It has been tough sledding this NCAA Tournament, no hiding from it. Friday was more of a Thursday with frustrating losses on Loyola-Chicago and UAB as well as nearly cashing the Chattanooga money line. However, Saturday was a slightly profitable day, which can be tracked on my betstamp, and will try to clean it up on Sunday and finish the season strong.
There's a ton of intrigue on the board on Sunday, starting with two trendy dark horse Final Four contenders in Illinois and Houston, and closing with No. 1 seed in that same region Arizona facing off against a physical TCU team.
Let's find some winners to cap off the weekend of college hoops.
Column Record: 111-119 (-10.3 Units)
Illinois (+4.5) vs. Houston
If someone fell asleep all day Friday and missed each of these teams first round matchups, they would wake up on Sunday and be shocked that this line exists.
Yes, Illinois looked terrible in their first round win over Chattanooga that they led for about 30 seconds of, but this line feels like an overreaction from that. It also helps my case that Houston shot 10-of-21 from deep against UAB to keep them at arms length and win by double digits.
Houston's defense is going to make life difficult for Kofi Cockburn down low, so the Illini are going to need a better outing from the likes of Trent Frazier, but the Cougars defense is designed to let the opponent hoist from deep. The team allows the 40th highest 3-point rate in the country and Brad Underwood has the roster to take advantage.
This feels like a lot of points to lay after Houston had an outlier shooting night and I'll underreact and take the points.
PICK: Illinois +4.5
Miami (+7.5) vs. Auburn
Miami is fairly live in this spot mainly due to their guard play. The likes of Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong are going to give the Auburn backcourt of Wendell Green and KD Johnson some trouble due to their length on both ends of the floor.
Yes, Walker Kessler looked healthy locking down the rim and Jabari Smith is the best player on the court by a wide margin, but this is a lot of points to give a Jim Larranaga's bunch that is top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Hurricane's are top 10 in the country in limiting turnovers and are more than capable at creating quality looks outside of the paint, outside of Kessler's reach.
Auburn looked the part of a Final Four threat on Friday afternoon, but I'm not going to overlook that the team struggled down the stretch, particularly winning with margin, so I'll take a shot at Miami hanging around the number. It's worth noting the Hurricanes are 8-2 against the spread (ATS) this season as an underdog, including 7-3 straight up (SU).
PICK: Miami +7.5
Texas (+3.5) vs. Purdue
Great opportunity to fade Matt Painter against a coach he has historically struggled with in Chris Beard. Beard knocked off Purdue in the NCAA Tournament at both Arkansas-Little Rock and hten again at Texas Tech. He is one of the best in the country at prepping on short rest and his no-middle defense can give some trouble to the growing Purdue turnover issues.
Over the last month of the season, the Boilermakers are outside the top 200 in turnover rate. While the Longhorns have seen their turnovers forced percentage drop, they are top 15 in the country on the season and I trust the scheme to show up on a quick turnaround.
The Longhorns can get beat down low, but I expect their ball pressure to make life tough to get 7'4" big man Zach Edey the ball.
I have this game closer to a PK and think the Longhorns offense may be a bit undervalued after a tough go in the Big 12 this season against several elite defenses. I think Beard can make it three in a row over Painter.
PICK: Texas +3.5 2U, Texas ML (+145)
College Basketball Best Bets
- Villanova/Wisconsin ML Parlay (+118)
- Villanova/Texas Tech ML Parlay (-117)
- Auburn/Miami OVER 143
You can find all of Reed's bets HERE!