Our Staff’s 5 Favorite College Basketball Bets for Championship Saturday: Duke-Florida State, More
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Florida State Seminoles guard Terance Mann (14).
You don’t want to go through Championship Saturday alone.
A whopping 13 leagues will crown their tournament champions and hand out automatic bids for the NCAA Tournament throughout the day, including the ACC, Big 12 and Big East. There are a handful more semifinals worth betting.
We’ll go where there’s value, as always. From the Ivy League to the ACC to Conference USA, here are our staff’s favorite bets for Saturday.
Ken Barkley: Wisconsin-Michigan State
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
- Pick: Wisconsin +5.5
I think this number is just a little too big considering all the factors specific to this matchup. First off, these teams only played once, a game Michigan State won by eight in Madison — but a game that was a 3-point margin with 2:30 to play.
I don’t think there’s much between these teams, and now having both played yesterday, I like Wisconsin’s condition much more.
Nick Ward hadn’t played in a long time, and now has to go on back-to-back days. How he will respond is a mystery. Also a mystery is how Cassius Winston plays after battling an injured toe that saw him play only 22 minutes.
If you’re going to tell me Foster Loyer plays out of his mind AGAIN, so be it, but with that type of production from the best player in the conference in Winston, it would make me very reluctant to take Michigan State at this kind of number.
Give me the Badgers.
Steve Petrella: Yale-Princeton
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: CBSSN
- Pick: Yale -11
Sometimes I overthink everything, so I’m going to avoid that on Saturday.
Yale is definitely laying too many points from a pure ratings perspective — they were -3.5 at Princeton just a week ago, which translates to about Yale -9.5. Our power ratings have the Bulldogs -6 on a neutral court.
But Princeton looks absolutely dead after losing star guard Devin Cannady, and they’ve lost twice to Yale this season — including an 81-59 loss at home last week.
Yale’s high-tempo offense is deadly from everywhere, and ranks 16th in effective field goal percentage nationally, so it shouldn’t have trouble getting outside a big number.
Princeton boasts strong defensive metrics overall, but has been fairly pedestrian since a great run of games in January. I’ll lay the points.
Eli Hershkovich: San Diego State-Utah State
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
- Pick: SDSU +6
With an NCAA Tournament berth on the line for the Aztecs (17-14-1 against the spread), this game screams revenge spot for me after they were trounced by the Aggies (17-15 ATS) on Feb. 26. Utah State likely has a March Madness ticket already clinched, too.
Craig Smith’s crew got the best of San Diego State on the glass (44-30) in their last meeting, feeding off its home crowd and dominating in transition as a result.
Both teams are fairly even in size, and the Aztecs utilized their fourth-ranked offensive rebounding rate (28.4%) in Mountain West play in an outright win over their league foe earlier that month. Look for a more tenacious effort from SDSU on the glass this time around.
I’d also expect a bounce-back performance from the do-it-all Jalen McDaniels (16.2 points per game), who settled for too many pull ups in their second meeting.
San Diego State produced the fourth-lowest Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (101.5 points per 100 possessions) amid its league slate, and it can’t afford for the the 6-foot-10 McDaniels to get complacent at that end.
Utah State doesn’t possess a forward that has the length and quickness to match up with him, either.
SDSU point guard Devin Watson (15.9 ppg) should also be better, as he totaled a mere five points via 2-of-12 shooting in their second matchup. He’s a 38.0% 3-point shooter, and I’d expect him to rebound from behind the arc against an Aggies’ defense allowing the second-highest 3-point scoring rate (38.8%).
Stuckey: Duke-Florida State
- Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
- Pick: Florida State +8
There is some speculation here. I don’t think Coach K is going to push Zion Williamson, who looked to be struggling just a little bit with a back issue down the stretch against UNC on Friday night.
Just like I think the Blue Devils were being cautious bringing Zion back, I think they will take that same approach on a situation where they are playing a third game in three nights. (Plus, Duke played the late game last night, while the ‘Noles played the early semifinal).
Yes, Florida State has revenge from a home loss at the buzzer earlier this season. And yes, Duke could come out flat early after such an emotional win it wanted very bad.
But more importantly, the Seminoles match up well with Duke. They should live on the offensive glass against a Duke team that struggles on the defensive boards. I think Duke will especially miss Marques Bolden tonight against this really physical, long and uber-athletic Florida State team.
Lastly, depth could be a major factor tonight for this third game in three nights. Florida State has had a tough road to the final but it can rely on its outstanding depth (30th in bench minutes nationally, per KenPom). Meanwhile, Duke is not a deep team, ranking 228th in that same category.
John Ewing: Western Kentucky-Old Dominion
- Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
- TV: CBSSN
- Pick: Under 125
In many conference tournaments, teams play on consecutive days against increasingly difficult competition. The high-pressure matchups, combined with increased player fatigue, can lead to lower scoring games. This is the third game in three days for Western Kentucky and Old Dominion.
Bettors can profit by wagering on the under in conference tournament finals. The optimal strategy of betting the under in championship games is to target games the oddsmakers expect to be low scoring (140 or fewer points).
Oddsmakers opened the total at 128 and it has been bet down to 125. Gamblers should move quick to bet the under as the line will likely continue to decrease.