The NCAA Tournament will start on Tuesday night with the First Four, and millions of people across the United States are currently filling out their brackets. One of the favorite things to do among the amateur bracketologists is to pick upsets, and the most popular upsets are usually No. 12 seeds over No. 5 seeds and No. 13 seeds over No. 4 seeds. We saw two No. 12 seeds win last year, and three No. 12 seeds advanced to the second round in 2019. Meanwhile, there were two No. 13 seeds that won in the first round in 2018 and 2021, so there is plenty of recent history to point to when looking at upsets between teams with these seeds.
However, that means there is also value in those favorites. Because of the upsets we’ve seen in recent years, there are discounted prices on No. 4 and No. 5 seeds that aren’t trendy picks (see Duke). That means the best value on the board per the college basketball betting lines for Thursday lies with the No. 4 seed Virginia Cavaliers and the No. 5 seed San Diego State Aztecs.
College Basketball Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
Virginia Cavaliers (-5.5) vs. Furman Paladins
There are a ton of people calling for the Furman Paladins to upset Virginia in the first round. Furman went 27-7 and won the Southern Conference in the regular season. However, their best victories were over UNC Greensboro, Belmont, and Stephen F. Austin, and they lost to the two Power Five opponents they faced.
Furman leads the nation in two-point percentage, making 59.1% of its shots from inside the perimeter to rank 11th nationally in effective field goal percentage. They pass the ball well amongst themselves, and they have a forward that can stretch the floor in Jalen Slawson. He is averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.1 RPG while making 38.9% of his threes, and his combination of size and range made him a tough matchup in SoCon play. Additionally, Furman has a legit big man in 6’9 Garrett Hien, and that’s a luxury most small schools don’t have when they take on the big boys.
However, Virginia matches up well against Furman. While the Cavaliers don’t have an elite defense like they did in recent years, they do know how to stop opponents inside the three-point line with the Pack Line Defense. Additionally, they rank in the top 50 in block percentage and steal percentage, as Reece Beekman is one of the most underrated two-way guards in the country. Teams have to hit their threes to beat UVA, and Furman has not proven that it can do that well.
On the other hand, Virginia’s offense will benefit from facing a mediocre defense in Furman. The Cavaliers do not turn the ball over, and they tend to get off good shots, so the Paladins are likely going to give up 70 or more points here. That will make it difficult for Furman to pull off the upset.
San Diego State Aztecs (-5) vs. College of Charleston Cougars
One of the small school darlings this season has been the College of Charleston Cougars. They went 31-3 this season, but they couldn’t be sure of a spot in the NCAA Tournament until they defeated UNC Wilmington in the CAA Championship Game. This was considered the 26th best conference in the country by Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, and the Cougars’ best wins came by two points over Virginia Tech and Kent State at home in back-to-back games.
The Cougars are a fun team to watch as they play with frenetic energy. No player averages more than 28.1 MPG, and they continually substitute players in and out. Dalton Bolon and Ante Brzovic are the two players to watch on Charleston, but the whole team plays well enough that they rank in the top 75 in Ken Pomeroy’s metrics for both offense and defense.
Unfortunately, this is a terrible matchup for Charleston. San Diego State won the toughest “small” conference in the country and knocked off BYU, Stanford, Ohio State, and UC Irvine in non-conference play and took Arkansas to overtime. The Aztecs rank 10th in defense, and they do an excellent job defending the three-point line, allowing opponents to make just 29.2% of their threes. San Diego State hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in eight years, but the Aztecs should easily cover the CBB betting odds against the Cougars here.