Tournament Betting: Motivated VCU -4.5 Our Free Pick vs. Oregon State

Jason Lake

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7:45 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016 7:45 PM UTC

The VCU Rams may be the No. 10 seeds in their first-round matchup with the No. 7 Oregon State Beavers, but it's VCU laying up to five points on the NCAA basketball odds board.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 15: 18-12 ATS, 1-2 Totals


When is an underdog not an underdog? When it's the favorite, of course. The No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth Rams find themselves in an unusual spot this Friday afternoon (1:30 p.m. ET, TNT) when they face the No. 7 Oregon State Beavers in the opening round of March Madness; the Rams are 5-point favorites on the NCAA basketball odds board as we go to press, up from –4 at the open. Yes, the Rams, the regular-season Atlantic 10 champions, are thought of more highly than the Beavers and their at-large berth from the Pac-12.

As they “should” be. The advanced stats all point toward VCU (24-10 SU, 20-9 ATS) as the superior program. But in days of yore, we might have expected the Beavers (19-12 SU, 16-13-1 ATS) to be the favorites in this matchup. They're from a major conference. They've got Gary Payton II (25.9 PER, +12.6 BPM). So do they have any betting value now that the market has wisened up a little?


Year of the Ram
Let's consult the oracle first. FiveThirtyEight likes the Rams to win this game 73 percent of the time – that works out to something between VCU –6.5 and VCU –7. My goodness. Over at Sports-Reference, the Rams (+13.74 SRS) only grade out 3.75 points higher than the Beavers (+10.99 SRS) according to Simple Rating System. Here we go again. Looks like our friends at S-R might be undervaluing the teams from the lower conferences with their metric.

Maybe just a little bit. Ken Pomeory has VCU ranked No. 35 overall (No. 82 offense, No. 22 defense) in Division I, four spots higher than S-R. Meanwhile, the Beavs appear at No. 60 (No. 77 offense, No. 62 defense) on the Pomeroy charts, three spots lower than they do at S-R. Fair enough – there's a reason it's called the Simple Rating System. We'll give Nate Silver's troops and their newfangled projections the benefit of the doubt moving forward, but we'll keep using S-R for screening purposes.


Tinkle Time?
Things could still go pear-shaped for VCU. Senior guard Melvin Johnson (20.4 PER, +6.3 BPM) has a sore left ankle, but he's expected to play Friday. The injury situation isn't so good for Oregon State; freshman forward Tres Tinkle (20.8 PER, +5.6 BPM) is expected to miss his fifth straight game with an injured right foot.

That pretty much seals the deal for our NCAA basketball picks. Even though the Rams are the favorites this Friday, they still have some betting value as the higher-numbered seed from the smaller conference. As much fun as it is to watch Payton fils play for his dad's alma mater, we have to go with VCU here – and the early consensus numbers are on our side.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: VCU -4.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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