College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Tuesday, March 21st

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College basketball schedule today has 4 games

Quarterfinals in the NIT and semifinals in the CBI are all we’ve got to handicap today, as the college basketball season is winding down. There are seven games left in the NIT, three in the CBI and 15 left in the NCAA Tournament, so there are just 25 games remaining before we bid adieu to what has been a really fascinating season.

 

These are all evening games tonight and I’ll scribble some thoughts on all four of them. Maybe even find a pick along the way. (Tracking sheet)

I’ll be recording a new episode of the VSiN College Basketball Betting Podcast with Tim Murray this afternoon, but we’ve got a Sweet 16 one out with Tim and Matt Youmans for your listening pleasure as well.

Here are some thoughts on the March 21 card (odds from DraftKings):

North Texas Mean Green vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (-4.5, 122.5)

Oklahoma State was one of the last four out, but you wouldn’t know it from their NIT performance thus far. They went on the road as the higher seed and beat Youngstown State and then beat Eastern Washington by 11 in Stillwater this past Sunday. Now they’re laying a number against the slowest team in Division I, the North Texas Mean Green.

UNT hits the road for the first time in the tourney after beating Alcorn State by 16 and Sam Houston State by 20. They’re 24-of-55 from 3 in two games thus far. I don’t think they’ll keep up that pace against an Oklahoma State team that has held opponents to 31.6% on 3s this season, but if it does, Oklahoma State is only shooting 31.4% on 3s and have taken a 3 with 39% of their shot attempts.

Both teams rank in the top 10 in 2P% defense and North Texas is also 20th against the 3, while Oklahoma State is 51st. With the slow pace of this game, I expect it to be tight. North Texas is also a tough team to prepare for with the quick, one-day scout. Both Bart Torvik and Haslametrics have this game projected to fall within three points and I’m looking for a close game. North Texas is also the better free throw shooting team if it comes down to that.

Oklahoma State had 19 turnovers against Eastern Washington and now faces a North Texas team that ranks 74th in TO% on defense at 20%. The Cowboys are 321st in the nation in TO% on offense at 20.7%. In a game with limited possessions, I expect Oklahoma State to turn the ball over and that helps North Texas a lot. A lot of books are down to +4 now or +4.5 (-115). I’ll grade it at 4 to be fair, but find a 4.5. Hopefully you’re sitting on a 5 from earlier.

Pick: North Texas +4

Other Games

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Oregon Ducks (-3, 131.5)

Wisconsin had some difficulty with Liberty last time out, but came away with a 75-71 win while going just 1-of-15 from 3. Otherwise, these two teams have scored comfortable wins over their other NIT opponents. Wisconsin won by 19 over Bradley and scored 81 points on one of the nation’s top defenses. Oregon has dubs by 26 over UC Irvine and 14 over UCF. Those two games have represented Oregon’s best defensive performances by points per possession since mid-November.

Wisconsin’s 29.9% shot share on Close Twos makes it hard for me to trust them and I actually did pick against them in that Bradley game, which never had a chance. Over 40% of their shot attempts are 3s, which is what makes the 75-point effort against Liberty so impressive given that they only made one of them. They were 15-of-21 at the rim and 11-of-14 in the mid-range in that one. In this tournament, Wisconsin is 18-of-29 on mid-range 2s (62.1%) after shooting just 33.9% for the season.

I would expect some regression to come in that department and Oregon does rank 20th in the nation in 2P% defense. I’d be on the Ducks here, but N’Faly Dante and Jermaine Couisnard are both questionable and clearly less than 100%. Neither played in the wins over UC Irvine or UCF and neither has Will Richardson, who led the Ducks with 5.1 assists per game.

Other guys are taking full advantage of their opportunities, including sophomore Nate Bittle, who had 17 points in 22 minutes against the Anteaters and 21 points with 13 rebounds against UCF in just 26 minutes.

The line coming down suggests Dante and/or Couisnard won’t play. I can’t take the Ducks, but maybe this is a good sign for next season.

Slight Lean: Oregon -3

Eastern Kentucky Colonels vs. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (-4.5, 153)

Eastern Kentucky is 41st in adjusted tempo per Bart Torvik and Southern Utah is 19th, so this should be an up-and-down game with a good number of points. I do prefer that Southern Utah has a much higher shot share at the rim, as 45.8% of their shots are Close Twos, compared to 33.2% for Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels take a lot more mid-range jumpers. Southern Utah takes more 3s and shoots them with a lot more success.

Eastern Kentucky is 266th in 2P% and 288th in 3P%. They’re a good offensive rebounding team, but they largely score with volume of possessions, not exactly efficiency. Southern Utah should probably have better offensive numbers given the shot selection, but they’re above the national averages in 2P% (122nd) and 3P% (123rd).

You do have to wonder how much the Colonels have in the tank. They won back-to-back overtime games against Cleveland State and Indiana State to get to this point. Fortunately, because of the tempo they run, they rotate in a lot of guys, but still. Usually fatigue shows up on the defensive end of the floor and Eastern Kentucky has already allowed 63 shot attempts at the rim in this tournament, which has to be a positive for Southern Utah and their ability to get inside.

Eastern Kentucky has also settled for 57 mid-range jumpers, but has made 26 of them (45.6%). Southern Utah only beat Rice by two, but that’s because they really relaxed in the second half. The Thunderbirds led by 12 with 2:39 left and then 9 with 1:27 left, but Rice tied it with 24 seconds left.

I lean Southern Utah, but keep an eye on this game for a live betting opportunity. Eastern Kentucky has spent a lot of energy the last two days, while Southern Utah is a team that played Saturday and then had Sunday off, so they’re playing three games in four days as opposed to three in three. There are a lot of 4s out there. Don’t take 4.5 at DK if you like the T-Birds here. If you like EKU, take the 4.5.

Slight Lean: Southern Utah -4

Radford Highlanders vs. Charlotte 49ers (-5, 123)

Radford has beaten Tarleton State and San Jose State to get to this point, while Charlotte has downed Western Carolina and Milwaukee. A lot of the social media scuttlebutt I’ve been reading about the 49ers has been very critical of the job that Ron Sanchez has done, but his team sure seems to look engaged in this tournament. They’ve played really well on both offense and defense, as some of their regular season metrics are finally turning into victories.

Charlotte never trailed against Milwaukee yesterday and we’ve seen a noteworthy move towards the 49ers with the line for this game. As I wrote yesterday, they play a pack line defense for Sanchez, who is a former Virginia assistant. It’s tough to prep for that with a one-day turnaround, which is something Milwaukee coach Bart Lundy said in his postgame presser. Turns out he was right.

Radford is a 36% team from 3, but doesn’t take a lot of them. They’re also 301st in the nation in 2P% defense against a Charlotte team that ranks 59th. Also, the 49ers are 19th in 3P% at 37.7%. Radford’s best attribute defensively is to take the ball away, but Charlotte is a veteran team that takes good care of it. I can see why this line is moving.

This will be another slow-paced game, as Charlotte has the second-slowest adjusted tempo and Radford is 317th. I get worried about taking teams to win by margin in those types of games. I think the line move is probably correct here, though I’m not betting the game.

Slight Lean: Charlotte -5

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