Mar 19, 2023; Albany, NY, USA; UConn Huskies forward Adama Sanogo (21) reacts after a play against the St. Mary’s Gaels during the first half at MVP Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Gallery Sports’ Betting Picks for March 25, 2023
With just two Elite Eight games on the docket for Saturday evening, Gallery Sports’ Betting Picks takes a stab at a side on each game as well as one total.
5:09 p.m. CT: Elite Eight: No. 9-seed Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3-seed Kansas State
The Pick: Florida Atlantic +2 (-110) at BetRivers
Florida Atlantic and Kansas State will battle in a surprising Elite Eight matchup Saturday evening, and I like the underdog Owls to reach their first Final Four in program history with a win. Florida Atlantic has more than proven itself on its run to the Elite Eight, winning games of vastly different styles and tempos over Memphis, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Tennessee. Kansas State has defeated Montana State, Kentucky, and Michigan State – but I do not believe the shooting numbers the Wildcats have put up are remotely sustainable. K-State has shot 61% or better in each game, including a ridiculous 70% from the field versus Montana State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Still, even after adding these outlier performances to Kansas State’s resume, the Wildcats rank just 82nd nationally in effective field goal percentage and 175th nationally in 3-point percentage, per KenPom. Put simply, I think Kansas State’s good fortune could run out, and Florida Atlantic is more than prepared to be the team to extinguish it. The Owls do a great job of pressuring shooters, and rank in the top-15 in the country per KenPom at both 2-point field goal percentage allowed and effective field goal percentage allowed. Give me the confident Owls over the overvalued Wildcats in what should be a fun finale to the NCAA Tournament’s East Region.
7:49 p.m. CT: Elite Eight: No. 4-seed Connecticut vs. No. 3-seed Gonzaga
The Picks: Connecticut -135 (Moneyline) at Caesars, OVER 153.5 (-110) at Caesars
Connecticut and Gonzaga are two of the more strongly-pedigreed teams left in the now eight-team NCAA Tournament field, and they’ll play one another in Las Vegas on Saturday night for a trip to the Final Four in Houston. The Huskies have the edge as I see it, mostly because Gonzaga’s defense is far and away the worst of these team’s four combined units. UConn is built like a traditional national championship contender, ranking 13th or above in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Gonzaga boasts the nation’s top-ranked offensive unit, but are just 73rd in defensive efficiency. The Bulldogs’ struggles to defend were clear and obvious versus UCLA, as they were dominated throughout the first half and for a significant portion of the second half before the Bruins’ short-handed lineup ran out of energy late. Even then, the Zags narrowly avoided disaster after being unable to put away UCLA with defensive stops when they were needed. Connecticut brings an even stronger offense into the fold than the Bruins, and given that the current edition of UCLA played without elite defender Jaylen Clark and post presence Adem Bona, I’d give the Huskies the edge on the defensive end at the moment, too. Put simply, the Zags are once again moving up in weight class. This time, I’m betting against their late magic pushing them through.
To handicap the total, I draw from Connecticut’s history against fast-paced teams this season. It is no secret that Gonzaga thrives in transition and prefers to run instead of playing in the half court, and Connecticut has shown a clear willingness to run in such spots this season. Look no further than the Huskies’ matchups with St. John’s, another team that wants each game to look like a track meet. Both games featured 77 possessions, and landed on totals of 159 and 181, respectively. UConn and Alabama stayed just below 150 points in their matchup in November, but that game featured a fast-paced 74 possessions. If Saturday night’s tilt lands on a similar number, I’m more than happy to wager that it’ll soar past the total 60% of the time.