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Saturday NCAA Tournament Wagers

North Carolina (+5½) vs Baylor

Winning 13 of its last 16 games, North Carolina is peaking at the perfect time. The Tar Heels utterly dominated Marquette in the round of 64, showing no signs of slowing. North Carolina has the ideal team composition for tournament time, a strong backcourt with RJ Davis and Caleb Love combined with an exceptional frontcourt led by superstar Armando Bacot, making the Tar Heels a threat to knock out any other team in the tournament, Baylor included. The Bears are among the best at offensive rebounding, posting the seventh-highest offensive rebounding rate in the country, although North Carolina is even better on defense, recording the second-highest defensive rebounding rate among all D1 teams. On the other side of the court, North Carolina again has impressive numbers, ranking No. 91 in offensive rebounding, with the Bears falling a bit short on the defensive glass, ranking all the way down at No. 211. All in all, Baylor has slightly better numbers, hence the betting line, but in an otherwise tight matchup, I'll gladly take the points and the stronger rebounding team.

Richmond (+3) vs Providence

Providence managed to do its job and win as the higher-seed in its previous matchup, but I'm not so sure it will have the same luck in the Round of 32. The Friars are a tough team, however, their underlying numbers suggest they're not as great as their record might indicate. Providence currently has the highest 'luck' rating among all D1 teams, per KenPom, so it would seem it's only a matter of time before fate evens things out. Richmond's overall numbers don't jump out, although it's worth noting the Spiders had the tenth-lowest offensive turnover percentage among all D1 teams, so we can count on them to stay cool and hold on to the ball for most of the game. Richmond's point guard Jacob Gilyard and its frontcourt proved to be a formidable combination against one of the better in the tournament in Iowa, so I'm trusting the Spiders will keep the fire going against a Providence team that doesn't rank nearly as high as Iowa did.

St. Mary's vs. UCLA - Under 126

These teams are all about defense and they love to play it slow, the perfect recipe for an under bet. During conference play this season, Saint Mary's had the slowest tempo in the WCC while UCLA had the second-slowest tempo in the Pac-12. Defensively, both teams rank top-12 among all D1 teams in adjusted efficiency rating. Additionally, both teams are capable of taking over a game defensively, as UCLA held Arizona to 59 points earlier this season and Saint Mary's held Gonzaga to 57 points just three weeks ago. Assuming UCLA's defense lives up to its billing, Saint Mary's will have a tough time offensively. Similarly, while UCLA's offense ranks top-15 in adjusted efficiency, it's also been inconsistent at times, as they showed in the round of 64, scoring just 57 points against an Akron team that was fairly mediocre on defense this season. The over/under number might be low, but ultimately it's too hard to ignore the tempos and style of these two teams. I'll take the under.

St. Peter's vs. Murray St. - Under 130

This matchup has all the makings of an under bet. Both Saint Peter's and Murray State prefer a slower-paced game, with both teams logging the third-slowest tempo in their respective conferences during conference play. Both teams are also anchored by their defense, with both teams recording the best defensive efficiency rating in their conferences. Further helping our cause is Saint Peter's offense, which is particularly weak, ranking No. 242 among all D1 teams in adjusted efficiency. As one might guess, Saint Peter's has the lowest-ranked offense remaining in the tournament and it's not remotely close. On the other side of the court, the Racers might pose a challenge to our under bet since they rank No. 32 in offensive efficiency, although Saint Peter's defense also ranks closely at No. 31, significantly dampening Murray State's offensive advantage. Either way, this should be a slower-paced game between two teams with a stout defense, I'll go with the under.

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