NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 3/16/2018
OK, with the NCAA Tournament's first round coming to a close, it's time for my Final Four picks along with each school's BetOnline odds to win its region. In the West, which I think is the weakest of the four because Xavier is the worst top seed, let's go with No. 4 Gonzaga (+300) to reach a second straight Final Four. In the South, which faces the West in the Final Four, I like No. 2 Cincinnati (+300). In the East, it's No. 1 Villanova (+125), which appears to have the clearest past to the Final Four. And in the really tough Midwest, it's No. 2 Duke (+200). I'll wait to see how teams look before choosing an overall winner.
No. 10 Texas vs. No. 7 Nevada (-1)
South Region game at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS from Nashville with the winner facing most likely Cincinnati. Texas is what's wrong with the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Are the Longhorns one of the 64 most-talented teams in the nation? Absolutely. But they were the ninth seed in the Big 12 Tournament, beating doormat Iowa State by only four in the opener and then losing to Texas Tech. If this wasn't "Texas," then it wouldn't have gotten in. This could be the collegiate finale for stud freshman center Mo Bamba, who will be a Top-10 pick in this year's NBA draft. He averages 12.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and a whopping 3.7 blocks per game but missed a few games late with a foot problem. UT lost two guards during the course of the season: Andrew Jones was diagnosed with leukemia and Eric Davis was suspended indefinitely (last five games) amid allegations he accepted a loan from an agent.
Nevada lost starting point guard Lindsey Drew to ruptured Achilles tendon in mid-February and also has seen Kendall Stephens and star Caleb Martin, the Mountain West Newcomer of the Year, battling through their own injuries. Martin and his twin brother Cody transferred from NC State. Stephens, who led the Mountain West in made three-pointers, transferred from Purdue. Jordan Caroline, second on the team in scoring (17.9 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.8 rpg) came from Southern Illinois. Nevada ranks 18 th nationally in scoring (83.1 ppg), while Texas is strong on defense (68.2 ppg).
Key trends: The Longhorns are 0-8 against the spread in their past eight NCAA Tournament game. The Wolf Pack are 17-3-1 ATS in their past 21 following a loss.
The pick: Nevada.
No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 8 Missouri (+1.5)
West Region game at 9:50 p.m. ET on TBS from Nashville with the winner facing surely Xavier. While the above game could be the last for UT's Bamba, this could also be the same for Missouri's Michael Porter Jr., the top-ranked recruit by most services in the Class of 2017. He played just two regular-season minutes before undergoing back surgery. Many NBA scouts felt Porter should not have returned and risked further injury (he's a Top-10 pick regardless), but he did for the SEC Tournament opener. Porter was clearly rusty, shooting 5-for-17 in a loss to Georgia. The Tigers will be without arguably their second-best player for this one as forward Jordan Barnett was suspended a game for a suspicion of DWI arrest last weekend. The senior averaged 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds but would be available should Mizzou advance.
Florida State is one of nine ACC teams in, most of any conference. The Seminoles are maddening because they seem to play close to good teams - beat North Carolina by one but lost to Duke by seven, Miami by six, Virginia by four - but are equally capable of losing to anyone (Boston College, Wake Forest, NC State). I'm a tad surprised the committee chose FSU over Louisville, which was 2-1 vs. the Noles this season. Leonard Hamilton goes 10 deep with this team. One of the bench guys is freshman Mfiondu Kabengele, the nephew of former NBA great Dikembe Mutombo.
Key trends: The Noles are 4-0 ATS in their past four vs. the SEC. The Tigers are 1-5 ATS in their previous six non-conference games.
The pick: FSU.
No. 12 New Mexico State vs. No. 5 Clemson (-5)
Midwest Region game at 9:57 p.m. ET on truTV from San Diego with the winner facing either No. 4 Auburn or No. 13 Charleston. I believe this is the most likely No. 12 over No. 5 upset, although I also like South Dakota State to knock off Ohio State on Thursday. This had the chance to be one of the best Clemson teams of all-time, but that all changed on Jan. 20 in a win over Notre Dame when senior forward Donte Grantham suffered a torn ACL with about 11 minutes remaining at Littlejohn Coliseum. He was easily the most important guy on the team, averaging 14.2 points (second) and 6.9 rebounds (first) while shooting 56 percent from the field. Clemson did OK without him for a while but lost five of its final eight and only two of those defeats were against quality foes (Duke and Virginia).
New Mexico State was the WAC regular season and tournament champion and is in the Big Dance for the seventh time this decade. Last year, the Aggies were a No. 14 and lost by 18 to Baylor. It was their 10th straight NCAA Tournament loss. They have a terrific 1-2 punch in senior guard Zach Lofton (19.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and senior forward Jemerrio Jones (11.0 ppg, 13.2 rpg - No. 2 nationally). NMSU is 1-0 against the ACC this season, knocking off then-No. 6 Miami 63-54 in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in December. The Aggies are 2-2 in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed.
Key trends: The Aggies are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The Tigers are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a loss.
The pick: New Mexico State.
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