NCAA Tournament First Round Best Bets: South Region

Who will advance to the Round of 32?

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NCAA Tournament Best Bets | Sharp Picks | Live Odds 

#8 Seton Hall (-1) vs. #9 TCU, O/U 130

This is going to be one of those games where you actually might end up hating the 8 vs. 9 matchup. It doesn't happen often, but Seton Hall and TCU are two teams that can put you to sleep if you watch them, and now they have to play each other. Both of these teams rank in the bottom half of the nation in tempo, so it will be a grind on every single possession to get points on the board, and there will not be many transition buckets that make you get excited. Seton Hall runs an iso-style offense, while TCU likes to drive and finish at the rim. It may not be the most exciting, but it should be close, so let's find some value.

TCU ended the season ranking top 10 in frequency of finishing at the rim. They literally love to hold onto the ball when they possess it, ranking outside the top 300 in average possession length. TCU finished second in the nation in offensive rebounding, however, which could give them a massive advantage in this one. The Frogs also finished in the top 30 in defending isolation, which is what Seton Hall loves to do most.

Seton Hall does have one of the best defenses in protecting the rim, as they sit third in the nation, per ShotQualityBets. This will give TCU some fits, and I think it's why we see this game finishing with a very low total. However, the offensive rebounding prowess of TCU will be the advantage, and I like them to come away with the win here and send the Pirates home early.

My Pick: TCU ML, Under 130

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#4 Illinois (-7.5) vs. #13 Chattanooga, O/U 135.5

As an Illinois fan, it was extremely upsetting last season seeing them lose early to Loyola-Chicago. It was easily the best team the state has had in a long time, and to have that team bow out before the Sweet 16 was incredibly disappointing. They at least get another shot here against Chattanooga, which many people have as a sleeper pick in the tournament. Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste are electric guards who could really make some noise in the middle of March. No thank you, I'll take my Illini for several reasons.

The Illini rank 32nd in half-court offense and sixth in post-up plays running through superstar big man Kofi Cockburn. Chattanooga is not big on size by any means and they rank 281st against post plays and outside the top 300 in half-court defensive efficiency. The Mocs simply don't have enough offensively to keep up with Illinois, whose defense is also really good ranking top-30, per KenPom. The Illini are also one of the best shooting teams in the nation from the perimeter.

I expect the Mocs to avoid the middle and look to the outside for more opportunities in this one, mostly because Illinois has really struggled in that category. They can't stop anyone from the outside, and their transition defense is where they struggle the most, ranking 312th. It will be a competitive game to be sure, but in the end, I like my Illini to pull away and grab the win. And no, this is not a biased pick, I laid it all out there on why I like Illinois.

My Pick: Illinois -7.5

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