2023 NCAA Tournament: Round 2 Picks & Predictions (Saturday)

The Madness returns Saturday for even more jam-packed college basketball action! Before things tip off this afternoon be sure to get all of your betting picks placed. To help, here are our top picks for Saturday’s Round 2 action.

Also, take a look at our other best bets for Saturday:

2023 NCAA Tournament Guide (March Madness)

Round 2 Picks & Predictions for the Round of 32

San Diego vs. Furman

Furman will continue to dance. Despite the fact that San Diego State has a solid defense, the Paladins are heading into this game unafraid and have three legitimate scorers in Bothwell, Slawson, and Pegues. Every bucket will count in this low-scoring contest, and Furman’s ability to let it fly from deep should be the deciding factor for a team that could very well be this year’s Cinderella.

The pick: Furman ML (+210)

Duke vs. Tennessee

The Blue Devils have absolutely dominated on the offensive glass this year. Duke has added 36.3% of offensive rebounds and continue to shoot it well from the field.

Duke has nailed 33.7% from deep and 51.5% from inside the arc. But more importantly, the Blue Devils have hit 76.8% from the free throw line this year.

Tennessee fouls at a very high rate due to their aggressive style of defense. But that style of defense also earns Tennessee 22.2% of turnovers per game this season.

The Vols have held teams to 26.4% from three and 44.5% from inside the arc. Those are incredible numbers, especially from downtown. Duke doesn’t take a ton of three-pointers. The Blue Devils will work inside and try to get easier buckets against Tennessee.

On the other hand, Duke won’t earn a ton of turnovers. But that defense has done well, holding teams to 30.1% from three and 46.4% from inside the arc. The Vols, just like Duke, dominate the glass but Duke should be fundamentally sound on the defensive glass, as the Blue Devils have held teams to 25.8% offensive rebounds.

Plus, Duke has also kept fouls very low, which should help them towards the end of the game.

Tennessee couldn’t score at a solid rate against Louisiana in the first game. Meanwhile, Duke held Oral Roberts to a low number. I like Duke to dominate Tennessee and keep this game lower scoring.

The pick: Duke -3 (-110)

The pick: Under 128 (-110)

Houston vs. Auburn

Yeah… I took Houston in several of my brackets to cut down the nets in their hometown. But the Cougars looked lost and disinterested during their 11-point win over Northern Kentucky. Star Marcus Sasser suffered a setback with his groin injury, and his status is up in the air. Oh, and Kelvin Sampson revealed after the game that third-leading scorer Jamal Shead is playing through a bad knee. It’s just one game, but I’m not as confident in the Cougs as I was going into the big dance.

I’m not afraid to say Houston was lucky to take down the 16th-seeded Norse. Northern Kentucky shot 5-of-33 from 3-point range Thursday night. If a few more of those shots fall, we could’ve been looking at a colossal upset. Auburn handled Iowa in a relatively stress-free game. The Tigers held Iowa to 7-of-27 from 3-point land and took care of the ball, which isn’t always the case for the Tigers.

I will be looking for spots to fade the Cougars going forward in this tournament, but I’m not sure Auburn is the ideal matchup. The Tigers play elite defense and rank top 50 in both 2-point and 3-point defense. However, Auburn is stylistically a terrible defensive rebounding team, ranking 318th in defensive rebounding rate. Even if Houston isn’t hitting their shots, the Cougs pride themselves on destroying the offensive glass.

Houston will also likely pack the paint and dare the Tigers to beat them from deep, where they shoot just 31.5%. The Tigers are a strong offensive-rebounding team, but the Cougars are solid on the defensive glass as well.

I also worry about Auburn’s guards against a Houston defense that turns opponents over on nearly 22% of defensive possessions. I’m expecting coach Kelvin Sampson’s bunch to come out much more inspired, which means they could pressure the ball a ton early on. And if Auburn falls into an early deficit, it’ll be really hard for them to climb out of a hole, given their shooting woes.

That all being said, something about laying five points with Houston makes me queasy. Instead, I’ll go with the under, as I’d expect Houston’s offense to struggle to assume Sasser doesn’t go.

The pick: Under 132 (-110)

UCLA vs. Northwestern

Many will point to UCLA’s impressive 33-point rout of UNC Asheville and assume the Bruins will not be challenged in this game either. However, not only would that be an overreaction to the Bruins’ latest victory, but it would be underselling what Northwestern has accomplished this year.

The Wildcats have everything you want in March, from a sound top-20 defense (they rank 18th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric) and senior guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige, who are experienced and excellent two-way players. Per ShotQuality, those two rank in the top 75 in the country in frequency and efficiency of mid-range jumpers, so they should be comfortable against Mick Cronin’s defense that is designed to take away straight-line drives to the rim.

Northwestern did an excellent job on Boise State’s tandem of Marcus Shaver and Max Rice, holding them to 29 combined points and forcing them into an awful shooting night from 3-point range (3-for-11 combined). That will bode well for the schematics against UCLA’s duo of Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. In addition, Northwestern ranks in the top 12 among Division I teams in turnover rate (14.7%) and is 52nd in free-throw percentage (75.4%), which both bode well for its chances of covering the spread in what should be a close game throughout.

The pick: Northwestern +8

More Round 2 Betting Picks & Predictions

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College Basketball, March Madness, Picks

2023-03-18 11:26:27