2021 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bets: Day 1

Mar 26, 2021
2021 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bets: Day 1

Last weekend was incredible. Beyond having high-intensity basketball all day for four days straight, both Matt Gajewski and I made a good bit of money. I went 7-4 for +2.52 units and Matt went 7-1 for +5.95 units on official bets. If you just followed our bets from this column you would be up 8.47 units in a single weekend. It won’t be easy but we’ll look to follow that up in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in the coming days. Both of my first two plays have closing line value and our Discord subscribers were notified when I took the line.

Before we dive into my recommended bets, a few metrics I’ll cite are from KenPom.com that are important to understand:

  • Adjusted Efficiency Margin: How efficient a team is on offense and defense, adjusted for how good their opponents were.
  • Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: How efficient a team is on offense, adjusted for how good their opponents were.
  • Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: How efficient a team is on defense, adjusted for how good their opponents were.

This key provides a more in-depth explanation. Onto the Sweet 16…

2021 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: Day 1

Houston (2) vs. Syracuse (11)

Houston -6.5 (-110 on DraftKings)

The Orange were on the bubble in most bracketologists' projections to even make the tournament but they have been nothing short of impressive to start the tournament. They beat two strong opponents in San Diego State and West Virginia in one weekend—two top-30 teams, according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin.

They now square off against the 26-3 Houston Cougars, a step up in competition from their previous foes. Houston is seventh in adjusted offense, 11th in adjusted defense and fourth in overall adjusted efficiency margin. Compare this to Syracuse, who in the same metrics are 17th in adjusted offense, 86th in adjusted defense and 37th in adjusted efficiency margin.

Those are sizable margins but the biggest mismatch is on the glass. Houston is second in offensive rebounding rate this season, while Syracuse is 340th in defensive rebounding rate. That might be the biggest gap in metrics you will find for the entire tournament. Another key mismatch is in Syracuse’s effective field goal rate. They are 86th in this metric, while Houston is first in the country.

We were on both the Syracuse Moneyline and +3.5 against the spread (ATS) last week against West Virginia because they had just one day to prepare for Syracuse’s pesky zone coverage. This time, Houston gets over a week to prepare and has actually been one of the better teams in the country against zone defense. Per Synergy Sports, the Cougars have seen zone defense over 18% of the time, which is in the top-50 in the country.

Another big part of this handicap will depend on the health of Houston’s best player, DeJon Jarreau. He was injured in the opening game against Cleveland State and played through seemingly immense pain in a win over Rutgers. Luckily for Houston, Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said he has practiced the past few days and is very likely to play. I’m willing to bet he plays through the pain.

I played this at -6 and sent it to our subs in the Discord chat. I would play it up to -7.

Risk 1.06 units on Houston -6.5 on DraftKings (-110) to win 1 unit.

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Baylor (1) vs. Villanova (5)

Game Total Over 141.5 Points (-110 at BetMGM)

I’m really surprised the total came in this low. Both offenses are strong and both defenses are subpar. Villanova ranks sixth in adjusted offense, while Baylor ranks third. Villanova’s defense ranks 72nd and Baylors ranks 37th. Baylor is the No. 1 team in the country when it comes to three-point percentage (41.5%), while Villanova’s defense ranks 238th in three-point percentage allowed. They also allow opponents to take threes at one of the highest rates in the country. Baylor has exceeded their team total of 74.5 points in 21-of-26 games this season. Villanova has gone over their team total of 67.5 points in 3-of-4 games since significant contributor Collin Gillespie went down with a season-ending injury.

Like our play on Houston, this was posted for our Discord subscribers at 140.5, where I took it. I would take it up to 142 points.

Risk: 1.10 units on game total over 141.5 points on BetMGM to win 1 unit.

Arkansas (3) vs. Oral Roberts (15)

Arkansas -11.5 (-108 at DraftKings)

Justin Smith Over 17.5 points (-112 at FanDuel)

*Kevin Obanor (Exclusive Discord Play)

*I like three bets from this game and the third on Kevin Obanor can be found in our members-only Discord.

Oral Roberts has made an incredible run and is undoubtedly this year's Cinderella team. Unfortunately, I think that run stops here. They now play the up-tempo Razorbacks, who rank 10th in adjusted defense and 37th in adjusted offense. Even with their recent success against Florida and Ohio State, Oral Roberts is 66th in adjusted offense and 239th in adjusted defense. Oral Roberts is bad on the glass, ranking just 307th on offense and 332nd in defensive rebounding. Arkansas ranks 124th and 71st in those same categories.

Neither Ohio State nor Florida were very good on defense and Arkansas will be the best team they play all year in adjusted defense. Barring an extraordinary shooting performance, Oral Roberts will likely struggle to keep up against the Razorbacks in their current form.

These teams actually already met on December 20th—Arkansas won 87-76. In that matchup, Justin Smith scored 22 points, despite missing all three of his three-point shots. In the 11 games he has played 35+ minutes, Smith has eclipsed 17.5 points in eight of them.

Risk: 1.08 units on Arkansas -11.5 on DraftKings (-108) to win 1 unit.

Risk: 1.12 units on Justin Smith over 17.5 Points on FanDuel to win 1 unit.

For the most up-to-date picks check out my Twitter or subscribe to our Discord. This sheet from Dan Rivera tracks all my betting picks (and those from the rest of the betting staff) on the year. Just click on the tab with my name on it for the results.

*All lines accurate at the time of publication.


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