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NCAA Wednesday First Four best bets, odds and predictions

Texas Southern and Indiana punched their tickets for Big Dance Tuesday, leaving two spots to fill the last field.

Those spots will be decided in two contests Wednesday in Dayton — Bryant vs. Wright State and Rutgers vs. Notre Dame. The winner of the former meets No. 1 seed Arizona, while the latter travels against No. 6 seed Alabama.

Wright State and Notre Dame come as favorites to progress from Dayton, but I choose to aim for a total from each game for my best bet. Let’s dive in.


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#16 Wright State Raiders (-2.5, 155.5) vs. #16 Bryant Bulldogs

This represents the highest total on the board among the four Dayton competitions, and there are reasons for that.

Defending is optional for this Bryant team, which at the same time tends to fall in love with shots from three-point land and try to pick up the pace on offense. The Bulldogs rank fourth among tournament teams in percentage of shots that came from deep — nearly 44 percent — and pace, per sport-reference.com. Bryant averages nearly 73 possessions per 40 minutes, the 22nd best mark in the country.


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However, the Bulldogs possess the 15th-worst offensive opposing rating among teams in the tournament and the third-worst adjusted defensive efficiency rating in the same group, per kenpom.com.

But don’t expect Wright State to look like a defensive juggernaut. The Raiders own the WORST in-field adjusted defense efficiency rating of 68 and allow the 18th-worst three-point field goal percentage in the field.

Like Bryant, Wright State also likes to play a fast pace, as it ranks 21st in the field in terms of pace. As such, casual observers of this competition should expect quick ball possessions and plenty of shot attempts.

I’m slanted slightly towards Wright State as a team — the last bit of note on Bryant that’s worth noting is that he’s ranked 19th worst in the field in terms of turnover percentage — but this game feels dead to me. Look around and find the best line – We show 155s that are still available – but my best bet for this competition is over 155.5 points.

#11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1.5, 133.5) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

This matchup is the polar opposite of the Wright State-Bryant game, as evidenced by a much lower total.

Neither of these teams want to get out in the transition phase and instead focus on defending well. Both Notre Dame and Rutgers rank in the bottom 20 of the field in terms of overall pace (per kenpom.com) while also ranking in the top half of the field in Adjusted Defense Efficiency (also according to kenpom.com).

The other element to consider about this competition is that neither team goes particularly deep. Only five Rutgers players average more than 20 minutes per game, while just seven players for the Fighting Irish complete the same benchmark. That could lead to some tired legs late in the game, resulting in fewer shots being taken.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Geo Baker #0 in action against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Rutgers guard Geo Baker (0) brings the ball to the ground.
Getty Images

I’m also encouraged by Rutgers’ recent defensive performances, which have been inconsistent at best this season. However, head coach Steve Pikiell’s side have scored above average points/scores in two of the last three competitions.

I also expect Rutgers’ size to further exacerbate a key issue for the Fighting Irish. According to hoop-math.com, head coach Mike Brey’s squad ranks 125th nationally for marginal field goal percentage and 154th for effective field goal percentage.

For these reasons, I’m once again staying away from both sides – the bias goes to Rutgers for me – and will go back instead under 133.5 points.

https://nypost.com/2022/03/16/ncaa-wednesday-first-four-best-bets-odds-and-predictions/ NCAA Wednesday First Four best bets, odds and predictions

JOE HERNANDEZ

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