Here’s how I’m going to construct these articles during the NCAA Tournament. Rather than just give bets with unit size, I’m going to write up all the bets/leans I’m considering. That way you get more content and insight on more games. But with that said, please be careful. These aren’t all games that I’ll ultimately bet on.
For my official plays, I’ll continue posting the play to Twitter, but will loop you back to these articles for the analysis.
Everything below is what jumps out to me on the Saturday/Sunday Elite Eight card.
No. 10 Miami vs. No. 1 Kansas — 2:20pm ET (Sunday)
I’ve admittedly flip flopped on this game. Miami’s path worries me a bit. They held off USC’s comeback, they throttled an Auburn team that was ranked No. 1 this season, but fell off a cliff late in the season, and dominated an Iowa State team that can’t score. Rather than take away from them, I’m going to acknowledge that they’ve won a lot of different ways in this tournament.
Kansas is in a great position in this tournament with all the heavyweights out, but it hasn’t impressed. The Jayhawks went down to the wire against Creighton without its two best players, and then allowed Providence back into the game (and even to lead the game) in a Friars’ cover. Kansas has solid pieces, but Ochai Agbaji isn’t playing well, and the guys making up the slack probably can’t keep it up.
Meanwhile, Miami has a trio of spectacular wings and a great inside-out game. The Hurricanes are on a tear right now from an ACC that’s looking better and better by the day. Miami has also been spectacular in the dog role this year, going an insane 9-4 straight up as an underdog. The Canes have a real chance here. And while I initially was going to go with Kansas, it felt like an oversight on how good Miami is playing right now.
No. 15 Saint Peter’s vs. No. 8 North Carolina — 5:05pm ET (Sunday)
If you’re too terrified to fade the Peacocks, I understand. The run they are on right now is insane — 10-0 ATS over their last 10, and obviously winning their three tournament games as underdogs of a combined 39.5 points. I thought Purdue’s size would give Saint Peter’s a tough time, but in reality it slowed Purdue down too much. The Peacocks won the game on the perimeter, in part thanks to a dreadful game from Jaden Ivey.
Carolina is built differently, with much more athleticism on the wing, and good enough shooting. Unlike Zach Edey, who couldn’t stay on the floor on Friday, Armando Bacot should be able to dominate this game on both ends and crash the glass. But hey, Kentucky wasn’t able to get by, so fading the Peacocks comes with risk. Ultimately I may not be able to lay the points myself.
What I do like in this game is the Carolina team total. The Peacocks didn’t exactly win a grinder against Kentucky, it was 71-71 heading into overtime. The Tar Heels play faster and will look to get their edge in this game by pushing the pace. UNC just scored 73 points against an elite UCLA defense to go over the team total for the third time in three tournament games. The Heels are now averaging 87 points per game in the tournament, and while the Peacocks might be able to slow this to a degree, UNC will find ways to play to its pace.
No. 5 Houston vs. No. 2 Villanova — 6:09pm ET (Saturday)
I’m in a very interesting spot in a lot of these games today, with futures leaving me in a really good spot. Personally, I have Villanova +600 to reach the Final Four. But I think this is the time to get off that ticket and will be making a large hedge so that I’m far more exposed to the Cougars.
Villanova’s strengths that will keep them in this game are coaching, not turning the ball over and making free throws. This game should be a grind, but if you’ve watched Houston, you know this team is the real deal.
The Cougars are absolutely swarming on defense, and will put a ton of pressure on a ‘Nova squad that’s much smaller than the Arizona squad they beat on Thursday. I expect Houston to dominate the glass in this game against both an undersized and thin Wildcats roster. Look for lots of second chance points for the Cougs in this one.
Villanova struggled with the size of Michigan despite the victory, and the lack of depth was apparent. Not to mention that while Collin Gillespie says he’s fine after a tough looking knee injury, he’s only two days removed and it could be bothering him a bit. Even if Gillespie wanted to sit he couldn’t in this game. ‘Nova’s best option is to play him even if he’s well below 100%.
As for the total, this is going to be a slow paced game and both teams really lock down on defense. If it is close I don’t want to lose on a free throw contest going over at the end, so I think the first half under is the way to go.
No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 2 Duke — 8:49pm ET (Saturday)
Once again, good spot here for me with a +1300 ticket on Arkansas to reach the Final Four. But I really do think the Hogs are the right side here, I just feel more comfortable with the half than the game.
The Hogs are a perfect 3-0 1H ATS in the tournament, even leading outright against Gonzaga on Thursday. Of course, this team is riding high after knocking off the top seed, but no time to celebrate, it’s time to ride that momentum into Duke.
Coach K’s kids are shooting the lights out during stretches of this tournament, which can be terrifying. But the Blue Devils aren’t playing a ton of defense, and the Hogs most certainly will be. We saw the Pigs really limit the No. 1 ranked team in the country, so we know they have the ability to come back and do it again on Saturday night. It’s a veteran group with a lot of talent and some depth, so the moment certainly won’t be too big, nor do I expect a hangover from a big win.
What’s terrifying? The potential of wanting to set up a Duke vs. North Carolina Final Four game. But leave it to this Arkansas squad to spoil the party. I’ll probably ride Arkansas to get off to another quick start and then maybe look to hedge with some Duke ML.
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