College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, March 17th

 

College basketball schedule today has 16 games

The first day of March Madness had a little bit of everything. We had some noteworthy upsets, a little bit of drama and a few high-scoring games here and there. It will be interesting to see what Friday holds, as it also doubles as St. Patrick’s Day, so I hope y’all enjoy your green beers while watching the action.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m getting the article out overnight so that it has as much lead time as possible heading into the games I’m also trying to put a “play to” line with each pick just in case the lines move, which we saw a little bit of on Thursday and we will see more of on Friday. (Tracking sheet)

Even though half of the first round is over, you can still gain a lot of insights from checking out host Tim Murray with Matt Youmans and myself on our VSiN College Basketball Betting Podcast.

Here are some thoughts on the March 17 card (odds from DraftKings):

(As a quick heads up, I’ll be listing games by tip-off time, not rotation number for the NCAA Tournament)

It continuously bothers me that the Selection Committee puts interesting and dangerous mid-majors up against each other in the early rounds of the tournament and we have another game like that here. VCU and Saint Mary’s meet in the 12/5 game and one team capable of knocking off a major conference opponent will be sent to the showers with a loss. I’m hoping that it’s VCU.

Saint Mary’s has a lot of advantages in this game in my estimation. First, the Gaels are far and away the better rebounding team. Going into Thursday’s games, the Gaels were 45th in offensive rebounding percentage and second in offensive rebounding percentage against, while VCU was 162nd and 241st, respectively, in those two areas. The Rams are definitely adept at forcing turnovers with their havoc defense, but Saint Mary’s is 59th in TO% on offense and took really good care of the ball. Meanwhile, VCU is 264th in TO%, so they may have some giveaways in this game that either negate the turnovers they do force or simply give Saint Mary’s more possessions.

VCU allowed a 43.7% shot share on Close Twos, which is 355th in the nation. While they defended those shots well, Saint Mary’s is good at getting inside and is better defensively at limiting those chances than the Rams are. The Gaels also shoot 36.7% from 3 if they are unable to get to the rim as much as I hope.

Saint Mary’s has better numbers in a lot of categories and also played a tougher schedule. VCU actually only played one Quadrant I opponent and lost to Memphis by 15 back on Nov. 20. They haven’t played a top-65 team since. I think the Gaels are well-equipped and very well-coached, so they’ll be ready.

Pick: Saint Mary’s -4

These are two really solid offensive teams, but Creighton has a big edge defensively and the shot selection for the Bluejays should provide a nice boost as well. Creighton has a shot share on Close Twos of 37.1%, while NC State’s is 31.8%. Furthermore, the Wolfpack defense allowed a Close Two on 41.3% of shot attempts, while Creighton allowed one on 32.6% of shot attempts.

What that means is that I expect Creighton to get a lot of high-percentage looks at the rim, while NC State is going to have to settle for a lot of jump shots. They shot well in the mid-range, but I’m not sure that’s a skill that you want to bet on or rely on with a team’s offensive profile. I’m content with taking my chances on that as a Creighton backer.

The Bluejays avoided mid-range jumpers, as nearly 80% of their shots were Close Twos and 3-point attempts. They shot 36% from 3 and I would anticipate that they do pretty well in that department here. NC State is 75th in the nation in 3P%, but the teams in the ACC that shot 3s well like Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson all had pretty good offensive numbers against NC State. Miami had 1.153 and 1.095 points per possession in the two games. Wake Forest had 1.124 and 1.101 in the two games. Clemson had 1.107 and 1.372 in the two games.

If Creighton does that, the Bluejays are going to cover this number. Creighton also has a top-20 defense by adjusted defensive efficiency and ranks 19th in 2P% defense. From an efficiency standpoint, Creighton is better and I also think NC State’s issues with similar offensive teams come to the forefront here.

Pick: Creighton -5

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