alpha in the backcourt.

The Tigers shoot a good amount of 3s and have five players who have shot above 35% on the season. Clemson’s ability to hit 3-pointers in this tournament is something to keep an eye on, and if it can get hot, it can be competitive in the opening weekend.


Mike Randle: Rutgers has been one of the best stories in college basketball this season.

Starting in 2006-07, the Scarlet Knights produced 13 consecutive losing seasons before a fantastic 20-11 campaign last year. Their first March Madness appearance since 1991 was subsequently put on hold last year by COVID-19. It is great to see head coach Steve Pikiell and Rutgers back in the tournament this season.

Rutgers finished 15-11 overall and 10-10 in conference play despite dealing with several injuries.

Senior guard Geo Baker (10.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.1 APG) suffered a high ankle sprain in the Knights’ season-opening win over Sacred Heart and missed the next three contests. He failed to return to his normal level of play until late January, scoring 19 points in a 74-70 win at Indiana.

Leading-scorer Ron Harper Jr. (15.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG) suffered an ankle injury in late December, which he ultimately tried to play though.

Harper’s offense clearly suffered, as he scored in single-digits in 4-of-7 games. He finally returned to his productive level with 14 points and 11 rebounds in a 64-50 home win over Northwestern on Feb. 13.

However, the most critical injury occurred to center Cliff Omoruyi, who suffered a knee injury on Dec. 20.

The 6-foot-11 freshman provides critical interior depth and allows starting center Myles Johnson to play more aggressively on both ends of the floor. Omoruyi plays a solid 15-18 minutes per game and has at least one block or steal in each of the past seven games.

Johnson is very active on the defensive end with 2.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game and produced a 10-point, 13-rebound, three-block performance in a 61-50 win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.

The heart and soul of Rutgers basketball is its defense.

The Scarlet Knights rank 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency and hold their opponents to just 47.4% from inside the arc. They have one of the lowest offensive turnover rates in the country and run an efficient offense inside the arc. Rutgers produced 57.4% of its total points in conference play from inside the arc, the most of any Big Ten team.

Pikiell has cultivated a tough, hard-nosed kind of basketball, which is unique and hard to prepare for in a single-game elimination tournament.

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Matchup & Betting Analysis

Pat McMahon: I know it’s scary taking an under on a total this low, but I think it still has value based on both teams’ style of play.

Both squads take their time on offense, with Clemson ranking 338th in adjusted tempo and Rutgers ranking 213th. Clemson rarely gets out in transition, and both teams take their time when in the half-court. Expect a lot of walking it up the court and long, drawn-out possessions that use most of the shot clock on both sides of the court.

Both offenses are up against buzz-saw defenses and will have a difficult time executing. Rutgers (18th) and Clemson (20th) both rank in the top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

The Scarlet Knights defense matches up very well with Clemson and has the ability to take away what the Tigers do best. Rutgers has two great interior defenders in Johnson and Omoruyi, who should be able to slow down Simms. The Tigers already struggle from inside the arc, so this matchup plays right into Rutgers’ hands.

While Clemson does have some dangerous outside shooters, it’ll have a difficult time getting going against a Scarlet Knight defense that allows only 32% from deep.

Rutgers has a few more scoring options than the Tigers, with Baker and Jacob Young joining leading scorer Harper in averaging double figures.

However, Harper and Baker have struggled from 3 this season, as has the team as a whole. Rutgers is just 31.1% from deep as a club. If shots aren’t falling early, it could be in for a long night against the relentless, disciplined Tigers defense.

The total opened at 127 and has been gradually dropping since Sunday night. It currently sits at 125.5 across the market, and I think it’s worth a play down to 125.

Pick: Under 125.5 (down to 125).

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