The 2021 March Madness First Round starts Friday, March 19, with 16 games on the schedule, so here’s the best betting pick for the Utah State Aggies vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders showdown at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
This is arguably one of the most exciting first-round matchups, and the Red Raiders opened as 4-point favorites on William Hill Sportsbook. Texas Tech and Utah State haven’t met since 2016 when the Raiders smashed the Aggies by 24 points.
Utah State looks for another strong defensive performance
The Utah State Aggies failed to win the Mountain West Conference Championship Tournament but earned their Big Dance ticket as one of the at-large teams. Craig Smith’s boys lost to San Diego State in the MWC championship game, 68-57, failing to cover a 2-point spread.
The Aggies couldn’t cope with the Aztecs’ defense, making just 37.3% of their field goals and 23.1% of their triples. They put an end to a six-game winning streak, and the Aggies enter the national championship as the No. 39 in the NCAA NET Rankings.
Junior center Neemias Queta leads the way for the Aggies, averaging 15.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. The 7-footer is Utah State’s defensive anchor, too, posting 3.2 blocks and 1.1 steals a night. Junior forward Justin Bean tallies 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while junior guard Marco Anthony adds 10.0 points and 3.1 assists per contest.
The Aggies score 105.8 points per 100 possessions (114th in the country) and surrender only 89.3 in a return (8th). They rank ninth in opponent field goal percentage (38.9%) and 23rd in opponent offensive rebounds per game (7.7).
Texas Tech is still the reigning vice-champ
Because the last season’s NCAA tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are still the reigning vice-champions. They haven’t impressed this term, going 9-8 in the conference play and suffering a 67-66 loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Quarterfinal.
The Raiders blew a 10-point second-half lead against the Longhorns. They posted 17 offensive rebounds and 13 steals, but it wasn’t enough against the red-hot shooting Texas.
Texas Tech is No. 16 in the NCAA NET Rankings despite a 4-10 record in the Quadrant 1 matchups. The Red Raiders tally 112.4 points per 100 possessions (33rd in the nation) and allow 91.5 in a return (24th). They rank 56th in opponent field goal percentage (41.0%).
Junior guard Mac McClung leads the way for the Raiders, averaging 15.7 points and 2.2 assists on the season. Sophomore guard Terrence Shannon notches 12.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva adds 8.5 points and 6.4 boards a night.
- 3-6 ATS in the last nine games overall
- 4-9 ATS in the last 13 games as underdogs
- 12-5 ATS in the last 17 games played in March
The Red Raiders lack height, so the Aggies will try to take full advantage of it and feed Neemias Queta in the paint as much as they can. However, I’m looking for the Raiders to tweak their defense a lot during this clash and find a way to deal with the Aggies’ frontcourt.
Also, the Raiders’ backcourt should be a key factor in the crunch time. Both Mac McClung and Terrence Shannon are great players who love to take responsibility down the stretch, so I’m backing the Red Raiders to win this game by two or more points.
Pick: Take Texas Tech -2.0 at -150
The Aggies’ last five games went in the under. On the other side, the under is 4-1 in the Red Raiders’ previous five outings. Utah State averages 68.9 possessions per 40 minutes (153rd in the nation), while Texas Tech tallies only 65.4 possessions per 40 minutes (316th), so I’m backing the under on the totals.
As I’ve mentioned, both teams rely on a stout defense, especially the Aggies who have surrendered more than 59 points just once in their last five outings.
Pick: Go under 131.5 points at -110