Get college basketball best bets for the 3/9/23 slate, featuring best bets for Wake Forest vs. Miami, Pittsburgh vs. Duke, Providence vs. Connecticut, West Virginia vs. Kansas, Arkansas vs. Auburn, and TCU vs. Kansas State.
College Basketball Best Bets (3/9/23)
The college basketball world is alive this time of year, and there are high-profile games all day. On Wednesday, we dropped a unit, and we’ve been running a bit colder lately. Let’s get back to our winning ways. In this article, you can find my best bets for the Thursday, March 9 slate. As always, you can find all of my posted and settled plays in the spreadsheet here. Let’s get to work.
March College Basketball Bets Record: 31-18-1 (+10.03 units)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Miami Hurricanes
When Wake Forest lost second-leading scorer Damari Monsanto, who averages 13.3 points per game, to a season-ending injury, I was worried their offense would take a big hit. However, they’ve had a few games to adjust to not having him now, and you could see it in their first-round win over Syracuse.
Against Syracuse, Daivien Williamson and Bobi Klintman each had 17 points. Of course, the offense is still led by Tyree Appleby, who runs the show with 18.8 points and 6.3 assists per game, the sixth-most in the country.
Appleby leads an offense that ranks eighth in half-court efficiency per ShotQuality behind the 18th-highest rate of both pick-and-roll ball screens and catch-and-shoot 3s. That sets them up beautifully against Miami’s defense.
The Canes rank 318th in pick-and-roll ball screen defense and 323rd in catch-and-shoot 3-point defense. In other words, look for Appleby to come downhill repeatedly and spray passes to open shooters on the perimeter.
Miami’s offense will get theirs, particularly at the rim. Wake Forest ranks just 200th in defending shots at the rim and Miami ranks 25th on offense with 39% of their shots coming in that area. All four of Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller, Norchad Omier, and Nijel Pack average 13+ points and all are liable to go off in this game.
Still, Wake Forest will go step for step with Miami’s offense, and ShotQuality makes this about a 75-74 win for the Canes. In a high-scoring affair, I’ll take the points with the dog behind the outstanding offense led by Appleby.
Best Bet: Wake Forest +5.5 (play to +4.5)
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Duke Blue Devils
A new era of Duke basketball started this season. Jon Scheyer, a 35-year-old with no prior head coaching experience, took over after Mike Krzyzewski spent 42 years as the head coach. Scheyer took over a young roster that ranked just 338th in minutes continuity as they were mostly starting over with their lineup.
Scheyer’s young group has evolved as the season has gone on, and they have now won six straight games. They’re getting hot at the right time as we enter the postseason. I was especially impressed with their resolve to go on the road and complete the season sweep over UNC in a game everyone penciled in as a loss for them.
Duke has the tallest team in the country according to KenPom, and they have four starters 6’5” or taller. In the middle is 7’0” Kyle Filipowski, a senior who leads the team with 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game and won ACC Rookie of the Year.
Pitt isn’t necessarily a small team – they rank 128th in height – but Duke outrebounded them 51-28 in their matchup earlier this season. The Blue Devils had 24 offensive rebounds, almost as many as the Panthers had in total.
The Panthers rank 41st in near-proximity field goal percentage allowed on defense, but ShotQuality expects them to be allowing a shooting percentage of 4.2% higher near the rim, and we should see some of that pending regression here against Duke’s physical interior.
Pitt’s offense is heavily reliant on the three-pointer and they rank 29th in frequency of catch-and-shoot three-point shots. However, Duke allows opponents to shoot just 30.8% from deep, which ranks 26th in the country. Pitt hit just 6 of 22 3s against them (27.3%).
In their matchup this year, Pitt held a 43-32 lead before completely caving in the second half as Duke outscored them 45-26 after the break. With the Blue Devils playing their best ball as of late and their imposing interior creating huge issues for the Panthers, I expect this game to much more closely resemble the second half of that game.
Best Bet: Duke -5.5 (play to -6.5)
Providence Friars vs. Connecticut Huskies
If you read my article highlighting potential dark horse conference tournament winners, you’ll know I like this Providence team. Everyone gave up on them after that embarrassing smackdown at home at the hands of Seton Hall on their senior day. It was an ugly showing, but that creates value here.
ShotQuality actually rated that game as a win for Providence despite it being a 24-point Seton Hall win, mostly due to the staggering shooting splits. The Pirates made 55.6% of their three-point shots in that game while the Friars hit at just a 17.4% clip.
Providence is just 4-7 since February 1st after starting 9-2 in conference play, and they’re 327th in positive momentum per Haslametrics. Meanwhile, UConn is the second-best team in the country over the same span since Bart Torvik’s T-Rank metric.
None of that matters now, and I have full faith in Ed Cooley to rally the troops and have them ready to go for the Big East tournament. This is also a matchup where the Friars can have some success, as evidenced by their regular season win over the Huskies.
The biggest weakness for UConn’s defense is fouling. They rank 329th in free throw rate on defense, and Providence made its way to the line 35 times in their win over UConn earlier this year. The Friars lead the Big East in free throw rate and percentage of points from foul shots.
In addition, Providence can hang with UConn in the post. The Huskies usually have a massive edge over opponents as they lead the country in potential points off second chances, but both teams rank inside the top 20 in rebounding so that’s negligible here.
Take the value with Ed Cooley’s squad in what should be a physical, slower-paced game. If you don’t already have a future on Providence to win the Big East tournament, consider sprinkling some ML here.
Best Bet: Providence +7 (play to +5.5) and consider ML sprinkle if you don’t have a future on Providence to win the Big East
West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Kansas Jayhawks
West Virginia earned an impressive win over Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, and it was all on display for the Mountaineers. Their defense was swarming as they held the Red Raiders to 36.4% shooting from the field and forced 15 turnovers. Meanwhile, Erik Stevenson, Kedrian Johnson, and Tre Mitchell all had 17+ points.
Things get much tougher in the second round against Kansas, but I believe West Virginia is undervalued here. The Mountaineers rank 17th overall in KenPom’s rankings despite finishing eighth in the Big 12, and they are battle tested as they played the fourth-most difficult schedule this season.
The Jayhawks beat the Mountaineers twice this season, but interestingly both were graded as ShotQuality wins for West Virginia. That’s mostly due to the drastic splits in three-point shooting in those games.
The Jayhawks shot 21 of 44 (47.7%) from 3 in those games while the Mountaineers shot 10-41 (24.3%). Kansas shot 34.8% from 3 this season and West Virginia shot 35.2%, and we should expect those 3-point splits to trend closer to their season averages here.
Wooden Award nominee Jalen Wilson is Kansas’s leading scorer with 19.7 points per game, but he was held to 12.5 points per game in his two outings against West Virginia this season. If he’s not winning consistently, I haven’t been impressed with Kansas’s ancillary scorers.
Overall, Kansas is a team that has been due for some negative regression. The Jayhawks are eighth in ShotQuality record luck ratings and 13th in KenPom luck ratings. I like the idea of some of that regression coming here, especially when you consider what happened in the two matchups this season.
The Mountaineers rank 27th in mid range frequency this season, and that should be fairly effective against a Kansas defense that ranks 335th in mid range defense per ShotQuality. In the game against Kansas a few weeks ago, Erik Stevenson scored 23 points, and he should succeed once again in this matchup.
West Virginia was one of my favorite values to win their conference tournament this season, and I’m happy to catch them with the points here. If you don’t have any investment in the Mountaineers to win the Big 12, or even if you do, feel free to sprinkle some ML here.
Best Bet: West Virginia +3.5 (play to +2.5)
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Auburn Tigers
Arkansas is yet another team featured in my conference tournament dark horse article, and their run starts here against Auburn. This spot marks a great buy low opportunity on an Arkansas team off three straight losses, the last of which was actually graded as an 18-point box score win by ShotQuality.
The Hogs have a massive size advantage against Auburn here. They rank 11th in height and Auburn ranks 210th. As a result, the Razorbacks outrebounded the Tigers 45-32 in their matchup this season. However, Arkansas shot just 2 of 16 from 3 as they couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn in that one.
The Razorbacks aren’t an elite shooting team by any means, but they generate open 3s as they rank 61st in open 3 rate per ShotQuality. They also recently got back freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. from injury. He has hit 11 of 25 3s (44%) in his last four games.
Arkansas should also be able to work its way to the line here as they rank 29th in free throw rate on offense and Auburn ranks 323rd on defense. The Hogs got 32 free throw attempts in that prior game but made just 19 of them (59.4%). Expect some positive regression there as Arkansas hits 69% from the line this season.
Kentucky laid the blueprint for how to beat this Auburn team in their 86-54 drubbing as Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin combined for 29 rebounds. While Arkansas doesn’t have anyone the caliber of Tshiebwe, look for Trevon Brazile to have a big game as he had 20 points and nine rebounds against Auburn earlier this season.
Best Bet: Arkansas +1 (play to -2.5)
TCU Horned Frogs vs. Kansas State Wildcats
It’s been very difficult to handicap this TCU team this season, mostly due to their top players being in and out of the lineup. Mike Miles Jr., their leading scorer with 17.2 points per game, missed eight games. Damion Baugh, Emmanuel Miller, and Micah Peavy missed a combined 14 games.
Eddie Lampkin Jr., who missed seven games during the regular season, didn’t travel with the team to Kansas City, Missouri for the tournament reportedly due to personal matters. Lampkin made some concerning accusations towards head coach Jamie Dixon, and while I won’t get into that here, it’s worth noting.
Still, TCU is a veteran team ranked 65th in experience on KenPom and they won’t throw in the towel. Despite all of their injuries, TCU ranks 25th in KenPom efficiency, and if they can get healthy, they have the upside to be a national title contender.
First, they’ll kick off the Big 12 tournament against a Kansas State team they split with this season. The Wildcats blew out the Horned Frogs in Manhattan, but that wasn’t shocking due to the absence of Mike Miles Jr. as well as their impressive home-court advantage.
Nicknamed the Octagon of Doom, Bramlage Coliseum was a fortress for Kansas State this season. Kansas State ranked 354th in Haslametrics’ away-from-home ratings, and their defense wasn’t as good on the road as they allowed 84.1 points per game in their nine road games in conference play despite being 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
TCU can also prey on Kansas State’s biggest issue on offense – turnovers. The Wildcats ranked 286th in turnover rate on offense and TCU ranked 24th on defense. The Horned Frogs forced 35 turnovers across these teams’ two regular season matchups and took advantage as they rank 24th in transition efficiency.
While the Lampkin situation is concerning, every other player is expected to be available for TCU in this game. Kansas State won’t have the advantage of their home stadium here, and I like the Horned Frogs to feast in transition against a turnover-prone offense on their way to a win.
Best Bet: TCU -2 (play to -3)