Sports betting has become a phenomenon across the entire country and the world, and there’s no better time to make a bet than placing some futures on mid-majors to make the Sweet 16 on DraftKings, right?
Drake has been one of the best teams in college basketball since the first Saturday in February and drew a wide-open sub-region. A first-round matchup with a Miami team that may not have Norchad Omier at 100% is very enticing. The Canes rank outside the top 130 in the country in defense, and they’re not one of the high majors that can bother Drake with size.
If Omier isn’t 100%, then Drake can dominate the defensive glass. The Bulldogs rank 3rd in the country in defensive rebound percentage, contributing to their 45th-ranked defense in the country. Drake has also turned it on offensively over the last 10 games, ranking 22nd in the country in that span, and shooting 42% from downtown.
Tucker DeVries may not be the best player on the court in a game against Miami, but he’d be a tough matchup for Jordan Miller and the Canes forwards.
If the Bulldogs do get past Miami, a matchup with either Indiana or Kent State would await. They are two teams that, if being judged on their games since Feb. 4, would be roughly 5-point underdogs against Drake. This sub-region is absolutely the best bet for a mid-major double-digit seed in the Sweet 16.
Boise State +500
Boise State is a better basketball team than Northwestern according to KenPom, the NET and Torvik rankings. Yet at the moment, the Broncos are a 1.5-point underdog on DraftKings, and you can get them on plus money on the moneyline.
Northwestern traps the post, and Boise State does like to go to the post, but it does have high-level guard play.
Between Max Rice and Chibuzo Agbo, the Broncos are one of the best spot-up shooting teams in the country, giving them a massive advantage over the Wildcats in the shooting department. Boise State ranks 220 spots higher in effective field goal percentage than Northwestern, as the Cats’ guards struggle to hit shots effectively. Boise should have the matchup advantage against Northwestern.
If the Broncos beat the Wildcats, they would likely match up with No. 2 UCLA. The Bruins are a different basketball team without Jaylen Clark, and they’re absolutely vulnerable to an early exit. Clark is the best wing defender in the country, and has a higher offensive rating than Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and Amari Bailey, who are the other three players that will shoulder the load offensively. Also, Adem Bona, who is second on the Bruins in on-off margin (behind Clark), may also be out this weekend, which could leave UCLA down two key players. While I still would probably trust Cronin and the Bruins to get it done, Boise State absolutely has what it takes to get to the Sweet 16.
Kent State +600
As mentioned with Drake, the entire sub-region of Drake/Miami (FL) and Indiana/Kent State is just so up in the air. Kent State played Gonzaga and Houston close on the road in the early portion of the season, beat Akron and Toledo twice each and has one of the best defenses in the country.
In terms of just this sub-region, Kent State has one of the highest ranking defense, at 38th in all of college basketball, led by MAC Defensive Player of the Year Malique Jacobs. The Golden Flashes play about as physically as any mid-major does, and they boast the 37th-best eFG% defense and the 20th-best turnover-forcing defense in college basketball. Indiana does not have a ton of scoring options, with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino being elite creators of offense, but the latter being inconsistent. In this matchup, it’s entirely possible that Sincere Carry is the best guard on the floor.
In terms of a potential second-round matchup, a Miami battle would be a really interesting clash of styles, with two smaller teams that have opposite strengths. The Golden Flashes can absolutely score against Miami’s guards, but if Kent puts the Canes at the line as much as they put many teams there, they could struggle to keep up with the free throw shooting. It’s not the best matchup in the world, but it’s not the worst one either.
As for a matchup with Drake, Kent State would be extremely physical, and try to force the Bulldogs out of their element. Once again, it would be a tall task for the guards of Kent, but if they can hit shots, there’s no reason why they couldn’t win that game.
If Iona gets past UConn, I’d be pretty confident that they’d win their second-round matchup. They’ve been playing better basketball than both VCU and Saint Mary’s over the last month and a half, per Bart Torvik’s ratings, and the Gaels are more talented than both of those teams as well. I’ve covered this team ad nauseam, including seeing them play in person a whopping 13 times, and I’m convinced that if they’d drawn any other four seed, I’d have picked them to win the first-round game They also drew the weakest 5-12 matchup.
A potential matchup with Saint Mary’s would favor Iona’s athleticism if they can push the tempo of the game. Saint Mary’s rebounds really well, but they’ve struggled to hit shots recently and haven’t defended the three well over the last month either. VCU and Iona both press to slow the opposing offense down, but Iona’s offensive talent is just much better than that of VCU.
However, the blurb started with a pretty big “If,” as the Gaels got a draw against a team that will know how to play against them because they play a similar style. UConn and Iona both press for turnovers, and they also hit the offensive glass hard. The issue is that UConn is just a lot more athletic, and a lot deeper, but if I’ve learned one thing, it’s to not ever write off Rick Pitino.
Absurdly Long Shot, UC Santa Barbara +1600
They have elite size from their guards, and they can space the floor. Ajay Mitchell has potential to be the darling of March Madness with his ability to drive the lane and both dish and score. Baylor doesn’t quite have a great matchup to guard him, so it’s possible that they win a game, and at that point, it’s possible that they win two.
Even if you don’t pick these in your bracket, there’s money to be made from the sportsbooks here, but be careful, because where there’s money to be made, there’s money to be lost.