Finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor is tough come tournament time. But we peel back some of Saturday’s Round of 32 matchups, looking for some underlying mismatches that could make or break you college basketball bets this March.
VCU Rams vs. Michigan Wolverines (-3.5, 146)
Rams’ turnover-fueled offense vs. Wolverines’ careful ball-handling
Much of VCU’s success comes from its pressure defense, which led the nation in steals and turnovers forced this season. The Rams offense depends on opponents to make mistakes, transforming those turnovers into easy buckets. VCU forced Akron to cough the ball up 21 times in Thursday’s 88-42 blowout win as a 7.5-point favorite.
The only catch with Saturday’s game against Michigan is that the Wolverines don’t make many mistakes. They were the best team in the nation in terms of limiting turnovers, averaging only 9.2 per game, and handed the ball over just nine times in their 71-56 win over South Dakota State Thursday. VCU could struggle to score without getting hand-me-outs.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Harvard Crimson (+10, 132.5)
Wildcats’ NCAA savvy vs. Crimson’s lack of tourney experience
Despite how shaky Arizona has been in the regular season, the Wildcats keep showing up deep into the tournament. They were supposed to be on upset watch in the Round of 64, but smashed would-be Cinderella Belmont. Head coach Sean Miller is looking to make his second Sweet 16 in the last three years and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons and senior Solomon Hill have both made it out of the first weekend during their careers.
Harvard made school history with its first NCAA victory, shocking No. 3 New Mexico in the Round of 64. The Crimson played a near perfect game, shooting better than 52 percent from the field versus the Lobos. Harvard little time to enjoy the win and now faces a team that tends to rise to the occasion. Arizona comes to play in the big games, with wins over Florida and Miami this year – something the Crimson know very little about.
California Golden Bears vs. Syracuse Orange (-7.5, 124.5)
Golden Bears’ Golden State advantage vs. Orange’s time-zone trouble
Cal basically has home-court advantage this weekend in the East Regional, just 50 miles from their Berkley campus. Some players even left San Jose and went back for classes this week. There was a huge Blue and Gold presence in the crowd for Thursday’s upset over UNLV and you can expect even more Cal fans this weekend.
The Orange are on the other side of the country in San Jose – just under 3,000 miles from campus. Syracuse was stuck with the late game Thursday, drubbing Montana with a tipoff of nearly 10 p.m. ET., and will tipoff at 9:40 p.m. ET Saturday. Outside of this year’s tournament, the Orange have been this far west only once in the past 10 seasons – their schedule-opening win over San Diego State in San Diego back in November.