Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 2 in the morning
Two down, two to go.
No. 2 seed UCLA and No. 8 seed Arkansas became the first teams ever to book an NCAA Tournament trip to Las Vegas with 32 wins Saturday. No. 3 Gonzaga, No. 4 Connecticut, St. Mary’s and No. 6 TCU all look to join them on Sunday.
UConn and St. Mary’s take on the top seed at 3:10 PM on TNT, with the Huskies currently a 3.5 point favorite. Gonzaga and TCU have the honor of saying goodbye to the busiest betting weekend in the nation when they tip off at 6:40pm on TBS, with the Zags currently a 4.5 point favorite.
The second weekend of the tournament is usually quieter in the city, with betting winding down, but that won’t be the case this year. With four fan bases coming to town, if not four powerful fan bases, money will be flying leading up to Thursday night’s event at T-Mobile Arena.
Let’s take one last chance to increase our tournament bankrolls before then.
Read below for picks on all eight of Sunday’s round of 32 games. Selected are listed in rough order of trust and labeled with one of three separate trust categories. The lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas. Picks record per tournament game thus far is 17-25-2 (8-5-1 on plays, 5-10-1 on slopes, 4-10 on guesses).
No. 3 seed Kansas State -2.5 vs. No. 6 seed Kentucky Last season’s National Player of the Year, Oscar Chibwe was on top in Kentucky’s tournament-opening 61-53 win over Providence as a 4-point favorite. The big man pulled down 25 rebounds, including reaching double-digit rebounds on both offense and defense. Kansas State isn’t a strong rebounding team to begin with and now has to face arguably the nation’s best team on the glass. Kentucky has been a slight disappointment overall on the year, but it has the talent around Tshiebwe to reach a level that few teams in the nation can match — certainly not Kansas State. Game: Kentucky -2.5.
No. 3 seed Gonzaga -4.5 vs. No. 6 seed TCU The Horned Frogs would have a real chance of beating the Bulldogs at full strength, but they are increasingly looking like they are not at full strength. With big man Eddie Lampkin already out of the team, TCU now deals with an injury to star guard Mike Miles, who cruised to a 72-70 win over Arizona State as a 4.5-point favorite. This is a big problem in which numbers to be an up-down game. When healthy, TCU can outrun almost every team in the nation in transition — except maybe Gonzaga. Lean: Gonzaga -4.5.
No. 3 seed Xavier -5 vs. No. 11 seed Pittsburgh Playing three games in five days is a challenge for even the best teams. Pittsburgh is not one of the best teams. The Panthers have a strong offense, but the Musketeers can more than handle their firepower. In many ways, Xavier just looks like an upgraded version of Pittsburgh with leading shooting and size. Lean: Xavier -5.
No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic -15 vs. No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson Florida Atlantic -12 may have had one of the worst opening lines of the tournament on Friday night, but the odds are starting to get closer to where they belong. The Owls’ experienced backcourt won’t be fazed by the Knights’ pressure the same way the Boilermakers were in Fairleigh Dickinson’s historic 63-58 upset as 23-point underdogs. Much unlike their last two performances, the Knights have struggled defensively on the year. Florida Atlantic should be able to take advantage. Lean: Florida Atlantic -15.
No. 4 seed Connecticut -3.5 vs. No. 5 seed St. Mary’s UConn looks like the best team in the nation when they unlock center Adama Sanogo, as they did in the second half of Friday’s 87-63 rout, putting Iona as a 9.5-point favorite. But they’ve also looked pretty ordinary against focused, fundamentally sound opponents all year, and the Gaels perhaps fit the profile better than any team in the country. It will all come down to what wins between brute force and machine performance in Albany, New York Weak: UConn -3.5.
No. 3 seed Marquette -2.5 vs. No. 7 seed Michigan State The Spartans are bigger, stronger, more experienced and more expensive on defense. In other words, this combination should be perfect for coach Tom Izzo, who applies his preferred dirty style to success. However, there are no bargains in the state of Michigan. While matchup factors may play in the Spartans’ favor, it’s hard to make a spread shorter than this based on each team’s statistical profile to this point in the season. Guess: Michigan State +2.5.
No. 3 Baylor -1.5 vs. No. 6 Creighton The old football cliché “the team with the ball last wins” can be applied here. As much as both sides look so offensively explosive and evenly matched, it’s hard to see either side backing down. I’m changing my mind every minute on who to pick, but BetMGM makes it a little easier in terms of betting with an off-market line on Baylor -1.5. The Bears might be that little bit better, but they’re extremely close. Prediction: Creighton +1.5.
No. 4 seed Indiana -2 vs. No. 5 seed Miami The Hurricanes cashed in a bit ahead of their 63-56 win over Drake as a 2.5-point favorite on Friday. The same trend may occur again today. Indiana deserves to be favored, making some of the starting prices like the pick’em and even Miami -1 incorrect, but the line has been adjusted slightly. Miami’s edge on the perimeter is just as obvious as Indiana’s inside. There isn’t much room with Indiana -1.5 the fair price, but there’s only one way to go with the pick. Guess: Miami +2.
Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeeper.Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or