Mar 10, 2023; Greensboro, NC, USA; Miami (Fl) Hurricanes guard Bensley Joseph (4) and the bench react in the second half during the semifinals of the ACC Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Gallery Sports Betting Picks: March 17, 2023
11:40 a.m. CT: No. 14-seed Kennesaw State vs. No. 3-seed Xavier
The Pick: Kennesaw State +13 (-110) at Caesars
No. 13-seed Kennesaw State will take on No. 3-seed Xavier in Greensboro on Friday for the right to take on either Iowa State or Pittsburgh in the Round of 32. The Owls toppled Liberty in the A-Sun finals to advance to the tournament, and are catching short-handed Xavier at the right time. The Musketeers are without forward Zach Freemantle, adding pressure to Souley Boum and their other starters to make up for Freemantle’s 15 points and eight rebounds per game.
Kennesaw State is an excellent 3-point shooting team, making better than 37% of their triples this season. Xavier is a particularly soft matchup in this sense, ranking 281st per KenPom at defending shots beyond the arc. The Owls rank second out of 363 teams in KenPom’s minutes continuity metric, a measure of how long a team’s players have remained within the program, experience that could really help them take advantage of a Xavier team still trying to figure out how to play without Freemantle. Looking more closely at Kennesaw’s results against power conference teams, my confidence only grew – the Owls lost by just three at VCU, by 10 at Florida, and 14 at Indiana in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. Kennesaw State’s 34-point loss at San Diego State on Dec. 12 feels more like the exception than the rule.
1:55 p.m. CT: No. 15-seed Vermont vs. No. 2-seed Marquette
The Pick: Vermont +10.5 (-110) at Caesars
No. 15-seed Vermont will battle No. 2-seed Marquette in Columbus on Friday for the right to take on Michigan State or USC in the Round of 32. At least one 15-seed has picked up a win in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments, with Saint Peter’s famously reaching the Elite Eight last season. While I’m not going to try to convince you that Vermont will win three games, I do think they have a fighting chance versus Marquette. Marquette is one of only two teams along the top two seed lines that began the season unranked, which history suggests makes them vulnerable. Thirty-six teams have matched these parameters since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, and remarkably, none have reached the Final Four. Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles have had an incredibly impressive season and finished it on a nine-game winning streak that ended with a Big East title – but it is worth noting that they did not have a large margin of victory. Five of those nine wins have come by two points or fewer, which tells me Marquette is probably overvalued heading into the Tournament.
Speaking of winning streaks, Vermont’s 15-game winning streak is the second-longest in the country entering March Madness. The Catamounts will not beat themselves, which matters immensely against Shaka Smart’s havoc-oriented defense. Vermont turns the ball over on just 14% of their possessions, ninth-best in the country per KenPom. The Catamounts also rebound exceptionally well on the defensive end, which could result in Vermont getting more shots overall. Marquette is exceptionally weak on the glass, erasing most No. 2 seeds’ advantage over their first-round opponents. I do not know if Vermont can spring the upset outright, but I fully expect John Becker’s team to be in a close game heading into the final minutes.
6:25 p.m. CT: No. 12-seed Drake vs. No. 5-seed Miami
The Pick: Miami -130 (moneyline) at Caesars
No. 12-seed Drake and No. 5-seed Miami will meet Friday evening in Albany, with the winner taking on either Indiana or Kent State in the Round of 32. The trendy pick here is Drake, and I get it. The Bulldogs are 27-7 overall and just finished winning the relatively high-profile Missouri Valley Conference “Arch Madness” tournament in blowout fashion over Bradley. The issue I have with Drake is that they have one win inside KenPom’s top 80 all season, and have faced exactly one team from a power conference this season. Miami is exceptionally well-coached, and while forward Norchad Omier’s status for Friday’s game remains unknown, Drake ranks 302nd nationally in average height, making them an ideal draw for the undersized Hurricanes. Jim Larranaga, who famously led George Mason to the Final Four in 2006, has taken Miami to three Sweet 16s and last season’s Elite Eight. His teams are always well-prepared for a tournament setting, while Darian DeVries has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game as Drake’s head coach (0-1).
Miami ranks 19th-nationally effective field goal percentage and 12th in offensive efficiency. These Hurricanes are nothing like what Drake routinely faces in the MVC, and come from an ACC conference that I believe is undervalued heading into the NCAA Tournament. Getting the Canes at this short of a moneyline price is a bargain, as I believe Larranaga’s group should be a six or seven-point favorite.