Get college basketball best bets for the 3/2/23 slate, featuring best bets for Appalachian State Vs. South Alabama, Texas State Vs. Old Dominion, and Arizona St Vs. UCLA.
College Basketball Best Bets (3/2/23)
We had a solid first day of March, bringing home three of our first five bets, and I’m excited to keep this rolling. As always, feel free to reach out on Twitter for any questions about my picks. With conference tournaments getting started and the big dance right around the corner, it’s time to get serious about college hoops. Let’s get to work.
March Best Bets Record: 3-2 (+0.8 units)
Appalachian State Mountaineers at South Alabama Jaguars
Betting on that first midweek mid day college basketball game of March is like indulging in a bottomless mimosa brunch on a Saturday morning. Your body might not be conditioned for the experience. You might be hung over from the night before. You might need an afternoon nap when it’s all said and done. But you soldier through because this is March and it’s what you do.
The first game of the day on Thursday has a 12:30 PM EST tip as App State visits South Alabama in the second round of the Sun Belt tournament. South Alabama has been one of the hottest teams in the country to close the regular season as they’ve won nine of their last eleven games and rank #1 in Haslametric’s momentum rating.
The Jaguars had been incredibly unlucky to start the season as they rank third-worst in KenPom’s luck ratings – that’s typically a clear indication of incoming positive regression.
South Alabama has ridden its mid range offense to this recent hot streak and they rank 18th in the country in mid range field goal percentage. App State ranks 260th in points per possession allowed to mid range shots per ShotQuality, so that will play here.
If there’s one area of concern for me here, it’s South Alabama’s inability to get to the free throw line. They rank 362nd in free throw attempt rate and App State ranks 29th in free throws surrendered. As a result, the Jaguars had just six trips to the line in their January matchup.
However, App State makes just 64.5% of their free throws, ranking 345th in the country, so they will struggle to make that matter. The Mountaineers’ offense has run dry down the stretch, most notably in a 57-point effort against the Jaguars a couple of weeks ago. They rank just 255th in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom.
South Alabama can particularly give them issues with their elite three-point defense – they allow just 29.6% from deep which ranks eighth. They also rank 30th in potential points allowed on second chances per Haslametrics, so we can expect a fair amount of one-possession trips for App State.
I bet on the Jaguars to win the Sun Belt tournament as their much improved play down the stretch has made them a contender to beat the best teams in the conference. It starts on Thursday where I expect them to roll to a big win over an App State team they beat by 17 just a couple of weeks ago.
Best Bet: South Alabama -3.5 (play to -5)
Texas State Bobcats at Old Dominion Monarchs
The second round of the Sun Belt championship continues on Thursday afternoon with the Texas State Bobcats facing the Old Dominion Monarchs. The Monarchs are laying 4.5 points in this spot after beating the Bobcats 70-68 on February 11, but that was a fairly misleading result as ShotQuality graded it as a six-point win for Texas State.
The Bobcats aren’t a great basketball team – there’s a reason they’re the 11th seed in the Sun Belt – but they do have a strong defense. In particular, they match up with an Old Dominion offense concerningly dependent on mid range shooting.
The Monarchs are ranked 49th in the country with 23% of their shot attempts coming from mid range. The Bobcats rank 30th in ShotQuality points per possession allowed in mid range, so those low-percentage looks will be even less effective against this defense.
One concern for Texas State is they foul too much – they rank 351st in defensive free throw rate per Haslametrics. However, Old Dominion is ranked just 291st in free throw rate as they hit just 68.5% of their freebies. They hit an uncharacteristically high 85.7% in that earlier matchup, and I expect that to regress here.
Texas State might also have a bit of an edge in this neutral site environment. Neither team’s fan bases are expected to travel particularly well, but the Bobcats rank seventh in Haslametrics’ away-from-home rating and have a solid 7-7 straight up record on the road this year.
Finally, Texas State can limit Old Dominion’s biggest strength which is offensive rebounding. The Monarchs rank sixth in Haslametrics’ potential points off second chances and they rank but they face a Bobcats team that ranks 73rd in rebounding and can limit some of those second chance opportunities.
Ultimately, I see this as a one-possession game and I expect senior guard Mason Harrell to make a couple of big plays late to push this ticket to the window. ShotQuality has this game as a one-point Texas State win, and I’ll happily take the points in what looks to be a defensive slug fest.
Best Bet: Texas State +4.5 (play to +3.5)
Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Northern Kentucky Norse
In a weird scheduling quirk, Oakland and Northern Kentucky face off this afternoon in the quarterfinal of the Horizon League Championship despite just playing each other a week ago in their most recent game. Northern Kentucky won that game by 9 points, but ShotQuality graded it as a 2-point Oakland win.
That discrepancy in the final result was primarily due to Northern Kentucky’s scorching hot three-point shooting – they made an absurd 57.7% from three in that game and ShotQuality expected them to get a whopping 17 fewer points on three-pointers. For a team that ranks just 305th in open 3 rate, that makes a ton of sense.
Oakland has some qualities that you look for in an underdog in an environment like this. First, they have an experienced senior guard in Jalen Moore who is averaging 19.6 points and 5.6 assists per game. They can depend on him to make the right play late in the game.
Moreover, Oakland matches up very well with this Northern Kentucky team. The Norse are reliant on their transition offense as they rank 13th in potential points off breakaway steals per Haslametrics. However, Oakland won’t give them many opportunities to do so as they rank 26th in offensive turnover rate.
The Golden Grizzlies also don’t foul often – they rank 16th in defensive free throw attempt rate – so they won’t give the Norse many opportunities to extend their lead at the charity stripe. In their two matchups this season, Oakland had 42 free throw attempts to 23 for Northern Kentucky.
The most recent matchup between these teams is misleading – they are much closer to evenly matched as the one-point Oakland win in the first matchup suggested. With expected regression from deep by Northern Kentucky in this game, look for Oakland to keep this close and potentially pull off the upset.
Best Bet: Oakland +6.5 (play to +5.5)
Lafayette Leopards at Lehigh Mountain Hawks
We have two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum in the Patriot League here. Lehigh finished with a 16-13 overall record and was third in conference play while Lafayette finished the regular season with a putrid record of 9-22. However, the underlying metrics suggest these teams are much closer than those records suggest.
Lehigh was ranked 19th in KenPom’s luck metric while Lafayette ranked 345th. That discrepancy was further illustrated by ShotQuality. Lehigh finished with a record luck rating of -9.70 and an expected record of 11-16 while Lafayette had a record luck rating of +14.75 and an expected record of 14-17.
Lafayette is a high-variance outfit that ranks fourth in 3-point attempt rate and 3rd in spacing, per ShotQuality. That only translated to a 3-point clip of 32.7%, though, which ranked 248th in the country. Much of their bad luck came from that poor shooting, and they were expected to score 19 more points from three-pointers across their two losses to Lehigh this season.
Lehigh is a poor 3-point defense that ranks 265th in open 3 rate allowed. Overall, they’re ranked 312th in ShotQuality points per possession allowed and are due a ton of negative regression in terms of their overall defensive performance.
One concern here is that Lafayette’s head coach, Mike Jordan, was put on paid administrative leave without much detail as to why. There might be some issues going on behind the scenes here, but Lafayette nearly upset first-placed Colgate in one of the two games that they have played without Jordan.
Still, I like betting on two teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of luck rankings this season and I especially like this spot for Lafayette to see some positive regression in three-point shooting and pull off the upset in the Patriot League.
Best Bet: Lafayette +2.5 (play to +2)
Valparaiso Beacons at Murray State Racers
Similar to the spot I discussed with Oakland against Northern Kentucky, Valparaiso faces Murray State in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference after these teams played just a week ago. That was the second matchup between these teams, and both were overtime wins for the Racers.
Those overtime results underscored what was a massive gap between these teams’ luckiness this season. Murray State was the tenth-luckiest team in the country per KenPom as they went 4-0 in conference games that went to overtime. Meanwhile, Valparaiso ranked 217th in luck as they went 0-7 in conference games decided by four points or less.
Valparaiso should have an edge on the glass in this game as they rank 35th in defensive rebounding while Murray State ranks just 214th in offensive rebounding. In other words, expect a lot of one-trip possessions for the Racers who are an ugly 281st in ShotQuality points per possession in the half court offense.
Meanwhile, the Beacons should be able to get plenty of opportunities to convert baskets in close. They rank 38th in expected points finishing at the rim per ShotQuality while the Racers rank 296th defensively in that same respect. Look for senior forward and leading scorer Ben Krikke to convert in close – he has 22+ points in six of his last seven games.
Neither of these teams had particularly inspiring finishes to the regular season, but the spread is moving in the direction of Valparaiso, primarily due to the expected regression in opposite directions for each team. After coming up short in overtime in each of their prior two matchups, I like the Beacons to pull out the win tonight.
Best Bet: Valparaiso +1.5 (play to pick ‘em)
Arizona State Sun Devils at UCLA Bruins
Arizona State is coming off a wildly improbable come-from-behind road win over in-state rival and seventh-ranked Arizona that was capped by a 60-foot buzzer beater from Desmond Cambridge Jr. That’s the type of stuff we start to see more of as the calendar turns from February to March.
That win by Arizona State had massive Pac 12 implications as it opened the door for UCLA to clinch the conference on Sunday, which they did with a win over Colorado. As the #4 team in the country, the Bruins have a strong chance of earning a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they’re one of the top contenders to win a title.
However, Arizona State can keep this game close on the back of their defense. The Sun Devils rank 32nd on KenPom and 26th on Haslametrics in overall defensive efficiency, and they’re seventh in the country in field goal percentage allowed at 38.9%.
This UCLA offense has some concerning characteristics by the advanced metrics. The Bruins rank just 227th in expected half court points per possession per ShotQuality and are 243rd in shot selection.
Of course, they’re still an excellent offense that ranks 22nd on KenPom and 20th on Haslametrics in efficiency. But Arizona State can force them into more low-percentage mid range looks that they’re all too happy to settle for.
Arizona State’s offense doesn’t measure up to its defense, but they’re coming off a game against Arizona where they had 23 assists to just 11 turnovers. That will be crucial against a UCLA defense that ranks 7th in defensive turnovers and 13th in transition points per possession per ShotQuality.
The Sun Devils have been one of the most erratic teams in the country this season as they’re ranked 353rd in consistency on Haslametrics, and backing them off of their emotional buzzer beating win over an in-state rival is somewhat concerning.
However, Arizona State is fighting for its bubble lives and UCLA is fat and happy off its first conference title in a decade. With a home revenge game on Saturday against Arizona that also represents the last home game for seniors in Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr., it will be natural to overlook this plucky Sun Devils team.
This is the best situational spot on the board on Thursday, and I’ll take advantage. I’ll add 0.25 units on the Arizona State ML as well in case we get a crazy half-court heave at the buzzer again. After all, it is March.
Best Bet: Arizona State +12 (play to +10) and 0.25u ML (+600)