Best Picks for Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Action

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

The 2024 NCAA Tournament is finally here, which means it’s time to start making picks and turning in cards for all the March Madness you can handle.

As the tournament kicks off on Tuesday, there are two Big 12 games to watch from a betting perspective, and here are my picks for those games.

South Region (Pittsburgh, PA) | 8:40 p.m. CT | Texas Tech -5.5, Total: 145.5 (Odds via Superbook)

The Red Raiders got a fascinating draw in the ACC Miracle workers. NC State famously won five 5 games in 5 days in Washington, D.C., to steal the bid in the ACC, and now I question how much the Wolfpack have left in the tank for the Big Dance.

 

Yes, the Wolfpack will have a few days in between games, but it just feels like it will be incredibly difficult for them to do it again against another high-end opponent. As Tech fans know, this Red Raider squad is offense-first as opposed to the defense-first nature that we have become accustomed to, and it’s completely different from what Grant McCasland did at North Texas.

In order for TTU to advance, they will have to slow down NC State’s internet sensation DJ Burns and top scorer DJ Horne. The Red Raiders may not have the easiest time slowing down Burns, but they have enough bodies to slow down Horne.

When Texas Tech has the ball, I expect a big game for Pop Isaacs, which should not come as a shock to anyone. The biggest thing to monitor in this game is the status of Darrion Williams, who missed the Big 12 semifinal against Houston, and Warren Washington, who hasn’t played in the month of March. If both guys are able to play, Texas Tech will cover pretty handily.

If not, this will be a tough matchup. In the end, I expect both Williams and Washington to play, and that will be enough to push the Red Raiders past NC State and allow TTU to cover.

PICK: TEXAS TECH -5.5

 

Midwest Region (Salt Lake City, UT) | 8:55 p.m. CT | Kansas -8, Total: 153.5 (Odds via Superbook)

The Zombie Jayhawks got crushed in their only game in Kansas City by Cincinnati, but there is absolutely no reason to even consider that game in the grand calculus of what KU can be in the NCAA Tournament.

I have said all season that Kansas has the best 1 through 4 of any roster in the country and as most of our readers know, it is the lack of depth that has made this team the worst in the Bill Self Era. It is expected that Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson will play in this game, and Kansas needs them both desperately.

Samford is the classic, fun Cinderella story out of the SoCon. Bucky McMillan was coaching High School ball in Birmingham for over a decade before landing the Samford gig in 2020. Since then, he has taken the Bulldogs to heights that the program hasn’t seen before. The biggest thing to know about this Samford squad is that they rely on their offense and want to play fast. They are 14th in the country in adjusted tempo, according to KenPom, and they feature a Top 10 three-point shooting offense.

 

That is usually a good profile to pull off a shocker in March. My biggest concern about this Samford team is their ability to guard the post, especially if their best player, Achor Achor (not a typo), gets into foul trouble. The Jayhawks are much better off playing this type of team as opposed to a physical one.

Because of this matchup, I expect Kansas to win this game and win by double digits, setting up a difficult Round of 32 matchup against either Gonzaga or a very dangerous McNeese State squad.

PICK: KANSAS -8