March Madness: UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs Creighton Bluejays Preview, Picks, Betting Predictions

McLaughlin: UCSB vs Bluejays PredictionsEvery year it seems that a No. 12 seed provides an upset over the No. 5 seed. If you can hit on one or two of these sizable underdogs to win outright you will be able to set up for a profitable first round of action.

Since 1985 12-seeds are 50-90 (35.7%) straight up against 5-seeds. A 12-seed is 15% more likely to win in the first round than a 13-seed. This makes the 12 versus 5 matchup one of the more interesting and profitable. Will the University of California Santa Barbara Gauchos be able to continue this trend and beat the Creighton Bluejays? (3:30pm ET Saturday; TV: Live on TruTV).

One metric to look at when you are attempting to identify an underdog worth betting is how well they shoot from the free-throw line. When you are backing a sizable underdog to win or cover, every single point is that much more important. Strong free throw shooting teams have the ability to keep games competitive with how many fouls we see in college basketball. One of the largest discrepancies in this game comes at the charity stripe. The UCSB Gauchos rank 32nd in the country and make 76.3% of their free-throws while the Creighton Bluejays rank 329th and only make 64.2% of their foul shots. This is a massive differential and could be the key to the game for the underdog Gauchos.

Creighton’s recent form is concerning to say the least. They enter Saturday’s game off an embarrassing 73-48 loss to Georgetown in the Big East Championship Game. The team looked out of sorts and might be distracted from their head coach Greg McDermott’s recent suspension for racially insensitive comments. He will be on the sideline for this game, but the players were understandably upset and I can only imagine the current vibe in the locker room. I think this boiled over for the uninspired performance we just saw against Georgetown. Can they overcome this and rebound for a convincing victory on Saturday? I’m not so sure.

Creighton is one of the stronger offenses in the country and averages 77.0 points per game. UCSB can score as well and I think they will be able to keep up the pace and make this a relatively competitive game. The Gauchos average 73.9 points per game. I expect this to be a high scoring affair that the Gauchos can cover. Senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin who averages 16.2 points and 5.2 assists per game, both of which lead the team, anchors this UCSB team. I expect him to have a strong game and they will need him to. McLaughlin against Creighton guard Marcus Zegarowski will be one of the more important and exciting matchups of the game.

Our Betting Preview’s UCSB Gauchos vs Creighton Bluejays Predictions & Picks Verdict

We are going to be taking the points here with the UCSB Gauchos. We feel like this spread is a touch too high and that it will be a much more competitive game than the main American offshore bookies are predicting. I think the free throw discrepancy really will be a massive part of this game.

The Gauchos will take advantage of their opportunities from the charity stripe while Creighton will likely continue to struggle. This will more than likely be the difference between which team covers and ultimately wins. UCSB is also strong from the field. They shoot 48.5% from two-point range, which is ranked 21st in the NCAA. Give me the points and don’t be surprised if the Gauchos have an opportunity to win this game outright. So, for these UCSB vs Creighton predictions for this preview, we have the one betting pick: