Best Bets for Friday’s Round of 64 NCAA Tournament Games

Friday's NCAA Tournament schedule brings 16 more Round of 64 games and draws perhaps the most exciting 36-hour stretch in sports to a close.

Three No. 1 seeds, including the defending national champion and title favorite UConn Huskies, are on the docket on Day 2 of March Madness, but our attention is elsewhere with a pair of best bets in two games with tight spreads.

[ March Madness 2024: News & Analysis | Schedule | Bracket ]

(Odds via FanDuel.)

No. 11 New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 6 Clemson Tigers

Game Info: 3:10 p.m. ET | truTV
Spread: New Mexico -2.5 (-102) | Clemson +2.5 (-120)
Moneyline: UNM (-128) | CLEM (+106)
Total: 151.5 — Over (-110) | Under (-100)

New Mexico guard Jaelen House

Troy Babbitt/USA TODAY Sports

The Lobos are back in the bracket for the first time since 2014 after winning the Mountain West conference tournament. Though not a Power 6 league, the MWC sent six of its 11 schools to the Big Dance and New Mexico beat three of them — Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State — en route to its title. The Tigers return to the field after a two-year absence, but unlike the Lobos, who beat the best their conference had to offer in the buildup to the Big Dance, Clemson lost to two of the worst teams in the ACC — Notre Dame and Boston College — since the start of March.

New Mexico's profile is not that of a typical No. 11 seed. The Lobos (26–9) are ranked 22nd in KenPom and NET, sandwiched between teams that earned No. 4 and 5 seeds. There's great basketball lineage all over this roster: coach Richard Pitino, son of Rick Pitino; Jaelen House, whose father is Eddie House; Jamal Mashburn Jr., named for his NBA All-Star father; and JT Toppin, brother of Knicks player and former Dayton standout Obi Toppin. Though House (16.1 ppg) and Mashburn (14.4 ppg) both shoot below 40% from the field, New Mexico is still a scary offensive team.

The Lobos average 81.5 points per game, create second chances with offensive rebounds and do not commit many turnovers. On the other side of the ball, they allow just over 70 points per game, boast a plus-11.2 scoring margin and rank top 20 in blocks (5.5) and steals (8.8) per game.

The Tigers (21–11) have a stronger offensive profile than their first-round foe. Though they operate at a significantly slower pace, they still average 77.4 points per game, hit free throws at a near-80% clip and have one of the best three-point threats in the country in Joseph Girard III (42.5%). Center PJ Hall (18.8 ppg) and Girard (15.7 ppg) are Clemson's top two scorers. The Tigers don't create much chaos on defense as they average 4.5 steals and 3.9 blocks, though they hold opponents to 71.3 points per game.

New Mexico (23–11 against the spread) has been one of the best teams to bet on all year while the Tigers (17–14–1) have been slightly above average. Look a little deeper and the Lobos (19–7) have been up to the task when they're favored and Clemson (6–1) has a sterling record as an underdog.

That doesn't bode well for New Mexico, the betting favorite despite being the lower seed, but its play outside of Albuquerque is encouraging. The Lobos are 8–0 in neutral site games this season and 5–6 on the road. They just rattled off four straight wins in Las Vegas to punch their ticket to the tourney while the Tigers (6–6 on the road, 3–1 at neutral sites) have lost their last four outside of Clemson. Defense travels and New Mexico has the edge on that side of the ball.

Bet: New Mexico -2.5 (-102)


No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies vs. No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers

Game Info: 6:50 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Texas A&M +1.5 (-112) | Nebraska -1.5 (-108)
Moneyline: TAMU (-102) | NEB (-118)
Total: 146.5 — Over (-115) | Under (-105)

Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV averages a team-best 18.9 points per game.

Steve Roberts/USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies got hot late in the year to secure a second consecutive at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Before falling to Florida 95–90 in the SEC Tournament semifinals, Texas A&M had won five straight, including a 97–87 upset against Kentucky in Nashville. The Cornhuskers are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade after finishing with their second-best record in program history. Nebraska has won seven of nine heading into March Madness, and one of those losses was to eventual Big Ten Tournament champion Illinois in the semifinals.

Buzz Williams's Aggies are not an especially efficient offensive unit. They are among 14 DI teams that shoot worse than 40% from the field (amazingly, two other sub-40% teams are also in the tournament: No. 15 Saint Peter's and No. 16 Wagner). Texas A&M's leading scorer Wade Taylor IV (18.9 ppg) is a volume shooter who scored 82 points across three SEC Tournament games, but he also only connects on 36.9% of his attempts. The Aggies are also a dismal three-point shooting team (28.4%) and free throw shooting (70.9%) is a weakness as well.

So how does a team with that offensive profile score 90 in back-to-back games and 80-plus in four straight? Texas A&M leads the country in offensive rebounds (17.26) by a wide margin and limits turnovers (9.7). The Aggies aren't always in — or winning — shootouts, which is where their sound defense (70.8 ppg) comes into play.

Conversely, the Cornhuskers are a highly efficient offense, led by four double-digit scorers, a few of whom are standout three-point shooters. Keisei Tominaga (14.9 ppg) shoots 37.2% from beyond the arc while Brice Williams (13.1 ppg) is a 39.2% shooter from deep. Nebraska's 9.5 threes per game puts the team among the top shooting programs in the country.

The Cornhuskers shot 14-23 from the three-point line in their 88–72 upset of then-No. 1 Purdue in January — Tominaga was 5-9 from deep in that game. Nebraska allows roughly as many points per game (70.1) as Texas A&M and defends the arc especially well. Fred Hoiberg's team, however, is not as strong on the boards.

Despite their different profiles, overs are abundant for both the Cornhuskers (21–11–1) and Aggies (21–13). Over Nebraska's last 12 games, the over has hit eight times and overs are 11–2 in the last 13 for Texas A&M. In February and into March, these teams have scored at will and given up their fair share of points as well, specifically the Aggies. Bet on that trend to continue into the tournament.

Bet: Over 146.5 (-115)


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