NCAA Tournament Picks & Predictions: The Action Network & Three Man Weave’s Best Bets for Sweet 16
Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: John Petty Jr.
Collin Wilson, Mike Randle & Stuckey join forces with Jim Root, Ky McKeon & Matt Cox of Three Man Weave to deliver their College Basketball Six Pack of Picks via The Action Network Sports Betting Podcast for the Saturday and Sunday Sweet 16 slate.
There were plenty of unexpected upsets in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, as four double-digit seeds now find themselves in the Sweet 16. Teams like No. 15-seeded Oral Roberts will look to continue their Cinderella-story runs while others like Gonzaga and Houston look to avoid a similar fate to powerhouses Illinois and Ohio State, among others. Despite there being just eight games, there is a lot of value to be found over these two days.
Our six experts broke down each of their favorite bets on The Action Network Podcast.
Jim Root: Baylor vs. Villanova
Saturday, Mar. 27 at 5:15 p.m. ET
I’m going with Baylor. Collin Gillespie’s absence didn’t really matter against Winthrop and it definitely didn’t matter against North Texas, a team that was just completely out of gas. But it’s going to matter against the No. 2 team in the country.
Baylor has great ball-pressure guards, particularly Davion Mitchell. He’s going to swallow up Justin Moore. Mark Vital is also one of the few tough draws for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the entire country. He can move with him and has the strength. Honestly, the Baylor defense looked like it was back to where we thought it would be. They held Wisconsin to under one point per possession and completely suffocated Hartford.
Villanova’s switchable defense does give me some concerns with Baylor trying to create open shots and not really having a post threat to take advantage of the Wildcats inside. But I think Baylor’s offensive rebounding will be key if Villanova falls into some weak matchups. I did take this at -6 right away but for official tracking, I think the current price of -7 is fair.
The pick: Baylor -7
Ky McKeon: Houston vs. Syracuse
Saturday, Mar. 27 at 9:55 p.m. ET
Jim Boeheim’s reign of terror is over. Houston can and wants to shoot the basketball from the 3-point line. I think Syracuse’s 2-3 zone has no chance at stopping a Houston squad that is also the second-best offensive rebounding team in the country.
On the other end, I don’t think Syracuse scores easily at all. They’re 10th nationally in isolation play types, per Synergy. They score in transition, off handoffs and by screening for shooters. Houston destroys isolation teams, are great in transition and rank in the 99th percentile in guarding shots off screens. The Orange will struggle to score here. Give me Houston.
The pick: Houston -6
Matt Cox: Gonzaga vs. Creighton
Sunday, Mar. 28 at 2:10 p.m. ET
I have to sigh before I begin my take here as I look to fade the almighty juggernaut Gonzaga. It’s odd that you can find a team that’s somewhat undervalued or overvalued at this point in the year because the markets are efficient and have been sharpened out by the larger sample size. But I’m here to contend that the Jays might have some untapped value. If you look at KenPom, right now the Jays are ranked just inside the Top 20 and they are projected to lose by 10.
I had this Creighton team ranked inside the Top 10. They haven’t played as such all season, but just last game against Ohio we saw that offense rise to the elite level that we know it’s capable of playing. But what’s held the fort together for the Jays this year has been their defense. That’s why I like them against Gonzaga here. I know they can defend across the outer-four positions on the perimeter. They have big, long guards who can switch. Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson are two guys who will have critical matchups against Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and all the offensive ammunition the Zags boast.
The key matchup though where I have to watch out for is Christian Bishop against Drew Timme. Timme is coming off that monster game against an Oklahoma team that has more size up front than the Jays. However, where Bishop can get his is on the other end. He’s a frenetic cutter and phenomenal ball screener. He’s constantly active on the boards. I think he can actually wear Timme out. I’m looking at this as the key matchup in this game. Creighton catching 13 feels like a ton of value. I make this game closer to 10. Anything to 12 I would endorse.
The pick: Creighton +13 (down to +12)
Mike Randle: Alabama vs. UCLA
Sunday, Mar. 28 at 7:15 p.m. EST
Alabama is just is too talented right now. They’re facing a UCLA team that has overachieved after losing Chris Smith and is playing with house money at this point. Right now, per The Action Network app, 57 percent of the public is on UCLA. I don’t see the vulnerability. I see 3-pointers. I see Jaden Shackelford and John Petty. And I see Herb Jones attacking the basket.
Alabama is a deep team that will get out and push transition. Not to mention the Crimson Tide are also second in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. They are going to stifle a limited UCLA offense. Cody Riley is not going to do much inside against this team and both Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. are going to have trouble shooting 3s. Eventually, Alabama will go on a run like they did the other day and take complete control. I’ll take Bama laying the 6.5 against the Bruins.
The pick: Alabama -6.5
Collin Wilson: Alabama vs. UCLA
Sunday, Mar. 28 at 7:15 p.m. EST
I’m going to take everything that Randle just said to play into the under. If Alabama gets out to a double-digit lead, I don’t think they’re going to be pressing whatsoever. You may just let Mick Cronin run his sub-top 300 tempo-style offense and take 30 seconds off the clock just to get a field goal attempt.
Alabama’s defense has also forced less turnovers than normal since the start of the SEC tournament. Teams like Iona, Maryland and Mississippi State have been able to dictate the pace of the game against the Crimson Tide. But Alabama will hold its own on defense. If they get out to any kind of lead, I don’t expect this game to be fast-paced. I’ll take the under here.
The pick: Under 146
Stuckey: USC vs. Oregon
Sunday, Mar. 28 at 9:45 p.m. EST
I’ll go with the under. The last time these two teams played, they finished with 130 points while both shooting over 40 percent from 3. I don’t think USC is going to shoot the way they did last week and this Oregon offense is not going to be the same as what we saw against Iowa. They generally play slow.
Both teams are so familiar with each other that you’re going to see Oregon come up with some good zone and press looks to bother the USC perimeter and make it difficult for them to start the offense and get the ball inside the paint. Vice versa, that USC defense is just playing at another level. I see this being a slow-paced game and this total is too high.
The pick: Under 139