NCAA Tournament Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 6 Favorite Plays on Friday

NCAA Tournament Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 6 Favorite Plays on Friday article feature image

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tacko Fall

The Madness has just begun.

The 2019 NCAA Tournament continues on Friday (12:15 p.m. ET) with 16 more games taking you deep into the night.

The beautiful thing about March Madness is that, no matter if you’re bracket is already busted or you had a rough day yesterday, there’s another game right around the corner.

Our staffers took a long look at the 16-game slate and picked their favorite bets below.

Happy Friday, ya’ll.

Eli Hershkovich: UC Irvine vs. Kansas State

  • Time: 2 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Pick: UC Irvine +4.5

The Wildcats (19-14 ATS) will be without their second-leading scorer Dean Wade (12.9 points per game) in the Round of 64, and he’s doubtful for their entire stay in NCAA Tournament with a foot injury.

Bruce Weber’s already-inconsistent offense (230th-ranked eFG%) was at its best while working inside-out through Wade. Expect the Anteaters 57th-ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (97.4 opponents’ points per 100 possessions), yielding the lowest 2-point clip (40.6%) in the country.

Look for their nine-man rotation to wear down the Wildcats shortened-unit, especially via their sound man-to-man defense. At the other end, UC Irvine guards Max Hazzard (12.5 ppg) and Evan Leonard (11.9 ppg) have guided their squad to the 93rd-highest 3-point clip (36.0%) in the country.

Kansas State has manufactured the fourth-rated AdjD (87.9 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) in Division I, but it’s been susceptible from behind the arc, giving up the 90th-highest 3-point scoring rate (34.4%). Expect Irvine to make K-State pay from that vicinity, leading it to a cover.

Stuckey: UC Irvine vs. Kansas State

  • Time: 2 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Pick: UC Irvine +4.5

Without Wade on the floor, Irvine’s defense should absolutely suffocate Kansas State’s offense, like Eli mentioned.

Wade means so much to the Wildcat offense. He’s a matchup nightmare who can space the floor and find the open man with his plus passing skills.

Wade was not only K-State’s best shooter, but the attention he demanded opened up so much for the offense.

Wade’s jump shot will be especially missed since the Anteaters give up zilch at the rim. Irvine always has a ton of size under head coach Russell Turner, who emphasizes protecting the interior.

Just take a look at Irvine’s national ranks in 2-point shooting defense over the past seven seasons.

Kansas State just doesn’t have the shooters to exploit a UCI defense that makes a living on forcing bad shots (No. 5 in effective field goal percentage).

With this game being played in California and the Anteaters having the necessary size and experience to hang with K-State, I like UC Irvine to pull off the upset.

John Ewing: Oregon vs. Wisconsin

  • Time: 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
  • Pick: Oregon +2

Defense wins championships. And it’s is also key for covering the spread.

Since 2005, teams that held their previous opponent to less than 60 points have gone 210-168-10 (55.6%) ATS in the NCAA Tournament. In the Pac-12 championship game, Oregon limited Washington to 48 points in a win.

Teams, like the Ducks, off a strong defensive showing have performed even better if they are underdogs.

Mike Randle: Washington vs. Utah State

  • Time: 6:50 p.m. ET, TNT
  • Pick: Washington +3

The Huskies dominated the Pac-12 for most of the season with their stifling zone defense. They are incredibly active in the passing lanes, ranking fourth in the country in defensive turnover percentage. Senior Matisse Thybulle is the two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year averaging 2.3 blocks and leads the nation with 3.44 steals per game.

Utah State is a solid overall defensive team (44th in adjusted defensive efficiency) but is very vulnerable from beyond the arc. The Aggies were last in conference play in 3P defense, allowing opponents to shoot 38.8% from beyond the arc.

Washington always controls the tempo against a team that is unfamiliar with their style, and if players like Jaylen Nowell (43.8%) and David Crisp (37.4% 3P) get hot from deep, the Huskies have more than enough to pull the upset.

Ken Barkley: UCF vs. VCU

  • Time: 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS
  • Pick: UCF -1

A very weird game for a couple reasons. VCU’s best player, Marcus Evans, is battling a knee injury and reportedly will play, but cannot possibly be at full strength. There should be more of an adjustment for that than we’ve seen in the market, considering how much he means to the team, and how much they struggle offensively even when he’s out there.

Secondly, UCF qualifies for a trend that generally only affects top seeds. When one team has a 100-place adjusted offensive efficiency advantage (so if I was first, and you were 101st, that would be a 100-place advantage), that team is 47-7 the last five years in the NCAA Tournament.

Rarely in the 8-9 games do you see a complete imbalance like this, and in tournament games in general, if your team is imbalanced you will generally be exploited and eliminated … quickly. I’ll take the healthier team with a giant advantage at one end of the court, who somehow is only giving a point.

Steve Petrella: Ohio State vs. Iowa State

  • Time: 9:50 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Pick: Ohio State +6

There are two conference tournament champions being wildly overrated on Friday — Cincinnati -4 vs. Iowa, and Iowa State -5.5/-6 vs. Ohio State.

The Cyclones definitely appeared to figure some things in the Big 12 Tournament, but that’s baked into this price and then some at -6.

You might be focusing on how Iowa State’s offense matches up with Ohio State’s defense — the two best units in the game. But I think the Buckeyes’ offense has a slight edge over its opposition.

Ohio State is a totally different team with Kaleb Wesson, who missed the last three games of the regular season. And that will be apparent on Friday.

Iowa State hasn’t seen a player like the 6-foot-9, 270-pounder, one of the country’s best rebounders. He also gets to the line like nobody else — 6.8 times per 40 minutes, top 25 nationally.

Per, The Cyclones’ defense ranks 303rd in effective FG% at the rim, while Ohio State is top 65 on offense — what the Buckeyes do best. The matchup in transition is much more even, with both teams ranking on the top 100. Wesson does enough to get this number to the window.

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