College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Tuesday, March 28th

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College basketball schedule today has 2 games

We’re down to the final six games of the college basketball season, with the semifinals in the NIT and NCAA Tournament, followed by the Championship Games in those respective events. The NIT semis are tonight and the title game is Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Final Four is Saturday in Houston and the title game follows on Monday.

 

When I used to host a daily podcast at my previous spot BangTheBook, I’d always ask my guests to do a quick evaluation at the end of a season, highlighting what they did well, what they could have done better and what they’ll do differently for the next season. With the CBB season coming to an end in less than a week, I’d suggest you do the same. Think about what worked well and what didn’t. Think about what you learned and how to apply it or what you’d like to learn and take the time to do it.

I’ll list my takeaways next Monday for the Natty, but I think it’s worth giving it some thought for a few days. (Tracking sheet)

I spent some time chatting with Tim Murray about the NIT and the Final Four on the latest edition of the VSiN College Basketball Podcast.

Here are some thoughts on the March 28 card (odds from DraftKings):

Wisconsin Badgers vs. North Texas Mean Green (-1.5, 114.5)

It is downright hilarious how different the two NIT games are on Tuesday night. The total for the second game is 36 points higher than the total for this one, but both games are closely lined. North Texas is looking to continue what has been an unbelievable postseason for Conference USA, as we could have an all-C-USA title game in the NIT and have Florida Atlantic in the Final Four.

I think the Conference USA team wins here. You can use a sundial to time UNT’s possessions, as they play at far and away the slowest tempo in the country. Not only do they play very slowly, but they play great defense, as opponents are only shooting 44.4% on 2s (8th) and 30% on 3s (16th). They’re the sixth-ranked defense in eFG% and rank 22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, despite playing the 110th-ranked schedule per Bart Torvik.

With a limited number of possessions and the defensive strength of the Mean Green, it is really hard for opponents to score points. That task is even harder when you shoot like Wisconsin. The Badgers are 288th in eFG%, 164th in 3P% and 318th in 2P%. They are only shooting 46.4% on 2s and managed to survive against Oregon despite a 14-of-41 performance on 2-point shots. To make matters worse, Wisconsin is 338th in offensive rebounding percentage, so I’m expecting a lot of one-and-done possessions.

North Texas, meanwhile, is 41st in offensive rebounding percentage. Even though they haven’t been efficient on 2s, they’ve still scored at least 1 point per possession in 26 of their 36 games. Both teams shoot 3s over 40% of the time, but UNT should get back more misses. The Mean Green also shoot 36.1% on 3s, while Wisconsin is at 34.3%.

Lastly, Wisconsin is 341st in the nation in FT Rate. Because North Texas pressures so much on defense, they do foul a good amount, with the 339th-ranked FT Rate against, but Wisconsin doesn’t get inside and settles for a lot of jumpers, so I think the Mean Green’s lone weakness on defense isn’t a big deal here.

Pick: North Texas -1.5

Other Game

Utah Valley Wolverines vs. UAB Blazers (-4.5, 151.5)

The first game might lull you to sleep in the NIT semis, but this one will wake you up. These are two top-50 teams in adjusted tempo per Torvik. UAB is eighth in offensive rebounding percentage, which could be a big part of the equation in this game. However, Utah Valley is fourth in eFG% defense and opponents are shooting 48.1% on Close Twos, which is the best mark in the country. 

Utah Valley may be without head coach Mark Madsen, whose wife is due to give birth anytime now. Madsen is also expected to be named the new head coach at Cal, so there are some distractions for the Wolverines. One thing that could help them is that they just played in the WAC Tournament at Orleans Arena, so they’re familiar with Vegas and the venue.

In their WAC Tournament game, the Wolverines blew a 17-point lead with six minutes left and lost on a four-point play with four seconds left. They also missed a layup chance to win. Since then, they’ve rolled New Mexico and Colorado and beat Cincinnati at home in the quarterfinals to get to this point.

UAB is a very experienced team, led by senior Jelly Walker, but there are five other seniors that play key roles for this team. The disappointment of not making the NCAA Tournament melted away a while ago. These teams just want to win this tournament and UAB has a lot of guys that will move on in their careers, so that seems to have been a motivating factor.

I think a lot of people will just assume that UAB played a tougher schedule because they’re a more familiar name, but Ken Pomeroy actually has Utah Valley playing the tougher schedule to this point. For the Wolverines to be third in 2P% defense and 25th in 3P% defense is rather impressive. UAB is top-100 in 3P% offense, but 216th in 2P% offense. I’m leaning slightly towards the under here, especially in what will be an unfamiliar venue for UAB, but not strong enough to play it.

I’m a little surprised to see so much love for UAB here. UNT’s Grant McCasland seems to be going to Texas Tech, but that isn’t impacting the line. I’m not sure if Madsen to Cal is moving it or he’s not coaching due to the baby and somebody knows it or what, but this shot up to -4.5 at most shops overnight.

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