Welcome to the First Four round, where the underdogs should be the favorites. That’s according to the computers here at OddsTrader; their projections have both of Wednesday’s dogs moving on to the Round of 64, after making the same call for Tuesday’s matchup between Pittsburgh and Mississippi State.
This isn’t all that unusual. The teams who face each other in the First Four tend to be evenly matched, with the lowest-ranked conference champions battling each other as 16-seeds, and the lowest-ranked at-large teams slotted in at No. 11.
The computers might be onto something, too – at least when it comes to Wednesday’s opening bout. But totals often have more betting value than point spreads when you make your college basketball picks, and that appears to be the case for both these games.
- Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Texas Southern: Over 147 (-108) at BetRivers
- Nevada vs. Arizona State: Over 133.5 (-110) at Caesars
Fairleigh Dickinson Knights vs. Texas Southern Tigers
Wednesday, March 15, 2023 – 06:40 PM EDT at UD Arena
First up, we have the Northeast Conference champions from Fairleigh Dickinson (17-14 SU, 11-18 ATS during the regular season) taking on the SWAC champs from Texas Southern (11-20 SU, 8-21 ATS) as 2-point road dogs on the NCAAB lines at BetRivers. The computers say the Knights will win 78-72.
Should I Bet the Spread?
We need to tread carefully here. The projections are calling for a big bet on Fairleigh Dickinson, but while they appear to have sussed out the sharp side in this contest, that gap between the projection and the actual NCAAB odds may be a bit inflated.
These are the lowest-ranked of this year’s March Madness teams according to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency charts, which makes sense; the NEC and the SWAC are also the two lowest-ranked conferences in Division I according to the Simple Rating System at Sports Reference.
The Northeast was significantly worse than the SWAC, though, and the Knights are all the way down at No. 312 overall (No. 155 offense, No. 361 defense) on the Pomeroy charts, about 2.5 points per 100 possessions worse than the Tigers at No. 285 (No. 330 offense, No. 196 defense). They’ll get in about 69 possessions apiece this Wednesday barring overtime, so Pomeroy’s numbers do support a bet on Fairleigh Dickinson, but only a small one.
Taking the over on that 147-point total is the better choice, especially with BetRivers attaching -108 vig to that line. The computers have these teams combining for a very reasonable 150 points, giving us 2.5 points of betting margin – enough for a standard single-unit wager.
Fairleigh Dickinson was a strong over team this year at 17-11-1, with one of the worst defenses in Division I. Texas Southern has a really bad offense, but thanks to their No. 72-ranked pace, the Tigers only had the under at 15-14 this year, so they’re a neutral commodity when it comes to this total.
NCAAB Pick: Over 147 (-108) at BetRivers
Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Wednesday, March 15, 2023 – 09:10 PM EDT at UD Arena
Moving on to the at-large teams, the computers have Nevada (22-9 SU, 18-10-2 ATS) beating Arizona State (20-11 SU, 14-16-1 ATS) 74-71, even though BetMGM has the Sun Devils laying 2.5 points at press time.
Should I Bet on Nevada?
It seems like a slam dunk at first. The Wolf Pack may come from the mid-major Mountain West, but that was a stronger conference than the ACC this year according to the Simple Rating System, and not far behind the Pac-12, either.
Pomeroy also has Nevada ranked No. 43 overall (No. 61 offense, No. 42 defense), and Arizona State again roughly 2.5 points behind at No. 68 (No. 133 offense, No. 28 defense). Plus, backup guard Austin Nunez is out for ASU with a concussion.
However, recent results have been kinder to Arizona State. They made it all the way to the Pac-12 semifinals before falling to Arizona, while the Wolf Pack were upset by San Jose State in the MWC quarterfinals after getting the bye for Champ Week.
The OddsTrader computers have been leaning heavily on the over this year, but this is another case where the total should be a safer bet than the spread – even though both teams involved are better at defense than offense while operating at a relatively medium pace.
Taking Nunez out of the equation should help. He’s been a quality defender for Arizona State (over 16-15) this year, but not so hot at the other end of the court. Bet accordingly – the AI has spoken.
NCAAB Pick: Over 133.5 (-110) at Caesars