NCAA Tournament Odds, Best Bets: 3 Picks for Sunday’s Early Games, Including Xavier vs. Pitt & Marquette vs. Michigan State

NCAA Tournament Odds, Best Bets: 3 Picks for Sunday’s Early Games, Including Xavier vs. Pitt & Marquette vs. Michigan State article feature image
Credit:

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images. Pictured: Marquette’s Tyler Kolek.

Day 4 of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament has arrived.

It has truly been a phenomenal weekend, with college basketball taking over the country each day. But it's not over yet.

Our staff came through with three best bets for Sunday's early NCAA Tournament games, including picks for Xavier vs. Pitt and Marquette vs. Michigan State.

Read on for all three best bets for Sunday's early games below, and be sure to check back later today for our top late-game picks.

Let's make the most of the last day of the second round.


Sunday'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 for Sunday'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.

Game
Time
Pick
12:10 p.m. ET
Xavier -4.5
12:10 p.m. ET
1H Over 71.5
5:15 p.m. ET
Marquette -2.5
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.

Xavier vs. Pitt

Sunday, March 19
12:10 p.m. ET
CBS
Xavier -4.5

By Patrick Strollo

No. 3 seed Xavier (26-9) and No. 11 seed Pitt (24-11) will face off today in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.

In first-round action, Xavier survived a scare from No. 14 seed Kennesaw State, pulling off a narrow 72-67 win.

Today’s game will be Pitt’s third of the tournament after winning a play-in game over No. 11 seed Mississippi State, 60-59, and then beating No. 6 seed Iowa State in the Round of 64, 59-41.

One of the prevailing storylines for today’s game will be surrounding Xavier head coach Sean Miller, who was a Pitt guard from 1987-92. Miller has been linked to the Pitt job in recent years through the rumor mill, and while I don’t think this will have any betting implications per se, Miller does have a history and a pretty high level of familiarity with Pitt’s program.

The Xavier defense has been playing its best basketball of late, holding 10 of its last 12 opponents to 71 points or less, including potent offenses in Creighton and Marquette in the Big East Tournament.

The rocketing defense serves as an excellent complement to an elite Musketeer offense that ranks 12th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 81.1 points per game.

Xavier has shot the ball extremely well this season and is one of the best teams in the country in effective field goal rating in large part to its ability to shoot the deep ball. The Musketeers rank fourth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, making 39.1% of their attempts.

However, in the close first-round win over Kennesaw State, Xavier shot just 1-of-7 (16.7%) from 3-point land and 22-of-52 (46.2%) from inside the arc. I expect Miller to have his team refocused and prepared for this game and certainly expect a mean-reverting shooting performance as well.

The Pitt defense has been a liability for the Panthers this season — it ranks 108th in adjusted defensive efficiency — and now gets a tough matchup today.

The Panthers have struggled on the defensive glass, ranking 201st in defensive rebound percentage. Defensive matters become complicated with center Federiko Federiko — who is second in rebounds — playing through a knee injury.

I like the Musketeers to cover here with their excellent offense looking for a bounce-back game after an abysmal 3-point shooting performance in the first round.

Look for Xavier to win the battle on the boards and the fresher Musketeers to advance.

Pick: Xavier -4.5 (Play to -5.5)


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Xavier vs. Pitt

Sunday, March 19
12:10 p.m. ET
CBS
1H Over 71.5

By Doug Ziefel

Underdogs have been very live in this tournament, and while we've seen plenty of upsets, there have also been quite a few teams that have shown out in the first half and then faded in the second half.

This matchup profiles as one of those games for the Pitt Panthers. They will play a Xavier team that has struggled to slow down teams with perimeter attacks.

The Musketeers are 275th in 3-point percentage allowed, and 34% of the field goal attempts they allow come from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for them, those tendencies play right into the strength of Pitt offensively.

The Panthers will shoot the 3 at a high volume, as long-range attempts make up 43% of their shot attempts. They've also done a solid job of converting those shots on the season, ranking 72nd in 3-point percentage.

While the Panthers may have success in this matchup, it certainly doesn't mean the Musketeers won't be able to fire back. Xavier is one of the top offensive teams in the country and a massive step up from Miss State and Iowa State.

Triples will also be in the game plan for the Musketeers, as over 39% of the points Pitt has allowed this season have come from downtown. On top of that, Xavier holds the fourth-best 3-point shooting percentage in the country.

The Musketeers may get plenty of second-chance buckets as well. Jack Nunge and Jerome Hunter have made the Musketeers an excellent offensive-rebounding team, and their efforts have Xavier sitting at 18th in second-chance opportunities.

So, while everyone may be into the early-game first-half under trend, this matchup has all the pieces to buck it.

Pick: 1H Over 71.5 (Play to 72.5)



Marquette vs. Michigan State

Sunday, March 19
5:15 p.m. ET
CBS
Marquette -2.5

By Shane McNichol

This game gets decided by two matchups, one on each end of the floor.

When Michigan State has the ball, Sparty’s guards will look to penetrate off the dribble to create offense. I’d expect whoever is being guarded by Tyler Kolek, the weakest perimeter defender in Marquette’s lineup, to be particularly aggressive.

Marquette, however, has been playing much better defense of late, with the Golden Eagles’ performances against UConn and Xavier in the Big East Tournament standing among their best performances of the season.

Marquette played defense with a high energy level and utilized frequent, quick rotations, leading me to believe the Eagles can handle Sparty’s guards.

On the other end, Michigan State needs to be ready for Kolek’s wizardry in the pick-and-roll game. Big men Mady Sissoko and Joey Hauser need to be able to cover ground and hold their own, as Kolek and frequent pick-partner Oso Ighodaro work in space.

I’m more confident in Sissoko’s chances there but less confident he can stay out of foul trouble and keep pace with Ighodaro in transition.

Taking Shaka Smart while he’s giving points to Tom Izzo in March feels wrong, but Marquette is the better team here and better suited for this matchup. Give me the Big East champs.


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