March Madness: Friday's odds and best bets for Midwest Region Round 1

Mar 21, 2019 |

The time has come! March Madness is finally here! The Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament continues Friday with the remaining four games in the Midwest Region on tap, highlighted matchup of Power 5 teams as No. 6 Iowa State takes on No. 11 Ohio State. We break down the odds, totals, trends and give best bets for all six games so you can make winning bets.

(9) WASHINGTON HUSKIES vs (8) UTAH STATE AGGIES

Odds: USU -3, 135 @ bet365
Start Time: 6:50 p.m. ET, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Washington and Utah State are two teams trending in opposite directions heading into Friday’s 8-9 matchup. Washington won the Pac-12 regular-season title but was 4-3 in its final seven games, scoring just 65 points per game and going 1-6 ATS in the process. While surging Utah State has won 10 straight (7-3 ATS) and 17 of its last 18 contests overall.

The Huskies are a team know for their defense. And for good reason. The rank in the top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency, and blocks and steals per game. But that’s pretty much where the positives end for Washington.

On the other side of the ball, the Huskies rank 121st in adjusted offensive efficiency. Some comparable teams in the tournament? Fairleigh Dickinson, UC Irvine and Iona. Washington also turns over the ball too much and one of the worst rebounding teams in country.

Meanwhile, Utah State is a very balanced team, ranking 33rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 45th in adjusted defensive efficiency, behind MWC player of the year Sam Merrill 21.2 points and 4.2 assists per game. The Aggies will also be able to break down the Huskies defense with their great ball movement (they rank 11th in the country in assists per game).

These are just two teams playing at different levels right now, lay the 3-point with the Aggies. You should also consider the Huskies to go Under their team total of 66.

(14) GEORGIA STATE PANTHERS vs (3) HOUSTON COUGARS

Odds: HOU -12, 141.5
Start Time: 7:20 p.m. ET, BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

We all remember when Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter fell off his stool in jubilation after his son R.J.  hit a huge three to upset Baylor as a 14-seed in the Round of 64 back in 2015. Well, Hunter and his Panthers are back in the Big Dance, and guess what? They’re a 14-seed once again and will try to repeat that magic when they take on No. 3 Houston Friday.

However, that will be no small feat. Houston ranks in the top 25 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Georgia State will have a punchers chance in this one thanks to their 17th ranked shooting percentage from beyond the arc, but the Cougars hang their hats on the defensive end.

They are the No. 1 team in the country in opponent field goal percentage and No. 2 in opponent 3-point percentage. The Cougars will also have a sizable advantage on the glass, pulling down 37.1 per game.

Houston should ride these advantages to an early lead. The Cougars have an average first half margin of +7.4, while Georgia State has a -1.4 margin on the road. Take Houston on the first half spread -7. Houston also plays at a very slow pace and that could limit Georgia State’s opportunities to score. The Panthers could be hard pressed to exceed their team total of 64.5.

(16) IONA GAELS vs (1) NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

Odds: UNC -22.5, 166
Start Time: 9:20 p.m. ET, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

This is not a game that needs in-depth analysis. North Carolina is one of the best teams in the country. It’s balance of experienced seniors and talented freshman is unmatched. The high-octane offense is ridiculous, and the defense is underrated. No disrespect to the Iona Gaels, but the Tar Heels aren’t losing this one. But where is the betting value?

First of all, this game is going to be played at a break-neck pace. North Carolina is the highest ranked team in the tournament in adjusted tempo (which is possessions per 40 minutes adjusted for opponent) and the Iona ranks fifth of among tourney teams in that category.

Now, there have been eight games this season where the Tar Heels have been favored by 15 or more points and they have scored an average of 96.5 points per game. So even though they are facing high numbers with the likes of the total (166) and the team total (94.5) they have shown they are more than capable.

But there could be some fear of them letting off the gas a bit at the end. North Carolina is also one the highest scoring first half teams in the country and Iona’s defense won’t put up much resistance. This isn’t the Gael first time dancing, but it’s gong to be hard to rely on them against a sneaky good UNC D.

The safest play here seems to be for North Carolina to go Over their first half team total of 46.5.

(11) OHIO STATE BUCKEYES vs (6) IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Odds: ISU -5.5, 140
Start Time: 9:50 p.m. ET, BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Iowa State was a perplexing team to figure out at times this season. The Cyclones lost five of their last six games down the stretch going just 1-5 ATS, but they turned it around in a big way in the Big 12 tourney. They dominated their opponents, defeating Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas by an average margin of 11 points per game going 3-0 ATS in the process.

The Cyclones take on an Ohio State Buckeyes team that limped to the finish line winning just three of their final ten games (4-6 ATS). Ohio State was also one of the worst bets in college basketball this year, going just 7-13 ATS since the calendar flipped over to 2019.

This will be a classic offense vs. defense battle. Iowa State ranks ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency while Ohio State ranks 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency. But the Cyclones might be a little too deep for the Buckeyes. They have four players who average over 10 points per game and, led by senior guard Marial Shayok (18.6 ppg) and Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Lindell Wigginton (13.4 ppg).

The difference here is the Cyclones play a little defense, while the Buckeyes can have real problems scoring at times. Ohio State ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in most scoring categories and have averaged just 63.5 points over the last 10 games.

Here’s another stat that doesn’t bode well for the Buckeyes. Big 12 teams Texas Tech, Kansas State, Kansas and Oklahoma (all tournament teams) all ranked higher than Ohio State in adjusted defensive efficiency and Iowa State still averaged 72.3 points per game and went 7-3 SU/ATS in those contests. Lay the points with the Cyclones and consider them to go Over their team total of 72.5.

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