NCAA Tournament Best Bets: Our Top 4 Evening Picks, Including UConn vs. Maryland & Oregon vs. VCU (Saturday, March 20)

NCAA Tournament Best Bets: Our Top 4 Evening Picks, Including UConn vs. Maryland & Oregon vs. VCU (Saturday, March 20) article feature image
Credit:

Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images. Pictured: Vince Williams.

  • Yesterday was great, the afternoon was fun, but now it's time to focus on ending the first round on a high note.
  • Our staff broke down bets from Iowa-Grand Canyon, UConn-Maryland, and Oregon-VCU.
  • Check out each pick complete with a full betting breakdown below.

Yesterday was awesome. The afternoon has been great. Now, it’s time to ride out the last night of the first round.

After all, we waited over 700 days to see this moment again. We might as well make the most of it.

Our staff came prepared with four different picks for three of tonight’s games, including (2) Iowa vs. (15) Grand Canyon, (7) UConn vs (10) Maryland, and (7) Oregon vs. (10) VCU.

Check out each individual pick below, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to any game instantly,

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College Basketball Odds & Picks

Editor’s Note: Saturday night’s Oregon vs. VCU game has been ruled a no-contest due to the NCAA’s COVID-19 protocols. Oregon will advance to the Round of 32.

Click on a game to skip ahead
(2) Iowa vs. (15) Grand Canyon
6:25 p.m. ET
(7) UConn vs. (10) Maryland
7:10 p.m. ET
(7) UConn vs. (10) Maryland
7:10 p.m. ET
(7) Oregon vs. (10) VCU
No-Contest

All listed odds have been updated as of Saturday morning. 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.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


(2) Iowa vs. (15) Grand Canyon

By Shane McNichol

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-december 11
Pick
Grand Canyon +14
Sportsbook
Tipoff
6:25 p.m. ET
TV
TBS

I’ve been pounding the drum for the Antelopes pretty much since the moment that this matchup flashed on the screen on Selection Sunday. Bryce Drew and Grand Canyon were underseeded as a 15. They ranked higher than every other 15-seed and two of the 14 seeds when the bracket was built, according to KenPom.

Specifically looking at this matchup, there are a lot of factors pointing toward the Lopes.

Drew wants his team to slow the pace, ranking outside the top 300 in tempo this season. Iowa prefers fast-paced games but has been more of a thermometer than a thermostat when it comes to pace this season.

The Hawkeyes have allowed opponents to dictate the game. Iowa’s three games against Wisconsin and one against Purdue all stayed at 65 possessions or fewer. The Hawkeyes rank 55th in average offensive possession length but outside the top 200 in defensive possession length. They want to score quickly but don’t work to slow opponents down defensively in the interest of a fast game.

Seemingly, a National Player of the Year candidate would elevate a 2-seed in a game like this. Grand Canyon is in multiple ways, skewed toward challenging Luka Garza.

Garza has struggled to score efficiently when he faces bigger bodies he can’t bully on the block. Kofi Cockburn, Myles Johnson, Hunter Dickinson, and the massive North Carolina frontline have all frustrated Garza. Wichita State transfer Asbjorn Midtgaard should do the same. He should also force Garza to defend in pick and roll throughout the game, an area in which Garza has floundered this season.

It might be crazy to think we’ll have another 15-seed win today, but covering is well within reach for the Antelopes.

Pick: Grand Canyon +14 (Play to +12)


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(7) UConn vs. (10) Maryland

By Mike Randle

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-december 3
Pick
UConn -3.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7:10 p.m. ET
TV
CBS

The Huskies battled through the absence of Bouknight and three separate COVID-19 pauses to finish 15-7 overall, including 11-6 in conference play. They ended the season winning six of their last seven games.

James Bouknight (19 PPG, 5.7 PPG, 1.9 APG, 81.3% FT) has scored 20 or more points in seven of UConn’s games, including 40 against Creighton on Dec. 20. Head coach Danny Hurley has the best defensive team in the Big East, leading the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and 2-point percentage allowed (KenPom).

The Huskies feature athletic and long defenders such as 6-foot-9 freshman Adama Sanogo, who has four consecutive games of double-digit scoring. Hurley’s emphasis on on-ball pressure is reflected by three players averaging more than 1.2 steals per game.

UConn’s superb 3-point defense will frustrate the Terrapins’ shooters, which limits their overall scoring ceiling. Maryland relied on the 3 for 37.4% of its points in conference play, the highest of any Big Ten team.

Connecticut’s size inside will cause problems for Maryland’s second-chance opportunities, and Bouknight’s scoring proficiency should create open perimeter shots and easy internal scoring for teammates.

I’m laying the points with a Connecticut team that features one of the most balanced rosters in the entire NCAA Tournament.

Pick: UConn -3.5 or better


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(7) UConn vs. (10) Maryland

By Pat McMahon

Pick
Maryland +3.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7:10 p.m. ET
TV
CBS

The Huskies are a popular pick today, and the spread has gradually moved in their direction throughout the week. At +3.5, I see this as a good buy back opportunity on the Terps in a game that I view closer to a coin flip.

Both teams are outstanding defensively. The Huskies rank 24th in adjusted defensive efficiency and the Terrapins are 27th, per KenPom.

We’re in for a slow game, as both teams are sub-300 in adjusted tempo. With these factors at play, it’s tough to see either pulling away at any point in the game barring an abnormally hot shooting night from one side.

UConn has a slight edge on offense when it comes to efficiency and has the most talented player on the floor in James Bouknight.

However, the Terps are a better shooting team, hitting 45.6% from the field and 35.3% from beyond the arc, compared to 43.9% and 33.6% from the Huskies.

Both teams take care of the ball very well, with Maryland having a slight edge committing 11.2 turnovers per game compared to 11.7 for UConn. These aren’t massive differences, but they further support my belief that this spread should be closer to a pick’em instead of the Terps catching 3.5 points.

Playing in the nightly grind of the Big Ten should pay dividends for the Terrapins in this tournament. They are comfortable in the underdog role and will give the Huskies all they can handle.

Pick: Maryland +3.5 (Play to +3)


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(7) Oregon vs. (10) VCU

By BJ Cunningham

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-mid majors-vermont-vcu-belmont
Pick
VCU +5.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9:57 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Editor’s Note: Saturday night’s Oregon vs. VCU game has been ruled a no-contest due to the NCAA’s COVID-19 protocols. Oregon will advance to the Round of 32.

This is a very interesting matchup because it’s strength versus strength and weakness versus weakness.

Oregon boasts one of the best offenses in the country, ranking 15th in offensive efficiency and can hit from all over the court. It owns the 15th-best 3-point percentage in the country, while also shooting 60.7% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.

The Ducks also shoot 59.7% in transition, which is key because they’ll be going up against a VCU defense that loves to press. The Rams’ pressure has led them to rank 11th in defensive efficiency because it’s given opposing offenses fits all season long. VCU is ninth in the country in turnover rate forced while also holding teams under 31% from 3-point range and under 46% from 2-point range.

VCU’s offense is abysmal, as it put up only 0.99 points per possession during conference play.

Its main weakness is the fact that it turned the ball over more than any other team in the Atlantic 10. That’s going to be a problem against this Oregon defense, which boasted the highest turnover rate forced in the Pac-12 this season.

However, let’s not get things twisted — the Ducks still haven’t been able to stop anybody this season.

Oregon allowed 1.03 points per possession in the Pac-12 this season and was near the bottom of the conference defending inside the arc, which is the one strength of VCU’s offense. Pretty much all of the Rams’ scoring comes at the rim (46.4% of their field goal attempts) and for good reason, because they’re shooting over 58% on those shot attempts. So, I think VCU should find ways to score at will down low in the Ducks.

I think Oregon is overrated in this spot and only have it projected as a -0.98 favorite, so I think there’s a ton of value on the Rams at +5.5 and would play it down to +4.

Pick: VCU +5.5. (Play to +4)

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