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5 College Basketball’s Best Bets For March 15, 2023
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5 College Basketball’s Best Bets For March 15, 2023

by Daniel BenjaminMarch 15, 2023

The college basketball postseason is here, with the NCAA tournament and NIT getting underway on Tuesday night. The following are my best bets for Day 2 of both tournaments. Tonight’s slate of 10 games includes the final two NCAA First-Four contests while the NIT concludes its first round.

Texas Southern Tigers vs. Fairleigh Dickinson Knights

Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson meet in the other NCAA Tournament’sFirst-Four Game between No. 16 seeds. Texas A&M Corpus Christi advanced to face No. 1 overall seed Alabama, on Thursday, with a win over in the first matchup between No. 16 seeds last night. TSU and FDU are meeting for the first time.

Texas Southern enters the tournament as the lone team with a losing record, at 14-20. TSU, the No. 8 seed in the SWAC tournament, defeated Grambling State in the conference tournament finals to earn its third straight NCAA bid. TSU won last year’s First-Four game against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and all three of the Tigers’ NCAA tourney victories have come in a play-in contest.

TSU is one of the worst offensive teams in the nation, ranking 340th in offensive rating. The Tigers don’t shoot the ball well and are no threat from beyond the arc.

They are an excellent offensive-rebounding team though turnovers are a problem. Sophomore guard Davon Barnes leads four players in double-figures with 13.6 points. Six-foot-9 forward Joirdon Karl Nicholas grabs nearly nine boards a game.

Texas Southern could be better defensively, but they play hard and rank in the top 100 in defensive rating. The Tigers are an above-average rebounding squad and defend the paint relatively well. Fouls are a big issue.

Fairleigh Dickinson (19-15) is dancing, for the first time since 2019, basically by default as the Knights fell to Merrimack in the NEC finals (67-66). The Knights received the conference’s NCAA berth as the Warriors are ineligible due to NCAA transition rules. FDU is 5-5 in its last 10 games.

FDU excels on the offensive and creates offense from their defense. The Knights put up a lot of shots, particularly from deep, and are a pretty good shooting team overall.

While the Knights don’t get to the charity stripe an overabundance of times, they do shoot it well from there. The Knights rebound the ball well on the offensive end and don’t turn it over.

FDU’s pint-size backcourt duo, Demetre Roberts and Grant Singleton, combines for 31 points and leads four players in double-figures. However, defense is just a figure of speech for the Knights. The Knights rank among the bottom 40 teams in the nation in defensive field goal percentage, 3-point defense percentage, and fouls.

Texas Southern is favored by 2.5 points, with the Over/Under at 147.5 points. TSU is -130 on the money line, while FDU is +130.

Analysis

This game should be close and very competitive. Go with Texas Southern to advance, as the Tigers possess more NCAA tournament experience and are better defensively. TSU is well battle-tested, playing an extremely challenging nonconference schedule, including a win over Arizona State.

Texas Southern will look to control the pace by working for the best shot every possession and taking the shot clock down to under 10 seconds, thus limiting FDU’s dynamic backcourt duo’s effectiveness. The Tigers also should be able to take advantage of their size and dominate the backboard. Plus, 5-10 guard PJ Henry has been scoring the ball well lately, while John Walker III has a habit of coming up big when the lights shine the brightest.

Pick: Texas Southern Moneyline (-130)

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

This Arizona State-Nevada matchup could be the most entertaining of the four First-Four games. Consistency has been an issue for both of these No. 11 seeds, which is why they were the last two at-large teams in the tournament. ASU and Nevada have split their four previous meetings.

Arizona State (22-12) went 7-5 down the stretch, reaching the Pac-12 semifinals for just the sixth time in program history. The Sun Devils have five Quad I wins and are 9-11 in Quad I and II games. Three of ASU’s setbacks are to Texas Southern, San Francisco, and Washington.

ASU struggles mightily on the offensive end as the Sun Devils do not have any go-to scorers. The Sun Devils are one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, across the board. The Sun Devils are an average offensive-rebounding squad, though they protect the ball well.

While ASU struggles offensively, the Sun Devils are very good on the other end of the floor. The Sun Devils rank 15th in the nation in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to 39.8% shooting.
The Sun Devils excel at protecting the rim while also doing an excellent job forcing turnovers. Defensive rebounding and fouling are huge issues.

Nevada (22-10) is in the tournament for the first time in coach Steve Alford’s four years at the helm. The Wolf Pack have lost three straight, two of those setbacks being bad losses to Wyoming and San Jose State. They have four Quad I wins and are 7-8 in Quad I and II contests.

Nevada is a below-average shooting team though the Wolf Pack thrives at getting to the charity stripe, where they make those freebies at a nearly 80% clip. They share the ball well and don’t turn it over. Senior guards Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear lead the way, while 6-11 junior center Will Baker complements those two nicely.

The Wolf Pack are strong defensively, holding opponents to 41.9% shooting from the field and 32.2% from beyond the arc. However, they were less efficient in conference play than in non-conference action.

Arizona State is favored by 2.5 points, with the Over/Under at 133.5. The Sun Devils are -130 on the Moneyline, while the Wolf Pack is +100.

Analysis
Go with Arizona State in another highly competitive contest. The Sun Devils are in better form than the Wolf Pack and slightly better on the defensive end.

Pick: Arizona State Sun Devils (-130)

NIT PicksSanta Clara Broncos (+4.5) Over Sam Houston State
Utah Valley Wolverines (+5.5) Over New Mexico Lobos
UC Irvine Anteaters (+7.5) Over Oregon Ducks

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About The Author
Daniel Benjamin