2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: UConn vs. Maryland (March 20)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: UConn guards James Bouknight, Tyrese Martin
- UConn is a small favorite over Maryland in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
- UConn is finally healthy, balanced and has strong chemistry. Maryland had some impressive wins this season, and some head-scratching losses.
- Our college basketball analysts preview the matchup and make their UConn vs. Maryland pick.
UConn vs. Maryland Odds
|Moneyline||-157 / +133|
|Time||Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET|
Connecticut (15-7) has continued to battle through injuries and COVID-19 interruptions to enter the NCAA Tournament as a popular Final Four dark horse. The Huskies bring a star in guard James Bouknight and a strong overall defense that has multiple bigs in the post.
Maryland (16-13) finished in eighth place in the Big Ten standings but is a dangerous guard-oriented team that’s tallied big wins throughout the season. The Terrapins have a home win over Purdue, two wins over Michigan State, and a fantastic 66-63 road win at Illinois on their resume.
Which team should bettors support in a battle of two dangerous Power Six conference teams?
Mike Randle: The Huskies battled through the absence of Bouknight and three separate COVID-19 pauses and peaked at the end of the season. The Huskies are 15-7 overall, including 11-6 in conference play. They ended the season winning six of their last seven games.
Bouknight returned on Feb. 16 to give UConn the elite scorer it needs to win deep into March. 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 have a deep roster filled with multiple big men that comprise the best defensive block percentage in the Big East.
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.
Connecticut brings fantastic balance, ranking 24th overall in adjusted offensive efficiency and 25th in defense, per KenPom. The Huskies are fully healthy, balanced and have great team chemistry with a passionate coach in Hurley.
Tanner McGrath: Maryland has one of the strangest resumes in college basketball this season.
The Terrapins have wins over Illinois, Wisconsin and Purdue, and losses to Northwestern and Indiana. They finished 9-11 in conference play despite a stretch in late February where they won five straight games. They finished their season losing three of four.
Maryland somewhat underwhelms on both sides of the ball, although it did show improvements defensively toward the end of the season. Overall, the Terrapins finished fifth in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, while finishing third in points per game allowed, at 65.
Every member of Maryland’s starting five stands between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7, giving the Terrapins an unusually big backcourt but an unusually small frontcourt. Mark Turgeon’s defense can switch everything and is effective defending the perimeter, led by Big Ten DPOY Darryl Morsell.
However, it’s the offensive weapons that make Maryland a dangerous team. Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala, while often inconsistent, can really score. If those two get hot on the offensive end and the defense plays as well as it’s capable, watch out for the Terrapins.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
Mike Randle: I’m backing the better overall team in Connecticut, which enters this tournament the healthiest it’s been all season.
The Huskies’ 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 roster that is one of the most balanced teams in the entire NCAA Tournament.
Pick: UConn -3 (to -3.5)