First up–No. 7 seed Michigan State Spartans face No. 3 seed Kansas State Wildcats at 6:30 pm, followed by No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic Owls taking on No. 3 seed Tennesee Volunteers at 9:00 pm.
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To qualify, the wager must have odds greater than -200 to take advantage of this offer, and Phil has a pair of picks for Thursday night’s East Region matchups.
Michigan State Spartans vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Michigan State is a -2 favorite with a 137.5 total when the two sides open the East Region. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 pm, and the game is televised on TBS.
Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo has been here before–a record 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and Thursday is the 15th time in 25 years Izzo’s Spartans have reached the Sweet 16.
Izzo and MSU set another record in Sunday’s huge victory over Marquette–the win was the 16th time an Izzo-led team won as the lower seed in an NCAA Tournament matchup.
With Michigan State's win against Marquette, Tom Izzo has now won 16 games in the NCAA Tournament as the lower-seeded team.
He passes Jim Boeheim for the most since seeding began in 1979. pic.twitter.com/WvpwSKLo02
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 19, 2023
MSU guard Tyson Walker and forward Joey Hauser provide a solid one-two scoring punch for a Spartans team that shoots better outside the arc than inside. The Spartans are one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams and 37th best assist to turnover ratio.
Kansas State plays solid defense but is 9th in the Big-12 Conference in blocked shot percentage and 1st in opponent three-point percentage. MSU has three players draining 40% or better from downtown–K-State will make it tough on Hauser, Walker, and Jaden Akins to knock down bombs from downtown.
Markquis Nowell cooked vs. Kentucky ♨️
– 27 PTS
– 9 AST
– 3 3PT
– 3 STL
Kansas St. is headed to the Sweet 16 pic.twitter.com/F1OtzLmZck
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 19, 2023
The Wildcats don’t rely much on the triple but boast one of the highest effective field goal percentages in the college game. K-State has a high turnover rate but is 75th in assist-to-turnover ratio, averaging 16.5 points per game off of turnovers.
Phil’s Best Bet Michigan State -135: Michigan State is going to win this game, and -135 on the moneyline is my best bet for this game.
MSU does three things better than Kansas State—they rebound, don’t turn the ball over, and are the better passing team. The team that does those three things better than their opponent usually wins games, and Michigan State is better at all three than K-State is.
Wildcats Markquis Lowell has played so well this tournament, but leading scorer and rebounder Keyontae Johnson has struggled–the senior has failed to score his average in three of his last five, and his tournament doesn’t get any easier against the much bigger interior MSU defense.
Kansas State relies heavily on creating turnovers and scoring off them, but MSU allows 11 points per game off of turnovers, and the Wildcats will need to find another way to beat the Spartans. They won’t, and MSU advances to the Elite Eight. Phil’s Best Bet–Michigan State -135
Florida Atlantic Owls vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Florida Atlantic is a +5.5 underdog with a 131.5 total when the two schools meet Friday evening at 9:00 pm on TBS.
The Owls have been exciting to watch–they’ve won nine straight, shoot the ball fast in the clock, and knock down shots from everywhere. Sophomore guard Johnell Davis scored 29 against Fairly Dickenson and has outpaced his scoring average in four of his past five games.
FAU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Dusty May Discusses The Owls Rise To Becoming A Sweet 16 Team. @FAUMBB
— LIGHT ON COLLEGE SPORTS (@LightOnSports) March 20, 2023
If Florida Atlantic has a weakness, it’s on the defensive end. Specifically, they don’t get many steals, don’t force many turnovers or block shots, and their three-point defense is shaky at best.
Kenneth Pomeroy ranks Tennessee as the best defense in the country. Tennessee held Duke to 52 points in the Round of 32 and allowed a 3rd best 57.8 points per game in a tough SEC. The Volunteers were 2nd in the SEC in many defensive categories–they force turnovers, block shots, and defend inside and outside the arc at an elite level.
Vols 65, Duke 52 — Extended Highlightshttps://t.co/tdCJEJWLEP
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 19, 2023
Tennessee doesn’t have a big scorer, but they have a balanced lineup with four players averaging double-digits. They don’t shoot well from inside or outside the arc and sometimes turn the ball over.
Phil’s Best Bet–Tennessee Under 131.5: I think Tennessee will win this game, but -256 is too much juice to lay, and the spread is probably a coin flip. We’ll happily take the Under 131.5 in what should be a defensive battle.
Florida Atlantic was likely luckier than good Sunday–Fairleigh Dickinson shot 38% from the floor, couldn’t make a layup or free throw, and it had nothing to do with the Owls’ defense.
Tennessee isn’t a big scoring team–they shoot the ball late in the clock and are better shooters inside than outside the three-point circle. The Volunteers were last in the conference at drawing free throws and equally as bad at making them.
The Volunteers are a deeper team and have a distinct height advantage–their length on the perimeter will prevent the Owls from jacking threes, and Tennessee won’t give up many second-chance points when Florida Atlantic misses.
Finally, we have two teams that don’t make their free throws in what should be a physical battle–Tennessee is 23rd in assist-to-turnover ratio, has distinct advantages in height and experience, and has played a much tougher schedule. The Owls will have difficulty scoring, Tennessee can’t score a lick, and the game ends Under 131.5 points. Phil’s Best Bet–Tennessee Under 131.5