NCAA Tournament Best Bets: Our Top Second Round Picks, Including Creighton vs. Ohio & Florida State vs. Colorado (Monday, March 22)
Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Scottie Barnes.
- It's the last full day of college basketball until the weekend.
- To make the most of it, our staff broke down six bets from four different games, including Michigan vs. LSU and Florida State vs. Colorado.
- Check out each individual pick complete with a full betting breakdown below.
The Sweet 16 is almost here, but first, let’s enjoy our last full day of basketball until the weekend.
Our staff is doing just that on this fine hoops-filled Monday.
They broke down six bets for four games ahead of Monday night’s tip-offs, including (11) UCLA vs. (14) Abilene Christian, (5) Creighton vs. (13) Ohio, (1) Michigan vs. (8) LSU, and (4) Florida State vs. (5) Colorado.
Check out each individual pick before, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to any specific game.
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
(11) UCLA vs. (14) Abilene Christian
There are three factors I’m looking at in this game, two of which tilt toward the Bruins.
As with every Abilene Christian game, turnovers will be key. The Wildcats lead the nation in forcing turnovers on a per-possession basis.
In Abilene Christian’s upset win over Texas, the Longhorns coughed the ball up time after time, racking up 23 turnovers. That led to a massive disparity in scoring chances, with the Wildcats attempting 27 more field goals than Texas. With that discrepancy, Abilene Christian shot under 30% from the field but still eked out a win.
UCLA, unlike Texas, takes care of the ball. The Longhorns rank 264th in the nation in turnover rate offensively. They were susceptible to Abilene Christian’s game plan. UCLA ranks 40th in the nation in turnover rate and has capable ball handlers throughout its lineup.
A second key factor: UCLA’s lineup is well-suited to match up against the Wildcats. Abilene Christian plays three or more players standing smaller than 6-foot-3 regularly.
That helps the Wildcats create quick defensive pressure, but in the half-court, someone on UCLA is going to be able to capitalize. Either Johnny Juzang or Jules Bernard should be able to get looks in the mid-range and at the rim over a smaller defender.
The possible saving grace for Abilene Christian comes in the frontcourt.
The Wildcats were led in scoring this year by 7-footer Kolton Kohl. Against Texas, he was outmatched by the Longhorns size and athleticism. He only played 18 minutes and scored six points on six field goal attempts. He’ll have more success against UCLA.
Abilene Christian feeding the ball into the post to win with twos likely won’t be enough to keep up with the Bruins, assuming UCLA takes care of the ball. The upset over Texas was emotional and wild, but the Bruins should be prepared to end ACU’s run.
(5) Creighton vs. (13) Ohio
No shocker here but I’m going back to the Bobcats, who I still think remain undervalued in the market even after pulling off the upset of Virginia.
Led by NBA prospect Jason Preston and a plethora of other capable shooters, the offense has remained a rocket ship all season, ranking 30th in adjusted efficiency and 15th in effective field goal percentage, per KenPom.
However, it’s the increased production on the defensive end that has helped Ohio put everything together at just the right time with four straight victories — including three straight comprehensive victories over higher seeds in the MAC Tournament.
I also think its season-long metrics are a bit depressed as a result of some COVID-19 issues it had to deal with during league play, which have certainly been put in the rear-view mirror at this point.
It’s also worth mentioning Creighton’s free-throw shooting, which has not been an overwhelming strength this season. The Bluejays shot just 64.1% from the charity stripe during the season (and even worse during conference play), which ranked 329th nationally.
That could come into play in a spread in this range if the Jays lead by a few possessions late. I gladly scooped up the +6 in what should be a highly entertaining game in a matchup between two excellent offenses.
(5) Creighton vs. (13) Ohio
By Mike Randle
Stopping Ohio’s offense right now is extremely difficult.
The Bobcats rank 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 15th in effective field goal percentage, 11th in 2-point efficiency, and 36% from beyond the arc among all Division I teams.
Those numbers actually downplay their current abilities, as star guard Jason Preston missed several games due to injury and COVID-19 quarantines. This is an experienced group that entered the season 84th in minutes continuity, per KenPom, and is now showing their upside as a fully healthy unit.
Preston (16.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 7.3 APG) is an absolute star who dominates the game in every way possible. He finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists in Ohio’s 62-58 upset over Virginia. Narrowly missing a triple-double against the superbly-coached Cavaliers is simply incredible.
Preston is balanced by 6-foot-8 senior Dwight Wilson (14.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG) and versatile 6-foot-8 forward Ben Vander Plas (13 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 36% 3P). Vander Plas (17 points) was the game’s leading scorer against Virginia, with four rebounds and four assists.
One of Ohio’s biggest weaknesses all year has been defending the 3, allowing opponents to shoot 37.8% in MAC play. However, it has substantially tightened up its perimeter pressure during this magical four-game run. Bobcat opponents have only shot 25.4% (26-of-102) from 3 over those four games, and that includes Toledo, which entered its game shooting 38% from beyond the arc.
Ohio has enjoyed a fantastic season despite extremely poor luck from the opponents on the free-throw line. The Bobcats have endured their opponents shooting 76.7% from the line, 337th in the country. That should certainly regress against a Creighton team that is only making 64.1% from the charity stripe.
The Bobcats are playing with confidence and winning their games comfortably. It took a series of desperation 3-point shots late by Virginia to even keep that game close.
There is always a concern of a super-hot shooting night by the Bluejays, but that hasn’t happened in quite a while. Including the Big East final loss to Georgetown, Creighton has shot just 27% (16-of-59) from deep over the past two games.
Ohio is too hot to lay 5.5 points.
I’ll grab the 5.5 points with a Bobcats team that has an excellent chance to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in school history.
(1) Michigan vs. (8) LSU
LSU’s offense is much more potent and high-powered than it showed against St. Bonaventure. Its defense is not as good as it showed, either.
LSU ranks fifth in offensive efficiency and has scorers all over the court.
Freshman Cam Thomas is a walking bucket, averaging 22.8 points per game this season and will be a matchup problem for Michigan without Isaiah Livers on the court. The way LSU will have to beat Michigan is behind the 3-point line, because the Wolverines are one of the best interior defenses in the country, ranking fourth in 2-point field goal percentage.
The other way LSU will be able to beat Michigan is to put Hunter Dickinson in foul trouble. Michigan’s offensive and defensive efficiency number crater when he is on the sidelines, so LSU needs to attack him early and often on the offensive end of the floor.
Michigan’s offense cruised by Texas Southern, which is not a surprise since it ranks eighth nationally in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Dickinson and the Wolverines should be able to destroy the Tigers inside because LSU allowed over 52% from 2-point range during SEC play and is allowing a whopping 64.1% on shot attempts at the rim. The Tigers are also 320th in the country in defensive rebounding, so Michigan should find plenty of second-chance points as well.
This game should be played at a pretty fast pace since LSU is 51st in offensive average possession length and Michigan is 179th.
I have 152.47 points projected for this game, so I think there’s some value on over 148 points.
(1) Michigan vs. (8) LSU
By Pat McMahon
Michigan and LSU meet on Monday night in what should be a fantastic second-round game. With two great offenses taking the court, I think we’re in for plenty of points.
Both teams boast a top-10 offensive efficiency rating per KenPom, with LSU ranking fifth and Michigan eighth. Both offenses shoot it really well and have plenty of scoring options. Michigan boasts impressive shooting splits of 48.3% from the field, 38.7% from 3, and 77.7% from the line. The Tigers are 46.3% from the floor, 35% from beyond the arc, and 74.6% from the line.
The main concern for over backers is Michigan’s defense, which ranks sixth nationally in adjusted efficiency, slowing the Tigers down. However, LSU is very tough to contain for a full 40 minutes, and its quick pace on offense can help make up for any scoring lulls.
LSU started very slow in Saturday’s first-round win over St. Bonaventure, making just one of its first 12 shots. Despite only scoring two points in the first eight minutes, it finished the game with 76 points thanks to some hot shooting at the end of the first and early in the second half.
Cam Thomas and Trendon Watford are microwave scorers, and both are incredibly difficult to stop when they get going.
On the other side of the floor, Michigan should have little issue scoring against an inconsistent LSU defense.
Hunter Dickinson will have a height advantage over the Tigers’ defenders and should have a big night offensively. He should have a field day on the offensive glass against an LSU team that ranks 330th in defensive rebounding rate.
Dickinson is lethal in one-on-one situations, but doubling him is a risky move due to Michigan’s plethora of shooters. Franz Wagner (37.8% from 3), Mike Smith (43.5%), Eli Brooks (39.3%) and Chaundee Brown (39%) will all make you pay if left open.
Even without Isaiah Livers, the Michigan offense can put up plenty of points and should thrive against the Tigers. As long as LSU can keep pace, this over should come through.
(4) Florida State vs. (5) Colorado
The Florida State Seminoles match up with a Colorado Buffaloes team that hit 11 3-pointers in the first half against Georgetown in the first round.
The Buffaloes won’t be able to get the same kind of looks from behind the perimeter in this matchup due to the Seminoles’ length and size. Florida State is a hyper-athletic team that presents a size mismatch at nearly every position.
Florida State can also shoot the 3-ball and does so at a 38.3% clip, which is good for 13th in the country.
It grabs offensive rebounds on 35.1% of its misses and faces off against a Buffaloes team that struggles to secure defensive rebounds. The Seminoles should use that height to help them with defending the 3-point shot, where they hold opponents to just 33.3%.
Colorado isn’t going to be able to get the same clean looks it did against Georgetown.
MJ Walker and RayQuan Evans will make life difficult for Colorado star McKinley Wright IV, who is the engine for this Colorado offense. If the Seminoles slow him down, they slow down this offense, and I think they will win this game on the defensive end.
I’m backing the Seminoles to win this game and move on to the Sweet 16.