As the NCAA tournament rolls forward and excitement grows with more elite teams facing potential upsets, budding Cinderella stories coming knocking at the door of the top-seeded foes, and the match-ups become more evenly matched, it’s a great day to check into one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here, and pick out a couple of the choice contests on the docket for Saturday afternoon and evening. Here’s a few of the best looking match-ups on the schedule, the betting lines for each game at today’s featured Bookmaker Sportsbook, and a bit of insight for how these match-ups might shakedown.
One of the best looking opportunities for picking an upset lies with #2 Ohio State and #7 Gonzaga, as the perennial tournament underdog Zags will undoubtedly put their best foot forward against the likes of Jared Sullinger, William Buford and DeShaun Thomas today in Pittsburgh. While the Buckeyes dominated a smaller Loyola (Md) team on Friday, winning by 19 points, Gonzaga was also very impressive in dismantling the West Virginia Mountaineers, holding them to just 54 points while shooting lights out from the floor (%56) and from the perimeter (%52.9 from 3-pt range). While Ohio State certainly should be dominant in this game inside the paint, if the Bulldogs are allowed to score at will from outside, they’ll give OSU a serious run for their money this evening. Look for a big factor in this game to be Robert Sacre, Gonzaga’s 7-foot center, who will have to hold his own against a very physical and talented Jared Sullinger. Offensive rebounding has been especially important in this tournament so far, so Gonzaga has to hold their own in the paint to keep pace with Ohio State, but if their defense can stand up once more, and if Kevin Pangos, Elias Harris and Gary Bell Jr. can keep raining 3’s, the odds of a Gonzaga upset start to look pretty good.
Betting Lines for #7 Gonzaga vs. #2 Ohio State at Bookmaker Sportsbook
Gonzaga comes in as a favorable +8 underdog against the spread, which could be a great betting option for underdog pickers in this game.
Ohio State is a big favorite on the money line at -400, but if you’re feeling saucy about a 3rd straight #2 seed falling down, the hefty +330 odds on Gonzaga to win straight up is awfully tantalizing. Figure also that Gonzaga is much, much better and much more tournament tested than either Norfolk State or Lehigh, the two teams that knocked of #2 Missouri and #2 Duke respectively.
The over/under on total points is also appealing for under pickers at 136 points, as these two teams play very good defense, holding their last opponents to under 60 points. Gonzaga will have to slow this game down and find the best looking shots against a tough OSU interior, and with slower offense comes a better chance that this game stays under the total points mark.
Our Prediction: OSU squeaks through with a win, but Gonzaga shows why they’ve become tournament staple year in and year out, giving the Buckeyes a run for their money in a 68-64 game going Ohio State’s way.
South Region Battle of the Day: #12 VCU vs. #4 Indiana
Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams looked good in their second round defeat of Wichita State, holding the Shockers’ senior players to a season low in scoring at just 59 points on 38.7 percent shooting. Against a bigger, more physical Indiana Hoosiers team led by Christian Watford and big-man Cody Zeller, defense is once again going to be critical, as the Hoosiers score a lot of points and are great shooters from the outside. In this match-up however, the Hoosiers’ bigger presence in the paint, and their outside shooting via Jordan Hulls will make it tough for VCU to keep pace, no matter their defensive pressure.
Betting Lines for VCU vs. Indiana
Indiana is a 6 point favorite in today’s match-up with Virginia Commonwealth, but with a stingy, smart defense the Rams could very well find a way to keep this contest close. That said, Indiana’s better inside play, which should control the boards in this game, will make it difficult for VCU to stay close towards the end of the game. Indiana shoots well from the free-throw line as well, meaning that late fouling is not going to have positive results for the Rams, if they find themselves behind towards the closing minutes. Never underestimate a quality defense like VCU for certain, but Indiana looks to be in good form to edge the Rams out by at least 6 points, covering the spread as favorites.
Straight up on the money for this match-up, VCU is a +215 underdog, while Indiana is a -255 favorite. While there’s not a ton of money to be made off the Hoosiers as favorites here, it’s a solid bet in a match-up that favors the deeper, bigger Indiana team.
The over/under is pushed higher due to Indiana’s prolific scoring offense, which can accumulate points quickly from a variety of places, inside and out. 141 total points however is a lofty mark with VCU’s game plan centered around swarming pressure, and their relative lack of shooting proficiency this season. Expect VCU to be held to under 70 points in this game, and also keep Indiana’s high scoring attack in check enough to stay under the 141 mark here.
Our Prediction: VCU puts up a valiant effort, and gives Indiana a scare, but the depth and size of Indiana, as well as their favorable shooting abilities, puts the Hoosiers through to the Sweet 16 on a 70-65 win today.
East Region’s most exciting showdown: #5 Vanderbilt vs. #4 Wisconsin.
This is going to be a good one folks. Wisconsin features a suffocating defense that is allowing just 52.9 points to opponents on the season, and Vanderbilt features one of the nations’ top sharp shooters in John Jenkins, who averaged 19.9 points per game during the season and put up 27 in the second round victory over Harvard. Vandy has talent in all areas of the court, from the big presence of Festus Ezeli inside the paint, to Jenkins around the perimeter (%44.6 on the year from 3-pt range) to Jeffery Taylor (16.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg) who can do a bit of everything. I picked Vanderbilt to make the Final Four this year, so while that might be a good notion for you to bet against them (seeing as though one of my other Final Four picks, Missouri, is already gone), don’t discount how good this team can be when they hit the court tonight. This is the squad that bumped off #1 Kentucky for the SEC title, and was a pre-season Top-10 team. They are deep with veteran talent, and have impressive outside shooting ability.
Wisconsin though, coming off a dismantling of Montana on Friday (73-49), has also just shown that it can put up large points when not challenged on defense. Jordan Taylor (14.7 ppg) was a stud for the Badgers on Friday, scoring 17, pulling down 8 boards and distributing six assists with no turnovers. That kind of leadership is exactly what the Badgers will need again, up against a Vandy team coming in relatively under the radar. What concerns me for Wisconsin however is their shooting, at 42.4 percent from the floor. While they had no problem upping those numbers against Montana, shooting 47.9 percent from the floor and an impressive 52.6 percent from 3-pt range, there is concern they’ll have much less success against a big, well-coached Vanderbilt team that is not going to let them take wide open shots like the Grizzlies did. There is no doubt this game could go either way, and if I were a bookmaker, I’d have a hard time figuring out which side to put as favorite, as these two teams, while much different in style, are equally good in talent and ability to win games along a tournament run.
Betting Lines for #5 Vanderbilt vs. #5 Wisconsin
This clash has the tightest betting lines of any NCAA Tournament game played thus far. Vanderbilt, likely by virtue of their better scoring and more veteran squad, gets the edge at -1 point against the spread, with Wisconsin at +1 (both options at -110 odds).
Straight up wagers find Vandy with -115 odds to win while Wisconsin is at -105, so with these teams so evenly matched up, it may make good sense to go for the better betting odds on the money line, thus taking the Badgers. Defense does win championships, and if Wisconsin can limit John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli’s effectiveness today, the Badgers will be able to move forward into the Sweet 16 in a close game.
The over/under for this match-up is also one of the lowest we’ll see in the tournament at 121 1/2 points, as Wisconsin plays some of the best defense in the country, showing those skills by holding Montana to just 49 points on Friday. That said, the defensive bias on total points could work in your favor today, especially with Vanderbilt able to shoot very well from 3-pt range and Wisconsin showing offensive spark in the tournament thus far. Both teams are also big and physical in the paint, which should result in lots of quick points score around the bucket. Look for the over wager to be the best looking option in this match-up.
Our Prediction: While Wisconsin plays outstanding defense, and is perfectly capable of shooting well from the outside, Vanderbilt has the top sniper in the country in John Jenkins, who I think will be the X-factor in this game from outside. Vanderbilt also plays big inside the paint, and has a fleet of seniors that are well up to the task of winning in a game where nerves will play a part between two elite-level schools. Shooting wins this ballgame, and with Wisconsin a bit more inconsistent in their scoring attack and well-matched by the Commodores across just about every position, Vandy gets my nod to pull out a tough win, 67-64.
Make sure to check out a host of other top 3rd round contests in action today with another top match-up between #5 New Mexico and #4 Louisville, which features another fantastic pairing of two similarly-styled teams, look for an interesting clash of different approaches as the smaller, sharper shooting #6 Murray State Racers face the more-physical #3 Marquette Golden Eagles, and expect #1 Kentucky vs. #8 Iowa State to be a great showdown as the Cyclones put everything on the line against the Wildcats, the consensus pick to be the team left standing in New Orleans.
It’s a fantastic day of College Basketball for the most exciting tournament in the world, so check out Bookmaker Sportsbook or any one of the top reviewed online sportsbooks found right here, and get those bets placed before any more games get underway!