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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks March 2

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 2, 2024
8 min read
Wake Forest vs Notre Dame Prediction

It is the first Saturday of March, so prepare for all of the “madness” that will ensue between now and the end of the 2024 NCAA Tournament! There are a number of must-watch games on Saturday’s slate, but we are going to hone in on these three: the No. 23 Gonzaga Bulldogs versus the No. 17 Saint Mary’s Gaels, the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks versus the No. 15 Baylor Bears, and the Michigan State Spartans versus the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers. Let’s dive into the analysis for our best college basketball picks below!

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No. 23 Gonzaga @ No. 17 Saint Mary's

  • Date: Saturday, March 2

  • Time: 10:00 pm EST

  • Moneyline: Gonzaga N/A | Saint Mary's N/A

  • Spread: Gonzaga +2.5 (-110) | Saint Mary's -2.5 (-110)

  • Total: Over 141.5 (-110) | Under 141.5 (-110)

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

PICK: Gonzaga +2.5 (-110)

With a massive 26-point win against the Pepperdine Waves on Thursday night, the Saint Mary’s Gaels officially clinched the West Coast Conference regular season championship. Gonzaga is now two games back with only one game left to play before the conference tournament. Still, the Gaels have plenty to play for on Saturday night: a season sweep in their rivalry against Gonzaga and an undefeated WCC regular season record, which is far from easy. 

Saint Mary’s got off to an uncharacteristic start to its 2023-24 campaign, dropping games to Weber State, Xavier, San Diego State, Boise State, Utah, and Missouri State before rattling off 16 consecutive games ahead of this matchup with the ‘Zags. The loss against the Missouri State Bears was the last straw for this squad, as they have not looked back since. 

The Gaels’ success in the past few months shouldn’t be as surprising, though, given the amount (and quality) of their returners from last year’s team, which finished the season 13th in Ken Pom’s adjusted efficiency margin metric. Those returners include Aidan Mahaney, Augustas Marciulionis, Mitchell Saxen, Joshua Jefferson, Alex Ducas, Luke Barrett, and Harry Wessels, six of their top eight leading scorers from last season. 

As seems to be the case yearly for Randy Bennett-coached teams, this year’s Gaels unit is again elite on the defensive end of the floor, ranking 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency, third in opponent points per game, and third in opponent effective field goal percentage. The Gaels want to slow opponents down and make them play at their pace, similar to a team like Houston. 

Saint Mary’s is also a top-tier rebounding team; they rank second in the nation in total rebounding rate, pulling down 58.2% of rebounds. That is only 0.1% lower than the Zach Edey-led Purdue Boilermakers!

However, the Gonzaga Bulldogs outrebounded Saint Mary’s by six in the first matchup between these two WCC rivals. Sure, the game was an away game for the Gaels, but their rebounding numbers have not dropped off much on the road versus their home floor. 

Interestingly enough, Gonzaga has also been on a tear, logging seven consecutive wins since its loss at home against Saint Mary’s. The Bulldogs aren’t quite as talented as they have been in recent seasons due to the loss of All-American, and one of the greatest collegiate players ever, Drew Timme; however, they still rank tenth in adjusted offensive efficiency (KenPom) and post the seventh-most points per game in the nation. The combination of incoming transfers Ryan Nembhard and Graham Ike has complemented the key returners for the ‘Zags, Anton Watson and Nolan Hickman.

Part of Gonzaga’s lackluster start could be attributed to the fact that it had several players who had not logged minutes together. Still, the Bulldogs did look like an entirely new basketball team in February, especially on the defensive end of the floor. The sense of urgency for the ‘Zags is likely to be higher, too; they are not considered by many to be a “lock” in the 2024 NCAA Tournament quite yet.

No. 7 Kansas @ No. 15 Baylor

  • Date: Saturday, March 2

  • Time: 1:00 pm EST

  • Moneyline: Kansas N/A | Baylor N/A   

  • Spread: Kansas +4.5 (-110) | Baylor -4.5 (-110)

  • Total: Over 145.5 (-110) | Under 145.5 (-110)

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

PICK: Baylor -4.5 (-110)

The big question leading up to this game between Kansas and Baylor, two Big 12 titans battling for positioning in the conference standings, is whether or not Kevin McCullar Jr. will be available. McCullar has missed several games recently, including the Kansas Jayhawks’ home game against Baylor on February 10th. Kansas squeaked out a narrow three-point win at Allen Fieldhouse, but it had a ton of weaknesses exposed in the absence of McCullar.

For one, the Baylor Bears slaughtered Kansas on the glass, outrebounding the Jayhawks by 17 boards. McCullar averages just shy of seven rebounds per game and is the second-leading rebounder behind only 7-foot-2 center Hunter Dickinson. 

Baylor also bailed Kansas out by turning the ball over 21 times, an absurd amount for any team in any collegiate game. In fact, the Bears only turn the ball over 12 times per game, which is middle-of-the-road nationally but still much lower than the 21 turnovers they had in Lawrence.

Additionally, Baylor shot just 41% from the floor and 30% from behind the arc in that game, which is much lower than its home season average of nearly 52% from the field and 44% from the three-point line. Kansas has a terrific, top-ten defense (ninth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency), but its perimeter defense is mediocre on the road, as opponents shoot nearly 35% on their home floor. 

The Jayhawks’ offense has also sputtered without McCullar, their leading scorer this season, averaging roughly 19 points per game. Nicholas Timberlake has had to fill in for McCullar in his absence, and his increase in minutes has had mixed results. Head coach Bill Self doesn’t like to play more than seven or eight players in his rotations, which can cause potential complications when injuries occur. Further, Kansas struggles offensively on the road anyway, boasting an effective field goal percentage that is seven percent lower than it is at home.

This is also a revenge spot for the Baylor Bears who, as mentioned above, lost to Kansas in their first matchup. Baylor has an opportunity to sneak into solo third in the Big 12 with a win over the Jayhawks; expect it to secure the win at home comfortably if McCullar doesn’t play. The Bears have too much firepower and Kansas is lost offensively without McCullar, even against a mediocre defense.

Michigan State @ No. 2 Purdue

  • Date: Saturday, March 2

  • Time: 8:00 pm EST

  • Moneyline: Michigan State N/A | Purdue N/A   

  • Spread: Michigan State +9.5 (-110) | Purdue -9.5 (-110)

  • Total: Over 144.5 (-110) | Under 144.5 (-110)

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

PICK: Purdue -9.5 (-110)

It has been a strange season for the Michigan State Spartans, who began the 2023-24 regular season as the fourth-ranked team in the nation. That did not last long, though. Despite bringing back Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins, Mady Sissoko, Malik Hall, Carson Cooper, and Tre Holloman, the Spartans began the year with a 4-5 record, which included a home loss to James Madison. 

Yet Michigan State has still been held in high regard for the most part this season by many advanced analytics, ranking 20th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and 24th in the NET Rankings despite holding merely a 17-11 record. That record includes a 9-8 record in Big Ten play, with losses at home versus Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Those are not “good” losses when you have the Breslin Center behind you.

Still, we know what happens with the Michigan State Spartans in the month of March; they transform into the giant that they should have been all along. We won’t question the great Tom Izzo and his mysterious ways. However, we might not have a ton of confidence in backing Sparty in this particular game.

Meanwhile, the second-ranked Purdue Boilermakers are continuing their slaughter of the entire Big Ten; they have secured wins in 11 of their past 12 conference matchups, with the only loss coming in an outlier road game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Purdue nearly has the Big Ten regular season title locked up, as it has a two-game lead over the No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini with three conference games left to play.

The Boilers’ superstar 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey also seems to be a lock to win his second consecutive Wooden Award; he has averaged just shy of 24 points and 12 rebounds on 63% shooting from the field. Edey has also improved his court vision and passing IQ out of the post, making him even more challenging to defend. Further, his lateral quickness has taken a massive stride forward, allowing the Boilermakers to not be as one-dimensional defensively as they were last season.

Purdue has also become a lethal three-point shooting team, with Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman-Renn, and Myles Colvin knocking down over 40% of their three-point attempts this season. Those numbers only improve for the Boilers on their own floor, where they convert on 44.4% of threes. Unfortunately, the Spartans are a morbid perimeter defensive team on the road, letting opponents hit 36.7% of their attempts (as opposed to 29.4% at home) when they aren’t at the Breslin Center. Yikes.

Purdue also has the highest total rebounding rate of any team in the nation (and the highest offensive rebounding percentage of any team in its past three games), which could be a problem for a Michigan State team that ranks 137th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. A double-digit win here seems very possible for the Boilermakers.

While wagering on this inter-state rivalry is exciting, responsible gaming is far more important. If you or someone you know is struggling, please get in touch with 1-800-GAMBLER or visit their website at 1800gambler.net. 

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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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