Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness - #11 NC State vs. #6 Creighton (3/17/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness – #11 NC State vs. #6 Creighton (3/17/2023)

By TakingVegas Staff Writer
March 17, 2023

#11 NC State Wolfpack vs #6 Creighton Bluejays (3/17 @4:00 PM EST)

Spread: Creighton -5
Moneyline:  NC State +190 / Creighton -220
Total: 148

Overview and Betting Info

The #11 NC State Wolfpack (23-10) will be taking on #6 Creighton Bluejays (21-12) on Friday for their NCAA Tournament South Region first round game. NC State finished fifth in the ACC while Creighton finished third in the Big East. These teams did not play in the regular season.

NC State is 16-15-2 against the spread and have covered three of their last five games. They have gone over the total 17 times, including in three of their last five.

Creighton is 16-17 versus the spread and have covered three of their last four games. They have gone over the total 15 times, including in four of their last five.

NC State Wolfpack

The Wolfpack enter March Madness having lost three of their last four games. They were close against Duke but were blown out twice by Clemson. They have been a fantastic offense and have the third-best point differential in the conference. NC State has a pair of quality wins against Miami and Duke, but their soft non-conference schedule had their tournament bid up in the air on Selection Sunday. They went 3-5 against tournament teams this season.

Despite not shooting the ball particularly well, NC State has been a top-scoring team. They are second in the ACC in scoring (78.2 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (45.3%), ninth in three-point percentage (34.9%), second in offensive rebounds (11.4 ORPG), eleventh in assists (13.1 APG), and third in turnovers (9.5 TO/G). The defense has been an issue that has caused them to struggle against the ACC’s top teams. They rank eighth in opponent scoring (70.8 PPG), ninth in field goal percentage (44.4%), third in three-point percentage (32.2%), and eleventh in rebounds (34.9 RPG). They have given up points, but the Wolfpack have been able to generate turnovers. They lead the ACC in steals (7.9 SPG) and are second in blocks (4.6 BPG).

The Wolfpack are led by Terquavion Smith (17.5 PPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG), Jarkel Joiner (17.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG), and DJ Burns Jr (12.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 56.7% FG). Smith is their leading scorer but makes just 37.7% of his shots this season. He has made less than that in eight of his last ten games, averaging 13.9 points during that stretch. Still, Smith did show some signs of life in the ACC tournament against Virginia Tech, where he went 11-13 from the field for 30 points. Joiner has been picking up the scoring slack while Smith has been struggling, averaging 21.4 points over his last eight games. He, too, can struggle with his shot, but he is their best three-point shooter, making over 40% of his attempts in four of his last five games. His play has been a massive boost for this team, so look for him as the focal point of this offense on Friday. Burns is fourth in the ACC in shooting percentage but has had his rebounding drop off of late. He’s made up for it by averaging 15.5 points over his last eight games. He also added eight blocks and six steals during that run. Watch out for Jack Clark (9.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG) as well, as the senior guard is coming off a game where he had 10 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.

Creighton Bluejays

Creighton was ranked in the top ten to begin the year, but a brutal six-game losing streak after Thanksgiving sidetracked their season. Four of those losses came against teams that made the NCAA Tournament, including three that won their conference tournament (Arizona, Marquette, Texas). They rebounded quickly after and have gone 15-6 since. That stretch includes several quality wins over UConn, Xavier, Providence, and Arkansas. They were blown out by Xavier in the Big East semifinal, but their balanced offense makes them a dangerous team in the South Region. The Bluejays are 4-10 against tournament teams this season.

Creighton owns one of the most balanced offenses in the country. They rank sixth in the Big East in scoring (76.6 PPG), third in field goal percentage (46.7%), third in three-point percentage (36.0%), fourth in assists (15.9 APG), and third in turnovers (11.6 TO/G). Their defense has also played well this season, ranking fifth in scoring (68.5 PPG), third in field goal percentage (42.2%), sixth in three-point percentage (34.1%), fifth in rebounds (37.2 RPG), last in steals (5.2 SPG), and seventh in blocks (4.2 BPG).

The Bluejays have been led by the trio of Ryan Kalkbrenner (15.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.2 BPG), Trey Alexander (13.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 44.0% 3PT), and Baylor Scheierman (12.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG). Kalkbrenner is their top scorer and has been playing his best basketball of late. Over his last five games, he averaged 18.6 points and made 75% of his shots from the field. His defense has continued to be great, with seven blocks and four steals during that span. Alexander is one of the best three-pointers in the country and has made 60% of his threes over his last four games. He is also a great defender, with six steals during that same span. Scheierman is their best rebounder and plays bigger than his size, averaging 9.7 rebounds over their last six games. His shot can be streaky, but he has scored double-digits in five of his previous six games.

Free Pick: Creighton -5

Creighton’s second half of the season has shown precisely how good this team is. While they haven’t played NC State, the ACC does have an excellent offensive comp in Clemson. Their shooting percentages are very similar, and the Tigers won their last two meetings by making over 45% of their threes in both games. Creighton is one of the better three-point shooting teams in the country, so expect to see them take full advantage of this Wolfpack weakness on Friday.

On the other end of the floor, Creighton’s defense is far better than NC State’s. While the Wolfpack’s offensive numbers are solid, they have been shut down when facing defenses like the Bluejays. They defend shooters well, which will be a huge advantage against a NC State team that has lowe shooting percentages.

These two factors combined are why we feel confident giving up the points to roll with Creighton on Friday.

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