NCAA Tournament Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Favorite Bets on Sunday
Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Nickeil Walker-Alexander.
Let’s end the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in style.
Here are there five favorite plays for Sunday’s second round games.
Eli Hershkovich: Texas Tech-Buffalo
- Time: 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT
- Pick: Texas Tech -3.5
The Red Raiders (16-16-1 against the spread) are well-known for the highest-rated Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (85.6 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) in the nation, which is in position to stymie Buffalo’s inconsistent perimeter attack (33.6%).
But Chris Beard’s interior offense is also set up to have success, as the Bulls have let up the 30th-highest 2-point scoring rate (53.8%).
Expect Jarrett Culver (18.8 points per game) and Co. to thrive off the dribble, opening up their 3-point attack with Davide Moretti (46.4%) and Matt Mooney (38.6%).
For more on this matchup, here’s our betting guide.
Ken Barkley: Virginia Tech vs. Liberty
- Time: 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS
- Pick: Virginia Tech -8.5
I have this as the second-largest disparity between teams of the entire day (after UNC-Washington) but yet it’s being lined like something much different.
The number is just too short, and that doesn’t even count the possible improved performance of Justin Robinson now that he’s had a game under his belt.
When he was healthy, Virginia Tech was top-10 good, maybe even top-5 good. And I think when put up against Liberty’s metrics, that means this spread should be in double-digits.
Liberty will attempt the same strategy that worked in spades in its upset of Mississippi State — long possessions, ball movement, and hitting a ton of 3’s. Against the Bulldogs, they hit barely enough to survive, but is that really repeatable?
Mississippi State was an atrocious 3-point defensive team, and the Hokies are much more respectable. I’d look for Liberty’s shooting to come down to Earth, and for them to have as much trouble containing Virginia Tech’s excellent guards as they did with Mississippi State’s.
Stuckey: Virginia Tech-Liberty
- Time: 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS
- Pick: Under 124.5
We have a snail race on our hands in San Jose. The Hokies are in no rush, ranking 337th in Adjusted Tempo, per KenPom. And the Flames are even slower at 349th in that same category. Those are both bottom 20 in the country.
Liberty is getting too many points in a game that should be an absolute grinder, and the under is certainly worth a look. The Flames also have the personnel to succeed against Virginia Tech’s defense, but the Hokies still have an elite unit.
Mike Randle: Ohio State-Houston
- Time: 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT
- Pick: Houston -5.5
Houston produced one of the most impressive performances of the opening round, throttling Georgia State 84-59. The Cougars were relentless on the boards, outrebounding the Panthers 51-27.
While Ohio State scored an upset 62-59 over Iowa State in the first round, they will face a completely different skill set with the Cougars. Houston’s defense is one of the best in the country, ranking first overall in defensive effective field goal percentage. They are also second best against the 3P and fifth best against the 2P.
Houston is also a better version of Ohio State on offense. The Cougars have better efficiency from 2P and 3P range, and are better on the offensive boards. The most underrated part of head coach Kelvin Sampson’s crew is that they have 10 players that play 10 or more minutes. Foul trouble rarely affects this team.
Ohio State is facing a much better version of themselves in Houston. I expect the Cougars to get up early and roll the Buckeyes to earn a trip to the Sweet 16.
Steve Petrella: Oregon-UC Irvine
- Time: 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS
- Pick: Under 124
This Oregon defense is just playing at another level right now, allowing less than .86 points per possession in seven of nine games. We saw it in Friday’s win over Wisconsin. UC Irvine leads the country in 2-point percentage, which should play right into the Ducks’ hands.
The same is true on the other side. The Anteaters have an elite interior defense, giving up just a 46.9% clip on field goals at the rim.
Both teams had above average offensive performances in their opening round games, but I’m not counting on that again.