NCAA Tournament Round of 64 Best Bets
Do you like making money? Do you want to brag about all the upsets you called? Are you trying to dominate your friends in a bracket pool? Well, then you are in the right place, my friends. This is a look at advanced analytics that will deliver you to the promised land AKA Sean’s Best Bets.
All information is derived from the gospel written by Reddit user DubsLA. His information has worked wonders for me in the 2018-2021 tournaments, so all credit goes to him. There are also plenty of other great sources out there to consider, including but not limited to ESPN’s Giant Killers blog, The Athletic’s Bracket Breakers series (from the guys who previously wrote for Giant Killers) and Reddit user locknload03. With the bibliography out of the way, let’s get to the goodies!
Note: all lines from Bovada. Shop around for the best lines
Thursday (all times EDT)
#11 Michigan -1.5 (-110) vs #6 Colorado State: Since 2008, 11 seeds that are within 5 spots or better than the 6 seed (using a site like barttorvik.com), are 11-5 overall. Vegas thinks Michigan is favored anyways and this is essentially a moneyline pick. Throw in the drama surrounding the NCAA trying to get Colorado State travel arrangements to Indianapolis and I think the Rams might have tired legs. Starting the tournament off with the first double digit seed advancing.
#13 South Dakota State +2.5 (-115) and +125 ML vs #4 Providence: Providence has an adjusted defense outside the top 40. South Dakota State has an adjusted offense inside the 50 (all the way at 16th!). 13 seeds that fit this profile are 6-3 straight up since 2008 and all other 13 seeds are 7-36. The fact that the Jackrabbits are such a trendy upset picks makes me a bit wary, but I do believe they will win so give me the points and the moneyline sprinkle
#13 Vermont +5 (-110) and +175 ML vs #4 Arkansas: Same criteria as the South Dakota State vs Providence example. Arkansas sits outside the top 40 in offense, while Vermont is just inside the top 50. Add in that we’re getting more points than the South Dakota State line and I really like getting all these points.
#14 Montana State +15 (-115) and +800 ML vs #3 Texas Tech: The story with 3-14 matchups goes that balanced 14 seeds (i.e. teams with an offense and defense ranking within 40 spots of one another: 120th offense + 155th defense for example) are 5-9 against the 3 seed. That might not sound great, but all others are 2-36 since 2008; it’s an unlikely seed upset for a reason after all. The Bobcats are perfectly balanced (150th on both offense and defense). Want another stat? Only 2 single-digit seeds with a below-average offensive turnover rate (i.e. ballhandling ablility) have made the Sweet 16 since 2008, and Texas Tech ranks 293rd at taking care of the ball. I love how many points we’re catching here and at +800, I think the ML is worth a flier. Either way, Texas Tech should be faded in the first two rounds
#11 Iowa State +4 (-110) and +160 ML vs #6 LSU: Back to the 6-11 matchup, but where Michigan over Colorado State could be called a “non-upset”, this fits the billing of a “true upset,” where the two teams are separated by more than 25 spots overall on KenPom/Bart Torvik. For some reason, despite the larger gap, one of these types of 6-11 “true upsets” always takes place if there’s an opportunity. 6 seeds that are outside the top 60 in either offense or defense are 3-6, while others are 9-4. LSU checks in at… well what do you know, they are 91st on offense. Throw in any possible distractions still hanging over the team in the aftermath of the Will Wade dismissal and I love this line.
Other Bets (don’t love them as much so they aren’t “Best”)
#11 Notre Dame +4 (-110) vs #6 Alabama: Very similar to the Iowa State/LSU matchup, except this one is much closer than “true upset” status (while also not quite fitting into the “non-upset” category). These “neither” type of 6-11 matchups are essentially a coin flip, but Alabama is vulnerable on defense (106th on barttorvik.com) and also has a below average turnover rate, which I mentioned is bad news for reaching the Sweet 16. If these matchups really are a tossup, then I don’t mind getting 4 points (and I’ll consider the +160 ML as well), although Notre Dame playing in a double overtime game in Dayton does scare me away from this being a “best bet.”
#10 San Francisco +2 (-105) vs #7 Murray State: 7-10 games feel like relative tossups but actually since 2008, the better overall team on barttorvik.com has gone 36-15 in this matchup. San Franciscio is slightly higher than Murray State on both of the major advanced analytics sites and we’re getting points here. I’ll take my chances and cash even if the Racers squeak it out by 1 point.
#7 Michigan State -1 (-110) vs #10 Davidson: See above. Michigan State is slighly higher than Davidson. I love the Wildcats, but this is strictly business.
South Dakota State-Providence o148.5 (-110): No advanced analytics gospel here, but this is a game between an electric offense and a subpar defense. Baylor Scheierman and Douglas Wilson splash it from all over the court. This game feels like both teams will at least score 70 points, which just about gets us there. Throw in someone playing the foul game late and the possibility for OVERtime and I like this line. Honestly surprised the total isn’t in the 150s.
San Diego State-Creighton u120 (-110): If you read my tournament preview, you know both of these teams love their defense. A total of 120 might sound absurdly low to still bet the under, but I’m telling you it is way more likely this game has a final score similar to 53-52 (the Aztecs’ MWC Final score) or 54-48 (the Bluejays’ Big East Final score) than anything approaching the 60s.
Kentucky-St. Peter’s u132 (-115): St. Peter’s loves its defense as well and is known for a confusing, frustrating defense that takes teams out of their comfort zone. I think Kentucky wins and likely by a lot, but the Peacocks could still muck up the game a bit and will almost certainly struggle to score themselves against Kentucky. A final score of 71-52 feels about right.
#8 Boise State +3 (-110) vs #9 Memphis: Go back to the stat about teams that turn the ball over too much making an early exit from the tournament. Well, Memphis falls into that category too and while they probably weren’t making the Sweet 16 anyways because Gonzaga is in their path, I’ll fade them in the first round as well. Consider a +135 ML sprinkle on the Broncos as well.
#8 San Diego State -2 (-110) vs #9 Creighton: Same as above. The Bluejays turn the ball over too much and are missing Ryan Nembhard. I think the Aztecs grind out a narrow win and a couple free throws late seal at least a 3 point victory.
#8 Seton Hall -1 (-105) vs #9 TCU: Again, turnovers is the key. The Horned Frogs are among the bottom 25 teams in the entire country at holding on to the ball. All these 8-9 games are risky for a reason, but hey let’s ride.
Futures and Fun Stuff (way less serious, but let’s celebrate this holiday in style)
Sweet 16: Connecticut (+135), Ohio State (+350), Virginia Tech (+350), Loyola Chicago (+425) and Iowa State (+475) are my favorites. Especially those last three as one double digit seed making the Sweet 16 is basically an unwritten rule. Other longshot double digit seeds worth a look are Richmond (+650), Indiana (+600) and San Francisco (+1000)
West Region Winner: Connecticut (+1500) is an underrated selection. Yes, they would almost certainly have to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, but the Huskies are one of the more balanced teams in the country, which has tended to be good news for higher seeds advancing. Gonzaga is a better version of Connecticut, but if they can beat Gonzaga, the path has opened up tremendously.
South Region Winner: Houston (+500) and Tennessee (+450) are solid value plays among lower seeded teams, but Arizona (+150) is the favorite for a reason.
Midwest Region Winner: Kansas (+160) really feels solid here, but I also like a flier on Iowa State (+7000). Somebody has to be the sleeper in this year’s tournament…
East Region Winner: UCLA (+550) has the value that stands out to me. A top 25 offense combined with a top 40 defense has been historically significant. It’s not likely to happen, but that’s why we call it value.
Name the Finalist: Gonzaga vs Kansas (+1000): Is this a smar bet? No. But is this my pick in my bracket? Yes. So yeah I’m gonna follow this thing.
Most NCAA Tournament Wins: Houston (+165) or Texas Tech: Houston is a very boom or bust team, I admit, but I think the odds are stil decent they at least make the Sweet 16. Throw in my doubts about Texas Tech that I’ve already mentioned and I think this could be as simple as Houston beating UAB to cash (but that might not happen either…). Also taking UCLA (+105) over Texas Tech as well.
Most Points by a Single Player in the Round of 64: over 32.5 (-210): not betting this one, but I think it’s interesting to track it. Surely someone pops off for a crazy number in the next two days (Jelly Walker?)
Total wins by #5 seeds: over 6.5 (-105): Another interesting one to watch. I think this might be a very chalky 5 seed tournament, and even if one loses to a 12 seed, there is strong potential for Iowa/UConn to make a Sweet 16, plus Houston is lurking as a sleeper into the Final Four. -105 feels like very good odds on the over.
Will Automatic Bid Team Win NCAA Tournament: yes (-145): Another one where I’m not betting it, but would lean Yes and am interested in following it. The AQ bids gives you access to the likes of Gonzaga, Arizona, Houston, Kansas, Tennessee and Iowa. I would take those chances over the field (which is mostly just Duke, Kentucky, UCLA and Baylor)
Will a 14 Seed Win a Game: Yes +150: I’ve mentioned Montana State over Texas Tech countless times so I won’t rehash that one, but with access to all 14 seeds I also get a streaky Colgate team who has tournament experience (and Wisconsin falls outside of the top 30 on KenPom, despite being a top 12 overall seed) plus a shot with Yale over Purdue (the Boilermakers defense ranks near the triple digits). Even if my main guys from Bozeman don’t pull one off, I think +150 is good odds to cast a wide net at a couple other fliers.
And that does it for the Round of 64! Check back in on Friday night/Saturday morning for the Round of 32 Best Bets, and let’s go make some money!
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