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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks March 15

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 15, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today March 14

Selection Sunday is just over 48 hours away and every conference tournament is underway, with several huge upsets having already occurred, especially in the smaller conferences! For this Friday slate, we will look at the red-hot Ohio State Buckeyes versus the Illinois Fighting Illini, the Mississippi State Bulldogs versus the Tennessee Volunteers, and the Indiana Hoosiers versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Below is an in-depth analysis of each team, their respective season, and the matchup. Check it out!

Ohio State @ Illinois

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

PICK: Ohio State +5 (-115)

What a hot streak the Ohio State Buckeyes are on right now! Ohio State has won six of its past seven games since the program moved on from former head coach Chris Holtmann. That streak includes wins against Michigan State Purdue, Iowa, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Michigan. Three of those teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament!

The Buckeyes have rallied around interim head coach Jake Diebler, especially on the defensive end of the floor, where they have struggled at times this season. Leading up to their game against Iowa, the Buckeyes had held their past six opponents to roughly 39% shooting from the floor and 30% from beyond the three-point line. Despite that exceptional stretch of defense, the Bucks still rank merely 69th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, further proving their issues on that end in the beginning (and middle) of the season.

However, that drastic improvement has made OSU a fringe bubble team, especially after that huge first-round Big Ten Tournament win against Iowa. The Bucks can inch closer to a backdoor birth to the “Big Dance” with a win against Illinois here; they would probably squeeze into the field with a win here and then one more win against either Nebraska or Indiana.

Conversely, the Illinois Fighting Illini are already locked into the NCAA Tournament field after putting together a solid and consistent 23-8 record this season. Even though the Fighting Illini were without leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. for roughly one month due to being charged with a serious crime, Illinois found a way to stay the course. 

Currently, the Fighting Illini rank tenth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, boasting the nation’s fourth-highest (best) adjusted offensive efficiency rating. Between Shannon, Quincy Guerrier, Marcus Domask, and Coleman Hawkins, Illinois has a core of four uber-talented players. 

The Fighting Illini’s bench isn’t too shabby itself, with Luke Goode, Justin Harmon, and Ty Rodgers providing valuable minutes when any starters need a break or find themselves in foul trouble.

Much of Illinois’ success on the offensive end of the floor is due to its effectiveness on the offensive glass; it ranks 18th in offensive rebounding percentage this season! 

Ohio State has been a middle-of-the-road team on the glass throughout the 2023-24 campaign, but in its past five games (all of which have been wins), the Buckeyes have outrebounded their opponents. In fact, they have pulled down an average of six more rebounds per game than their opponents in that span.

With Ohio State’s substantial improvement on the defensive end of the floor and the glass, look for the Buckeyes to keep this game close.

Mississippi State @ Tennessee

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

PICK: Tennessee -10 (-110)

The Tennessee Volunteers, the SEC’s No. 1 overall seed, will open up their conference tournament play with a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble after a rough ending to the 2023-24 regular season, losing their last four games before the start of the SEC Tournament

Luckily, Mississippi State secured a win in its first conference tournament game against LSU. The Tigers took a seven-point lead into halftime, but a 48-point second-half explosion helped the Bulldogs lock in a double-digit victory.

As usual, Josh Hubbard led the way for the Bulldogs, posting 24 points, 14 of which came in the second half of that game. Tolu Smith III had an off game offensively, scoring merely eight points (eight fewer than his average), but he made up for it on the glass, pulling down 13 boards. Third-leading scorer Cameron Matthews also struggled on the offensive end, but ultimately, the Bulldogs survived and advanced, which is what the month of March is all about.

This season, Mississippi State has been a defensive-centric squad, ranking 24th in adjusted defensive efficiency (KenPom). In particular, the Bulldogs have been fantastic in defending the perimeter, holding opponents to 29.4% shooting from deep on the season, placing them sixth in the nation. 

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Volunteers have been amongst the nation’s best teams, especially in the second half of the 2023-24 regular season, where they have started to hit their stride. Tennessee has won five of its past seven Quad 1 games and nine of its 11 games overall.

Like last season, the Vols are a defensive-centric team, sitting in third in adjusted defensive efficiency (KenPom) and fifth in opponent effective field goal percentage. However, the significant difference between last year’s team and this Tennessee squad has been Dalton Knecht, one of the best offensive players in the nation.

Knecht has been an unstoppable force for the Vols, averaging more than 21 points this season. However, his past 17 games have been even better, as he has posted just shy of 27 points per game on nearly 49% shooting from the field and 43% from behind the arc. 

Knecht gives Tennessee a go-to scorer that it can lean on during offensive draughts, but the Volunteers also still have Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi, Jonas Aidoo, and Josiah-Jordan James, who are capable weapons, too!

Tennessee locked up the SEC regular season title, but can it win the SEC Tournament, too? It is far too early to crown the Volunteers as conference tournament champions, and this game will be far from easy.

However, Tennessee should lock the Bulldogs down, as they only have two offensive weapons. Josh Hubbard, a 5-foot-10 guard, has been sensational for Mississippi State, but he draws Zakai Zeigler, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, in this matchup. That is not ideal for a Bulldogs offense that already struggles to put points up at times.

Mississippi State’s 22-point first half yesterday against an LSU defense that barely ranks in the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency is also a concern. Sure, the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half, but the Vols are one of the best defensive teams in the nation. If they have a lousy shooting half as they did on Thursday, this game will balloon to a double-digit deficit quicker than someone can spell Mississippi. Let’s back the Vols.

Indiana @ Nebraska

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

PICK: Nebraska -3.5 (-110)

Make that five consecutive wins for the Indiana Hoosiers, including home wins versus the Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers, road wins against the Maryland Terrapins and Minnesota Golden Gophers, and a neutral court victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions last night. 

The Hoosiers and Nittany Lions traded leads the entire game before an Anthony Leal put-back layup gave Indiana a two-point lead with just five seconds remaining. Puff Johnson missed a game-winning three-point attempt, and the Hoosiers survived and advanced to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, where they will face the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team that has handed them two losses this season, including an embarrassing 15-point home loss in late February!

The Hoosiers’ biggest weakness this season has not been a mystery; they take very few three-pointers (15.5 3PAs per game, ninth-fewest in the country) and make only 32.8% of those attempts, which ranks 238th in the nation. 

Indiana has also had its fair share of defensive struggles this year; however, the Hoosiers have been fantastic defensively during their five-game winning streak, holding opponents to merely 28.9% from behind the arc. Additionally, they rank 12th in field goal percentage in the country during that span!

A concern for Indiana entering this game against Nebraska is the health of Trey Galloway, who missed last night’s game against Penn State due to a knee injury he suffered on senior night. In all likelihood, Galloway will miss another game, considering it is only 24 hours after the Penn State bout. Sadly, it is challenging to imagine that he will go from being unable to play to full strength in 2 is challenging4 hours.

Galloway’s absence will again cause the Hoosiers’ backcourt depth to be crushed, as Anthony Leal, last night’s hero, is the only player off the bench that they can trust to provide solid minutes. Ware and Reneau are a formidable frontcourt duo, but Reneau finds himself in too much foul trouble, and Ware will get double-teamed quite a bit since the Hoosiers aren’t a great shooting team.

Nebraska ranks 14th in the nation in opponent two-point percentage, which is where the Hoosiers get most of their points. In fact, Indiana ranks 11th in two-point rate this season, scarcely taking (or making) three-pointers. 

The Cornhuskers are going to collapse hard on post entry passes to Ware and Reneau and force the Hoosiers’ depleted backcourt to try and beat them from the perimeter. That strategy has helped Nebraska beat Indiana twice this season, with both bouts being double-deficit games by the final horn. 

Nebraska also has a considerable rest advantage with the double-bye, especially since the Hoosiers are a top-heavy team that can’t dig deep into their bench and will continue to miss senior guard Trey Galloway. The Cornhuskers should snag a win in this spot and move on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

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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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