2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: LSU vs. St. Bonaventure (March 20)

2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: LSU vs. St. Bonaventure (March 20) article feature image
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Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: St. Bonaventure guard Kyle Lofton

  • The latest LSU vs. St. Bonaventure odds have Tigers as a 2-point favorite in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
  • The 9-seeded St. Bonaventure Bonnies play slow and excel on defense while the No. 8-seeded LSU Tigers play fast and have some dynamic scoring.
  • Our college basketball betting analysts make their LSU vs. St. Bonaventure betting pick and break down the full matchup.

LSU vs. St. Bonaventure Odds

LSU Odds -1.5
St. Bonaventure Odds +1.5
Moneyline -124 / +104 
Over/Under 144.5
Time Saturday, 1:45 p.m. ET
TV TNT
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings

This should be one of the most exciting games of the first round. The oddsmakers agree, as the game features one of the closest spreads of the opening round.

Both teams come into this game playing great basketball. The Bonnies were very impressive in the A-10 title game last Sunday, defeating VCU 75-65 in a game they controlled wire to wire. The Tigers had a strong finish to the season as well, winning four straight before falling in a heartbreaker to Alabama in the SEC championship.

It’s an intriguing matchup from an X’s and O’s standpoint as well, as the Bonnies play slow and disciplined ball while the Tigers love to speed things up and shoot plenty of 3-pointers. The coaches are very familiar with each other, as LSU head coach Will Wade faced Mark Schmidt and the Bonnies regularly in his previous stint at VCU.

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LSU

Collin Wilson: Cameron Thomas is one of the best freshmen in the nation, and stopping LSU means putting the handcuffs on its best player.

The Tigers have been excellent on offense, beating teams from all angles of the court with the country’s 35th-fastest offensive tempo. But the defensive side of the ball is where LSU has struggled in SEC play. Head coach Will Wade finished with a squad ranked 299th in defensive rebounding and 335th in non-steal turnover percentage LSU had a magnificent run to the SEC Championship before suffering a last-second loss to Alabama.

The Tigers’ surge in Nashville was due to an increase in offensive efficiency, as their defense continued to dip throughout postseason play.

In general, true national-title contenders will have a combined offensive and defensive efficiency rank of 50 or better. While LSU has a top-10 offense, its defense — which will press and generally drop into a matchup zone — ranks outside the top 100. And even with that subpar ranking, the Tigers have been a bit fortunate in regards to their opponents’ 3-point shooting. Despite allowing a 3P-rate ranking outside the top 300, opponents have connected on only 30.1% of their shots beyond the arc on the season (22nd in Division I).

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Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Thomas.

Regression could be looming for an already suspect defense, which would spell disaster for LSU in the tournament. The offense is superb by every measure, but I just don’t think the Tigers can get enough stops against elite teams to make a deep run.

St. Bonaventure

Pat McMahon: The Bonnies enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. They’ve won six of their last seven, and were both the A-10’s regular-season and tournament champion.

Mark Schmidt’s club is incredibly disciplined and well-coached. It’s a veteran group with five junior starters. These factors help make up for the Bonnies’ lack of depth — no team relies on its starters more than St. Bonaventure.

The Bonnies are efficient on both ends of the floor and play at a slow pace (319th in adjusted tempo).

The defense is the backbone of this team and has been incredible all season. The Bonnies rank 17th in adjusted defensive efficiency and have the nation’s fifth best scoring defense, surrendering just 60.4 points per game.

Center Osun Osunniyi, the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, anchors the defense in the paint. He uses his 7-foot-8 wingspan and incredible instincts to block 2.9 shots per game and alter many more. The only real weakness to this defense is Osunniyi can be prone to foul trouble, and the defense takes a major step back when he’s forced to sit.

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Al Bello/Getty Images. Pictured: St. Bonaventure’s Osun Osunniyi.

The strength of the Bonnies’ offense lies in its balance. All five starters average double figures, with Kyle Lofton leading the way at 14.6 points per game. Lofton is the most important player on offense, as he runs the point and leads the team in assists as well (5.5 per game).

He had an abysmal start to the season from 3-point range and sits at just 25.4% for the year, but he’s been much better of late and has the confidence back in his jumper. Lofton hit 4 of his 5 3-point attempts in the A-10 Championship game, a great sign for the Bonnies heading into the tournament.

Beyond Lofton, the other guards can really shoot it. Dom Welch (40.8%), Jaren Holmes (39.4%), and sixth man Alejandro Vasquez (36.4%) have been terrific from beyond the arc and bring the team average up to a solid 35.4%.

Forward Jalen Adaway is undersized for his position but makes up for it with his elite athleticism. His blend of quickness, strength, and touch around the rim helps create frequent mismatches.

Both Adaway and Osunniyi crash the offensive glass hard, leading the Bonnies to an impressive 31.9% offensive rebounding rate, per Team Rankings.

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Matchup & Betting Analysis

Pat McMahon: With complete opposite styles of play colliding, this game will likely be decided by whichever team is able to assert its style and control the pace. The Bonnies are the better bet to do so because they are a more disciplined and well-coached team.

They start five juniors, three of whom have been on campus and in the starting lineup since their freshmen seasons. This group has great chemistry, and they’re incredibly balanced on offense. I don’t see the LSU press giving the Bonnies much issue thanks to the steady head of Lofton. They handled the VCU press without much difficulty last week, committing only 10 turnovers.

The Bonnies are a streaky outside shooting team, and they’ll need to hit some shots against the LSU zone. However, they should be able to take advantage of LSU’s poor defensive rebounding ability when the shots aren’t falling. The Bonnies are a top 30 offensive rebounding unit, grabbing their own misses 32% of the time.

On the other end of the floor, the key will be slowing down Thomas and Trendon Watford, which is not an easy task. As long as Osunniyi can avoid foul trouble, the Tigers won’t have an easy time scoring in the paint. His rim protecting ability and Adaway’s athleticism will be key in defending Watford. The Bonnies will likely throw several defenders at Thomas and will try to run him off the 3-point line. The perimeter defense has been strong all season, as the Bonnies are limiting opponents to just 30.6% from beyond the arc.

The Tigers opened as 2-point favorites, but the spread is down to 1-1.5 at most books. I suspect it’ll hover in this range until tip-off but I don’t think we’ll see it get back up to 2. I like the veteran Bonnies to win a close one, and I’d play them up to -1.

Pick: St. Bonaventure +1.5 (to -1)

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