NCAAB Pick: Michigan State vs. Kansas State Under 137.5 (-105) at FanDuel
If you haven’t been putting the under in your NCAAB picks, you’re doing it wrong. The potential profit margins on the under have been higher than any other straight bet this past week, and the results have been there too at 55-28 (66.3%, including NIT and other postseason games).
That success rate may be unsustainable, but the betting value remains on the under for Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the Michigan State Spartans and Kansas State Wildcats.
There’s a 137.5-point total on the NCAAB odds board at FanDuel as we go to press, but that leaves ample room for the Spartans (under 17-16) and Wildcats (over 18-16) to cash the under side of the over/under.
Thursday, March 23, 2023 – 06:30 PM EDT at Madison Square Garden
Why Should I Wait?
Patience is a virtue when it comes to betting the under. Generally speaking, the “recreational” bettors who flood the marketplace during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are more likely to bet the over; casual fans bet on things they want to see happen, including high-scoring games.
These bettors also tend to put their money down closer to game time, although this old-school rule of thumb applies more when it’s a weekend game. Either way, as the money comes in on the over, the books can and often will move their totals higher in response, giving people more incentive to bet the under.
This betting pattern doesn’t always hold; some games will see the total shrink instead of inflate, usually when there’s at least one defensive juggernaut involved. That doesn’t appear to be the case this Thursday, judging by Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency stats:
- Michigan State: No. 31
- Kansas State: No. 17
These aren’t awful numbers given that there are 363 men’s teams in Division I this year, but they’re still less than elite. Both Michigan State (No. 38) and Kansas State (No. 47) are suitably mediocre on offense as well, enough to make 138 combined points a challenge without scaring away over bettors.
How Fast Are They?
Between the two of them, medium-paced. This is the other key consideration when betting totals; some teams work very slowly on offense and press on defense, while others move up and down the court with alacrity.
The Spartans (64.9 possessions per game, No. 302) fall into the former category according to Pomeroy’s Adjusted Tempo metric, while the Wildcats (70.2 possessions, No. 41) belong in the latter. They should naturally combine for somewhere around 67-68 possessions this Thursday.
Overtime is definitely something to be concerned about, though. The Spartans are 2-point favorites at most locations, including Caesars Sportsbook, which means there’s a decent chance these two teams will play five extra minutes – if not more.
The threat of overtime was an issue heading into Michigan State’s early-round games against USC (+2.5) and Marquette (-3). Those were competitive matchups; however, the Spartans pulled away in the end and cashed the under both times.
Can Michigan State Beat Kansas State?
They’re the favorites for a reason. The Wildcats may come from the Big 12, the top conference in Division I this year according to the Simple Rating System at Sports Reference, but the Spartans have battle-tested themselves after playing in the No. 2-ranked Big Ten.
Digging a little deeper, Kansas State played one of the easiest slates among the Big 12 teams, checking in at plus-9.4 in Strength Of Schedule (SOS); Michigan State had the toughest road of the Big Ten teams at plus-11.2 SOS.
The Spartans lead their lifetime series with K-State 2-0 SU and ATS, but this will be the first time these two teams have met since 1996, so there are plenty of unknown unknowns to deal with here. But we do know that MSU went 8-1 ATS this year when favored by 4.5 points or fewer, while the ‘Cats went 4-6 ATS as similarly small underdogs.
It’s not quite enough of an edge for us to recommend anything but the tiniest wager on Michigan State, but their clutch play (and yes, “clutch” exists in college hoops) does make it less likely Thursday’s game will go to overtime, leaving enough room for a standard single-unit wager on the under. Bet accordingly.
NCAAB Pick: Under 137.5 (-105) at FanDuel