College basketball best bets today

Happy March Madness! The first of the two most exciting days of the college basketball year has arrived and we’ve got tons of coverage to help you with filling out a bracket and making your picks. That includes our March Mania Betting Guide that has the top first-round picks for several contributors, including Matt Youmans, Tim Murray, Zachary Cohen, Matt Brown, Greg Peterson, Jonathan Von Tobel, and more.

The best place to go for all of our NCAA Tournament coverage is our March Madness Hub, which includes matchups and capsules on every game for the first round and will include matchups and capsules for every game of the tournament.


A couple of my best bets from the Guide are for games today, but I have some other thoughts on today’s action as well.

Check the latest college basketball odds for legal U.S. sportsbooks across the country and our Vegas odds if you share a state with us here at VSiN. Also, give the college basketball betting splits a look for these or any other college basketball games today have your interest. Check out the Tracking Sheet for this season’s results and our college basketball home page for more CBB content.

Here are three college basketball best bets for today.

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publish.

Akron Zips vs. Creighton Bluejays (-12, 142.5)

1:30 p.m. ET

The Bluejays went on a nice NCAA Tournament run last season, but it has been a struggle in past years. I’m always concerned about teams that take a lot of jumpers going out to play in neutral settings and that’s the case again here for Creighton. While I will grant that this year’s team is one of Greg McDermott’s best on the defensive end, the Zips are a formidable team in their own right.

The battle between Enrique Freeman and Ryan Kalkbrenner is a really fun one down low and should steal the show. But, these two teams both like to take a lot of 3s. Akron’s shot selection in the MAC Tournament was honestly a little concerning, but that was a rivalry game with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. They’re playing with some house money in this one.

Creighton likes to funnel teams into the mid-range, which I generally don’t like, but that has been a good shot choice for the Zips this season. I also like that their occasional carelessness with the basketball shouldn’t be as much of an issue here, as the Bluejays have the lowest TO% in the nation on defense.

If Creighton shoots the lights out in a game that will likely be played to 65 or 66 possessions, they’re going to win running away. However, they shot over 36% from 3 for the season and only shot 33.7% from deep in road and neutral settings, where they went 9-7.

I think it’s tough to run and hide in a game played at the expected tempo here with a Creighton team that takes a lot of long jumpers. I also expect Akron and the AK Rowdies to show up well in Pittsburgh to give the team a bit of a boost.

Note: The line was +12.5 when the Guide was published and that’s what is listed there, but it’s +12 at DraftKings here on Thursday morning, so it’s only fair I grade based on that.

Pick: Akron +12

Nevada Wolf Pack (-1, 137) vs. Dayton Flyers

4:30 p.m. ET

Nevada and Dayton square off in Salt Lake City, which should give the Wolf Pack a bit of an advantage. They play in the Mountain West Conference and reside in Reno, so the elevation in this game is something that they will be a lot more accustomed to than boys from Dayton.

Both of these teams are pretty reliant on long jumpers, so I have some concerns in that regard and do like the Under in this game as a result, but Dayton is more dependent on the 3-ball than the Wolf Pack. Their 3P Rate of 44.5% was the 29th-highest in the nation per Bart Torvik. Nevada shot 3s well, but only took one with 33.6% of their shots.

Obviously the big battle here is DaRon Holmes II for Dayton against the interior defenders of Nevada. Holmes will be the best player on the floor and has a nice supporting cast, but the gap between the MWC and the A-10 was pretty sizable this season, as the Mountain West was essentially the seventh power conference of college basketball alongside the Big East.

I also think Steve Alford is a better coach than Anthony Grant, as this isn’t Dayton’s first good team on his watch, but the first one to make the NCAA Tournament (the 2020 team may have been a No. 1 seed).

Nevada has a good interior defense. I think they’ll win the turnover battle. They’re the slightly better rebounding team. I think the elevation is an advantage for them in the second half. With all of that, it’s hard for me to go against them in a coin flip type of game.

Note: This is not a pick from the Guide.

Pick: Nevada -1

South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. Iowa State Cyclones (-15.5, 135.5)

7:35 p.m. ET

South Dakota State and Iowa State play in Omaha in first round action on Thursday in a game with some serious blowout potential. The Cyclones bring one of the best defenses in the nation into the NCAA Tournament and South Dakota State is likely to have a tough time keeping up.

But, my interest here is in the Under. It is risky because these two teams force opponents into a lot of 3-point shots, but we’ve got an unfamiliar shooting backdrop and two defenses that keep the opposition away from the rim. Iowa State’s shot share against on Close Twos of 23.8% was the lowest in the nation by far. South Dakota State’s was the fourth-lowest at 27.7%.

That means I don’t see a whole lot of bunnies in this one. Iowa State ranked in the top 50 in both 2P% and 3P% and no teams in the Summit League play defense remotely close to that, so I don’t anticipate a whole lot of offense from the Jackrabbits.

The other thing here is that Iowa State is on the road. Over their 18 home games, they won them all and shot 38.1% from 3 and 52.8% on 2s. Against Big 12 foes, they shot 33.1% from 3 and 47.6% on 2s at home, but still went 9-0. In road/neutral games, they shot 31.1% from 3 and 50.5% on 2s. Obviously SDSU is not a Big 12-caliber team, but the Cyclones played a weak non-conference slate at home and padded their offensive numbers. As a result, I’m looking Under here.

Note: The line was 134 when the Guide was published and that’s what is listed there, but it’s 135.5 at DraftKings here on Thursday morning, so it’s only fair I grade based on that.

Pick: Under 135.5