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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks March 22

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 22, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today March 22 2024

The first day of March Madness has come and gone! There were a few upsets, including the No. 11 Duquesne Dukes knocking off the No. 6 BYU Cougars and the No. 14 Oakland Grizzlies sneaking out an impressive win over No. 3 Kentucky. But could we see even bigger upsets today?

Below, we cover the Northwestern Wildcats versus the Florida Atlantic Owls, the Grambling State Tigers versus the Purdue Boilermakers, and the New Mexico Lobos versus the Clemson Tigers. Let’s dive straight into the analysis!

Northwestern @ Florida Atlantic

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

PICK: Florida Atlantic ML -166

The Florida Atlantic Owls have had a season-long “Final Four hangover” after bringing back nearly every key contributor from last year’s Cinderella team, including Johnell Davis, Vlad Goldin, Alijah Martin, Nicholas Boyd, Brandon Weatherspoon, Bryan Greenlee, Jalen Gaffney, and Giancarlo Rosado. That list makes up eight of the top nine players from the Owls’ Final Four team, which is why the Owls were the tenth-ranked team in the preseason A.P. Poll.

However, Florida Atlantic failed to win the American Athletic Conference regular season title and was bounced by the No. 11 seed Temple Owls early in the AAC Tournament. The Owls held a respectable 25-8 overall record and went 14-4 in conference play. Still, they ultimately underperformed this season, with losses to the aforementioned Temple Owls, as well as Memphis, South Florida, UAB, Charlotte, FGCU, Illinois, and Bryant.

Still, this team showed what it could do in an early-season game against the Arizona Wildcats, a team that spent much of the 2023-24 campaign ranked in the top five in the nation; Florida Atlantic shot 50% from the floor in a one-point victory against the Wildcats.

Despite struggles, this FAU offense is electric, ranking 17th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, 14th in points per game, 25th in effective field goal percentage, 84th in three-point percentage, 56th in assists per game, and 40th in adjusted offensive efficiency. 

On the defensive end, the Owls leave much to be desired. They rank 107th in adjusted defensive efficiency and allow opponents to shoot 43.6% from the floor and 33.7% from behind the arc. Florida Atlantic’s poor perimeter defense could make this matchup against a sharpshooting Northwestern team quite tough.

In fact, the Northwestern Wildcats rank fourth in the nation in three-point shooting percentage (39.4%) this season. While the Wildcats don’t shoot many threes (201st in three-point attempts), they knock down the ones they take.

Northwestern was projected to finish eighth in the Big Ten preseason media poll, so its fourth-place standing at the end of the 2023-24 regular season was impressive. The Wildcats are a guard-heavy team that features Ty Berry, Boo Buie, Ryan Langborg, and Brooks Barnhizer; Buie,  Berry, and Langborg shoot between 42 and 44% from three-point land.

However, the Wildcats are in a troublesome situation. They are missing the aforementioned Berry and 7-foot center Matthew Nicholson, who would have been a formidable opponent for the Owls’ star center, Vlad Goldin.

Unfortunately, with Northwestern missing one of its best guards and its starting big man, there is no way we can back it against a tried Florida Atlantic squad. Say whatever you want about Florida Atlantic’s occasional struggles this season, but this team has Final Four DNA after their impressive run as a No. 9 seed last year. The Owls are a far superior offensive team, with Berry and Nicholson sidelined.

Grambling State @ Purdue

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

PICK: Purdue -26.5 (-110)

The Purdue Boilermakers are one of two programs in the nation that have lost to a No. 16 seed while ranked as a No. 1 seed. After last season’s shocking Round of 64 exit, the Purdue Boilermakers stormed back with a vengeance, stringing together a 29-4 overall record, which included a 17-3 record in Big Ten play. 

That was good enough for the Boilers to secure their second consecutive Big Ten regular season title. Unfortunately, they fell short of winning the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship, too, but their eyes are undoubtedly on the NCAA Tournament now.

Purdue is one of the few teams that brought back nearly its entire rotation, and the one player it did lose was replaced by senior guard transfer Lance Jones, who has been nothing short of fantastic. Jones joins sophomore duo Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer in one of the most talented backcourts in the nation. Smith, in particular, has been sensational, averaging close to 13 points, seven assists, and six rebounds on 45% shooting from the floor and behind the arc.

Smith has become the perfect lead guard for head coach Matt Painter’s system, which revolves around playing through their big man. In this case, that big man happens to be likely two-time Wooden Award winner Zach Edey. Edey has also made substantial improvements from the 2022-23 campaign, improving his footwork, touch around the basket, lateral quickness, and overall fitness.

The Boilers also turned their biggest weakness (three-point shooting) into arguably their biggest strength, as they went from shooting at roughly a 32% clip to a 40.8% clip, which ranks second in the nation this season. Purdue also ranks fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in adjusted efficiency margin, per KenPom. Additionally, Edey helps the Boilermakers pull down a boatload of offensive rebounds, as they have the fifth-highest offensive rebounding percentage.

Purdue shares many similarities with the Virginia Cavaliers team that lost to a No. 16 seed in 2018 and then won the NCAA Tournament the following season. Can the Boilers repeat history or at least take care of business in this first game?

We like Purdue’s odds of covering (and winning, obviously) in this game. Grambling State is an atrocious defensive rebounding team, ranking 328th in defensive rebounding percentage this season. Conversely, the Boilers are among the best offensive rebounding (fifth in OREB%) teams due to Zach Edey’s size (7-foot-4), strength, and interior presence.=

Back the Boilers to make a statement this time around.

New Mexico @ Clemson

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

PICK: New Mexico -2.5 (-110)

New Mexico is the second No. 11 seed favored over a No. 6 seed in the Round of 64 in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The confidence in the Lobos makes sense, though, as they rank 22nd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin (41st in adjO and 22nd in adjD), 17th in points per game, and 42nd in turnovers per game. Additionally, New Mexico is 19th in adjusted offensive shot quality, per ShotQuality.

Further, they are exceptional on the defensive end of the floor, holding opponents to the 24th-lowest three-point percentage (30.6%) and 77th-lowest in field goal percentage (42.4%), while forcing the 34th-most turnovers per game (14.1). 

The best part of the Lobos’ defense is their rim protection (17th in blocks per game, 21st in block percentage), which is anchored by the frontcourt duo of J.T. Toppin and Nelly Junior Joseph; they defend the three-point line well and contest interior shoots even better. On the other end, Toppin and Nelly Junior Joseph average close to a double-double.

In the backcourt, the Lobos are led by a trio of guards, including Jaelen House, Jamal Mashburn Jr., and Donovan Dent. These three players can all light up on any night and combine to post roughly 45 points per game!

New Mexico is also one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a four-game winning streak that started at the beginning of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. The Lobos beat Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, and San Diego State to lock up the conference tournament title! Even more impressive is that three of those games were Quad 1 wins.

Meanwhile, Clemson put together a strong season, finishing as the No. 6 seed in the ACC with a 21-11 overall record. However, the Tigers lost three of their final four games, including two against sub-500 ACC teams. 

Clemson is led by P.J. Hall, Joseph Girard III, and Chase Hunter on the offensive end of the floor. This trio has helped the Tigers rank 26th in adjusted offensive efficiency this season. Hall, in particular, has been spectacular on offense, averaging about 19 points and seven rebounds per game on just shy of 50% shooting from the field.

New Mexico has gotten hot at the right time. It is riding a solid four-game winning streak, which included a Mountain West Conference Tournament championship. The Lobos have also held opponents to a shockingly low 34.4% shooting from the floor and 24.5% from behind the arc in that span, a remarkable feat against three teams in the NCAA Tournament field. 

Clemson is a talented team that deserves to be in the “Big Dance,” but it has dropped three of its past four games, including to Notre Dame (13-20) and Boston College (20-15). The momentum is clearly in favor of the Lobos, and their recent defensive effort has given us confidence in backing them as a lower-seeded favorite!

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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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