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College basketball best bets.
College basketball best bets.

No. 1-seeded Purde is gone as Eight Sweet 16 berths are on the line in what should be an exciting slate of March Madness Round of 32 action this weekend. Read on for our March Madness best bets for Saturday based on the top NCAAB odds.

Many brackets were busted early on Thursday afternoon when the Princeton Tigers upset the Arizona Wildcats. Many of the rest were left in scraps after East region-No. 1 Purdue was dispatched by Fairleigh Dickinson Friday evening.

However, we shouldn't be too surprised by Thursday's result, as this marks the third consecutive NCAA Tournament in which a No. 15 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed. In addition, the previous two (2021 Oral Roberts, 2022 Saint Peter’s) also won their next games and advanced to the Sweet 16. Will Princeton follow suit?

Here are our March Madness best bets for Saturday (odds via DraftKings and PointsBet; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Saturday’s March Madness schedule and odds

(odds courtesy of PointsBet as of Saturday, March 18 at 9:05 a.m. ET)

  • Furman vs. San Diego State (-5.5)
  • Duke (-3.5) vs. Tennessee
  • Arkansas vs. Kansas (-3.5)
  • Princeton vs. Missouri (-6.5)
  • Auburn vs. Houston (-5.5)
  • Penn State vs. Texas (-5.5)
  • Northwestern vs. UCLA (-7.5)
  • Maryland vs. Alabama (-8.5)

March Madness best bets for Saturday

  • Spread: Missouri -6.5 vs. Princeton (-110 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Moneyline: San Diego State ML vs. Furman (-240 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Total: Auburn-Houston Under 131.5 (-110 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Upset: Arkansas ML vs. Kansas (+160 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐

March Madness top picks

Spread: Missouri -6.5 vs. Princeton (-110 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When trying to analyze why the last two No. 15 seeds that won first-round games (Oral Roberts and Saint Peter’s) also won their next games, the obvious answer is because the teams that they played next likely did not scout them in full detail thinking they were going to face the No. 2 seed they just beat. And while the same may be true of Missouri, who figured it would see Arizona in this round, the Tigers tend to play one way no matter who the opponent is, and that style should give Princeton fits.

Check out our Princeton vs. Missouri predictions

Princeton did not see much press in the Ivy League, so Dennis Gates’ team and their frenetic pace will be impossible to prepare for on just one day’s rest. While Princeton held another up-tempo Arizona team to just 55 points (the Wildcats’ only time being held under 60 all season), the Tigers had a masterful plan against the Wildcats, not guarding certain players, and daring them to shoot beyond depths at which they were comfortable. Thus, while Princeton chose not to defend Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis from the foul line out, Missouri guard Kobe Brown is a matchup nightmare in comparison, as he has made three 3-pointers in each of the team’s last two wins.

We're taking nothing away from Princeton’s upset of Arizona, but the Wildcats were also hampered by injuries to point guard Kerr Kriisa’s shoulder and Ballo’s hand. Thus, this is a four-star play backing a much healthier Missouri team whose unique style of play should have Princeton on its heels.

Moneyline: San Diego State ML vs. Furman (-240 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There is not much value from a moneyline perspective on Saturday’s slate. Still, since we do not have a lean on the more affordable Duke-Tennessee game, we are backing the Aztecs at DraftKings at a more reasonable price than what other sports betting sites are offering. Our other best sportsbooks are all at -250 or lower.

Check out our San Diego State vs. Furman predictions

There may not be a bigger difference between two opponents in defensive metrics for the rest of the tournament, as San Diego State ranks ninth and Furman ranks 178th in adjusted defensive efficiency. And the Aztecs will ensure that the Paladins do all their damage against that top-10 defense in the half-court, as San Diego State entered the tournament as the best transition defense (19.8% transition rate allowed) in the country. Virginia also out-rebounded Furman by eight in the opening round. That is something San Diego State can take advantage of as well, as the Aztecs ranked in the top 90 in Division I in offensive rebounding percentage and offensive rebounding percentage allowed. They lead all Mountain West teams with a plus-4.4 rebounding differential per game.

We are confident in San Diego State winning outright despite Mountain West teams losing 11 consecutive games before the Aztecs snapped that streak with Thursday’s win.

Total: Auburn vs. Houston Under 131.5 (-110 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Under cashed in four of Houston’s previous five games, which is no surprise given that head coach Kelvin Sampson’s squad ranked second in the country in scoring defense at 56.4 points per game allowed. Now add the fact that the American Conference Player of the Year, Marcus Sasser, is questionable to play after aggravating a groin injury that kept him out of the conference tournament championship. Thus, we are jumping on this total before it plummets if Sasser is ruled out.

Check out our Auburn vs. Houston predictions

To beat Houston’s elite defense, one must make shots over the top, which is not Auburn’s forte. The Tigers rank 309th in the country in 3-point shooting (31.5%), which forces them to get 53% of their points from inside the arc. Considering Houston ranks in the top 20 nationally in the lowest percentage of opponents’ points coming from 2-point range, this is a four-star play as it should be a long day for the Auburn offense.

Upset: Arkansas ML vs. Kansas (+160 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐

Oddsmakers seemingly expect a good chance that Kansas will become the first No. 1 seed to lose, and we are backing these curiously low odds with the ultra-talented Razorbacks.

Check out our Arkansas vs. Kansas predictions

An Arkansas victory would continue the March Madness betting trend of the defending national champion losing in the first or second round for the sixth consecutive tournament. In addition, only two of the previous 14 defending champions even reached the Sweet 16, while no defending champion has advanced past the Sweet 16 since Florida in 2007.

The optics of a No. 1 seed playing a No. 8 seed may look like there is a huge talent gap, but Arkansas has five former RSCI top 100 recruits. In addition, the Razorbacks were never in jeopardy of not receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season 17th in strength of schedule and with a ShotQuality rank of 29th.

The last thing making this a three-star play on the Razorbacks is that the Jayhawks continue to be without head coach Bill Self. He was expected to be back on the sidelines for the NCAA Tournament after being hospitalized due to an illness. However, he still missed the Howard game, affecting the team’s preparation for a more formidable opponent.

College basketball best bets made 3/17/2023 at 7:01 a.m. ET.

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