Saturday, March 2, 2024

College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, March 24th

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College basketball schedule today has 4 games

Half of the Elite Eight has been decided. The other half will be determined today with action in the South and Midwest Regions to wrap up the Sweet 16. San Diego State vs. Alabama starts the day at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by Miami vs. Houston at 7:15 p.m. ET, Princeton vs. Creighton at 9 p.m. ET and Xavier vs. Texas at 9:45 p.m. ET. (Tracking sheet)

Tim Murray hosted separate episodes with Matt Youmans and I about the Sweet 16, so check out those episodes before tonight’s action tips off.

Here are some thoughts on the March 24 card (odds from DraftKings):

Miami’s offensive balance really intrigues me in this matchup. The Hurricanes are in the top 35 in both 2P% and 3P%. No AAC team ranks in the top 100 in 3P% or top 55 in 2P%. Houston’s defense has something to do with that, but the AAC just isn’t a great offensive conference. I don’t think the Cougars have seen a scoring offense as versatile as this one. Miami has a lot of guys that can create their own shots and have success.

Sure, Miami’s defense is pretty bad, but Houston is a jump-shooting team. Over 70% of their shots are mid-range jumpers or 3s and I have a hard time backing teams that don’t inside a lot, especially if they play slow games. Houston is 343rd in tempo and may have issues keeping up with Miami’s diverse scoring output.

It would be great if Miami could shoot well from 3. It is hard to get inside against Houston, as they’ve pushed opponents into a 3-point shot on 43.5% of shot attempts, but Miami is shooting almost 37% on 3s and has been one of the few teams to do well from 3 in this tournament. They’re 15-of-41 from 3, which is basically right on their season average of 36.6%.

Jim Larranga is an excellent offensive head coach and I think Miami brings something that Houston really hasn’t seen a lot this season. Ken Pomeroy has the Cougars down for the 101st-ranked slate of opposing offenses and I think the Hurricanes expose this defense a bit.

Pick: Miami +7.5

This was my favorite side play of the Sweet 16 on Sunday night when I wrote up my early lines article and nothing has transpired to change my mind. Obviously seek out a -4 if you want to bet this one, since there are some of those out there and still available. Most of the market has settled in at -4.5 with Texas looking for a fourth straight win at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

The Longhorns won the Big 12 Tournament in this arena earlier this month and familiarity cannot be a bad thing at this stage of the game. Texas just played here, just won here, just stayed here and should have fans making the pilgrimage to KC. As much as those factors should help, I also just like the matchup for the Longhorns here.

Xavier is a really good offensive team, but not a particularly strong defensive team. Meanwhile, Texas is a top-20 team in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The Longhorns are 19th in the nation in TO% on defense at 22.4%, while Xavier is 292nd at 16.3%. Furthermore, Texas is 54th in TO% on offense at 16.3% and Xavier is 99th at 17.2%. I would expect Texas to get some extra possessions out of those stats in this game.

Xavier does get to the rim more than Texas, but the Longhorns score at a higher rate when they do go inside. This also feels like the kind of game where the Musketeers miss Zach Freemantle, as the 6-foot-9 senior led the team in eFG% offense and was also the top defensive rebounder.

I just feel like Texas is playing some of the best defensive basketball they’ve played and the offense has been excellent from a points per possession standpoint in the last three games, even with a 1-of-13 performance from 3 last game. They’re just the better team and have the travel and location factors, along with extra incentive from the players to get Rodney Terry’s interim tag removed and make him the full-time head coach.

Most of the market has moved to 4.5, but you may find a rogue 4.

Pick: Texas -4.5

Other Games

The crowd reaction to Alabama could be interesting here. Maybe Tide fans travel to Louisville, but after playing in Birmingham, they’ll be in a less favorable setting given everything going on with the program. I don’t know if that will matter much or not, but it’s a talking point about this game.

The handicap here feels rather simple to me. Alabama takes a 3 on 47.5% of shot attempts and San Diego State has allowed opponents to shoot just 28.7% from 3 up to this point. Alabama can get inside and is an elite defensive team, but covering the touchdown spread may come down to how they shoot from 3.

San Diego State forces turnovers at a higher rate and has the rebounding stats to match up with Alabama. What SDSU may not have is enough offensive firepower. The Aztecs rank 206th in 2P% at 49.7% and 174th in 3P% at 34%. If Alabama is finding success in the offensive halfcourt, can SDSU keep up?

I don’t have a bet on this game. I also think the pace is intriguing and it’s hard to know how this game plays out to bet a total. Alabama is fifth in adjusted tempo per Bart Torvik and San Diego State is 256th. I could see an under here, but I’m not in a rush to bet it.

Shooting woes give me a lot of pause here. Both teams are taking a 3-point shot over 41% of the time and we’ve seen a lot of bad shooting in this year’s tournament. Creighton has played two polar opposite games, going 3-of-20 from 3 against NC State and 11-of-24 against Baylor. Princeton was just 4-of-25 in the upset of Arizona and 12-of-33 in the win over Missouri.

These two teams have pretty similar stats across the board. Creighton’s efficiency metrics are much higher from a huge strength of schedule difference, but the teams are nearly identical in TO% on offense and defense and eFG% defense. Creighton is top 25 in both 2P% offense and defense, while Princeton is 50th and 59th, respectively. Creighton is also a better 3-point shooting team, but Princeton has the better 3-point defense.

The double-digit spread feels like a lot, but there is a big gap between these two teams. Princeton is the second-worst team by defensive efficiency left in the field and could really get exposed here. On the other hand, Princeton is here for a reason and they’re getting a 10-point head start. No bet from me here on side or total.

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