College Basketball Odds & Picks: 4 Best Bets for Friday’s Late March Madness Games
Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Brajkovic.
On Thursday, the night window featured No. 2 seeded Kentucky getting shocked by No. 15 seeded Saint Peter’s, a thrilling San Francisco-Murray State affair, Akron nearly upsetting UCLA and Creighton’s come-from-behind victory over San Diego State.
If Friday evening’s slate is half as good as last night, we’re in for another treat.
But where does the value lie? Can Chattanooga keep things close against Illinois? What about Colgate against Johnny Davis and Wisconsin? And who covers in the TCU-Seton Hall showdown?
Our staff has you covered with those answers and more, as they offer up four total best bets on four different games for Friday night’s games.
Friday’s Late First-Round NCAA Tournament Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Chattanooga vs. Illinois
Chattanooga received a horrid draw, having to match up with Illinois in the first round.
The Mocs made a killing on the interior in the SoCon thanks to Silvio De Sousa. The 6-foot-9 forward bodied people inside, averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per contest. He helped the Mocs dominate the glass in conference play.
That production will be sorely needed, as Chattanooga has to go against the best big man in the country in Kofi Cockburn.
The Mocs have a terrific one-two punch in their backcourt of Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste. But Illinois has pesky guard defenders who can lock down the perimeter. Illinois has allowed the eighth-fewest shot attempts from behind the arc this season.
Chattanooga matched up with only one tournament team during the regular season. That was an 11-point loss to Murray State.
Illinois enters this matchup with fresh legs after getting bounced in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Fighting Illini brought back nearly all of their production from last season and will surely want to avenge last year’s disappointing tournament performance.
The Mocs rank outside the top 300 in Open-3 Rate, per ShotQuality. Illinois has a plethora of shooters who will stretch the court with open looks. That will allow Cockburn to go to work in the paint and will make for a long night defensively for Chattanooga.
Pick: Illinois -7.5 (Play to -8.5)
Davidson vs. Michigan State
By D.J. James
Davidson takes on Michigan State in one of the games to round out the Round of 64. This Wildcats team is phenomenal at shooting 3-pointers, while MSU seems to be at a downturn.
Now, per ShotQuality, the Spartans rank 106th in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. This is a clear advantage for a 3-point shooting team like the Wildcats. Since Davidson shoots 38.5%, it should be able to get open outside shots at will.
In addition, the Wildcats know how to defend the 3 themselves. They rank 43rd on Open-3 Rate, per ShotQuality. Since MSU does shoot well from outside, Davidson needs to lock down outside shots like it has before.
Davidson also can perform better on the interior. MSU shoots below 50% inside the arc, while Davidson shoots 54.2%, per KenPom. This is another edge for the Cats.
The Spartans have a more balanced approach, but they have a tendency to allow plenty of 3s for opponents. Davidson will be able to exploit this. Since Davidson’s offense can excel inside and outside, it should be in strong shape to win this game, or at least cover the spread.
MSU’s offensive rebounding edge should also be negated, given the Wildcats’ ability to crash the glass on defense.
Take the underdog on the spread. Davidson can win outright.
Pick: Davidson +1.5 (Play to PK)
Colgate vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin gets essentially a home game in Milwaukee here against a Colgate team that I believe will give it a ton of problems.
Similar to Providence, Wisconsin drastically over-performed this season. It went 15-3 in games decided by six points or less, which was one of the best records in college basketball history.
Matchup-wise, Colgate is the third-most efficient 3-point shooting team in the country. It also ranks top-12 in PPP in both the half-court and in transition, per ShotQuality.
The transition number is key because if it can push the pace on Wisconsin and turn this into a track meet, the Badgers are 218th in transition defense.
Wisconsin is a pretty inefficient offense, and Davis makes up for a lot of its inefficiencies. However, he’s coming off of a pretty brutal ankle injury and definitely wasn’t 100% in the Big Ten Tournament, going 3-of-19 from the field and scoring only 11 points.
If he isn’t 100% for this game, the Badgers are in trouble.
The way to beat Colgate is to get out in transition because it’s one of the worst teams defending in that category (347th in PPP allowed, per ShotQuality). Meanwhile, the Raiders are pretty solid in the half-court.
Wisconsin has the 12th-lowest frequency in terms of possessions in transition.
Pick: Colgate +8 (Play to +6.5)
TCU vs. Seton Hall
This one should be a brawl between two teams with an abundance of size and physicality. It should be an absolute war on the boards for 40 minutes.
The differentiating factor for me is the TCU backcourt, led by star guard Mike Miles. I think he creates enough offense for TCU to pull this one out, while the injuries in the Seton Hall backcourt catch up to the Pirates.
I also have a hypothesis that the offenses in the Big 12 will look a lot better in the tournament after getting out of league play, where they face elite defenses night in and night out.
Many of those defenses completely take away the middle, which isn’t ideal for a TCU offense that does not shoot or make many 3-pointers.
I think the Horned Frogs’ offense — which lives on the glass — will look a lot more fluid here.