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After an incredible season, we have finally made it to the best event of the year: March Madness. The NCAA Tournament starts with the “First Four” games on Tuesday, but Arizona State and Nevada will take place on Wednesday. Check out our Arizona State vs Nevada preview below, featuring our picks and predictions, to find out if it is possible if another First Four team could make the Final Four for just the second time ever.
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It took a borderline miracle for Arizona State to hear its name called for a March Madness Birth. At the end of a game against Arizona a few weeks ago, the Wildcats took a two-point lead on a free throw with just a few seconds left. Then came the miracle: a Desmond Cambridge Jr half-court heave at the buzzer to beat the then No. 7 Arizona Wildcats on their home floor. That shot catapulted the Sun Devils from a likely snub to a possible bubble team. Arizona State wrapped up its season winning two games in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament before being bested by Arizona, the eventual champions, in a revenge game.
The Sun Devils’ March Madness birth was an unlikely one just three or four weeks ago, but now they are here and have to get past another strong team in the Nevada Wolf Pack if they want to see the Round of 64. Let’s see if they can make a run!
Desmond Cambridge Jr is the unquestioned leader of the Sun Devils; he posts roughly 14 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals per game. When he is shooting well, the Sun Devils have a chance to beat anyone. Efficiency is an area of concern for Cambridge, though, as his 39% shooting from the field is not ideal for your star player, who has a lot of volume on that end of the floor. Other players who have to step up on offense are Devan Cambridge, Frankie Collins, and DJ Horne. The Sun Devils need excellent guard play in the NCAA Tournament if they want to rattle off a few wins.
Nevada had an impressive season, despite losing its past three games of the year to San Jose State, UNLV, and Wyoming. The Mountain West has been tough all season long, but the loss to Wyoming could present itself as a potential concern for betting backers; the Cowboys were just 9-22 on the year, which is quite rough. Still, the Wolf Pack had some strong moments, including wins versus San Diego State, New Mexico (two), and Utah State. This will inevitably be one of the best First Four games in the NCAA Tournament, as Nevada and Arizona State are more than capable of rattling off a game or two. Can Nevada, specifically, shake this three-game streak and make a deep push in March Madness? Only time will tell.
Nevada does a terrific job of not relying so heavily on any one player for its offensive output. For instance, Will Baker, Jarod Lucas, and Kenan Blackshear all average between 14 and 17 points per game and are quite efficient as a trio. KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin ranks the Wolf Pack as the No. 43 team in the nation due to their impressive combination of offense and defense. For example, that is only a few spots behind the fifth-seeded Miami Hurricanes (40th.) Due to the rough end of their season, the Wolf Pack put themselves in a sticky situation, but there is no reason they can’t put together a few runs in the NCAA Tournament.
The 1.5-point spread, in slight favor of the Arizona State Sun Devils, tells you all you need to know about this game: it will be a close one from the beginning until the end. Both teams have strong defenses, as ASU comes in at 28th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency margin, while Nevada is 42nd.
The key difference between these two teams is the offensive production. Arizona State boasts a team shooting split of roughly 41/31/69, a brutal mark for an otherwise tournament-caliber team. The Sun Devils have evidenced an ability to get hot at certain times, like the Arizona game they won at the buzzer when they shot 54% from the field and 40% from behind the arc. Still, with teams ramping up their defensive efforts in March, finding points from this ASU team could be difficult.
Further, Nevada holds teams to just 32% shooting from deep, making this a brutal matchup for one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation. The Wolf Pack are also a better rebounding team on both ends, boasting a higher total rebounding rate than ASU. All signs point to a Nevada win, as long as it can overcome the mental barrier of dropping three-straight games.
Pick: Nevada +1.5
Location: Dayton, OH
Game Time & Date: Wed, Mar 15 at 9:10 p.m. ET
TV Network: truTV
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DraftKings has some exciting March Madness promotions featured ahead of this week’s slate of first-round games; it has a Millionaire Bracket that has a $100 entry fee, with first place receiving a whopping one million dollar prize. You can also check out its tournament specials section that features different types of bets, such as whether or not there will be a buzzer-beater in any of the First Four games. DraftKings always offers awesome promotions and bonuses for special events, and March Madness certainly qualifies. Check it out throughout the week to see what else pops up!
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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