NCAAB Early Betting Predictions | DiSturco’s 5 Top Spots to Circle for This Week

NCAAB Early Betting Predictions | DiSturco’s 5 Top Spots to Circle for This Week article feature image

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Baylor Scheierman (Creighton)

The end of the regular season is rapidly approaching, and that means there’s plenty of spots to bet in the world of college basketball.

It’s the final all-out push before conference tournaments for teams on the bubble, and it’s a chance for plenty of revenge spots — not to mention Senior Days.

Keeping that in mind, let’s break down my favorite lookahead spots that I have circled on my betting sheet for this week. Last week, we went 3-1— come on, New Mexico! — with my honorable mention of St. John’s cashing in outright fashion.

Here’s five of my NCAAB early betting predictions for games ranging from Wednesday through Saturday, assuming the numbers remain in line with projections such as KenPom and T-Rank.

Northwestern vs. Maryland (Wednesday)

Wednesday, Feb 28
7:00pm ET

Maryland has its chance to exact revenge against a Northwestern team that's won three of its last four despite losing Ty Berry to a season-ending injury.

This Northwestern defense has plenty of issues, but it's been relatively hidden due to a lack of competition since Berry went down. In their last four, the highest-ranked KenPom team the Wildcats have played is Penn State (91st).

Most teams have been unable to take advantage of the Wildcats’ defense, which ranks 270th in effective field goal percentage and struggles both defending around the rim and from distance.

This is also a team that fouls at an insanely high rate (332nd in country in FTA/FGA), which can quickly become an issue due to its lack of depth. In general, NW ranks 335th in bench minutes.

Maryland is by no means a good offense. Success often comes through the two-man game of Jahmir Young and Julian Reese. Young is the superstar and do-it-all facilitator — also the team’s only half-decent shooter — while Reese is one of the conference’s best around the rim.

Both players should be able to find success against Northwestern. Young and Reese rank inside the top five in Big Ten play in fouls drawn per 40 minutes and have inherent matchup advantages on Wednesday.

Maryland is also much better at home, and its role players should be able to take advantage against this Northwestern defense that ranks 256th in defending finishes at the rim and is 337th in 3-point percentage.

Offense has long been the issue for Maryland, but its defense has become elite in conference play. The Terps are the No. 1 defense in terms of effective field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, a key against Northwestern’s hot perimeter shooting.

Tack on Northwestern ranking outside the top 300 in Haslemetrics’ away-from-home ratings, and this is a great spot for Maryland to exact revenge from a tight, early-season loss.

Pick: Maryland -3 (Play to -5)

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Julian Reese (Maryland)

South Carolina vs. Texas A&M (Wednesday)

Wednesday, Feb 28
8:30pm ET
SEC Network

The panic button has officially been pressed for Texas A&M.

On Feb. 10, it seemed as though the Aggies clinched an at-large bid with a dominant win against Tennessee. Since, Texas A&M has lost four straight — including a pair of Quadrant 3 losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas — and now finds itself on the outside looking in.

A way to get back on the right track is a must-win opportunity on Wednesday against South Carolina.

Every game Texas A&M plays turns into a slugfest, and the Aggies should have no issue controlling the offensive glass here. They're the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country (42.4%).

The issue has been a complete and utter lack of offense.

This team is so heavily reliant on Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford, and their inconsistencies have often proved fatal, especially without a third reliable option.

This is where we'll see an all-out effort at home for A&M. I understand how bad it's been for the Aggies, but this is a classic hold your nose spot.

South Carolina doesn't force turnovers (302nd) and has been a bit fortunate all season long. ShotQuality has this team at 17-10, but the Gamecocks sit at 22-5.

Over the last two weeks, South Carolina ranks outside the top 200 in defensive rebounding, per Bart Torvik.

This is a defense that's seen its struggles start to filter in. The Gamecocks have been beatable on the interior and don’t force any turnovers (301st in TO%).

I expect the Texas A&M physicality to be the difference in this game. Its season is officially on life alert, making each matchup increasingly more important than the last — especially given its four-game skid.

It all starts to turn on Wednesday at home against a South Carolina team that's struggled on offense (150 eFG%) and is a bit too reliant on its success from 3.

Pick: Texas A&M -4 (Play to -5)

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Nebraska vs. Ohio State (Thursday)

Thursday, Feb 29
6:30pm ET
Fox Sports 1

Let’s continue this fade of Big Ten teams heading into raucous environments and back Ohio State in another revenge opportunity against Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers have been one of the most inconsistent teams this season, primarily because of their home/road splits. Haslemetrics has this team at 342nd in consistency and 349th in its away-from-home ratings.

We’ve finally seen some life at Ohio State after the firing of Chris Holtmann. In their last three games, the Buckeyes have taken down Purdue and hit a game-winning 3 to knock off Michigan State on the road.

Their physicality on the offensive glass and ability to control possessions has contributed to this newfound success.

Meanwhile, we know what Nebraska wants to do on the offensive end — let it rip from 3. Earlier this season against Ohio State, the Cornhuskers made 14-of-27 from distance (51.9%). In fact, they shot better from 3 than inside the arc.

That's unsustainable, especially in a rowdy road environment where Nebraska’s production already sees a decline.

Perhaps most interesting is Ohio State’s 3-point defense ranking 303rd despite allowing just 16.7% of all total 3s to be open. That suggests positive regression is coming for a team that already runs opponents off the perimeter (less than 33% of attempts from 3).

Jamison Battle is questionable for this game and him returning would provide a significant boost for Ohio State (46.3% from 3 in conference play). But even if he misses Thursday, OSU is able to rely on role players like Dale Bonner and Scotty Middleton for an added defensive boost.

Nebraska’s best quality on the defensive end is deterring attacks at the rim, but that’s not what Ohio State’s offense looks to do. The Buckeyes live in the mid-range and utilize the pick-and-roll to get a plus matchup.

Ohio State should be able to control the glass in this one.

Tack on this newfound momentum, a revenge opportunity and Nebraska’s road woes, and this is a perfect recipe for a Buckeyes win.

Pick: Ohio State -1 (Play to -3)

Creighton vs. Marquette (Saturday)

Saturday, Mar 2
2:30pm ET

It was a rollercoaster week for Creighton, defeating the No. 1 team in the country — Connecticut — before heading to Madison Square Garden and falling by double digits to St. John’s.

Rather than targeting a bounce back at home — where the Bluejays will likely be double-digit favorites — I’m looking ahead to Saturday. Creighton’s last home game of the regular season is a revenge opportunity and another marquee matchup against Marquette.

Rewind to the first matchup between these two teams, and the Golden Eagles defended their home floor thanks to a late second-half run. Perhaps most concerning was Marquette’s 18 offensive rebounds — yes, 18 — which provided enough second-chance opportunity to eke by Creighton.

But this is a completely different Creighton team from that early-season bout (the Bluejays started 0-2 in Big East play). This team has come a long way and is playing some great basketball. Also, Sean Jones (15 points in the first matchup) is out for the season for an already-not-deep Marquette team.

Marquette ranks 259th in offensive rebounding, while Creighton is top-50 in limiting second-chance opportunities. I’d call that first matchup nothing more than a one off, so don’t expect that many offensive boards again here.

Creighton should be able to withstand the Marquette pressure that often leads to turnovers. The Golden Eagles allow more than 40% of all attempts from 3, an area where they rank about average in defending.

On the opposite end, the Kalk drop should prove disruptive. Marquette shot just 43% on 2-point attempts against Creighton in its first matchup, and the Bluejays' defense has only gotten stronger.

Nearly 43% of all Marquette attempts come at the rim — but that’s precisely what Creighton takes away. The Bluejays force opponents to attack in the mid-range, which the Golden Eagles rarely do (5% of the time).

Creighton ranks 25th in home-court advantage, per KenPom, and already has wins against Alabama and UConn under its belt in Omaha.

Saturday should prove no different on Senior Day.

Pick: Creighton -3 (Play to -5)

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Santa Clara vs. San Francisco (Saturday)

Saturday, Mar 2
7:00pm ET

In its final game of the regular season, Santa Clara has its Senior Day against San Francisco. It’s a quick turnaround for both of these teams (they play on Thursday), but it’s an even larger ask for the Dons, who'll come off what’ll be a physical bout with Gonzaga.

If they were to win, it’d be an even more fitting letdown spot, and Santa Clara can take advantage.

Earlier in February these two teams squared off and it took a late San Francisco run on its home floor to stave off the Broncos. It was a pretty even game throughout, with both teams averaging nearly 1.1 points per possession.

In the end, USF shot 32 free throws and forced 17 Santa Clara turnovers — a huge difference in Dons' one-point win.

This Santa Clara team is more than capable of taking down any team in the WCC. ShotQuality ranks this team inside the top 40 when it comes to looks from the perimeter — both catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble 3s.

That’s an area where the Dons have struggled (192nd in 3-point percentage defensively), per ShotQuality.

USF loves to attack downhill and use its physicality and size to create at the rim. The Dons use heavy pick-and-roll sets and look for do-it-all big Jonathan Mogbo to create. This team is eighth in 2-point shooting and around the rim is where SC is weakest.

Now that the game is on Santa Clara’s floor, I don’t expect 32 free-throw attempts like the first bout. USF, in general, ranks 352nd in FTA/FGA, and Santa Clara does have plenty of height to match the physical nature of the Dons.

The key here will be limiting turnovers. Santa Clara isn’t the best at holding possession, and we saw USF feast off turnovers earlier this season.

But let’s not sleep on the Broncos here. They have plenty of strong shot creators and the size to control the glass on both ends of the floor.

Santa Clara plays Portland — the second-worst team in the conference — on Thursday before dueling USF. Regardless of if the Dons take down Gonzaga or not, I still like Santa Clara to win on Senior Night in a revenge spot.

If USF does beat the Zags, then this spot becomes even more appealing.

I expect an outright win for the Broncos, but I'll happily take any points.

Pick: Santa Clara +2 (Play to -1.5)

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Nick Sterling
May 17, 2024 UTC