Best tourney bets for Saturday

Smart plays for this weekend's biggest NCAA tournament games

Updated: March 21, 2014, 2:14 PM ET
By Ted Sevransky, Dave Tuley and PJ Walsh | ESPN Insider

EnnisRich Barnes/Getty ImagesDon't expect Tyler Ennis and Syracuse to struggle on Saturday against Dayton.

The biggest betting trend from Thursday's madness was: "Be sure to shop for the best line." Favorites went 13-3 straight up but only 7-7-2 against the spread. For all of the insanity of opening day, the only outright upsets were Dayton (plus-260 on the money line), Harvard (plus-135) and North Dakota State (plus-145).

But there was point-spread drama. North Carolina State-Saint Louis, Arizona State-Texas, Michigan-Wofford, Michigan State-Delaware and Oklahoma-North Dakota State (in regulation) were all games where the ATS victor wasn't determined until the final shot. The ubiquitous Vegas expression, "the lines are tight at this time of year" rang true Thursday. Betting skills -- getting the best of the number -- were every bit as important as handicapping skills.

Here is a look at the eight games on Saturday, with best bets marked with an asterisk (*). Games are listed in Las Vegas rotation order. In addition, after my analysis below, Dave Tuley -- who went 6-2 ATS with his write-ups on the South and West regions on Thursday and 2-1 ATS with his best bets -- chimes in with his two best bets on Saturday. PJ Walsh of Sports Insights will likewise provide his pair of best bets.


No. 3 Syracuse Orange versus No. 11 Dayton Flyers

LVH Line: Syracuse minus-6.5
PickCenter consensus pick

Dayton's upset win over Ohio State on Thursday was a clear demonstration of why the Flyers are a team I'm in no rush to bet against. Archie Miller's squad didn't ride any hot shooters, nor did they dominate the glass or force turnovers in bunches. Yet they covered wire-to-wire, and Vee Sanford hit the winning layup in the closing seconds, the last of 15 lead changes. The Flyers showed toughness and resiliency throughout.

I worry about a Dayton letdown after a huge win over a team it was dying to play and matched up well against. Coach Jim Boeheim's trademark matchup zone has been giving unfamiliar opponents fits all season, and the Orange will enjoy plenty of crowd support in Buffalo in a venue where their struggling offense shot 49 percent from the floor in their opener.

ATS pick: Syracuse

PJ Walsh

Sports Insights
PJ Walsh is the Director of Sports Information at SportsInsights.com, a company that monitors the live sports betting market.