5 Top Picks for Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Matchups
After a first round that featured Kentucky getting absolutely stunned by Saint Peter’s, two 12 seeds taking down five seeds and top teams like UCLA and Illinois barely surviving their competition, we are officially ready for the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
With that comes an intriguing slate featuring North Carolina vs. Baylor, Saint Mary’s vs. UCLA and Memphis vs. Gonzaga, among other games.
Our staff has you covered with five total best bets for Saturday’s Round of 32 matchups. So, take a peak at our picks below and formulate your college hoops betting card.
Saturday’s Second-Round NCAA Tournament Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
North Carolina vs. Baylor
After making quick work of Norfolk State, Baylor will have a much stiffer test in North Carolina.
Baylor has been unstoppable in recent years at neutral sites, winning 16 straight since its last loss on Nov. 8, 2019.
Baylor has the inherent advantage on both sides of the ball, as it ranks fourth nationally in efficiency margin.
The Bears are the ninth-most efficient team in the country on offense, scoring 117.1 points per 100 possessions. North Carolina should be able to keep up, as it is the 26th-most efficient offense in college basketball with 112.3 points.
Where the Bears will separate themselves from the Tar Heels is on defense. Baylor ranks 15th in defensive efficiency, allowing just 91.6 points per 100 possessions. North Carolina is the less efficient squad, ranking 63rd in the same category by allowing 96.2 points.
My model has Baylor as 9.07-point favorites, and I think this presents an excellent edge to the posted line of 5.5.
Back the Baylor defense as the X-factor today.
Lay the points and look for the Bears to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth time since 2010.
Pick: Baylor -5.5
Creighton vs. Kansas
Greg McDermott and the Creighton Bluejays deserve all the credit in the world for coming back from a 14-point deficit to beat San Diego State in the opening round.
But that victory came at a hefty cost, as Ryan Kalkbrenner was injured in the closing minutes.
I couldn’t be more proud of @RyanKalkbrenner. He elevated his game at a time of the season his team needed him the most. All of our success would not have been possible without him. Wishing him a speedy recovery!! pic.twitter.com/aw1q7n20HR
— Coach McDermott (@cucoachmac) March 18, 2022
It’s hard to articulate the importance of Kalkbrenner to this program on both ends of the floor. The 7-foot-1 center put up 16 points and 10 rebounds in his 40 minutes last game. The offense runs through him, and he’s one of the top interior defenders in the country.
Kansas is a nightmare second-round matchup for Creighton, which is already missing another double-digit scorer in Ryan Nembhard. The Creighton rotation is down to six players now for a team that already struggles to find consistent offense.
Kansas will look to establish 6-foot-10 David McCormack on the inside early and often. Add in the outside shooting threats of Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun — who combined to hit 40% from deep this season — and this is a recipe for disaster.
Losing the cornerstone of your defense is the last thing you want in a short turnaround against a prolific Kansas offense.
This one is poised to get ugly in a hurry.
Pick: Kansas -11.5 (Play to -12.5)
Saint Mary’s vs. UCLA
This game will make for a fascinating clash of styles, particularly when UCLA has the ball.
Saint Mary’s has built a defense that is specifically designed to force teams to take difficult 2-point jump shots off of isolation. The Gaels rank in the top five nationally in 3-point rate allowed and assist rate allowed.
Oddly enough, UCLA loves to find 2-point jump shots off of isolation looks.
Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell lead the way in that regard, but Cody Riley and Jules Bernard also look to drive into the mid-range to pop jump shots.
If Saint Mary’s forces teams into what UCLA is already trying to do, what will happen when they meet? My assumption is UCLA would be playing right into Saint Mary’s hands, like a fly making its way into a spider’s web.
The Gaels will muck up this game and turn it into a low-possession, low-scoring brawl. UCLA can handle that kind of game, yet that style of play is where the Gaels thrive.
I liked this pick when the line got down to +2.5, but I love it now that it can be had back at +3.5 at some books.
Pick: Saint Mary’s +3.5 (Play to +2.5)
Memphis vs. Gonzaga
All eyes will be at the rim on Saturday, as two potential top picks in the NBA draft face off in Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) and Jalen Duren (Memphis). Duren and Holmgren are two of the best rim protectors in the entire country, and will make it difficult for either team to score easy points at the basket.
Memphis has played like one of the nation’s best teams since Emoni Bates was taken out of the main rotation.
Since February began, Memphis ranks sixth in BartTorvik‘s adjusted efficiency ratings. The Tigers are 11-2 during that stretch, with two wins over Houston and the majority of those victories coming by double digits.
Memphis has returned to its end-of-2021 form under head coach Penny Hardaway, winning with elite defense and transition offense.
The Tigers rank 27th in the country at protecting the rim and 11th at guarding the post, per ShotQuality. Duren should be able to match Holmgren and Drew Timme to prevent the Bulldogs from getting easy looks at the rim.
Memphis is more than comfortable playing an up-tempo game with the Bulldogs and if anything, the Tigers’ offense would prefer to play in the open court rather than getting bogged down with turnovers anyway.
The Bulldogs could run away with this game in the second half due to their spurtability on offense and Memphis’ potential interior foul trouble.
I’m expecting Memphis’ athleticism to cause some problems for Gonzaga early before adjustments are made. Thus, I will be taking the +6 in the first half as my main bet for this potentially thrilling encounter.
Pick: Memphis 1H +6
Memphis vs. Gonzaga
I like Memphis. This is a team with top-15 talent playing at a top-15 level over the past two months.
The Tigers even have the No. 2 recruit in the nation now back as their 10th man.
This team is deeper and just as athletic as Gonzaga. I think the Tigers’ pressure can bother the Gonzaga backcourt. Also, Timme could struggle with the physicality of this game and Holmgren has foul trouble risk.
The projected pace isn’t ideal when playing Gonzaga, but double digits is too much for a dog with fangs here.