Mar 17, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Creighton Bluejays center Ryan Kalkbrenner (11) reacts to a play during the second half against North Carolina State Wolfpack in the first round of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports
Gallery Sports’ Betting Picks: March 19, 2023
1:40 p.m. CT: No. 6-seed Kentucky vs. No. 3-seed Kansas State
The Pick: Kentucky -1.5 (-110) at BetMGM
No. 6-seed Kentucky moved onto the Round of 32 with a win over Providence and now will look to defeat No. 3-seed Kansas State for a trip to the Sweet 16. In a battle of Wildcats, Kentucky should be a bigger favorite than they are right now. John Calipari’s team has not been consistent this season, but they have won their last six games versus teams not named Vanderbilt. Kansas State has exceeded expectations under head coach Jerome Tang this season, but the talent disparity between these squads is too clear for me to ignore. Kentucky began the season ranked No. 4 in the country, and Calipari’s teams tend to round into form as the calendar turns to March. ShotQuality makes Kentucky a seven-point favorite based on the quality of opportunities they create to score, and the Wildcats in blue will get second chances all afternoon when they do miss. Kansas State ranks 219th nationally per KenPom at keeping opponents off the offensive glass, while Kentucky is the second-best offensive rebounding team in the nation. I’ll take Kentucky to outlast K-State in a physical affair on Sunday afternoon.
6:10 p.m. CT: No. 6-seed Creighton vs. No. 3-seed Baylor
The Pick: Creighton +1.5 (-120) at BetMGM
The sixth-seeded Creighton Bluejays will take on No. 3-seed Baylor Sunday night in a Round of 32 matchup for the right to take on Princeton in the Sweet 16. Creighton creates a huge matchup problem for Baylor with Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-1 center with an elite skill set on the offensive end of the floor. While the Bears guard the perimeter reasonably well, they’re exceedingly poor at protecting the paint. Baylor ranks 315th in the country per KenPom in 2-point percentage defense, and is 286th nationally at keeping opponents from pulling down offensive rebounds.
The Bluejays’ defense is elite as well. Creighton ranks 13th nationally in overall defensive efficiency because they do an excellent job of denying teams opportunities in the paint and almost never send opponents to the free throw line. Baylor is an excellent offensive team, but they’ll need to hit 3-pointers at a high rate to beat Creighton. These two teams are not separated by much in most analytical rankings, but Baylor’s defense (99th nationally per KenPom) will be easily the biggest liability on the floor Sunday night – especially against a dynamic big man like Kalkbrenner.
6:45 p.m. CT: No. 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 9-seed Florida Atlantic
The Pick: Florida Atlantic first half -8 (-110) at Bet365
Ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic, fresh off a last-second win over Memphis in the Round of 64, catches a break as it faces Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32 on Sunday. After the run No. 15-seed Saint Peter’s went on in last season’s NCAA Tournament, I would not be surprised to see many taking the points with the Knights – but this FDU team does not stack up at all to the Peacocks of 2022. Tobin Anderson’s team entered the NCAA tournament ranked 298th in KenPom, while last year’s Saint Peter’s team entered ranked 121st. The Knights are one of the 10 worst defensive teams in the entire country, allowing 1.16 points per possession this season and 56% shooting from inside the arc. FDU is also the smallest team in the tournament, and while they deserve credit for overcoming that size disadvantage versus Purdue, Florida Atlantic will not sleep on the Knights. FAU is an elite shooting team, ranking 23rd nationally in effective field goal percentage. With all of the hype surrounding Fairleigh Dickinson’s program, I have my doubts about the team’s ability to fully prepare for what the Owls will throw at them – especially heading into their third game in five days. Florida Atlantic will take its opponent seriously from the jump and build a substantial lead before halftime. Advanced metrics like KenPom and ShotQuality make the Owls a 19-point favorite, meaning this first half number should be closer to 11.