I have the daunting task of taking over "Best Bets" today from our college basketball insider, Reed Wallach, but I feel like we're walking into a great spot this Saturday with several great NCAA men's tournament matchups to choose from.
I also got a little bit greedy in the opening round, trying to lock in both Akron (+800) and San Francisco (+900 live) to win outright against UCLA and Murray State, so let's focus on purely the pregame angles for today's Round of 32 plays.
As always, all odds are courtesy of WynnBET Sportsbook.
March Madness Best Bets for Saturday, March 19
- Richmond +3.5 vs. Providence
- Saint Mary's +3 vs. UCLA
- Memphis +10 vs. Gonzaga
Richmond +3.5 vs. Providence
I wrote up Richmond as my "underdog of the day" over at BetSided this morning and while the line at some other books has shifted towards the Friars, I believe the Spiders are not only in a great position to cover, but to win outright as well.
We already can expect this game to be close because that's how both teams have played throughout much of the season. Providence, however, is due to regress, and has been for some time now, coming in as the top "Luck" rated team at KenPom over the year. It also isn't just a game here or there for the Friars, as their number of +.194 is at a historic level for the metric, and is a full .031 points ahead of the second-luckiest team in college hoops (Samford).
The Spiders just limited one of the best and hottest offenses in college basketball to 63 points in Round 1 vs. the Hawkeyes, and have stepped up in their overall defense at the most important time of the year. Richmond ranks in the 92nd percentile in Defensive Rating over their last five games and I expect that strong effort to continue on Saturday.
PICK: Richmond +3.5 (-110)
Saint Mary's +3 vs. UCLA
As an Indiana fan, I watched in dismay as a well-rested Gaels team pick a hot (but also gassed) Hoosiers team apart, outscoring IU 68-35 in the final 30 minutes of the game.
Now, they take on a UCLA team that just found enough to win in their opening round game against 13-seeded Akron, as the Bruins never got anything going inside, shooting 34.4% from inside the arc.
Both teams match up fairly evenly as each squad holds a top 14 adjusted KenPom defensive rating (UCLA 14, Saint Mary's 9). Neither team turns the ball over much, and each shoot slightly over 35% from 3-point range.
If Saint Mary's is going to win, they'll need to do a much better job of getting to the free throw line; taking advantage of their 32nd ranked FT percentage in the country (76.3%). The Gaels attempt just 23.3 percent of their free throw attempts to field goal attempts, ranking 339th in college basketball.
The Bruins may be drained from their matchup against Akron, and a well-rested Gaels team is ready to take advantage.
PICK: Saint Mary's +3 (-110)
Memphis +10 vs. Gonzaga
The Zags seemed to be perfectly content with 16-seeded Georgia State hanging around for almost 3/4 of the ballgame in Round 1, before blitzing them late and sending the Panthers to a 93-72 loss (in which they covered by the way).
That strategy won't work against Memphis, who despite their inconsistencies this season still own one of the most talented rosters in college basketball. They took their lumps early on, but have been a force defensively over their last 10 games (97.9 defensive rating), and are an elite offensive rebounding team, ranking in the 99th percentile via CBB Analytics over their previous 10.
For what it's worth, this is very much a Pros vs. Joe's game over at WynnBET Sportsbook, as 71% of the betting tickets are on Gonzaga to cover, but 79.5% of the money is on Memphis.
I'll back the pros and look for Memphis to keep this much closer than the No. 1 team in the tournament would like.
PICK: Memphis +10 (-110)
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