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NCAA Tournament Best Bets: Our Top 6 Picks for Friday’s Sweet 16 College Basketball Games (March 25)

NCAA Tournament Best Bets: Our Top 6 Picks for Friday’s Sweet 16 College Basketball Games (March 25) article feature image
Credit:

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Walker (1) of the Miami Hurricanes.

March Madness was in full effect yesterday as two No. 1 seeds — Gonzaga and Arizona — were taken down by four and five seeds, respectively.

And that was just Day 1.

On Friday, March 25 — Day 2 of the Sweet 16 — we have a blue-blood battle between UCLA and North Carolina, Saint Peter’s looking to be the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight, double-digit seeds in Miami and Iowa State attempting to move on and Kansas facing Providence.

Our staff has you covered with six best bets below. So, formulate your college hoops betting card, and get set for another great night of action.


Friday’s College Basketball Sweet 16 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.

Game
Time
Pick
7:29 p.m. ET
Kansas -7.5
9:39 p.m. ET
UCLA ML
9:59 p.m. ET
Miami ML
9:59 p.m. ET
Miami -2
9:59 p.m. ET
Miami -2
9:59 p.m. ET
Miami -3
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.

Providence vs. Kansas

Friday, March 25
7:29 p.m. ET
TBS
Kansas -7.5

By D.J. James

The Kansas Jayhawks have perhaps the easiest road to the Final Four of any of the remaining teams. They take on the Providence Friars on Friday, and the winner will play the winner of Iowa State vs. Miami.

Now, Providence has been the luckiest team in college basketball for some time, per KenPom. It’s by a wide margin, too, but kudos to head coach Ed Cooley & Co.

Kansas is a different animal. The Jayhawks have a top-10 adjusted offensive efficiency ranking and a top-30 defense, per KenPom. Providence has neither.

Kansas limits efficient shots on the defensive end. It ranks 31st in Rim & 3 Rate, per ShotQuality. This will come into play because the Friars rarely manage reasonable shots. They rank 217th in this same category on offense.

Essentially, Kansas will be able to protect the interior and the arc. Seeing how Providence shoots under 50% from inside the arc, it will not be able to find anything inside on David McCormack.

In addition, Kansas has manufactured around 55% of its total points this season inside the arc, per KenPom. The Friars do not defend post-ups strongly, so KU will maintain a significant edge in the paint.

Finally, the Jayhawks rebound well on both ends of the floor. They’re ranked 23rd in offense rebounding and 123rd on defense, per ShotQuality. This is an edge on Providence, which ranks 113th and 141st, respectively.

What this says is Providence will yield some second chances, so Kansas will take advantage.

Pick: Kansas -7.5 (Play to -8)



North Carolina vs. UCLA

Friday, March 25
9:39 p.m. ET
CBS
UCLA ML

By Tanner McGrath

As long as Jaime Jaquez Jr. plays, I love how UCLA matches up with UNC.

UNC isn’t efficient at stopping mid-range shots and the Heels won’t pressure the ball, so the UCLA shotmakers will make the necessary jumpers. Also, Tyger Campbell will have all the time in the world to walk the ball up the floor, set up Mick Cronin’s offense and control the pace of the game.

UNC likes to run, and it doesn’t want to get caught playing UCLA’s game. Unfortunately, that’s how this game is going to play out.

You can match UCLA’s ML with any of the other games you like today. However, my favorite is matching it with Purdue’s ML in something I call the “Fade the Cinderella Parlay.”

It’s been a nice run for Saint Peter’s, and it hurts to say goodbye. But it’s time. Both of the previous 15 seeds to make the second weekend lost before the Elite Eight (although both covered), and I’m expecting this one to lose too.

Purdue is usually a good favorite to back and will blitz the Peacocks’ interior defense with its size advantage. KC Ndefo is a great interior defender and rim protector, but how does he keep up with Zach Edey and Trevion Williams for 40 minutes?

And after Purdue shot 46 free throws against Texas, the Boilermakers get a Saint Peter’s team that is 348th in opponent free-throw rate.

Pairing these two MLs together would give us -111 odds on FanDuel.

Pick: UCLA ML (Use as parlay piece with Purdue ML)



Iowa State vs. Miami

Friday, March 25
9:59 p.m. ET
TBS
Miami ML

By Stuckey

This basically comes down to turnovers for me.

Iowa State’s half-court offense is not pretty (20th percentile in Division I). So, the Cyclones need to get out in transition in order to score and can do so by forcing turnovers with their high-pressure defense.

For the season, Iowa State ranks fourth in turnover percentage — and we saw the Cyclones force 19 and 17 turnovers in their first two tournament wins.

However, I can’t see them duplicating that success against a Miami team that has multiple ball-handlers on the court at all times. The Canes — who ranked sixth in turnover rate — are as equipped as any team in the country to handle heavy pressure, and should make Iowa State pay for its aggression on the perimeter.

Instead, it’s actually Miami that might have much more success creating turnovers in this matchup. That was essentially the difference in the victory over USC, as the Hurricanes forced 18 turnovers and only coughed it up three times.

For the season, the Canes’ defense ranks 60th in turnover percentage. Miami may feast off of an Iowa State offense that ranks 294th in turnover percentage.

That could lead to easy Miami buckets when you consider that the Canes have the most efficient transition offense in the country, per ShotQuality. And while Iowa State has a solid transition defense, it’s much better in the half-court.

All year, Miami’s weaknesses have been interior defense and rebounding, but neither is much of a concern against the Clones. This is a good matchup for Miami, which also has the better game-planning coach by a wide margin in my eyes.

Pick: Miami ML



Iowa State vs. Miami

Friday, March 25
9:59 p.m. ET
TBS
Miami -2

By Mike McNamara

Iowa State may have two impressive wins thus far in the NCAA Tournament, but it has not faced an offense like Miami.

The Hurricanes are on another level right now, and it was on display in their two wins over USC and Auburn last week.

Charlie Moore and Isaiah Wong take tremendous care of the ball in the backcourt, and Jim Larranaga’s team has the ability to space the floor with five shooters at any given time.

While Iowa State is extremely sound defensively, this is a far more difficult challenge than what the Cyclones were tasked with against LSU and Wisconsin.

The Canes will get theirs, and I don’t really see Iowa State having the firepower to keep pace. If there’s an area to attack the Miami defense, it’s in the interior, but the Clones don’t really have a dominant big down low.

Give me the Hurricanes to advance once again, moving onto the Elite Eight in one of the biggest storylines in this year’s tournament.

Pick: Miami -2 (Play to -2.5)



Iowa State vs. Miami

Friday, March 25
9:59 p.m. ET
TBS
Miami -2

By Kyle Remillard

Iowa State has made it to the Sweet 16 thanks to its stifling defense that held LSU and Wisconsin to an average of 52 points.

But the Badgers played by far their worst offensive game of the season. Wisconsin coughed the ball up a season-high 17 times while connecting on 2-of-22 (9%) from 3-point territory — and it still took Iowa State down to the wire.

Now Iowa State will match up with a dominant Miami offense that ranks top-20 in efficiency. The key is the Hurricanes turn the ball over at the sixth-lowest rate in the country and won’t give the Cyclones easy transition opportunities.

Miami thrives at pounding the ball down low, where it converts on 55% of its 2-point field goals. That’s a problem for an Iowa State defense that ranks 214th in the country in 2-point defense.

Offensively, the Cyclones have some major issues. They turn the ball over at the 294th-highest rate in the country, and Miami’s defense is strong in taking the ball away.

T.J. Otzelberger’s group doesn’t have many outside shooting threats to spread the floor. Iowa State hits just 32% of its 3-point shot attempts (265th) and struggles from the charity stripe 68% (290th).

Iowa State has dominated the turnover battle, which has kept its season alive thus far. That won’t be the case in this matchup, as the Hurricanes average less than nine giveaways per game.

I’m backing Miami to make it to the Elite Eight, where it will await either Kansas or Providence.

Pick: Miami -2 (Play to -3)



Iowa State vs. Miami

Friday, March 25
9:59 p.m. ET
TBS
Miami -3

By BJ Cunningham

The most impressive part about Miami’s two victories over USC and Auburn is that the Hurricanes efficiently scored at the rim.

For the season, they’re at 64% on shot attempts at the rim. Against USC, they put up 1.13 PPP at the rim and then had 40 points there as well against Auburn. So, even though Iowa State is 44th in the nation in defending at the rim, I still believe that Miami will have success there.

The biggest thing with Miami is teams have to stop it in transition if they want to have any chance of keeping its offense in check.

The Hurricanes are the No. 1 team in the county in terms of efficiency in transition, while Iowa State — which is top-20 in PPP allowed in half-court defense — is barely above average defending in transition.

Miami is also top-four in the country in turnover percentage on offense, which is huge against an Iowa State defense that turns opponents over at a top-five rate, per KenPom.

The big thing for me is that if Iowa State wants to try and play this game in the half-court, it won’t work. The Cyclones feature one of the worst half-court offenses in college basketball.

They’re 336th in PPP in the half-court, per ShotQuality. In their two games so far in the tournament, they’ve failed to average over .80 PPP with their half-court offense, which is really bad.

The problem is, that’s how a team would beat Miami because the Hurricanes are 175th in defending in the half-court but 60th in transition in terms of PPP allowed.

So, this is a horrific matchup for Iowa State, which received the benefit of playing two very poor offenses in the first two rounds.

This will be a wake-up call for the Cyclones, so I love the Hurricanes -2.5.

Pick: Miami -3 (Play to -4.5)

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