NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks: 3 Best Bets for Saturday’s Early Games, Including Kansas vs. Arkansas & More

NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks: 3 Best Bets for Saturday’s Early Games, Including Kansas vs. Arkansas & More article feature image

Ed Zurga/Getty Images. Pictured: Kansas’ Kevin McCullar.

  • The second round of the NCAA tournament is here, and we're kicking things off with three best bets for the early games.
  • Tennessee takes on Duke in Orlando, Florida while Arkansas squares off with Kansas in Iowa.
  • Here's how our staff is betting these two matchups.

The second round of the NCAA Tournament kicks off Saturday, as all 32 teams remaining look to move onto the Sweet 16.

With eight games on the docket today, our staff came through with three best bets for Saturday's three early games: San Diego State vs. Furman, Tennessee vs. Duke and Kansas vs. Arkansas.

Be sure to check back later today for our late-game best bets, as well as our betting coverage for tomorrow's action.

Let's start Saturday off on the right foot.

Saturday's Early NCAA Tournament Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Saturday's early NCAA Tournament games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

12:10 p.m. ET
Furman +5.5
2:40 p.m. ET
Under 128.5
5:15 p.m. ET
Over 142.5
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

San Diego State vs. Furman

Saturday, March 18
12:10 p.m. ET
Furman +5.5

By Shane McNichol

It can be dangerous to bet based on conference success rather than the two teams actually playing on the floor. Yet, at this point, I don’t know how anyone in their right mind can feel good about betting a Mountain West team in the NCAA Tournament.

Thanks to a foul with 0.7 seconds left, the Mountain West got its first cover in ages. Now 15-38-1 ATS (28.3%) over past 54 tourney games

— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) March 17, 2023

That’s far from a small sample size, making that more of a trend than an anomaly.

Even when you take a deeper look at the teams playing Saturday afternoon, Furman comes out favorably.

San Diego State beat only one tournament team during the nonconference schedule, a home win over Kennesaw State. If not for a 5-of-24 outside shooting performance by Charleston, the Aztecs likely would not have advanced.

Furman, meanwhile, has proven that it’s capable of competing against better teams if the game stays in the Paladins’ comfort zone. An early-season duel against Penn State — or the first-round win over Virginia — shows that, unlike a blowout loss against a springy, athletic NC State team.

San Diego State is far more like the former teams listed, playing at the 254th-ranked tempo in the nation and possessing capable athletes — but not the kind Furman can’t handle.

Even if the Aztecs can shake the Mountain West curse, the Paladins can keep this close.

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Tennessee vs. Duke

Saturday, March 18
2:40 p.m. ET
Under 128.5

By Patrick Strollo

It has been an up-and-down season for Tennessee. At times, the Volunteers have looked like a team that could do it al. Then at other points in the season, they’ve seemed like a squad that could get bounced early from the tournament.

Tennessee now finds itself at a crossroads after losing four of its last eight games and barely sneaking by Louisiana in the opening round.

The constant has been its ability to play strong defense all season.

Duke, meanwhile, had trouble finding its footing after a slow start to the season under first-year head coach Jon Scheyer. Scheyer and the Blue Devils eventually found their groove, winning 10 straight, including the ACC Tournament, dating back to Feb. 14.

Now, Duke appears to be one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Both teams are at different points of the momentum paradigm this season, but there’s a commonality that ties these two teams together when juxtaposed. Defensive grit has been a mainstay for both programs all season, and Tennessee and Duke enter today’s game with the second- and 17th-most efficient defenses in the nation, per KenPom, respectively.

Putting their money where their mouth is, these teams have been cash cows for under bettors this season as well. Tennessee has an under record of 20-13-1 (60.6%), and Duke is a slightly more impressive 21-13-1 (61.6%).

It’s hard to tell which offensive unit is going to come out for Tennessee, but we know that one of the best defenses in the nation is going to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. Duke will bring the same defensive focus but will be met with its toughest defensive test of the season.

I like the under in this game, even at the low line of 128.5, and expect to see both defenses on full display. I’m expecting the Tennessee defense to do enough to slow down the hot Blue Devils and make this a close affair.

My model is predicting a total of 123.5, and I recommend playing this at 128.5 or better.

Kansas vs. Arkansas

Saturday, March 18
5:15 p.m. ET
Over 142.5

By BJ Cunningham

For Arkansas' offense to be successful, it has to get the ball inside and into the midrange. The Razorbacks shoot 64% of their field goal attempts either at the rim or in the midrange, so they naturally have one of the lowest 3-point rates in the country.

They’re top-20 in the nation in PPP at the rim, which will be a big key in this game. While Kansas is a top-60 team defending at the rim, Howard still scored 28 points at the rim in the first round after entering the game ranked 323rd in PPP at the rim.

The key in this game for Arkansas’ defense is going to be its ability to defend the 3-point line. The Hogs got away with giving Illinois way too many good looks from 3-point range, as eight of the Illini's 22 3-pointers were classified as "open 3-point shots."

Kansas is a streaky 3-point shooting team, but Arkansas also benefited from playing in the worst 3-point shooting conference in college basketball this season.

Defensively, Kansas has been good this season. What the Jayhawks have done such a good job of is defending the 3-point line, but that isn't really going to matter in this game since Arkansas rarely takes 3s.

The biggest thing in this matchup is going to be Kansas' ability to defend in transition. Arkansas is eighth in the country in PPP in transition, while Kansas is 130th defensively.

The pace of this game is likely going to be incredibly fast, with both teams playing at a 78-possession pace in the first round and also having advantages in transition.

Not to mention, Arkansas gets to the free-throw line at a top-25 rate in the country, which is something Kansas is very average at defensively.

So, I love the value on over 143.5 points.

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