Monday, March 4, 2024

College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday, March 20th

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College basketball schedule today has 4 games

You may have thought that college basketball was done for a few days with the gap between the second round and the Sweet 16, but not so fast, my friends. The quarterfinals of the CBI are tonight, with the semifinals tomorrow and the Championship Game on Wednesday. We’ve also got NIT quarterfinals on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the semifinals on Mar. 28 and the Championship Game on Mar. 30.

With the limited schedule, I can’t promise a pick every day if there isn’t anything I like, but I can promise some insights on the games and the other tournaments. Also, I didn’t realize that the first game of the CBI was at 9 a.m. PT this morning, so I apologize for that and the late posting. (Tracking sheet)

Tim Murray will get with Matt Youmans tonight and I’ll record Tuesday afternoon with Tim as we talk about the Sweet 16, the futures board and the NCAA Tournament to this point.

Here are some thoughts on the March 20 card (odds from DraftKings):

This game is the polar opposite of the 2:30 p.m. ET game. This 5 p.m. tip will be played at a snail’s pace, as San Jose State ranks 351st in tempo per Torvik and Radford is 318th. This will be a more controlled game and the total is clearly reflective of that. Radford head coach Darris Nichols returned to coach his first game since Feb. 18 after getting arrested for a DUI and subsequently suspended by the program.

The Spartans should have some advantages here. They are far and away the better rebounding team, ranking in the top 20 in offensive rebounding percentage for and against. They are also going to get to the tin more, as their shot share of 39.7% on Close Twos is only slightly better than Radford’s 39.4% mark, but opponents have a shot share on Close Twos of 42.1% on Radford, which ranks 340th. Not surprisingly, Radford ranks 307th in the nation in 2P% defense.

I actually like San Jose State in this game laying the 6.5. Radford played an overtime game yesterday against Tarleton State, while SJSU was idle on Sunday after Saturday’s blowout win against Southern Indiana. Radford actually trailed by as much as 12 in that game and had to battle back to get it to OT. The Spartans cruised against Southern Indiana and only went 17-of-32 on shots at the rim, well below their season average of 60%.

This will also be Radford’s first game against a top-100 opponent since Dec. 21. The Highlanders are just 2-8 against Quadrant III or better opponents and this counts as a Quad II game. Six of San Jose State’s 13 losses are against Quad I-A opponents and 10 of 13 were against Quad II or better. The Spartans just played a way better schedule and are a better team almost across the board.

Miles is also a better coach and should have his team more prepared with the quick turnaround, which matters in these tournament formats.

Pick: San Jose State -6.5

Other CBI Games

I thought I’d just run through some rambles on the other two CBI games that don’t tip off until after the article goes up. Again, I apologize for not getting this out earlier for EKU/Indiana State with the noon ET tip in Daytona Beach.

Rice ranks 304th in the nation in eFG% defense, 321st in 2P% and 336th in 3P%. This is an objectively bad basketball team without the ball. With the ball, Rice is 30th in 2P% and 104th in 3P%, so they’ve been really solid in that department. Southern Utah was a little below the national average in 2P% defense, but 302nd in 3P%. So, this is definitely a game with the potential for points. These are also two top-50 teams in tempo per Bart Torvik.

The under has been bet down a few points to 159.5, which is still a very high total. Southern Utah won 72-50 over North Alabama on Saturday in a game played to 76 possessions, which is a very fast tempo. Rice did play a high-scoring game, though, so it stands to reason that SUU should have more success offensively here. The Thunderbirds are also a terrific offensive team at the rim and Rice allows a 64.2% FG% on Close Twos, which ranks 341st out of 363 teams.

We should get a lot of points here, but 160 is a big ask in any CBB game. I do lean Southern Utah -6.5 since they’re a better defensive team by most metrics, but Rice could hit some 3s here to keep it close.

Lean: Southern Utah -6.5

Milwaukee is also playing a back-to-back after an overtime game here, as the CBI produced some good games in the first rounds. The Panthers beat Stetson 87-83, despite going just 7-of-33 from 3. That was a pick from yesterday’s article, so I’m glad the Panthers got there. They’re definitely stepping up in class here against a Charlotte team that had good metrics throughout the season, but didn’t convert those to wins.

The 49ers actually trailed most of the game against Western Carolina before taking the lead for good with 5:16 left and ultimately covering the number. Charlotte had 19 free throw attempts to seven for the Catamounts and was +14 at the line. WCU was also just 3-of-20 from 3. Charlotte ranks right around average in 3-point defense, so that was a bit of an outlier.

This is an interesting matchup and a major contrast of styles. Milwaukee wants to run. Charlotte’s coach, Ron Sanchez, was a Virginia assistant for a decade, so the 49ers play a slow game and run a pack-line defense. Milwaukee is a decent team from 3, but Bart Lundy’s bunch likes to get to the rim with a 42.5% shot share (22nd) on Close Twos. That’s a little tricky against this defense, but Charlotte didn’t run it nearly as well as a team like Virginia. The Cavaliers are top 25 in shot share on Close Twos. Charlotte is 176th.

I got really close to playing Milwaukee here, but I remember reading an article where Lundy said that his team was pretty banged-up late in the season. We saw five straight awful defensive performances from Feb. 9-23 and another against Cleveland State in the Horizon League Tournament, which may have been confirmation of his admission. I’m a little worried about the back-to-back after an 83-possession thriller yesterday. Lundy also noted how it’s a tough turnaround to face this style of defense with less than a day to dissect the tape.

Lean: Milwaukee +6

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