Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness - #5 St. Mary's vs. #4 UConn (3/19/2023) - Taking Vegas

Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness – #5 St. Mary’s vs. #4 UConn (3/19/2023)

By TakingVegas Staff Writer
March 19, 2023

#5 St. Mary’s Gaels vs #4 UConn Huskies (3/19 @ 6:10 PM EST)

Spread: UConn -3.5
Moneyline: St. Mary’s +146 / UConn -165
Total: 128.5

Overview and Betting Info

The #5 St. Mary’s Gaels (27-7) will take on the #4 UConn Huskies (26-8) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament West Region. St. Mary’s finished second behind Gonzaga in the WCC, while UConn finished fourth in the Big East. These teams have not met this season.

St. Mary’s is 20-13 against the spread and have covered five of their last ten games. They’ve gone over the total 16 times but have been under in three of their last five.

UConn is 22-11-1 versus the spread and have covered eight of their previous ten games. They’ve gone over the total 19 times but have been under in four of their last five.

#5 St. Mary’s Gaels

The Gaels made the NCAA Tournament after losing to Gonzaga in the WCC Championship Game. While they beat the Zags at home, the Gaels were blown out in their other two meetings. Aside from their win against Gonzaga, St. Mary’s also has an impressive win against San Diego State on a neutral court. They also impressed when they faced Houston in December when they had a chance to win but failed to score in the final two minutes. St. Mary’s struggled with VCU in their first-round matchup but were able to pull away with 11 minutes left in the second half. They were awful shooting from three (3-17), but they dominated the rebounds and forced VCU to turn the ball over 14 times.

St. Mary’s relied on their defensive play most of the season, ranking sixth in the country in opponent scoring (60.1 PPG). They led the WCC in opponent field goal percentage (41.5%) and three-point percentage (32.5%) and are third in steals (6.9 SPG). The most significant concern is their rebounding, as they ranked in the bottom half of the WCC with 35.6 per game. The Gaels’ scoring has been an issue, but don’t let that fool you. While they rank last in the WCC in scoring (71.1 PPG), they were third in field goal percentage (45.7%), fourth in three-point percentage (37.2%), and second in offensive rebounds (10.7 ORPG).

St. Mary’s is led by a trio of stars in Logan Johnson (14.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG), Aidan Mahaney (14.1 PPG, 40.6 3P%), and Alex Ducas (12.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 41.1 3P%). Johnson is their top scorer and talented big man, averaging 20.8 points and 5.2 rebounds over their last six games. That includes a 12-point and 10-rebound performance in their first-round win against VCU. Mahaney is coming off the worst game of his young career, going 0-5 for zero points and four fouls against VCU. The Freshman has been a fantastic three-point shooter, so expect his shot to return to form against UConn on Sunday. Ducas is their hottest player and had 17 points, five steals, and eight rebounds against VCU. That was despite going 1-6 from three, which is where he does most of his scoring. Ducas is their hottest player of late, averaging 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in their previous five games.

#4 UConn Huskies

UConn enters the second round after an impressive route of a good Iona team. While they trailed by two at halftime, the Huskies scored 50 in the second half for 25 points win. It shouldn’t be a surprise, as UConn has been playing some of the best basketball in the country over the last few weeks. They won eight of their final ten Big East games, including an impressive win over Marquette. They almost beat the Golden Eagles again in the Big East Tournament but failed to score in the final two minutes and lost by two. The Huskies have a solid resume, highlighted by their play in the Big East and their non-conference wins over Alabama and Iowa State.

UConn is one of the most balanced teams in the country. They rank third in the Big East in scoring (79.9 PPG), fourth in field goal percentage (46.0%), fourth in three-point percentage (35.7%), and third in assists (17.3 APG). On defense, they lead the conference in opponent scoring (65.0 PPG), field goal percentage (40.9%), three-point percentage (30.4%), and blocks (4.9 BPG). One area of concern is their ability to hang on to the ball, as the Huskies ranked eighth in the Big East in turnovers with 12.8 per game.

The Huskies are led by a trio of Adama Sanogo (17.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 60.2 FG%), Jordan Hawkins (16.0 PPG, 37.0 3P%), and Tristen Newton (10.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 35.5 3P%). Sanogo is the biggest weapon for the Huskies, and he showed that on Friday by scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in their win against Iona. The rebounding total is impressive, considering Iona has a lot of sizes. Sanogo has made over 66% of his shots in his last three games. Hawkins is a dangerous three-point shooter that is capable of changing games. He can be streaky, as shown over his last ten games. In that span, he has scored 20 or more five times but was limited to 11 or fewer four times. Newton is also a dangerous shooter, but his passing is valuable to the Huskies. He has had six or more assists in six of his last seven games. His scoring is very streaking, but his passing and defense make him a critical piece for this team.

Free Pick: UConn -3.5

We love this bet, as the Huskies have looked like one of the best teams in the country over the last few weeks. They have won ten of their previous 13 games, with all three losses by three or fewer points against ranked teams (Creighton, Xavier, Marquette). Their balance means they match up well with anybody, which is something we can’t say against St. Mary’s.

We saw the Gaels stumble a bit in their first game. While they could win comfortably in the end, that was primarily due to VCU’s inability to make a shot. That isn’t going to happen against a UConn team that has played some of the best defensive teams in the country. Sanogo will be a matchup nightmare for the Gaels, forcing them to provide defensive help down low and allow UConn’s shooters good looks from the outside.

We’re happy to give up the points to roll with UConn on Sunday.