NCAA Tournament Odds, Best Bets: 5 Top Picks for Friday Night’s Games, Including Arizona State vs. TCU
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Desmond Cambridge Jr. (Arizona State)
The first round of the NCAA tournament isn’t over quite yet.
After diving into the early games on Friday, we have picks for the night/late-night slate.
Our staff provides the top NCAA tournament odds, picks and five best bets for Friday night’s games, including Arizona State vs. TCU and more.
Friday Night’s 5 NCAA Tournament Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Friday night’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|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.|
Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Purdue
By D.J. James
The Purdue Boilermakers have had some close games down the stretch of Big Ten regular season play and in the conference tournament, but they are a phenomenal offense.
With Zach Edey, it’s hard for most teams to match up with them, let alone one of the worst defenses in the country in the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.
FDU ranks 359th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 352nd in eFG%, per KenPom. It’s allowing teams to shoot 56.1% from 2-point range and 36.2% from 3.
Purdue shoots 32.6% from deep, but it hits 54.1% from inside. The kicker is that Purdue ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage and 14th in defensive rebounding percentage. FDU ranks 94th and 200th, respectively.
This could be a bloodbath on the offensive glass in favor of Edey and the Boilermakers.
Since the Knights give up a 3-point attempt rate of 39.7%, Purdue should be able to knock down some 3s, too.
Purdue’s defense is not a slouch this season, either. It ranks 23rd in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, limiting opponents to 31.4% from deep and 47.3% from inside the arc. FDU does own an eFG% of 51.7%, so it has a little offensive firepower, but Purdue will do enough to get stops.
Lastly, FDU does force turnovers (21.4% rate), but the Boilermakers are a different tier of team than the Knights have faced consistently. In addition, Purdue turns it over around 17% of the time.
Either way, Purdue should win in a landslide, and perhaps the biggest margin for a one-seed this year.
Pick: Purdue -23 (Play to -24)
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Drake vs. Miami
By Brett Pund
I went with a 12-seed in my earlier best bet entry, and I’m going back to that matchup again in the Midwest Region by backing Drake against Miami.
The handicap is also similar to that first game, as well. I want to bet on the team that has been playing the better basketball over the last month, which has been the Bulldogs.
If you also look at the weakest unit of the court, it will be a Hurricanes defense that is outside the top 130 in multiple categories, according to Bart Torvik, including AdjD (134th), EFG% (220th) and defending 2-pointers (255th).
Miami will have Norchad Omier in the lineup, but the big man — who averages 13.6 points per game and leads the team in rebounding and blocks — could be limited due to an injury.
I also love how Drake has played away from home recently, posting a 7-2 mark against the spread in road or neutral games. I like that to continue with the upset on Friday.
Pick: Drake ML +110 (Play to +100)
Montana State vs. Kansas State
Montana State is a team that not a lot of people are going to be talking about, but the Bobcats are an incredibly dangerous opponent for Kansas State in the first round.
The Wildcats largely benefited from being very good in Manhattan and getting some late-game variance to go their way.
The Wildcats were 16-1 at home this season versus just 7-9 in neutral or games away from home. They’re also seventh-worst in college basketball in “Away from Home” metric, per Haslem Metrics.
They’re kind of a one trick pony because they need to be able to score at the rim for their offense to function properly.
The Wildcats are the third-highest frequency team in the country in shot attempts coming at the rim (45%). They’re also the highest frequency back-cutting team in the country. Montana State is sixth in the country in PPP allowed at the rim and 19th in PPP allowed on back cuts, per ShotQuality.
Kansas State is only shooting 34% from 3-point range and a lot of those shots are contested looks, as it’s 297th in Open 3-Point Rate.
Not to mention, KSU has also had turnover issues all season long, as it owns a 20% turnover rate, which is 299th in the country. Montana State is turning opponents over at a top-75 rate in the country.
Montana State finished the season winning 14 of its final 15 games in the Big Sky. It’s an incredibly experienced team, with four upperclassmen in the starting five, including a dynamic scorer in former Washington guard RaeQuan Battle.
Battle is fourth in the country in percentage of shots taken when he’s on the floor.
The biggest thing with the Bobcats is they need to get the ball inside and they need to get to the free-throw line (top-10 rate in the nation). They take a lot of mid-range jumpers and run a lot of post-up sets, while Kansas State is 298th in free-throw rate allowed.
Kansas State has a really good 3-point defense, but that’s not going to matter in this game, as Montana State doesn’t take a high number of 3-point shots.
So, I think this is a fantastic matchup for the Bobcats, and I love them at +8.
Pick: Montana State +8 (Play to +7)
Kent State vs. Indiana
Indiana couldn’t have asked for a worse draw than Kent State in a 4 vs. 13 matchup.
Defense is the Golden Flashes’ calling card. Like Northwestern, which has given IU problems this season, Kent State traps the post at an extremely high rate.
The Flashes are top-20 in defending finishes at the rim, per ShotQuality, and have one of the best on-ball defenders in Malique Jacobs, who will be glued to Jalen Hood-Schifino all night.
This is going to be a grudge match. Kent State went wire-to-wire with Houston and Gonzaga on the road in non-conference play and breezed through the MAC.
It’s because of its defensive pressure and ability to force turnovers — 20th in TO rate. The Flashes guard both the perimeter and interior extremely efficiently.
Kent State gives up a lot of 3-point attempts, but this is an Indiana squad that rarely attacks from the perimeter. The Hoosiers run through Trayce Jackson-Davis in the post or pick-and-roll. He is the engine of this offense.
The key here — and why I expect a lower-scoring game — is Indiana’s defense, which should also give Kent State fits. The Golden Flashes force plenty of turnovers, but they have been largely inefficient with their offensive possessions.
Sincere Carry is the primary ball handler, but he shoots just 30% from the perimeter. As a whole, Kent State ranks outside the top 200, and it’ll be shorthanded with Giovanni Santiago (39.5% from 3) out.
The Golden Flashes run isolation at one of the highest rates in the country, working through the pick-and-roll and on cuts to create offense. The issue is Indiana’s interior defense has been grading out highly with Race Thompson back in the lineup, and IU ranks 22nd in 2-point%.
Indiana doesn’t force turnovers, but it’s an athletic squad that often forces opponents into late shot-clock situations. Both teams are extremely efficient defending in transition and match up well against one another.
Expect this slugfest of a game to go down to the wire. In Kent State’s two games against top-10 teams — top-15 offenses, too — there were 93 and 139 points scored.
Given both teams’ matchup strengths on defense, I’m expecting another low-scoring game in what could very well be a Golden Flashes upset.
Pick: Under 140.5 (Play to 139)
Arizona State vs. TCU
No. 6 seed TCU will face No. 11 seed Arizona State in the final game of the Round of 64 in the West Region at Ball Arena in Denver, CO.
Arizona State comes into the game after a resounding victory in the First Four, while TCU will look to brush itself off after losing to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal.
Both teams have relied on their defenses extensively to get to this point, and I expect that to continue to be the case this evening as we look for a lower-scoring affair.
TCU features the 21st-ranked defense in the nation in AdjD and Arizona State has the 33rd-ranked unit.
The Arizona State defense will have its hands full with the TCU offense, but the Frogs have underperformed considerably this year from the 3-point line, finishing the season ranked 338th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage.
Like TCU, Arizona State hasn’t exactly been draining the deep ball. On the season, the Sun Devils are ranked 292nd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, making 31.9% of their attempts.
Both teams are coming off of games in which they significantly outperformed their season averages (ASU — 52.4% and TCU — 42.1%), and I think that both units could likely see a mean reversion — and perhaps one of the two shoot below their season average.
A mean reversion — coupled with what should be a defensive-centric battle — has me leaning to the under, especially since we have seen available markets creep up from the opening line of 141.
My model is projecting a total of 138.5, based on a weighted factor model of season averages. I think it makes sense to ride with the strengths of both defenses, as we anticipate that at least one of the two teams suffers from downside 3-point variance.
Pick: Under 142.5 (Play to 141.5)
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