Get college basketball best bets for the 3/10/23 slate, featuring best bets for UAB vs. North Texas, Tennessee vs. Missouri, Duke vs. Miami, Memphis vs. UCF, Akron vs. Kent State, and Oregon vs. UCLA.
College Basketball Best Bets (3/10/23)
We’re rocking and rolling towards college basketball conference championships, and it’s such an exciting time of year. We didn’t do great in our bets on Thursday, and it was a perfect example of how volume can be the antithesis of profitability. It’s hard when there are such loaded slates every day, but I’ll work hard to identify only the top spots moving forward. As always, you can find all of my posted and settled plays in the spreadsheet linked here. We’ll get back on track. Let’s get to work.
March College Basketball Bets Record: 37-25-2 (+7.83 units)
UAB Blazers vs. North Texas Mean Green
I attempted to fade North Texas against Louisiana Tech last night, and it went miserably as the Bulldogs shot 2 of 16 from 3 (12.5%) and 14 of 46 from the field (30.4%). Such has been life against the Mean Green this season as they rank 26th in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency.
However, the underlying metrics suggest regression on that end of the floor. ShotQuality graded seven North Texas conference wins as analytical losses, primarily due to their defense which is expected to be allowing a significantly higher percentage from all over the floor.
Two of those North Texas wins graded as losses came against UAB. That’s despite Jordan “Jelly” Walker missing one of those two games. Walker will be on the floor today, and if you haven’t seen him play, you’re in for a treat – he’s third in the country averaging 23.3 points per game.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) March 1, 2023
Walker loves to push the pace as UAB ranks 39th in tempo, and he will attack North Texas in transition. UAB ranks 60th in transition frequency and North Texas is 338th in defensive efficiency in the open floor, per ShotQuality.
In the loss to North Texas where Walker was on the floor, the Mean Green got an aggressive home whistle. They made 23 of 25 free throws while UAB hit just 5 of 10. That’s especially unlikely to be repeated as the Blazers rank 53rd in free throw rate on offense and the Mean Green are 336th on defense.
The Mean Green play at the slowest pace in the country and the Blazers will speed them up today. They also rank just 162nd in experience while UAB sits at fifth, per KenPom. I’m trusting this UAB team full of senior leadership to get revenge today and be one win closer to getting our guy Jelly Walker to the dance.
Best Bet: UAB +1.5 (play to pick ‘em)
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Missouri Tigers
On February 11, Missouri traveled to Knoxville and upset Tennessee as 11.5-point underdogs. The Tigers drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win, and it was their 14th three-pointer of the game as they shot 14 of 26 from deep (53.8%).
That type of shooting performance would be surprising against most teams, but it was especially baffling against the Volunteers who rank first in the country as they allow opponents to shoot just 25.8% from three-point range.
Tennessee held a big 37-24 rebounding edge in that game, and that piece of the puzzle was unsurprising. The Vols ranked tenth in the country in rebounding percentage in the regular season while Missouri ranked 358th.
The Vols used that rebounding edge to prevent opponents from getting second-chance opportunities – they ranked sixth in the country in rate of second chances allowed per Haslametrics. Missouri will need to hit their first shot more often than not to survive.
When second-leading scorer Zakai Zeigler suffered a season-ending torn ACL, they had to re-adjust. It was an issue in their road loss to Auburn in the final game of the regular season. However, in the first round against Ole Miss, Josiah-Jordan James and Sam Vescovi combined for 35 points to lead the charge.
While Zeigler’s injury might be more of an issue as we get deeper into this tournament, I don’t see it as a significantly limiting factor against a Missouri defense ranked 223rd in the half-court per ShotQuality. Tennessee should be just fine offensively.
I watched the end of Tennessee’s win over Ole Miss, and head coach Rick Barnes was all business afterwards. He had the look of someone with championship aspirations and the steely determination to get to the mountaintop. Next up is a Missouri team that earned a shocking upset in their matchup this season, and I expect a much different result here.
Best Bet: Tennessee -6 (play to -7)
Duke Blue Devils vs. Miami Hurricanes
On Thursday, we saw Duke put together its best offensive game of the season. It came against a Pitt team that I wouldn’t exactly call a defensive juggernaut, but I still found the 96-point outing incredibly impressive for the Blue Devils.
Duke’s pick-and-roll game was unstoppable with Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively II as the roll men, and the pair of 7’0” big men dominated in the paint while guards Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach combined for 16 assists.
Filipowski showed something he rarely has this season in his deep shooting as he hit four three-pointers on his way to a 22-point effort. In many ways, the freshman’s development as this season has gone on is emblematic of this team’s evolution.
First-year head coach Jon Scheyer took over a team ranked 338th in minutes continuity that returned just one rotation player from last season. Eleven newcomers, including seven freshmen, joined the team and needed time to gel.
However, the Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the season with seven straight wins, and it’s coming at the right time as we enter the postseason. Duke had a defining moment against this Miami team earlier this season in an 81-59 blowout loss on the road.
In that game, Miami had a 13-1 lead before Duke made its first field goal, and the young team never settled in with the raucous road environment defining the terms of the game. Proctor and Roach combined for ten turnovers and Filipowski finished with nine points on 4-12 shooting.
This is a different offense now. That pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop offense Duke displayed against Pitt should be even more effective against Miami. Pitt ranks 40th in pick-and-roll defense per ShotQuality while Miami ranks 333rd – they will have no answers for that type of attack.
Duke should also have a huge edge on the glass. Miami shockingly outrebounded Duke in that blowout win despite Duke ranking first in overall height and Miami ranking 224th. The Blue Devils ranked 10th in rebounding during the regular season and the Hurricanes ranked 144th, as a result.
I frankly see this game as a blowout for Duke. However, if it gets close late, I trust the Blue Devils to make clutch free throws as they rank 27th in free throw percentage at 76.8%. Regardless, I like Duke to earn another statement win as this talented young group continues to emerge as a title contender.
Best Bet: Duke -2.5 (play to -3.5)
UCF Knights vs. Memphis Tigers
Things got hairy for UCF on Thursday. Despite shooting 42.1% from 3, significantly higher than their season rate of 36.1%, the Knights were in a very close game with SMU throughout and needed a late surge to pull away.
Now, they have to face a Memphis team with fresh legs after a narrow loss to Houston five days ago. Memphis lost to UCF in one game this year and escaped with a one-point win in the reverse fixture, but I still believe this is a poor matchup for the Knights.
Memphis thrives on havoc and feasts in transition. The Tigers rank top 50 in turnovers forced on defense and offensive efficiency in transition. Meanwhile, UCF ranks 270th in turnover rate on offense and 321st in transition defense efficiency per ShotQuality.
UCF’s offense is mostly run through the three-pointer as they rank 53rd in frequency of three-point shots, and they’ll shoot plenty in this game as Memphis ranks 335th in three-point rate allowed on defense. That creates some variance in this handicap.
Still, Memphis doesn’t allow many three-pointers as Haslametrics has them ranked 18th in three-point rate allowed against average opponents at 30.6%. UCF shot 45.7% from 3 in their win over Memphis, and that likely won’t continue here.
Memphis is led by guard Kendric Davis who is an absolute flamethrower. He leads Memphis with 21.5 points, the 11th-most in the country, and 5.6 assists per game, the 20th-most in the country.
I know Memphis lost, but I really wanna see Kendric Davis in March pic.twitter.com/okG9iVDxDv
— Riley Davis (@Riley_Davis3) March 5, 2023
DeAndre Williams follows him with 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, but he was held to 11 points per game against UCF this year, and I expect him to have a much more productive outing here.
Overall, the bulk of this handicap is built on Memphis’s elite fast-break offense and ability to generate takeaways off a turnover-prone UCF offense. With the rest advantage and hunger this team displays, expect them to take over in the second half.
Best Bet: Memphis -4 (play to -5.5)
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M Aggies
As we move onto Friday of conference championship week, only Arkansas is left from my four dark horses in the article from earlier this week. Such is life when you try to choose winners with 12-1 odds or higher.
However, the Razorbacks are also the team with the highest upside from that group of four, particularly in the scope of the national championship. The Hogs have had an up and down season, but a team ranked 260th in experience per KenPom is starting to find itself.
Arkansas shares many strengths with Texas A&M – they are both top 30 in transition scoring, attacking the rim, and free throw rate per ShotQuality. That should make for a fascinating chess match, especially given these teams know each other well as they split their regular season series.
However, there are two big differences between these teams. First, Arkansas is a significantly bigger team – they rank 13th in height per KenPom while Texas A&M ranks 248th. While that didn’t keep the Aggies from excelling in the areas mentioned above, it absolutely matters in a game that will mostly be played in the frontcourt.
The other big difference is Nick Smith Jr. The number one recruit in the class per 247, Smith only played in 12 games this season and he only got four minutes in his one appearance against Texas A&M. However, he’s now healthy and ready to be an impact player.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 10, 2023
Smith only finished with 14 points against Auburn on Thursday, but he was red hot to close the regular season as he averaged 21.8 points over his final four games and shot 44% from 3 over that span. He gives the Razorbacks a much greater offensive ceiling.
Eric Musselman built this Arkansas team through recruiting as he had the number two class in 2022 behind only Duke. The Razorbacks brought in three five-star recruits in Smith, Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh, all of whom see significant minutes.
While Texas A&M is a stout team in many aspects, they can’t compete with that level of talent. I’m betting on Arkansas starting to take on a clear upward trajectory as that elite five-star talent begins to elevate them in the SEC.
Best Bet: Arkansas +1.5 (play to pick ‘em)
Akron Zips vs. Kent State Golden Flashes
If you’re not familiar with the rivalry between Akron and Kent State, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself. These two teams absolutely hate each other. During the regular season last year, Kent State swept Akron, and after the second matchup, they let the Akron fans know about it.
Kent State (+120 ML) went and celebrated their victory over rival Akron right in front of Akron fans 😳pic.twitter.com/IwIW4HYo0P
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) February 12, 2022
The Zips didn’t forget about it, and they smashed Kent State in the MAC Championship Final by a final score of 75-55. That set up for a pair of must-see games during this regular season, and the home team won in each one, splitting the pair down the middle.
Akron will force Kent State to win in the half court. The Zips rank fifth in potential breakaway points allowed off steals per Haslametrics and they’re the #1 transition defense according to ShotQuality. They’re also 50th in turnover rate on offense.
Kent State shares many of the same strengths, ranking 40th in potential breakaway points allowed off steals, 27th in transition defense, and 64th in turnover rate on offense. However, Akron is just better in each of those three categories.
In addition, Akron has the better half-court offense. They are 125th in half-court efficiency per ShotQuality and 95th in pick-and-roll ball screen offense, which they run at the 38th-highest frequency. Kent State, meanwhile, is 271st in half-court offense per ShotQuality.
Each team is led by a superb guard. Xavier Castaneda averages 21.4 points for Akron while Sincere Carry averages 17.4 points per game for Kent State. They’ve each taken turns with ups and downs in this matchup over the last two years.
However, Akron has the better sidekick. Enrique Freeman finished with 19 points and seven rebounds against Buffalo on Thursday and averaged 22 points against Kent State during the regular season. Freeman is also an outstanding defender as a three-time All-Defense player in the MAC.
This game is likely to come down to the wire, but I like the value with Akron as the underdog. They’re the better half-court offense, the better transition defense, and they have the better sidekick for their elite lead guard. I’ll take the points with the Zips as they beat the Golden Flashes in the tournament for the second straight year.
Best Bet: Akron +2 (play to pick ‘em)
Oregon Ducks vs. UCLA Bruins
I believe we are going to get a phenomenal game between Oregon and UCLA on Friday night. The Ducks had an up and down season with a 19-13 record, but Dana Altman’s team seems to be peaking at the right time in March as it usually does.
Oregon has two guards in senior Jermaine Cousinard and junior Keeshawn Barthelemy, both of whom are key players and both of whom missed almost half of the regular season. They combined for 34 points and five assists against Washington State on Thursday.
While Oregon is getting healthier, UCLA is trending in the opposite direction. Second-leading scorer and all-world defender Jaylen Clark is out for the rest of the year with a torn Achilles, and his absence leaves this team light on the wing.
On Thursday, UCLA staved off a potential upset by Colorado in an 80-69 win that was way closer than the final score suggests. Freshman guard Amari Bailey came through with a career-high 26 points in the win, and while he is capable of continuing production, I believe he’s not on the level of Oregon’s experienced guard duo.
Oregon also has a phenomenal senior big man in N’Faly Dante. An NBA prospect with a massive 7’5.5” wingspan, Dante is the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker. A 6’11”, 230-pound behemoth, he presents a ton of matchup issues for UCLA.
No limp for N’Faly Dante postgame pic.twitter.com/yyJhU46KsZ
— James Crepea (@JamesCrepea) March 10, 2023
Dante picked up an ankle injury against Washington State, but his spirits were high after the game and he called it “just a little twist.” It sounds like Dante should be fine to play against the Bruins on Friday night.
UCLA’s offense is interesting, to say the least. They run pick-and-roll at the fourth-highest rate in the country, but they rank just 186th in efficiency per ShotQuality. That sets them up for some issues against Oregon’s 34th-ranked ball screen defense.
The Bruins are often reliant on transition offense as they rank just 265th in half court efficiency per ShotQuality, and they will struggle against Oregon’s 26th-ranked defense by half court efficiency. If this doesn’t sound like a contender to you, consider this.
UCLA has a swarming defense that ranks seventh in turnover rate and 38th in open 3 rate, and they’re 2nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom. Their offense is consistently generated off of their elite defense.
However, the reintroduction of Cousinard and Barthelemy in the offense and the evolution of Dante make this Oregon offense a different beast than it was during these teams’ regular season matchups. Add in the Clark injury, and I like this matchup for Oregon. Don’t be shocked by an outright upset on Friday night.
Best Bet: Oregon +6 and ML (0.5 units at +210 odds)