First Round Matchups Where the Lower Seed was Favored
The NCAA Tournament opened with 3 games featuring lower seed favored to beat higher seeds. We broke them down below:
8 Boise State (+2.5) vs 9 Memphis
The game will take place on Thursday, March 17 at 1:45 p.m. ET on TNT.
The other game that all three of FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM have the lower-seeded team favored in is also during Thursday afternoon’s first window. Boise State went 27-7 and won both the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament title, but the 21-10 Memphis Tigers are currently a -2.5 point favorite over them at all three sportsbooks.
As with Colorado State and Michigan, Boise State is two spots ahead of Memphis on KenPom, but below the Tigers on the other major predictive metrics, indicating the same is likely true of the sportsbooks’ in-house power ratings. Memphis has been playing excellent basketball lately, losing only twice since January 23, and will bring a type of athleticism to the court that Boise State has yet to see this year.
The Broncos will likely attempt to slow Memphis down and rely on their top-20 defense, though they will need to find an answer for star freshman center Jalen Duren. He is a likely top-10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft and is the catalyst for the Tigers elite offensive rebounding and rim protection numbers.
Memphis can be their own worst enemy at times, turning the ball over more by percentage than all but six other teams nationally according to KenPom.com, but given they are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and the athleticism difference in the game, they seem like the pick here. You can find the Tigers at -140 on the moneyline at FanDuel and at -145 at both DraftKings and BetMGM. Boise State is currently a +125 moneyline underdog at DraftKings, +120 at BetMGM and +116 at FanDuel.
6 Colorado State (+2.5) vs 11 Michigan
The game will take place on Thursday, March 17 at 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS.
This is the opening game of the proper part of the tournament, and it looks like an excellent one. Colorado State went 25-5 and finished second in a Mountain West Conference that was as strong as it has been since the 2012-13 season, but they are currently a +2.5 point underdog to 17-14 Michigan at all three of FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.
KenPom actually has Colorado State ranked two spots ahead of Michigan, though the Rams are below the Wolverines in every other major predictive metric. The two teams have similar offensive and defensive abilities, but there’s going to be a glaring size differential in the frontcourt that will be interesting to watch play out.
Colorado State’s David Roddy won the Mountain West Player of the Year award and is an All-American candidate who averages 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks a game on 57.4% shooting as a 6’6” do-it-all small-ball four for the Rams, but Michigan has an imposing front line of its own led by Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson, an All-American himself last season, averages 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game and will be at least three inches taller than the man guarding him all game and often more.
While Michigan can exploit this size difference, Colorado State typically holds their own on the defensive glass and runs a well-spaced offense that can theoretically put the Wolverines in a bind. There’s some potential value taking Colorado State on the moneyline, especially at DraftKings where they are +125, as opposed to +120 at BetMGM and +118 at FanDuel. Michigan moneyline backers will find them currently priced at -145 on DraftKings and BetMGM and at -142 on FanDuel.
7 Ohio State vs 10 Loyola Chicago (Pick'Em)
The game will take place on Friday, March 18 at 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS.
While there are several other games that are close to having the lower-seeded team favored (Texas – Virginia Tech, Murray State – San Francisco, USC – Miami (FL), Providence – South Dakota State, Michigan State – Davidson and Seton Hall – TCU all have lines within two points at various books), this is the last game that has a lower-seeded team favored, though not at all three sportsbooks.
The 25-7 Missouri Valley conference tournament champion Ramblers are -1.5 point favorites over Ohio State at BetMGM and -1-point favorites at DraftKings. FanDuel has the 19-11 Buckeyes favored by one and the moneylines are all over the place, so this is certainly a divisive game.
The predictive metrics are split on this game as well with most slightly preferring Ohio State, though unlike the other two games KenPom has the lower-seeded team projected to win this one, as Loyola Chicago currently sits eight spots ahead of Ohio State in his invaluable rankings. The game itself projects to be a slow-paced one, though it features two high-level offensive teams.
However, Loyola is the more balanced of the two, as both their offense and defense rank in the top-50 nationally, while Ohio State sits 131st in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com. The Buckeyes certainly have a talent edge in the game, as EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham are both potential first-round picks who can put a team on their back, but Loyola is an experienced group who retained all their key pieces from last season’s Sweet 16 run except Cameron Krutwig.
Given that experience factor, Ohio State’s defensive woes and the fact the Buckeyes have lost four of their last five games, I like Loyola Chicago in this one, though I would recommend betting this one against the spread rather than the moneyline for value purposes. If you really want to bet on the moneyline, it is currently Loyola -110 and Ohio State -110 at FanDuel, Loyola -110 and Ohio State -110 at DraftKings, and both -110 at BetMGM.
Josh Markowitz is a freelance writer for BetCarolina.com. He is a lifelong sports fan with an emphasis on college basketball, football, baseball and the scouting/evaluation process. A graduate of Elon University's School of Communications, Josh also has experience in television production.