College Basketball Picks - ATS Predictions
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If there were ever a better predicament to book an Under, this would have to be it. A 9.5-point steam move is one that is rarely seen by most in virtually any hoops game. In a game such as this one with two marquee teams in a highly-publicized outing, these lines are bound to be even sharper. Thus, the steam move would suggest that there is a substantial public overlay on the Over given the fact this contest is likely to get a lot of action due to its popularity. Both Kansas and Duke are two teams that know how to navigate this tournament well; chances are this one will be a game of possessions like the point spread entails. Grab the Under.
The talk of the tournament has been Michigan's defense. Some analysts have been as bold as to predict Michigan marching all the way to the Championship Game. However, we would not be so quick to pull the trigger. The Seminoles' resume speaks for itself. In back-to-back games, Florida State has dispatched a number one seed and last year's runner-up in this very tournament. Moreover, Florida State did it with style. The problem is Michigan has looked so good dating back to the BIG 10 tournament, so their stock is through the ceiling with the betting public. The opening line for this market is quite enticing given the low-hanging fruit. However, had Michigan stumbled anywhere along their recent winning streak there would be an entirely different narrative for this match? Clear-cut overreaction, take the points.
The Red Raiders have gone 4-1 in their last five games, and the improvement can be attributed to improved defensive play and especially in their last four holding their opponents to fewer than 70 points in all four. The Boilermakers are no slouch on defense either allowing 65.4 points per game this season. They may be without 7'2" foot center Isaac Haas, but Texas Tech doesn’t have a big man to take advantage of his absence if he doesn’t go. I would have liked to see a low 140 total line here, but with two the better defensive efficiency teams in this game the line does still offer some value.
Recency bias is the narrative that is fueling this market. Gonzaga, after all, is the more accomplished team in this tournament, albeit they played for a national championship here just last year. This alone enchants many takers to back the Bulldogs be that Florida State is not really a basketball school. However, the Seminoles have proven otherwise. As a whole, Florida State plays in a tougher conference and is more battle-tested than Gonzaga who simply has its way in the lowly West Coast Conference. Florida State also knocked off a team that was expected to make a deep run into this competition. Gonzaga is also likely to do the same here. The Noles, on the other hand, has already exceeded expectation. This is a quintessential scenario where the hunter becomes "the hunted," and we will take advantage of the points.
Both these teams like to play a physical and in-your-face style of defense. It is this approach that afforded both these teams to get past Power Conference opposition in the build-up to this pivotal March Madness collision. The storyline surrounding this game is which of these mid-major squads will make it to the Elite Eight. However, the focus should be on the Over/Under market. Whichever team plays better defense will win this contest, and strategically the methodologies of either side will not be conducive to a high-scoring affair. This game will be one of possessions, and thus we will forego the against the spread market. We will fade the steam in this contest and take the Under.
Very simply, when you back Kentucky, you can expect to pay a premium to support them. This is especially true when Big Blue gets on a roll and cover while they do so. UK is always a popular choice for many bracket pools as well as bettors in future markets to win March Madness. Chances are in other circumstances, Kentucky may actually be a dog if they weren't such a recognized name. What this tells us is that this game will be closer than the line forecasts and perhaps an upset may be in the works. This is conceivable given the fact Kansas State owns the stronger defense and commits fewer turnovers than their counterparts. Kansas State also is nearly identical to Kentucky from a field goal percentage perspective as the two sides are separated in efficiency by just .4%. These metrics in itself make K-State a value play when you toss in likely inflated points.
A result like Maryland-Baltimore's is bound to foster an overreaction. So far, we haven't seen it as it seems the public is keener on the Wildcats. In this instance, we would have to agree. Despite UMBC pulling off a historic upset, the market is reluctant to believe that the Retrievers will have any more tricks up their sleeve for the Wabash Cannonballs. The bottom line is UMBC was taken lightly by Virginia. The Cavaliers had penciled in a win against the Retrievers and were busy looking forward to the Final Four. UMBC treated Virginia as if it were it the championship. The rest is history. However, Kansas State will be prepared for UMBC. And as we have seen with many of these giant-killers in the past, they are often dismissed in the next round by a more adept opponent. Look for the Cats to cover here.
Zaga utterly destroyed Ohio State back in November, and I see no reason why they can't get the victory again today. The Bulldogs have a considerable height advantage, and that was on full display in the win with a 58.5 FG% and five blocks. I expect the Buckeyes to do a better job on defense this go around and may use a similar game plan to what they used against Michigan State when they held them to 64 points.
Typically, the Houston Cougars are not a team known for their basketball acumen. Nevertheless, the Cougars mean business. However, this has been forgotten because the stock on Michigan is through the ceiling. The Wolverines came in off a quite impressive showing in as B1G Conference Champion and then they took care of business in their first-round match-up. However, Houston is a big step up from Montana.
Houston has the blueprint to go deep in this tournament. The Cougars were a point away from winning the American Athletic Conference against Cincinnati, the name brand team of that conference. Houston also has certain advantages that can make them an excellent prospect for upset orchestrator. The Cougars are more physical on the boards, and they have a deeper bench, take advantage of free throws, and generate more offense per game. What strikes out at us is the discrepancy in free throw shooting between both sides. Given the low-hanging fruit here, every point is going to count. Houston shoots 71.8% from the charity stripe while Michigan shoots just 65.6%. It is for this reason above all others that Houston outright gets the call.
The Seminoles have had their issues putting points on the board tallying 75 or fewer in regulation six of their last eight games and face a decent defensive club in the Tigers. Mizzou has done a brilliant job slowing down the game keeping their opponents shooting opportunities to 57 or fewer in five of their last six. That said, the Tigers will be without Forward Jordan Barnett who is serving a suspension, and that is a big blow to the offense and defense. Barnett is one of the top scorers and one of the better defenders on this team, and while the UNDER does hold some value, his absence is a big break for the Seminoles.
I can see Kansas State taking this game as a small dog, but I prefer the total. The KSU scored just 67 against Kansas in their latest and needed overtime to reach 66 two back against TCU. They do have an excuse for their game against the Jayhawks with their top guard Barry Brown playing just one minute and their top scorer forward Dean Wade sitting out. Brown is expected back, and Wade is a maybe and if at least one goes for the Wildcats I see them scoring in the mid to high 70's. Creighton's scoring defense hasn't been a strength this season allowing 75.1 points per game, but their offense has been with 84.0 PPG.
Everybody likes a Cinderella story, and nothing typifies this more than Texas Southern’s run which has stolen the nation's heart. Such feel-good stories often encourage action from the general public. However, betting with one's heart is always ill-advised. From the numbers, Xavier owns every advantage imaginable to blow this outfit out of the water. Typically, in a No.1 versus No.16 match-up, we would expect to see an inflated point spread on behalf of the lower seed. However, in this scenario, we have a chance to take back a short-priced favorite. Typically, we wouldn't champion spotting this kind of lumber, but the swim is not as long back as it appears. Xavier has the firepower and skill to beat this team by double the price offered.
Upsets are staged when these scenarios unfold. Nothing resembles this more than when Kansas came into March Madness years ago as one of the highly-touted #3 seeds while unsuspecting Bucknell came in as a #14. Everyone remembers what happens next. Bucknell would knock off the Jayhawks in a memorable upset. The ingredients in this game are premium for Montana to cover let alone potentially upset the Wolverines. Montana is the more physical team on the boards, they make smarter shots and take advantage more from the free throw line. These narratives make Montana a tough test for Michigan and curate the potential for the Grizzlies to make the most of second chances. Nevertheless, the public holds a bias toward Power Conference Champions, and that is what we see here. The number here is prone to be inflated but either way, there is plenty of backdoor potential even if this contest were to get out of control. There're plenty of points on the table.
Davidson plays sound defense ranking 53rd in the nation in scoring defense allowing 67.6 points per game and limiting the opponent's second chances with just 29.1 boards given up per game. Kentucky doesn't have the defensive stats to match-up with Davidson, but played a more difficult schedule and play methodically limiting the scoring opportunities for both sides.
The Orange have played decent defense all season long holding the majority of their opponents to fewer than 75 points in regulation and opponents to less than 65 in 17 games this season. The Sun Devils don't have a problem scoring with the 14th ranked scoring offense averaging 83.5 points per game. Syracuse will try to slow this game down, but Arizona State can score from anywhere, so that strategy is unlikely to work. At the other end of the floor, the Sun Devils play loose allowing eight of their last nine opponents to score 75 or higher points per game.
Of the two teams, Texas Southern is a more popular choice albeit they qualified for March Madness just last year. The fact remains North Carolina Central is the team with the winning record and inherently less to lose. The lack of respect shown by the market towards the Eagles will only empower this unit to play with a chip on their shoulder. North Carolina Central owns the better defense, they are more physical in the rebounding department, and they have the bench to back up their operation. As a result of these ingredients, the Eagles make a great play with points. We will target the overlay and public overreaction and back North Carolina Central. Do not be surprised here if the Eagles orchestrate an outright upset of the Tigers and punch their ticket to meet the Musketeers.
Expecting the unexpected is a popular narrative for the tournament affectionately known as March Madness. The upsets are most prevalent in the first and second round, so this game could serve as a suitable venue for such an event to occur. The Nightingales are riding a tremendous high after defeating one of the big dogs in the NEC. The popular choices to represent the conference were the Wagner mentioned above, Mount St. Mary's, and Robert Morris. Long Island-Brooklyn will enter this game as they did against the Seahawks with a big chip on their shoulder. While there may, in fact, be plenty of points on the table here to generate a cover, we will play this one as an outright given the fact upsets are a commonality in play-in games given the fact every team involved treats this as a championship match-up. LIU-Brooklyn gets the call outright.
Very simply, when you back Cincinnati you can expect to pay a premium to do so. The Bearcats are a regular in March Madness and one of the most consistently touted teams in the American. As a result of this narrative, inflated point spreads usually accompany their name. This is especially the case when we find this team in a conference championship game. Nevertheless, the Cougars own some enormous advantages that can lead them to a victory. The Cougars are the more physical team on the boards, own a deeper bench, make smarter shots as they have an edge in field goal percentage, score more points per game, and capitalize more from behind the charity stripe. The calling card of the Bearcats is their physical defense. However, given the nature of this game and given the fact the team with more intangibles has the better price…taking the points is the way to approach.
The Trojans are playing well at both ends of the court holding their opponents to 61.4 points defensively and offensively putting up 71.2 points per game. The Wildcats are also performing well with an overtime loss as their only blemish on their record over the last eight games. They won the only meeting this season, beating USC by 14 points in an 81-67 home win. This game is on a neutral court where the Trojans have had a lot of success going 5-1 this campaign versus Wildcats 3-3. However, those numbers are misleading with the Trojans record padded by victories over Akron and New Mexico State and Arizona's losses came back in November with two of them against top-level competition (NC State and Purdue). Tough call due to the Trojan's current form, but I'm going to go with the Wildcats here. They dominated on the glass in their only meeting this season, and I don't think that will change this time around with Arizona holding one of the best rebound margins in college basketball.
There has been a ton of optimism as to whether or not this Ragin’ Cajuns team can win the Sun Belt Conference outright and punch their ticket to March Madness. It certainly seems like they are in a position to do just that. The Ragin Cajun's own the inside track to the Sun Belt crown and eventual bid. Against Sun Belt competition has a whole, UL-Lafayette has been on the positive end of a lot of lop-sided victories. At home, in particular, the Ragin’ Cajuns seem to be unbeatable. Unfortunately for them, this contest is on a neutral site. Which gives the Bobcats a wrinkle to work with as they head into this affair.
The Bobcats do have a couple of advantages here to make this game more competitive than the line forecasts. Texas State owns the better scoring defense and commits fewer turnovers compared to the Ragin' Cajuns. In a game where the stakes are as high as they are this will be paramount. Let us also forget that to back ULL you can expect to pay a premium given the fact they are "supposed" to win. Take advantage of the inflated points.