2022 March Madness: Round Of 32 Betting Preview
The first day of the NCAA Tournament did not disappoint.
These kids put their hearts on the line and left every ounce of energy out on the floor. March Madness certainly lived up to its name as several upsets occurred, highlighted by the No. 15 St. Peters’s Peacocks out-shooting the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats after a wild overtime game in the East Region. St. Peter’s became just the 10th No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in tournament history. The upsets and overtime games didn’t stop there though. Creighton overcame a terrible first-half performance to defeat San Diego State in overtime. The No. 10 seeded San Francisco forced overtime against the No. 7 seeded Murray State but the favorite barely escaped. Murray State will have a prime opportunity to make the Sweet Sixteen now that Kentucky is out of the tournament. Will St. Peter’s be able to pull off another miracle?
Most college basketball fans and bettors know that seeding can be quite inaccurate and it has historically proven to be true, particularly in first-round matchups between No. 5 and No. 12 seeds. Yesterday, New Mexico State held off a UConn team that many expected to make a deep run. Meanwhile, Keegan Murray’s 21 points for Iowa wasn’t quite enough to get past the No. 12 seeded Richmond Spiders. And although the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines were technically the favorite over Colorado State at most sportsbooks, Michigan was able to pull away fairly comfortably in the second half for the most-expected “upset” of the first day.
Other upsets were fairly close to happening. Arkansas survived an upset bid by the No. 13 seeded Vermont Catamounts in the West Region while fellow No. 4 seed, UCLA, just sneaked by Akron in the East Region. In the Midwest Region, the No. 13 seeded South Dakota State had a shot at taking down Providence but eventually lost, 66-57.
Thus far today, there have not been nearly as many upsets. It’s looking like Notre Dame (who had to survive a play-in game) is about to defeat the No. 6 seed in the West Region, Alabama. Outside of that, the favorites have dominated, though the No. 10 seeded Miami snuck by USC by two points. But Miami will have to face one of the top teams in the tournament in the second round, the Auburn Tigers.
Although we still have some games left to be played today to determine the final second-round matchups, let’s take a look at some exploitable matchups that we know we’ll see on television this weekend from a betting perspective. There are still plenty of upsets to come so it’s time to analyze the matchups and make some money at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Please Note: All odds are accurate from FanDuel Sportsbook as of 6:00 PM EST. on Friday, March 18.
March Madness Round Of 32 Betting Guide
No. 8 UNC vs. No. 1 Baylor (-5.5)
At the time of publication, the Baylor Bears are 5.5-point favorites heading into a difficult matchup against an organization with some of the best basketball history in the NCAA. North Carolina absolutely destroyed Marquette yesterday in what was expected to be a very even matchup. The Tar Heels (25-9) blew out Marquette, 95-63 in the largest margin of victory in an 8-9 game in NCAA Tournament history. Baylor, the defending National Champions, have a tough task ahead of them. While I think Baylor will ultimately win this game due to their electrifying defense and strong coaching, UNC is known for making games close when they enter as the underdog. In fact, North Carolina is 8-2 overall and 7-3-0 against the spread in its last 10 games. The Tar Heels put up an average of 78 points per game, 14.8 more points than the 63.2 that the Baylor Bears allow. And North Carolina is 15-12-1 against the spread and 22-7 overall when it scores more than 63.2 points. If UNC can continue to score at a high rate (90+ points yesterday against Marquette), they should keep this game close enough to cover.
The Pick: UNC (+5.5)
No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 3 Tennessee (-5.5)
This is another game with a 5.5-point spread but I think Tennessee isn’t getting the respect they deserve. The Volunteers could have been a top seed in the tournament, that’s how good this squad is. Tennessee dismantled Longwood yesterday, winning by a whopping 32 points. They won the SEC tournament, relying on a seven-man rotation for the most part. This team’s conditioning is outstanding. Coach Rick Barnes likes to play small ball but 6’9” senior, John Fulkerson, will be pivotal in this matchup. Although he usually comes off the bench, he has tons of experience and is Tennessee’s most valuable passer out of the post. Considering he comes off the bench, his 5+ rebounds and over a blocked shot per game are quite impressive. Despite the fact that Fulkerson is the most important big and Kennedy Chandler is the team’s best all-around player, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan-James will be the reason Tennessee continues to thrive in the biggest tournament of the year.
Three-point shooting matters more than ever during March Madness and Vescovi is a threat that Michigan will have to clamp down on to have any chance at pulling the upset off. Vescovi is second on the team with 13.4 points per game in large part due to his 39.6 percent clip from long range. He nails just about three three-pointers per contest. Plus, he’s a decent ball distributor (over three assists per game). Jordan-James on the other hand is a more physical guard. Surprisingly, he leads the team in rebounds (over six boards per game) and blocked shots. He also averages 1.5 steals per game and still managed to average over 10 points per game this season. He’s a bit like Draymond Green but he’s a guard. He does all the little things that will allow Kennedy Chandler to do his thing and put the Wolverines away.
Although Michigan defeated Colorado State by eight points and covered the spread, Michigan has gone 14-17 against the spread this year. Tennessee went 21-13 against the spread and has covered in seven of their previous 10 matchups. They only lost one of those 10 outings.
The Volunteers are more gifted on both ends of the floor and have a much deeper bench. Bettors should comfortably ride Tennessee to the Sweet 16. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a run at a Final Four appearance.
The Pick: Tennessee (-5.5)
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No. 5 St. Mary’s Gaels vs. No. 4 UCLA Bruins (-2.5)
UCLA was almost ousted by Akron last night so they have to be on high alert against a much better program tomorrow. This is a tough game to analyze simply because St. Mary’s does not have the elite athletes that wear Bruin uniforms. That said, coach Randy Bennett has clearly drawn up a playing style that systematically works with his personnel. The Gaels are all about tempo and shooting. This is the highest seed ever awarded to St. Mary’s and I would not be the least bit surprised if UCLA gets beaten by a team with fewer electric athletes. If you can hit from long range, you can beat anyone on any given day. St. Mary’s is great at forcing opponents to play to their preferred style of play. Heck, they beat Gonzaga one of the three times they faced off this season.
However, UCLA is a very physical team led by experienced college basketball veterans. Tyger Campbell will play a pivotal role in this matchup. He’s going to have to find the right balance between pushing the pace and slowing the game down. The Bruins also get to the charity stripe much more than the Gaels. That could be what decides this nail-biter. Still, after UCLA was last season’s tournament darling, I could see St. Mary’s winning this game outright. To be a bit safer, I’ll just take the points. After all, Saint Mary’s is 21-13-1 against the spread while UCLA is 18-15-1 against the spread this season. The magic number for the Gaels is going to be 63. The Gaels put up an average of 70.1 points per game, 7.5 more points than the 62.6 the Bruins allow to opponents. Saint Mary’s is 20-1 overall when it scores more than 62.6 points. If they score 63 points against UCLA’s debilitating defense, they will pull off the upset.
The Pick: St. Mary’s (+2.5)
No. 12 Richmond Spiders vs. No. 4 Providence Friars (-2.5)
Despite the large gap in seeds, Providence barely escaped Vermont while the Richmond Spiders delivered Iowa a shocker of an upset in the first round. Both teams are coming off first-round performances in which they shut down very effective offenses. Providence limited South Dakota State to 57 points despite the fact that SDU is the 14th-ranked offense according to KenPom. Meanwhile, the Spiders held the third-ranked offense in the country in Iowa to 63 points, allowing just a 36% conversion rate from the field.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see Richmond coming, mainly because they aren’t a team known for their defense. I thought they would get smoked by Iowa. However, the Spiders have turned it around and have allowed just 62.4 points per game over their previous five contests. Richmond also has some momentum after defeating Davidson in the A10 Tournament Finals before upsetting Iowa in the first round of the big dance.
Providence was actually the team I expected to get upset in the first round by South Dakota State, partially due to their embarrassing loss to Creighton in the Conference semi-finals. They were blown out, 85-58. Perhaps I put too much emphasis on that performance (or lack of performance) considering the only other two losses Providence has suffered in their last 16 games were both to Villanova.
Overall, these teams are very similar when it comes to offensive production. Richmond averages 103.7 points per 100 possessions while Providence averages 103.5. Doesn’t get much closer than that. I think the difference in this game is going to be on the boards. Not only do the Friars have some very solid shooters in Jared Bynum and A.J. Reeves but they also have a huge advantage on the glass. Providence is 66th in the nation in rebound rate but the Spiders are just 285th. Had Providence not defeated South Dakota on the boards by eight, they may have lost that game.
Richmond’s senior point guard, Jacob Gilyard (13.6 PTS, 5.4 ASTs, 3 STLs per game), will do everything in his power to will his team to victory but I think the rebounding and shooting advantages may be too much to overcome. The Friars are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 games against a team with a winning percentage above .600. Look for that trend to continue.
The Pick: Providence (-2.5)
No. 15 St. Peter’s Peacocks vs. No. 7 Murray State Racers (-9)
Last but not least, let’s see if the Peacocks can keep this Cinderella story going after defeating Kentucky in overtime last night. Despite knocking out a powerhouse of a team on Thursday, I expect St. Peters’ story to end tomorrow at the hands of the Racers. Although Murray State has only covered the spread in four of their last 10 games, they were victorious in all 10 of those contests.
Although the Peacocks are a good three-point shooting team (35.4%) and are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 48.2%, St. Peters tends to try to score more inside. If I were coaching, I’d tell them to shoot more from long range since they aren’t much better from inside the arc than from beyond. St. Peters is converting just 46.1% of their two-point shots this season. We have to give the Peacocks credit for defeating the Wildcats but any time a team handicapped 22 points wins outright, there is a bit of luck involved. That luck will run out against the Racers.
Murray State is pretty strong on both sides of the ball. The Racers are holding teams to 29.8% from three-point range and 50.7% on two-pointers. The Racers have earned 20.6% of turnovers and held teams to 25.3% offensive rebounds. Those are pretty elite stats in college basketball. Not to mention, Murray State does an excellent job at keeping their core group of players out of foul trouble.
On the other side of the ball, the Racers are beasts on the offensive glass, earning 35.3% of offensive rebounds. K.J. Williams has been phenomenal this year averaging 18.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while converting 54.5% of his attempts from the field and 33.6% of his shots from long range. Williams’ shooting percentages pretty much go hand in hand with how the entire team shoots as a whole.
The Peacocks have been a defensive team this entire season but they have a propensity for being too physical and racking up unnecessary fouls. Everybody loves an underdog but the buck stops with Murray State. While I don’t particularly love the significant spread, this team is coming off a 95-point effort against San Francisco (a superior team to St. Peters). The Racers score 79.7 points per game, 17.4 more points than the 62.3 the Peacocks give up. And when Murray State puts up more than 62.3 points, it is 15-7-1 against the spread and 26-0 overall. Lay the points and lock Murray State to move onto the Sweet Sixteen.
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