Vaughn Dalzell breaks down his favorite Round of 64 bets for the NCAA Tournament, including Drake vs Washington State, Dayton vs Nevada, and more!

Drake (-2) vs Washington State: O/U 138.0

Drake and Washington State meet in the first round of the tournament and we have seen line movement on the spread in the direction of my pick.

The Cougars seemed like a Sweet 16 or Final Four type of team with a sweep over Arizona in the regular season, but they haven’t looked the same since. Washington State has the 110th-ranked offense in that span and ranks 301st in two-point defense (55.3%) with terrible turnover percentages.

Washington State has the size advantage in this game with four players in the lineup of 6-foot-8 or taller, but because of that, the Cougars play at a slow tempo (316th), shoot the triple at 34% (175th), and knock down 70.1% of their free-throws (268th) on the year.

Drake is an experienced team that made the tournament last year and lost 63-56 to Miami who lost in the Final Four. The Bulldogs’ offense went from 108th to 38th this season and they own top 25 ranking in offensive turnover percentage (14th), defensive rebounding (1st), and offensive two-point percentage (25th).

The Bulldogs have won five straight and 10 of the past 11, while Washington State is 3-3 in the past six games. I will take the more experienced team that turns the ball over less and shoots better.

I played Drake on the ML at -126 odds. This opened at +1.5 and moved to -1.5 or -2 at most places.

Pick: Drake ML (1.5u)

Dayton vs Nevada (-1.5): O/U 137.0

Dayton and Nevada meet in a thrilling matchup of No. 7 and No. 10 seeds with the Wolfpack slight -1 to -1.5 point favorites.

Most people are out on Dayton after the Flyers lost to the eventual A-10 champion, Duquesne. However, Dayton is one of the slowest-paced teams in the nation (337th) with the third-best offensive three-point percentage (40.2%) with top 50 effective field goal percentages.

This matchup versus Nevada favors the Flyers, in my opinion. Nevada is one of the worst rebounding teams in the field and ranks 318th in that department over the last four games. In that same span, opponents are getting to the free-throw line 41.9% of the time (309th) going 67-of-91 (73.6%).

Dayton played 16 neutral court/road games this year and went 74.9% from the free-throw line (68th) and top 50 assists, free-throw, and three-point rates.

Nevada lost 98-73 in the play-in last season, while Dayton is in for the first time since 2017 and without an auto-bid. I played Dayton +1.5 at -115 odds. I’d go down to the ML.

Pick: Dayton +1.5 (1u)

Northwestern vs Florida Atlantic (-2.5): O/U 141.5

Fan favorite FAU is back in the tournament without an auto-bid as they take on Northwestern in a battle of No. 8 and 9 seeds.

Northwestern beat Boise State (75-67) in last year’s round of 64 before losing to UCLA. FAU made the memorable Final Four run, and with that experience, most people expect the Owls to make a run, but I’m not one of them.

Florida Atlantic has non-conference wins over Arizona, Texas A&M, Butler, and Virginia Tech, so based on that alone, most people think they should be a higher seed. While this team brings back over 81% of the minutes from last year, this isn’t quite the same Owls team since January.

FAU is the 78th-ranked team since January, ranking 179th in defensive efficiency during that 20-game span (15-5 record). Northwestern is the 25th-best team in that same span (11-9 record) with the 14th-best offense and 80th-ranked defense.

The Wildcats are a tough draw as they are an experienced group that shoots the three at 39.4% (4th) and has the 7th-best turnover percentage on offense (13.7%).

Now that FAU has a target on its back, I will take Northwestern to keep this close or win outright. I played the Wildcats at +2.5 and -110 odds.

Pick: Northwestern +2.5 (1u)

Akron vs Creighton (-12.5): O/U 141.0

I might be going to this game because when I think about the committee scheduling Akron here, they gave the Zips a short drive to Pittsburgh where the fanbase can make it and be involved.

Akron is a tough draw for a Creighton squad I find overrated and in contention for an early exit. The Zips went on an improbable run in the MAC tournament beating Miami, Ohio, and Kent State, holding all three to 63 or fewer points. Creighton is 3-7 this year when they fail to score 75 or more points.

Akron is one of the most experienced teams (22nd) with four seniors in the starting lineup and over 54% of its minutes back (70th). The Zips are a hard-out and despite Bradley being the best non-conference win, this should be closer than most expect.

Creighton is the more talented and experienced themselves, but the Blue Jays own the second-worst defensive turnover percentage in the country (11.2%) and rank 282nd in offensive rebounding percentage (25.9%).

If Creighton doesn’t have the three falling and gets caught in a slow-paced grind, they are susceptible to an upset. Give me Akron +12.5 at -105 odds and I sprinkled the ML at +640 odds. I’d go down to +10.5 or opt for a first-half spread if you miss +12.5.

Pick: Akron +12.5 (1u)

Season Record: 74-73 (50.3%) -1.09 units

CBB Futures In My Pocket:

1u: Houston to win the National Championship (+700)
1u: UConn to make the Final Four (+110)
1u: Iowa State to make the Final Four (+550)

Bet the Edge is your source for the day in sports betting. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s insight weekdays at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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