College Basketball Best Bets: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Friday, March 1

College Basketball Best Bets: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Friday, March 1

This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.

March has finally arrived. We have a slimmer college hoops slate on tap for Friday, but we've still got a few games with postseason implications on the line. Here are my predictions for a pair of games on the slate.

Arkansas State at Appalachian State

The Mountaineers stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first two games to D1 opponents, but they've been on an upward trajectory ever since. Following its 1-2 start, Appalachian State has now won 24 of its last 27 games, including a signature win over Auburn as well as a season sweep of James Madison -- a fellow Sun Belt team that has already won 27 games on the season.

When comparing these two teams side-by-side, the most significant advantage belongs to Appalachian State on offense. The Mountaineers have the fourth-best offensive efficiency rating in the Sun Belt since the conference season tipped off, and they're going against a Red Wolf defense that ranks second-worst in defensive efficiency in the same period. Appalachian State's offense also outranks Arkansas State's defense in turnover percentage, rebounding percentage, and three-point percentage, giving the home team a gigantic advantage when trying to score points.

At the other end of the court, the Red Wolves are typically among the best at scoring points, boasting the highest offensive efficiency rating in the conference, although at the same time, this is easily the most challenging defense that Arkansas State has faced all season. Appalachian State is ranked 39th in adjusted defensive efficiency, the best of any team on the Red Wolves' schedule, and the Mountaineers are also holding opponents to the sixth-lowest effective field goal percentage among all 362 D1 teams, again by far the best mark of any opponent on Arkansas State's schedule.

Given these matchup notes and the fact that the Mountaineers are hosting the game, I like the home team's odds of winning by a decent margin. Appalachian State has covered the spread in its last five straight games, according to Action Network, and I'm betting it will be six straight after Friday. I'm laying the points with Mountaineers in this one.

Additionally, I also like our chances of seeing a high-scoring game. Both teams tend to pressure opposing teams into forcing early shots, both ranking top 60 in quickest defensive possession length among all D1 teams. Arkansas State also ranks 131st in overall adjusted tempo, so a quick pace of play is a regular feature of their game plan. Tempo aside, this matchup features two of the top offensive teams in the conference duking it out, with one of the teams also being among the worst at playing defense. For these reasons, I'm also taking the over in this game.

College Basketball Best Bet: Appalachian State -7 and Over 148

Air Force at Utah State

Just under a week ago, Air Force reached the pinnacle of the season when it went on the road and pulled off a massive upset at New Mexico. The Falcons have the lowest overall efficiency rating among all Mountain West teams, per KenPom, and they have just two conference wins, tied with San Jose State for the fewest in the league, making it extremely unlikely we see another phenomenal performance out of them. In fact, in its follow-up game after the upset, Air Force hosted Boise State and got throttled, 80-62. This was the Falcons' eighth loss against the spread in their last nine, per Action Network. Now, they have to travel to Logan, Utah, and face an Aggie team that is playing for high stakes in the form of NCAA tournament seeding.

Utah State, meanwhile, still has high aspirations, currently tied with Boise State for first place in the Mountain West standings. As one might guess from their record, the Aggies are proving to be a formidable bunch, and they're nearly unbeatable at home, losing just one single game in Logan all season long. But it's also important to note that they're not just winning at home, they're dominating. The Aggies are 6-1 at home against conference opponents, and they won four of the games by at least 19 points. The only two wins with margins under 19 points came against San Diego State and Colorado State, which happen to be the top two teams in the conference, according to KenPom's overall efficiency chart. Friday's opponent, however, is the worst team in the conference based on KenPom's chart.

Air Force has struggled to score points throughout the season, ranking 191st in offensive efficiency, but the defense is even worse. The Falcons rank 309th among all D1 teams in defensive efficiency, and they are also unsurprisingly the worst in the Mountain West during league play as well. If that's not enough, the Air Force's defense also ranks last in the conference in the following categories: effective field goal percentage allowed, defensive rebounding percentage, free-throw attempt rate, and two-point field goal percentage allowed. The latter stat is possibly the most foreboding, as Utah State is making 57 percent of its shots inside the arc, the 13th-highest percentage in the nation and the highest in the Mountain West. 

These two teams previously clashed on January 2nd for the conference opener, and Utah State dominated the game at Colorado Springs, winning 88-60. Not much has changed since that game, so I'm betting we'll see a similar outcome on Friday in Logan. I'm laying the points with Utah State in this matchup.

College Basketball Best Bet: Utah State -16

 

Friday College Basketball Best Bets:

Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Friday:

  • Appalachian State -6.5
  • Arkansas State at Appalachian State - Over 148.5
  • Utah State -16

For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball betting odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the college basketball odds page on RotoWire.

North Carolina sports betting is set to launch on March 11 with a wide variety of great online sportsbooks. Some of our favorite North Carolina sportsbook promos include the Caesars North Carolina promo code and the Fanatics Sportsbook North Carolina promo code.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Peralta
Graduated from USC in 2012 while interning for ESPN and FOX Sports. Following graduation, I started working full-time for FOX Sports and been there ever since. Been an avid fantasy player for over fifteen years. In addition to my fantasy teams, you'll also find me rooting for the USC Trojans and New York Yankees.
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