I started off my NCAA tournament picks by taking the Oklahoma Sooners as an underdog pick on Thursday and I’m feeling saucy again going into Friday.
There are a lot of fun underdogs that could offer killer value in the opening round and I think college basketball bettors are getting a lot of wiggle room for this clash between Marshall (13) and Wichita State (4).
The top March Madness sportsbooks understandably love the Shockers here. Wichita State has a rich history, as they reached the Final Four for the first time ever in 2012 and have been on cinderella watch ever since.
There’s good reason for optimism, too. Wichita State boasts a strong 25-7 regular season record and has made it to the second round of the tourney in each of the last six seasons.
While Wichita State may be one of the last teams bettors want to wager against in round one, Marshall is no slouch. The Thundering Herd made it to the tournament by narrowly snagging the Conference USA tournament title and they were pretty impressive during a strong 24-10 run.
The big question, of course, is if Marshall is good enough to fend off one of the NCAA tourney’s staples.
Let’s break this matchup down to find out if there is enough value in Marshall to target, or if the Shockers are an easy bet to cover here:
There are two things that really stand out in this matchup; Wichita State has been pretty awful against the spread and this Thundering Herd squad can flat out score the basketball.
The Shockers are easily the more balanced and more experienced team. They’ve been here and done it all. They also bring really tough balance to the table, ranking 17th in the nation in scoring and possessing a nice inside/outside attack.
On top of it all, their ATS production is troubling. The Shockers have gone just 12-18 against the spread this year and are 0-6 ATS over their last six games.
Wichita State has a capable defense, but it’s not an elite one. Wichita State gave up over 71 points per game on the year, ranking just 140th in the nation.
Marshall, meanwhile, ranks 10th in the entire country in scoring (84 points per game) and proved themselves this year (lost by four to Xavier) and ride into the tourney with four straight wins behind them.
The reality here is the Shockers are well coached, are better defensively and are probably more balanced. However, Marshall has a fun narrative as a potential cinderella, they boast a potent offense and they really have nothing to lose.
This projects as a fast-paced game with a lot of points. Toss in Marshall’s impressive ATS numbers (20-11 against the spread) and I really like the idea of a shootout staying relatively close.
Buying Marshall straight up (+600 at BetOnline!) is a really fun idea and you aren’t going to need to spend much to return serious profit. Wichita State has developed a reputation for at least getting out of round one, but it’s not crazy in such a volatile setting for their streak to get snapped.
That is worth considering, but my job is to get you a win and see value when it stares me in the face.
This game projects to have a lot of scoring, not that much defense and could be relatively close. I can see the Shockers edging Marshall out, but not by 13 points. I’ll take Marshall to beat what is increasingly looking to me to be a gaudy +12 point spread.
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