NCAAB Odds, Picks for NC State vs Creighton

NCAAB Odds, Picks for NC State vs Creighton article feature image

Getty Images. Design by Matt Roembke/Action Network. Pictured from left: Ryan Kalkbrenner of Creighton and Terquavion Smith of NC State.

NC State vs Creighton Odds

Friday, March 17
4 p.m. ET
NC State Odds
-110o / -110u
Creighton Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The NCAA tournament selection committee has quite the job building the puzzle that is the 68-team bracket every March. No matter how they organize things, fascinating matchups are bound to crop up.

That's the case here, with the Creighton Bluejays meeting the NC State Wolfpack.

Creighton has a claim as the most underseeded team in the tournament, sitting at 12th in KenPom but earning just a six-seed.

The Bluejays will be treated to a game against one of the best backcourts in college basketball, with NC State's top-two scorers always a risk to get red hot at a moment's notice.

Since 2010, 11-seeds actually have a winning record in their battles with 6-seeds. Is Creighton on upset alert here, or is this the first step in its path to a deep run in March?

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NC State Wolfpack

Kevin Keatts runs his offense through two of the best off-the-dribble playmakers in the country in Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner. That duo combines for north of 34 points per game as they take turns driving the Wolfpack attack.

This two-man hero ball strategy has its advantages. Joiner and Smith take care of the ball incredibly well for players with so much usage off the dribble. NC State turns the ball over at the third-lowest rate in the country and the lowest rate in the ACC this season.

Perhaps, however, the Wolfpack don't turn the ball over because Smith and Joiner are too busy jacking up inefficient shots with little to no ball movement.

Those 34 combined points come on 29.4 field goal attempts per game. Smith shoots over eight deep balls per game at a percentage beneath the national average and is shooting just 37.7% from the field.

NC State ranks 325th nationally in Assist Rate and last in the ACC in that metric. If you trust your individual defenders on an island against this team, the Wolfpack are unlikely to beat you with scheme or off-ball movement.

Defensively, NC State veers towards hack-happy tendencies, leading the ACC in free-throw rate allowed and percentage of points allowed at the foul line. The Wolfpack did allow just 31.5% shooting on 3s in ACC play, though that number could be due for a regression performance in March.

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Creighton Bluejays

The Bluejays were underseeded compared to their talent and ceiling, though its hard to quibble with their actual resume compared to this bracket placement.

Non-conference wins over Texas Tech and Arkansas lost their luster as the season continued, and while the Bluejays lost single-possession or overtime games to Arizona, Texas, Arizona State, Xavier, Providence and Marquette, those go on the team sheet as losses.

That series of close losses make Creighton's record look worse than the product on the court. KenPom's "Luck" metric, which measures exactly that phenomenon, pegs Creighton as the "unluckiest" team among the 68 that made the tourney field.

Beyond that issue, Creighton went 0-3 with its best player — center Ryan Kalkbrenner — sidelined due to illness earlier this season.

Kalkbrenner is among the short list of players who could gripe about being excluded from the AP All-American teams released this week. His impact is felt in a massive way on both ends of the court.

This all adds up the Bluejays being underseeded, yet far from a sure thing to walk into the tournament's second weekend. The Bluejays still have their flaws. Greg McDermott's bench has been nonexistent, with Creighton ranking 349th in bench minutes this season.

Additionally, when this team goes cold, its offense really dries up. In notable losses this season, Creighton had 3-point shooting performances of 4-for-27 at Texas, 4-for-20 at Marquette, 2-for-16 at UConn and 5-for-26 at Villanova.

NC State vs Creighton Betting Pick

This game comes down to two matchups.

The first is Creighton's guards defending the NC State backcourt. We're likely to see Ryan Nembhard on Joiner and Trey Alexander covering Smith.

Nembhard is a solid defender, and Alexander is among the best in the Big East. Even if NC State tries to hunt for switches or take advantage of Kalkbrenner in drop coverage, Creighton has excelled at rotating and defending ball-screen actions this year.

The other key matchup comes in the paint, where Kalkbrenner will need to grapple with D.J. Burns Jr. The difference in playing styles and body types here is cartoonish. Kalkbrenner is a slender 7-foot-1, 260 pounds, while Burns is a bowling ball (generously) listed at 6-foot-9, 275 pounds.

Kalkbrenner should be able to operate with his hooks and floaters over Burns, even if the burlier Burns makes it difficult for him to earn position.

If the Bluejays get out in transition, Kalkbrenner could earn several buckets just by winning the race to the rim.

Both of those key matchups lean Creighton's way, making it my pick here. NC State can keep it close to steal a win on the backs of Smith and Joiner's heroics, but that isn't the smart place to put your money.

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