It is possible that every writer trying to cover the NCAA Tournament is going to lay out their “Matchups to Watch.” We’re not reinventing the wheel, so we’ve gone ahead and picked out our own pair of games, because they represent a particular handicapping challenge for customers at BetAnySports. Let’s go:
Saint Louis Billikens vs. New Mexico State Aggies
Thursday, March 21
Midwest Regional – San Jose
BetAnySports NCAA Tournament Odds: Saint Louis -9 (Total 122)
New Mexico State is a team that can out some very imposing size out there. For one thing, they have the biggest guy on any floor in this tournament – Sim Bhullar, a 7’5″, 350-pound shot-blocking force out of Canada who has improved all season as a freshman, and Bandja Sy, who had a number of 20-point performances earlier in the year. The big gun here could be 6’2″ guard Daniel Mullings (14 ppg). But NMSU, which got here by virtue of winning the WAC tournament, did not have to face either of the tournament favorites, Denver or Louisiana Tech, which both got eliminated early.
Saint Louis is not likely to feast on inside points, because they are not overly big and Bhullar is in the middle. They do not fill it up from the three-point arc. But they know how to slow down the pace, and they are notoriously good in half-court defense. They take care of the ball very well (11.5 turnovers per game), while New Mexico State does not necessarily do such a great job in that regard (minus-2 per game in turnover margin). And the Aggies are not such a big threat from beyond the three-point arc (nailing just four per game). However, if the pace is right, Bhullar won’t have to hurry so much to get down the floor, and he is a load. Saint Louis, which lost its head coach, the affable Ric Majerus, before the season, has been on an absolute pointspread roll, covering 15 of its last 16 games.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. Akron Zips
Thursday, March 21
South Regional – Auburn Hills, MI
BetAnySports NCAA Tournament Odds: VCU 7.5, (Total 135)
It’s always going to be intriguing to look at VCU, which made it to the Final Four two seasons ago as one of the last teams into the tournament but has been a nationally-ranked squad all year. They set a furious pace on the defensive end with their “havoc” approach, chalking up 11.8 steals per game, best in the country, which also leads to their nation’s best +8 turnover margin, which is, when you think about it, rather sensational. They have a legitimate three-point bomber in Troy Daniels (seventh nationally in treys per contest) so the defense gets stretched; an important factor here because Akron shuts down the middle with intimidating center Zeke Marshall, a seven-footer who has blocked 3.7 shots a game.
Akron is nothing special when it come to taking care of the ball, and they are one of the nation’s worst at the free throw line (just 64.5%). VCU has been an absolute money-grabber in Big Dance action, covering eleven of their last 12. Of course, there’s often a flip side to this kind of thing, and here it’s that in none of those dozen games have the Rams been in the position where they’ve had to lay points. And in their last nine games that have been played anywhere but their home floor, they have only covered once. To add a little spice to this one, VCU coach Shaka Smart was an assistant under Akron’s Keith Dambrot for four years.
CHARLES JAY, a contributor to BangTheBook.com, is one of the most experienced sports betting writers in America, as he has written more than 10,000 pieces specifically for the industry over the last seven years. At one time employed as an editorial consultant with USA Network, he is also a former syndicated radio talk show host (American Radio Networks) and has also done color commentary on boxing events in the past for Prime Network (now known as Fox SportsNet). He is a veteran of more than a decade and a half working within the professional sports industry, and has been handicapping sporting events for over 25 years. In addition to this, he has compiled specialty odds for a number of online sportsbook operations and media outlets.