It’s the final day of the high major regular season, mixed in with a loaded conference tournament slate. It’s March, baby.
On Sunday, there will be both top-ranked teams who are likely to secure No.1 seeds in the NCAA tournament and conference tournament games featuring teams that are fighting for a spot in the ‘Big Dance’. Selection Sunday is just one week away, adding to the excitement of these matchups.
I have a diverse set of games to play on Sunday! Houston will be traveling to Memphis, Northwestern will face off against Rutgers in a game related to the NCAA tournament bubble, and South Alabama will play against James Madison in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinals. There’s something for everyone!
College Basketball betting record to date
College Basketball best bets for Sunday, March 5
- Memphis +5.5 vs. Houston
- South Alabama PK vs. James Madison
- Northwestern +5 vs. Rutgers
Memphis vs. Houston prediction and pick
Houston has earned its spot as a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. However, the team has faced difficulties when playing against Memphis during Penny Hardaway’s tenure as the Tigers’ coach. Memphis has a record of 8-2 against the spread (ATS) when playing against Houston since 2018. This includes a game on February 18th where they covered as 14.5-point road underdogs despite not having their star point guard Kendric Davis. Although Houston ultimately won the game 72-64.
Since his return from an ankle injury, Davis has shown no signs of being hindered. The SMU transfer is a crucial offensive player and his impact on the game cannot be overstated. According to Hoop-Explorer, when Davis is on the floor, the Tigers perform like a top 30 offense. However, when he is off the court, they perform like a bottom 100 offense.
In AAC play, Memphis has been the best team when it comes to three-point shooting, making 36% of their shots from beyond the arc. Additionally, they have the highest free throw rate among all AAC teams.
Houston’s defense is considered by many to be the best in the country. However, due to their tightly packed interior, the team is vulnerable to high-volume three-point shooting. In fact, their 43% three-point rate allowed is the second-highest in league games. Additionally, they have allowed the third-highest free throw rate among all teams.
Memphis has the ability to take shots from beyond the arc and draw fouls, which could help them stay within a two-possession spread against a team they have traditionally performed well against.
PICK: Memphis +5.5
South Alabama vs. James Madison prediction and pick
On Saturday afternoon, South Alabama defeated No.1 seed Southern Mississippi in the Sun Belt Tournament. They dominated the second half, resulting in their 10th win in the last 12 games.
Despite being the No. 8 seed in the tournament, the Jaguars have been performing exceptionally well lately. According to Bart Torvik, since February 1st, they have been the 24th best team in the country. The team’s defense is formidable, especially around big man Kevin Samuel. Opponents are shooting below 45% on two-pointers, making the Jaguars the 19th best team in the country in this category. Furthermore, the team’s offense has been operating at a high level with Isaiah Moore creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. In fact, the Jaguars are among the top 20 teams in effective field goal percentage.
The Jaguars will play against James Madison, a team they defeated 63-62 in January while playing in Mobile. Although the Dukes made a late push, the Jaguars held the lead for much of the game. Despite having a season-high of 20 turnovers, the team managed to survive the match.
It’s important to note that the game where South Alabama had 20 turnovers is not typical of their performance. In fact, the team ranks 12th in the country in terms of turnover rate this season. Although James Madison University has a high rate of turnovers forced, exceeding 20% in the Sun Belt, this number has dropped to 17% since the start of February. This is because opponents have learned to adapt to their ball pressure defense, which is now around the national average.
South Alabama has been the most dominant team in the conference for the past month, making them the clear favorite. Therefore, on Sunday, it’s best to place your bet on them as they are on a hot streak.
PICK: South Alabama PK
Northwestern vs. Rutgers prediction and pick
Rutgers is not performing well lately, which is a cause for concern as the NCAA Tournament approaches. The team has very little room for error. Despite this, oddsmakers have favored the Scarlett Knights to win their game against Northwestern on Sunday night. They are five-point favorites playing at home.
Ever since Mawot Mag was ruled out for the season on February 7th, the Scarlett Knights have struggled. Mag’s offensive contributions may not seem significant, but his absence has left the team with a shortage of wing options. Consequently, the team’s performance has suffered. When Mag is not playing, Rutgers’ offense scores five points less per 100 possessions.
Since losing him for the year, a 2-5 stretch for the team, Rutgers offense is 318th in effective field goal percentage.
Now the team hosts Northwestern, who has thrived as an underdog all season, 10-5 ATS when catching points. The team has been generating turnovers at a high level (tops in the Big Ten in conference play) and have a standout guard in Boo Buie, who has kept the offense afloat as the team has gone from a non contender for an NCAA Tournament berth to a lock ahead of Selection Sunday.
The Wildcats don’t have the most potent offense, the team is 12th in Big Ten effective field goal percentage, they don’t turn the ball over and get to the free throw rate at a high level. Given the teams bottom 60 tempo, the games are grinds and points are valuable.
Rutgers continues to get credit in the market due to their stifling defense, best in the Big Ten, and strong historical home court advantage, but the team hasn’t won on their home floor since February 1st against Minnesota. Not to mention that the drop-off in offensive production without Mag is even more impactful when laying points given that each team plays at such a slow tempo.
I can’t trust Rutgers offense to win with margin in a game that should have a limited amount of possessions.