NCAA Tournament Betting Preview: Harvard Challenges Arizona
We'll find out when 14th-seeded Harvard goes up against sixth-seeded Arizona in an NCAA tournament round-of-32 game Saturday night in Salt Lake City (6:10 pm ET, TNT).
Crimson-Wildcats Betting Lines
Most books we shopped Friday morning opened Arizona at -10 for Saturday's game, with an OVER/UNDER of 132.5, and both those numbers had held steady in the early betting.
Going by Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com the Wildcats should be favored by nine points for this game.
Bettors who like Harvard's chances of pulling another upset could get the Crimson at +460 on the NCAAb odds moneyline at Heritage.
Crimson-Wildcats Game Set-Up
Harvard, after a 66-year drought, is playing in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. The Crimson won the Ivy League regular-season title (and the automatic Big Dance invitation that comes with it) again this season by going 11-3 in league play.
Harvard shot 52 percent from the floor Thursday night while holding New Mexico to just 37 percent shooting, beating the Lobos 68-62. That gave the Crimson the biggest upset of the tournament so far, heading into Friday's play.
That game sneaked OVER its total of 125 as the Crimson shot free throws in the final minute-plus.
On the chalky side of Saturday's match-up Arizona, rather quietly, dispatched of 11th-seeded Belmont Thursday 81-64, easily covering the spread as four-point favorites. A decent percentage of “experts” and members of the betting public thought the 'Cats might trip against the Bruins, but Arizona led by a dozen at the half and ended up shooting 57 percent from the field on the night.
That game also slipped OVER its total of 139 as the Wildcats and Bruins combined to score 93 points in the second half.
Arizona went 12-6 in the Pac-12 this season to finish in a tie for second place, before losing to UCLA in semifinals of the conference tournament.
Crimson-Wildcats Betting Trends
Harvard is 11-11 on the OVER/UNDERS this season, as Crimson games have averaged 133 points.
Arizona is 10-17 on the totals, even though Wildcats games have averaged 137 points. So it would seem the linesmakers have been over-estimating the totals on Arizona games just a bit this season.
Harvard is 2-2 SU and a perfect 4-0 ATS this season in games played vs. teams that made the NCAA tournament, including Thursday's victory.
Arizona is 6-6 SU but only 4-8 ATS vs. tournament qualifiers.
Free NCAA Tournament Pick
Our view may be a bit skewed, considering we backed New Mexico minus the points against Harvard, but the Crimson had a lot of things go their way Thursday night. They made their 3-pointers (8/18) and their free-throws (16/20), they got darn-near every loose ball, they had shots bounce in while Lobos shots rolled around and out, and they got some key calls, too. Hey, Harvard earned a lot of that luck, no doubt, by playing hard and smart, but something else was going on, too.
The problem for the Crimson now is that it's very difficult to get everything to go your way two games in a row. So in anticipation of an appearance by the great practitioner of the law of averages we're leaning toward Arizona for one of our free NCAA basketball picks for Saturday.
As of Friday morning the best line we could find on the Wildcats was the -9.5 points offered at Legends. But if we wait until closer to tip-off we might find an even better spread, if action on Harvard comes in like we think it might.NCAAB Picks: 'Cats with the points