Weekday, daytime sports betting. Is there anything better? Nope, at least before the action starts and the betting losses haven’t piled up yet. We’ll try to avoid that today.
We’re previewing and picking every Thursday NCAA Tournament game with betting in mind. Land of 10 and SEC Country’s Steve Petrella and Christopher Smith have against the spread picks and analysis on every game.
NCAA Tournament betting picks for every game on Thursday
12:15 p.m. ET — No. 7 Rhode Island (-2) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Oklahoma hasn’t covered the spread in their last six first-round NCAA Tournament games under coach Lon Kruger. The Sooners have been in the tank for the last few weeks, losing 8 of their last 10, but still have the best player on the floor in Trae Young. His ability to get to the free throw line will be crucial.
Petrella: Oklahoma +2
Smith: Oklahoma +2
12:40 p.m. — No. 3 Tennessee (-12.5) vs. No. 14 Wright State
Wright State’s offense is awful, ranking 245th in KenPom’s efficiency metrics, and that’s a problem and the Vols’ fourth-ranked defense. They do hit the glass hard and will compete with Tennessee there. This game might be ugly with a total of 131.5, so it’s reasonable to expect Wright State to hang within this big number.
Petrella: Wright State +12.5
Smith: Tennessee -12.5
1:30 p.m. — No. 4 Gonzaga (-12.5) vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro
Gonzaga, like it often is, got underseeded. They’re probably a fringe No. 2 seed, with a No. 3 being more realistic. The Zags boast excellent balance, ranking No. 12 on offense and No. 16 on defense per KenPom.com’s ratings.
Greensboro doesn’t have much balance. It plays really, really good defense and at one of the slowest paces in the country. They defend all over the place — top 35 in 3-point defense, turnovers forced, defensive rebounding percentage.
Per ESPN’s Dave Purdum, the sports books’ biggest need is UNC Greensboro today.
Petrella: Greensboro +12.5
Smith: Gonzaga -12.5
2 p.m. — No. 1 Kansas (-14) vs. No. 16 Penn
The lowest spread for a No. 1 seed since 2006. This has all the makings of a weird one, since Penn is probably more like a 14-seed than a 16. They finished tied for first in a strong Ivy league at 12-2.
This is an interesting game to explore a second half or live line, because Penn’s offense isn’t explosive like Kansas. They don’t get to the free throw line and they don’t shoot 3-pointers well. If the Jayhawks get up big in the first half, look to take them in the second half.
Petrella: Penn +14
Smith: Penn +14
2:45 p.m. — No. 2 Duke (-20.5) vs. No. 15 Iona
This is a dead number. The Blue Devils should win because they’re much more athletic and better on the boards. Whether they get outside the number against a good Iona offense that plays with pace is anyone’s guess. If Iona slips early, this game could get out of hand given the high total and expected pace.
Petrella: Duke -20.5
Smith: Iona -20.5
3:10 p.m. — No. 6 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 11 Loyola (+2.5) (Chicago)
Loyola-Chicago is a trendy dog, getting the majority of the bets, per Sports Insights. They’re deadly from 3-point range, which is part of the reason why. But besides effective field goal percentage, the Ramblers don’t do much else well on offense. The defense carries them and did in the MVC Tournament — they allowed under 55 points in all three of their games.
Petrella: Loyola +2.5
Smith: Loyola +2.5
4 p.m. — No. 5 Ohio State (-7.5) vs. No. 12 South Dakota State
I’m personally staying away from all Big Ten teams in the first round because they haven’t played in 13 days (the conference tournament was a week early). That’s a long break shoved into the middle of the season.
But for this exercise, we have to make some picks.
The key numbers I’m looking at in this game is SDSU’s turnover rates. They’re one of the least aggressive teams on both sides of the ball — No. 1 in turnover rate on offense, No. 347 in forcing turnovers on defense.
The Jackrabbits are a trendy underdog in brackets and against the spread. Per The Action Network,
Petrella: Ohio State -7.5
Smith: Ohio State -7.5
4:30 p.m. — No. 8 Seton Hall (-2.5) vs. No. 9 N.C. State
North Carolina State doesn’t defend 2-pointers or rebound defensively all that well. That could be a problem against Angel Delgado, a 6-foot-10 big who can do it all for the Pirates. Seton Hall ranks 28th in offensive rebounding.
The Wolfpack do defend the perimeter, a great asset in the NCAA Tournament. Not a strong play for me either way.
Petrella: NC State +2.5
Smith: Seton Hall -2.5
6:50 p.m. — No. 1 Villanova (-23.5) vs. No. 16 Radford
Radford plays at the 8th-slowest pace in the country, which is why they have a chance to cover against Villanova’s ridiculously good offense. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges can both light it up from 3-point range, and rank first nationally in effective field goal percentage.
If Radford can muddy this game up, they can cover. This might be another spot to look for a second half line if Villanova is getting its looks early.
Petrella: Villanova -23.5
Smith: Radford +23.5
7:10 p.m. — No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5) vs. No. 12 Davidson
Sharps and squares are on Davidson, pushing the line from Kentucky -6 to -5. Davidson bombs 3-pointers but plays at a really slow pace — bottom 20 in the country. So they’ll run clock and try to hit enough 3’s to win. They don’t get to the free throw line or rebound well.
Kentucky ranks No. 3 nationally in three point defense, using their long, athletic players to contest Davidson at the perimeter.
Davidson is never out of a game given how well it shoots from 3, so they can get inside the number here.
Petrella: Davidson +5.5
Smith: Kentucky -5.5
7:20 p.m. — No. 6 Houston (-4) vs. No. 11 San Diego State
Houston is one of my favorite teams in the tournament, but San Diego State plays a really similar defense style. They’re both physical defensive squads. SDSU doesn’t do one thing particularly well but this should be a grind-it-out kind of game that can stay inside the number.
Petrella: San Diego State +4
Smith: Houston -4
7:27 p.m. — No. 3 Texas Tech (-11.5) vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin is the opposite of South Dakota State. They’re insanely aggressive on defense (No. 1 in the country) but turn the ball over a ton on offense. Tech is really strong on defense, ranking third in overall efficiency.
Can the Lumberjacks limit their turnovers enough to hang inside 11.5? It will be close. Tech can rebound and get to the line but isn’t explosive on offense.
Petrella: SFA +11.5
Smith: SFA +11.5
9:20 p.m. — No. 8 Virginia Tech (-2) vs. No. 9 Alabama
We’ve got a season-long bet going on Alabama making the Sweet 16, so I’m staying away and praying for a Virginia Tech win.
The Hokies rank 12th in effective field goal percentage and Alabama ranks 30th in the same number on defense. Collin Sexton is the best player on the floor and looked great in the SEC Tournament.
Petrella: Alabama +2
Smith: Alabama +2
9:40 p.m. — No. 4 Arizona (-9) vs. No. 13 Buffalo
I just haven’t been sold on Arizona all year and the Pac-12 hasn’t looked great in its first two games. DeAndre Ayton is the best player on the floor and will thrive against Buffalo’s weak interior defense.
But Buffalo’s tempo (15th in the country) will be a factor here.
Petrella: Buffalo +9
Smith: Arizona -9
9:50 p.m. — No. 3 Michigan (-11.5) vs. No. 14 Montana
Again, the Big Ten scares me. Michigan was the hottest team in the country two weeks ago, but they haven’t played in two weeks. Will the Wolverines be rusty early? John Beilein will probably have his team ready to go. He’s one of the best coaches in the country against the spread, going 12-6 ATS with Michigan.
Petrella: Montana +11.5
Smith: Michigan -11.5
9:57 p.m. — No. 6 Florida (-5.5) vs. No. 11 St. Bonaventure
11 seeds that win a play-in game tend to have some magic. Are the Bonnies next?
They shot awful against UCLA and still hung on. The Gators never quite realized their potential this season and are just 5-6 in their last 11 games.
Petrella: St. Bonaventure +5.5
Smith: Florida -5.5