Four basketball games in one night during March Madness seems like nothing after a buffet-style menu of games we were treated to in the opening weekend. But the Sweet 16 is great to find some sharp angles for betting – you have an extra couple of days to research, you’ve seen these teams now twice in the tournament, and you can zero in on a few key games.
Let’s get right to it….
Loyola +2 vs Nevada: Nevada has shown a tendency to dig themselves a hole early in games – they were down 30 to San Diego St. , 13 to Texas, and 22 to Cincinnati on Sunday. Credit them for storming back and coming back in the last 2 games, but that’s a tough trend to keep up with. Nevada mounted their comebacks by relying on the Martin brothers playing a lot of 1 on 1 ball at the end of games and that’s not easy to sustain against a good defense – Loyola is 22nd in the country in defensive efficiency, they mix in zone to slow you down, and they play excellent help defense. Nevada has the obvious edge in terms of athletes, but Loyola just beat two teams (Tenn & Miami) that were way more athletic than them, so talent doesn’t necessarily mean wins. Loyola shoots 50.6% from the field for the season, they beat Florida this year 65-59 as 16 point dogs, and they’ve now shown they’re not afraid of the moment by winning 2 games in crunch time in this tournament. Loyola has now won 12 straight games and are 9-3 ATS in that stretch, compared to Nevada being 3-4-1 ATS their last 8. Loyola played Saturday while Nevada played Sunday and, after how emotional Nevada was after their comeback win (their coach ripped his shirt off Hulk Hogan style), the rest and preparation edge is with Loyola. Nevada’s coach may want to shout “HELL YEAH, BROTHER!” after tonight’s game, but I don’t see it. In Loyola’s last 6 games (all wins) they haven’t scored more than 68 points. They’re a low scoring, grind it out team and I really like grabbing any points I can with a team like that.
Kansas St vs Kentucky -5.5: Kentucky is a huge public bet in this game as 81% of the tickets in Vegas are backing Calipari in this spot. Kentucky has been on fire cashing tickets as they are 9-1 ATS their last 10 games overall. Even juicier for bettors, Calipari is 6-0 ATS in the Sweet 16 with Kentucky. There are a number of reasons to back Kentucky in this spot and I lean with them, but I’m not betting it. Big man Dean Wade is back for Kansas State in this game after an injury the past few games and he’ll definitely help – prior to his injury he scored in double figures in 20 straight games. Kansas State’s other big man Makol Mawien can handle the size Kentucky has. I don’t think Kansas State has enough horses to win this one, but I just don’t want to lay 6 points in a tournament where so many games are decided by free throws. Kentucky should have a home crowd feel in Atlanta here, but I don’t love the fact that Kentucky had to fly to the west coast to Idaho last weekend and has to deal with jetlag before this game while Kansas State was in Charlotte. 81% of the bets are on Kentucky but just 62% of the overall cash is backing them.
“And for those reasons, I’m out.”
Texas A&M +2.5 vs Michigan – I can’t wait for this one to tip off. Texas A&M destroyed North Carolina in every aspect of the game and you all saw Michigan’s wild finish against Houston. A&M is BIG – three guys over 6’9 who can all haunt you and they dominate on the glass and on defense. They’ve won the rebound battle now in 6 straight games and I don’t see them losing on that front tonight vs Michigan. Tyler Davis, Robert Williams, and DJ Hogg will all be a challenge for the Wolverines. The challenge for A&M is going to be that Michigan plays 4 guards and their big man, Moe Wagner, plays above the 3 point line often. A&M’s size may get challenged here as they’re going to be forced to defend away from the basket more often than usual and they may have to switch to a smaller lineup. I lean A&M here plus the points but not betting it as I don’t have a clear read on which teams opposing style will come out on top. Moe Wagner has had 4+ fouls in 8 of his last 11 games and if he gets in to foul trouble that is bad news for Michigan. Personally, I’m going to wait to see how this game opens up and I plan on live betting this game. Last week in Michigan’s game with Houston I grabbed Houston +6.5 live when Michigan was winning and then when Houston went on a run I grabbed Michigan +4.5. Both tickets cashed. I’ll definitely have my laptop up and ready to go to fire away on any lives in this one to see if I can grab and live-bet underdog points that I think will be valuable.
Gonzaga -5.5 vs Florida St: FSU is very athletic and made a great comeback against Xavier, but a lot of their damage was done when Xavier’s PG J.P. Macura fouled out. Gonzaga has experience, size, and really strong guard play. They have 5 guys who average double figures and a really good floor general in Josh Perkins. Florida State’s style and defensive pressure may frustrate Gonzaga a bit early, but in the end I think Gonzaga is too good of a team in this one. Florida State is 176th in the nation in turnovers, Gonzaga is 39th. Florida State is 138th in 3 point offense while Gonzaga has 4 guys who shoot 37% or better from behind the arc . If this game comes down to free throws, Florida State has just 3 guys who shoot 70% or better from the line whereas the Zags have five guys (shoutout to bacon cheeseburgers) who average better than 75% from the stripe. I’m not laying the points in this one (I’m an underdog & Under bettor at least 70% of the time) but I AM putting Gonzaga in a moneyline parlay:
Gonzaga & Kansas, ML parlay (+101 to +107 payout, depending on your book). I’m saving more than 10 percent vig playing it this way and I don’t have to stress free throws if I’m right with my Gonzaga read.
I also think Kansas has advantages in a few different areas vs Clemson in the Friday matchup. I’ll break this game down in full tomorrow.
To recap, my picks:
- Loyola +2
- Gonzaga/Kansas ML parlay (+103)
I’m also on Texas Tech tomorrow vs Purdue. The line is +1.5 at most books but I see a few 2’s out there. I’ll release and write this one up tomorrow.
+ Lean: Under 143.5 in Loyola/Nevada: Loyola’s Unders have cashed 7x in a row and all 7 of those games finished at 131 or less. I’d also bet this, but I already have Loyola and I don’t typically like my money being tied up on two separate bets at the same time (just my style). I’m looking to cash on Loyola in the first game and setup a nice Sweet 16 card that caps off with Texas Tech in the late Friday game.
I’d say good luck, but those words mean nothing to me.
Let’s cash some tickets.