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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks March 6

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 6, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today South Carolina Gamecocks

Wednesday night’s games carry significant stakes, particularly for the SEC and Big 12 teams! The No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers look to avoid a letdown game against the No. 17 South Carolina Gamecocks so they can hold onto their first place standing in the SEC. Meanwhile, the No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones hope to stay within striking distance of Houston for first place in the Big 12 when they host the No. 20 BYU Cougars. Find our best college basketball picks below for these two games as well as a Big Ten matchup between the Indiana Hoosiers and Minnesota Golden Gophers!

No. 4 Tennessee @ No. 17 South Carolina

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Tennessee -5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook

A six-game winning streak, including wins against No. 13 Auburn and No. 16 Alabama, has propelled the fourth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers to the top of the SEC standings! With just two conference games remaining in the regular season, the Volunteers hold a one-game lead over second place, currently featuring two tied teams: the Alabama Crimson Tide and the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

The latter team, of course, has a chance to jump back into first place in the SEC standings due to securing a road win against Tennessee earlier in the season. A win would give the Gamecocks the same record as the Volunteers, but they would own the tiebreaker. This game could decide who wins the SEC regular season!

Tennessee had a slow start to the 2023-24 season, registering several losses against top-tier teams, including North Carolina, Purdue, and Kansas. However, once the Volunteers secured a ranked win over now-No. 12 Illinois, they began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. In fact, after those three early-season Quad 1 losses, the Vols have registered a 6-2 record in their next eight Quad 1 games.

Of course, this dominance should have been expected when the Volunteers restored much of their roster from the 2022-23 season, including Zakai Zeigler, Josiah-Jordan James, Santiago Vescovi, and Jonas Aidoo. Zeigler tore his ACL at the end of the regular season last year, forcing him to miss the NCAA Tournament. Who knows how far the Vols could have gone with him in the lineup? 

The difference between the Vols being good versus great this season has been the addition of senior Dalton Knecht, a former Juco and Northern Colorado standout. Knecht has indeed strolled down the path less traveled, as most players who are projected to be drafted in the lottery are underclassmen or overseas professionals. Seniors being drafted in the lottery is becoming less and less common. 

However, Knecht is that special, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. This season, he has posted just shy of 21 points per game, but his average has spiked in the past 15 games. In fact, Knecht has scored just shy of 26 points per game on roughly 49% shooting from the field and 43% from behind the arc in that span.

Tennessee currently ranks 17th in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Vols boast a similarly dominant defense to last season, but they have made the most considerable strides on the offensive end of the floor, and Knecht is to thank for that.

Meanwhile, the No. 17 South Carolina Gamecocks have had an unexpectedly exceptional season. In the SEC preseason media poll, the Gamecocks were projected to finish dead last in the conference, even behind Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. Few teams have overachieved to the level that the Gamecocks have this season.

After last season, the loss of freshman sensation G.G. Jackson (2023 NBA Draft), as well as Hayden Brown and Chico Carter Jr., seemed like it might sink the Gamecocks. Instead, the few returners (Meechie Johnson, Jacobi Wright, and Zachary Davis) rallied around each other and capitalized on being underrated. The additions of B.J. Mack (Wofford), Collin Murray-Boyles (Freshman), Ta’Lon Cooper (Minnesota), and Myles Stute (Vanderbilt) didn’t hurt South Carolina’s cause, either!

However, South Carolina might not be quite as mighty as its 24-5 record suggests. The Gamecocks only rank 43rd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin (52nd in adjO and 42nd in adjD) and have the second-highest luck rating in the nation. Can South Carolina continue to prove better than the analytics, or will Tennesee extend its recent winning streak to seven games?

The Vols had one of the worst offensive outings of their season in the last matchup between these two teams, and it would be pretty challenging to say that the sole reason for that was due to South Carolina’s defense, as it ranks 42nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Since that game, Tennessee has averaged roughly 86 points (only scored 59 against the Gamecocks) on 47% shooting from the field and 37% from behind the arc. Further, the Vols are holding opponents to less than 40% shooting in that span! The Gamecocks simply don’t have the offense to keep up with the red-hot Dalton Knecht-led Tennessee squad. 

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Indiana @ Minnesota

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Indiana +5 (-108) at DraftKings Sportsbook

Do the Minnesota Golden Gophers have a good chance of making it to the NCAA Tournament with their current record of 18 wins and 11 losses overall, and 9 wins and 9 losses in the Big Ten? No, it would take a heroic Big Ten Conference tournament run for them to squeeze into the field of 64. Still, it is challenging to imagine the Golden Gophers having a much better season than this one relative to expectations.

In fact, Minnesota was projected to finish dead last in the Big Ten in the conference’s preseason media polls. Nobody thought Minnesota would be anywhere near the NCAA Tournament, let alone a .500 record in Big Ten play. The Golden Gophers rank 77th in the NET rankings and 61st in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin but they have merely a 1-7 record in Quad 1 games, which will likely be their demise regarding postseason hopes.

Still, the Gophers have fared quite well in the absence of Jamison Battle and Ta’Lon Cooper, who transferred to other programs last spring after the 2022-23 regular season. Much of Minnesota’s success can be attributed to the exceptional play of Dawson Garcia, who is averaging 17.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in the 2023-24 campaign. He has proven to be one of the more effective scorers in the Big Ten this season!

However, Garcia alone cannot carry the weight of an entire team, especially in this conference. Pepperdine transfer Mike Mitchell Jr., Howard transfer Elijah Hawkins, sophomore returner Pharrel Payne, and freshman sniper Cam Christie have been pivotal complementary pieces to Garcia, giving this team a well-rounded squad on both ends of the floor.

The same cannot be said about the Indiana Hoosiers, who have the highest total of “stars” (five-star, four-star, and three-star recruits) of any team in the Big Ten, yet boast merely a 16-13 record overall and an 8-10 record in conference play. If proof were ever needed that having a ton of highly-touted recruits doesn’t always result in wins, this season’s Hoosiers would be Exhibit A of that claim.

In fact, every player in the starting frontcourt (Mackenzie Mgbako, Kel’el Ware, and Malik Reneau) for Indiana was a five-star player coming out of high school. Pair those three with two-way slashing guard Trey Galloway and super senior lead guard Xavier Johnson, and head coach Mike Woodson and company likely thought they had a roster ready to compete in the Big Ten.

That has not been the case for a multitude of reasons. First, the Hoosiers have absolutely no shooting threats from behind the arc on their team, giving defenses the opportunity to sag off of everyone on the perimeter. 

Indiana shoots the 12th-fewest three-pointers per game in the nation, with the 11 teams that shoot fewer all being low-to-mid-major programs. Of the 15.7 three-pointers the Hoosiers shoot per game, they are knocking down merely 32.2% of those attempts, which ranks 259th in the country.

However, Indiana has surprisingly strung together two consecutive wins at home versus Wisconsin (23rd in adjEM) and on the road against Maryland (50th in adjEM). Can the Hoosiers grab another road win and get hot at the right team leading into the Big Ten Conference tournament?

Indiana might not win, but getting five points with the Hoosiers could be viable, given their recent play. Mackenzie Mgbako is fresh off a 24-point career outing against Maryland, the nation’s seventh-ranked defense (adjD). In fact, the Hoosiers put up a monstrous 83 points, including a 50-point second half. 

Additionally, Xavier Johnson is healthy again and back in the lineup. He posted 13 points and six assists in 32 minutes. Johnson has been sidelined for most of the 2023-24 regular season, making it challenging to gain any real traction. However, if he continues playing at this level and can provide his excellent point-of-attack defense, then Indiana should be competitive in this spot.

Lastly, the Hoosiers seem to be more set on sticking with their starters for most of the game, which makes sense given the effectiveness of their starting lineup. Indiana has one of the worst benches in the Big Ten. If the Hoosiers have to deploy players like Payton Sparks, Anthony Walker, and C.J. Gunn, their play will suffer.

Luckily, Indiana will enter this game with no injuries and no real reason to play any bench players. The Golden Gophers only rank 150th in opponent fouls per game, too, indicating that the likelihood of Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau getting into significant foul trouble is slim.

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No. 20 BYU @ No. 6 Iowa State

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Iowa State -6.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook

With two games left to play in the Big 12 regular season, the sixth-ranked Iowa State Cyclones sit just one game behind the top-ranked Houston Cougars in the conference standings. Iowa State and Houston split their season series, each locking down one win against one another, but the Cougars’ one-game advantage will likely be the difference. 

Houston has a road game versus UCF, one of the worst teams in the Big 12 and then a home game against the Kansas Jayhawks, a formidable opponent. However, the Cougs have a spotless 16-0 record at home this season. 

Anything can happen in March, though, which is why these games are played! And the Cyclones will certainly lay it all on the line to try to grab a share of the Big 12 Conference regular season title.

If you ignore the road win against an undermanned Kansas Jayhawks squad that was without their best offensive weapon, the No. 20 BYU Cougars have been quite poor on the road this season. 

The Cougars boast a 3-6 record away from the Marriott Center, including their situationally perfect road win against Kansas as well as victories over West Virginia (133rd in adjEM) and UCF (65th in adjEM.) Those are two of the three worst teams in the Big 12 this season. 

Meanwhile, the Iowa State Cyclones are one of the best home teams in America, holding an undefeated 17-0 record in front of their fans. Iowa State ranks 21st in KenPom’s home court advantage estimates and matches that with substantially improved play at Hilton. 

In fact, the Cyclones rank fourth in average scoring margin, third in opponent points per game, third in opponent turnovers per game, 43rd in 3P%, 47th in points per game, and second in unadjusted defensive efficiency, which is incredible considering they play in the toughest conference (Big 12) in the country.

Lastly, the Cyclones have an awe-inspiring 14-3 record against the spread on their home floor, while BYU is merely 2-7 away from Marriott. The Cougs might be “analytics darlings,” but Iowa State takes care of business and covers the spread at home. It has been reliable all season and should continue to be in this high-stakes spot.

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AUTHOR

Andrew Norton

148 Articles

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.

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