Stuckey: The NCAA Tournament Games I’m Betting on Thursday

Stuckey: The NCAA Tournament Games I’m Betting on Thursday article feature image

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tariq Owens

  • Thursday offers an incredible slate for sports bettors, highlighted by the start of the Sweet 16 and MLB Opening Day.
  • In this article, Stuckey breaks down his two favorite bets for tonight's NCAA Tournament games.

What else could you ask for as a bettor? The Sweet 16 tipping off, MLB Opening Day. It doesn’t get much better this time of year.

College basketball is still in focus, so let’s stay there. Here are games I’m betting on Thursday’s card.

Michigan-Texas Tech

  • Line: Michigan -1.5
  • Total: 125
  • Time: 9:39 p.m. ET, CBS

No matter which way you split it, these are two of the best defenses in the entire country. Let’s just look at a few ways we could split it.

Half-court defense

Texas Tech ranks No. 1 in the nation at 0.734 Points Per Possession
Michigan ranks No. 5, per Synergy

For those who like to say defense wins championships, six of the top 10 teams in that category are still alive.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Texas Tech ranks No. 1, per KenPom.
Michigan ranks No. 2.

I could go on and on and on, but I won’t bore you. And you probably get the point. These are two of the top three defenses in Division I (Virginia being the other) and they are led by two of the top coaches in the country for my money. I think both will have a master defensive game plan and make this an absolute rock fight in what should be a very methodical game in the half court.

Texas Tech does force a ton of turnovers, but Michigan doesn’t turn it over, like almost every Beilein team. I think that will work in the favor of the under as TT will have fewer transition opportunities and Michigan will have longer offensive possessions.

Also, this is not the same caliber shooting team that Michigan has been in the past and Texas Tech has an excellent 2-point percentage defense. In fact, the Red Raiders rank second nationally in 2-point percentage behind UC Irvine. And you know which team follows Texas Tech in that category? Michigan State, which swept the Wolverines in all three meetings this year.

Expect some brilliant game plans and in-game adjustments from Beard and Beilein. You should get a few different looks throughout the game. As long as there isn’t obscene 3-point variance or lots of fouling late, this looks like first to 60 moves on.

The Pick: Under 125

Virginia vs. Oregon

  • Line: Virginia -8.5
  • Total: 126
  • Time: 9:59 p.m. ET, TBS

The Oregon defense is very good, but this Virginia offense is one of only eight in Division I to average more than 1.00 Points Per Possession in the half court, per Synergy. (Gonzaga is the only other team remaining that also does.)

Tony Bennett’s bunch has the scheme and shooters to give the Ducks defense fits. But most importantly, the Cavaliers have the patience. As Rousseau said: “Patience is a bitter fruit, but its fruit is sweet.”

I expect plenty of open 3s and layups deep into the shot clock, leading to a Sweet 16 victory.

We also know how elite the Virginia defense is in the half court. I think the Cavaliers will control the pace and limit Oregon’s best offense in transition. UVA can completely suffocate the Ducks in the half court.

It’s never fun taking an under in a tourney game since fouls can bite you late even more than normal. And I really don’t like laying 8.5 points in a game that I expect to be that low scoring. However, there is just too much value to pass up in a game I make -10.5 and 116.

The Pick: Virginia -8.5

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