This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
After going 11-4 with his picks last week, Steve Peralta returns to preview some action from the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. Here are his best bets of the day.
Pittsburgh vs Mississippi State
Pittsburgh hasn't played its best basketball in recent weeks. The Panthers have lost four of their last seven games, and two of their three wins in that span came against Georgia Tech, one of the worst teams in the ACC. Pittsburgh's offensive attack is solid, ranked 24th on KenPom's efficiency chart, although its defense will likely be its undoing. The Panthers rank No. 142 in adjusted defensive efficiency and have been particularly dreadful lately, allowing opponents to score at least 78 points in each of their last five games, with its most recent game against Duke taking the cake, allowing a season-high 96 points.
Mississippi State, meanwhile, has been as streaky as they come. The Bulldogs started off the season with a perfect 11-0 record, including a signature victory over Marquette, before enduring a stretch where they lost eight of nine games. The pile of losses from that time doesn't look great, but it's worth pointing out that Mississippi State faced Alabama and Tennessee two times each in that stretch, making half the losses look a little more understandable. In any event, following that rough patch, Mississippi State got back on track, winning nine of 13 games leading up to the Big Dance, including noteworthy wins over the likes of TCU, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas A&M.
The Bulldogs have found most of their success thanks to their elite defensive play, ranking sixth in KenPom's defensive efficiency rankings. Additionally, they also rank in the top 35 among all D1 teams in effective field goal percentage allowed, defensive turnover percentage, three-point field goal percentage allowed, and two-point field goal percentage allowed, giving them a fierce all-around defensive presence that makes life extremely difficult for any opposing team. While Mississippi State's offense had trouble scoring at times this season, it does do one thing incredibly well that should come into play in Tuesday's matchup -- collect offensive rebounds. The Bulldogs recorded the 15th-highest offensive rebounding percentage among all D1 teams, while Pittsburgh had major trouble defending against offensive boards during the conference season, recording the fourth-worst defensive rebounding percentage among all ACC teams. Furthermore, Mississippi State also has another advantage on offense in the form of drawing fouls. The Bulldogs had the fourth-highest free-throw attempt rate in the SEC during league competition, while the Panthers had the second-worst defensive free-throw attempt rate in the ACC.
All in all, while these two teams might be the same seed in the NCAA tournament, one of them is clearly better and has a resume to back it up. If you believe in the saying 'defense wins championships,' then it's hard not to like the Bulldogs in this matchup. They might not make it to next weekend, but I'm betting they'll at least make it to the round of 64. I'm taking Mississippi State in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Mississippi State -2.5
Toledo at Michigan
Despite losing to a tough Kent State team in the MAC tournament, Toledo is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Rockets had won 17 consecutive games and hadn't lost in two months prior to that defeat, and it's easy to see why after looking at their team.
Toledo is one of the best-scoring teams in the country, ranking fifth in KenPom's offensive efficiency chart, but that only tells a small piece of the story. The Rockets also rank fourth in the nation in effective field goal percentage, seventh in offensive turnover percentage, and second in three-point field goal percentage, making 40 percent of shots from outside the arc. Toledo doesn't seem to focus much on the other end of the court, but it hardly matters when it's knocking down such an extremely high percentage of shots.
Michigan, in contrast, ranks close to the D1 average in most shooting categories, namely, effective field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and two-point field goal percentage. It would be easy to give Michigan the benefit of the doubt because it's played in a much harder league, although the Wolverines had trouble shooting the ball against inferior teams as well, as we saw when it lost at home to Central Michigan, 63-61. We never want to overreact to one game, but in hindsight, the December 29 loss to the Chippewas was a gigantic red flag. Toledo torched Central Michigan in both matchups this season, winning the most recent one by a score of 99-65, so Michigan will need to come out of the gate strong or else it risks getting buried by Toledo's potent offensive attack.
Looking at the bottom line, Toledo's offense gives it an extremely high ceiling in any single game. Its leaky defense came back to bite it against Kent State in the conference tournament, although it's important to keep in mind that Kent State was a familiar opponent and the stakes were the highest they've been all season. Toledo will surely have a chip on its shoulder entering this game, going for the upset against a major conference opponent. It's certainly possible Michigan's defense will keep the Rockets in check, but based on how these teams closed out the season and the shooting capabilities of both teams, my money's on Toledo.
College Basketball Best Bet: Toledo +6.5
Seton Hall at Colorado
Colorado has played some incredible games this year, but unfortunately, it also tripped up enough to miss the cut for the Big Dance. At their best, the Buffaloes are capable of beating some of the best teams in the country, as we saw when they collected double-digit victories over Tennesee, Texas A&M and Oregon. At their worst, they're also liable to lose against the worst teams in the Pac-12. That said, the Buffs' high moments still outweigh the low ones, making them a formidable three-seed as they enter the NIT.
Colorado's offense has had inconsistency issues all season, explaining its record, although one constant has been its elite defense, which ranks 23rd on KenPom's efficiency chart. This will undoubtedly make it extremely difficult for Seton Hall to score on Tuesday, as the Pirates had the third-lowest offensive efficiency rating in the Big East. Moreover, Seton Hall has been one of the most careless teams in the country, ranking No. 316 in offensive turnover percentage. this plays right into the hands of Colorado, as the Buffaloes' defense forced the third-highest turnover percentage in the Pac-12. Safe to say, Colorado should see a healthy amount of points off turnovers in this matchup.
Additionally, Colorado is one of the best rebounding teams in the Pac-12, logging the highest defensive rebounding percentage during league competition and the fifth-highest offensive rebounding percentage. The latter will also likely come into play on Tuesday, as Seton Hall struggled on the defensive glass, ranking No. 262 in that category among all D1 teams.
Overall, Seton Hall has been in rough shape over the past month. The Pirates have lost six of their last eight games, including a colossally disappointing loss to DePaul in the opening round of the Big East tournament. And now, the challenge becomes exponentially more difficult, as Seton Hall has to face a feisty Colorado team and its mile-high home-court advantage. Given all the various advantages for the home team, I'm backing the Buffs in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Colorado -4
Tuesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Tuesday:
- Mississippi State -2.5
- Toledo +6.5
- Colorado -4
For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the College Basketball odds page on RotoWire.
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