Tiny Nick’s Gambling Picks: 03/16


NCAA Tournament (0.5 Unit) West Virginia/Maryland 1st Half Under 64 (-110; Odds via Caesars): 11:15 AM CT on CBS

It’s the first game of the true tournament here, and that’s a place to typically target an under. Early in the day this arena in Birmingham will not be very full, and already unfamiliar sightlines will made even more difficult for shooters. That has a significant impact, as does the fact that these teams are likely to start slow and feel each other out.

While both squads are talented offensively, they prefer to play strong defense and don’t often push the pace, especially Maryland who’s 237th in adjusted tempo. Neither team takes or makes a lot of three-pointers, so those won’t be lighting up the scoreboard. And both squads have struggled with early scoring outside of their home gyms, especially the Terps who are 274th in first-half scoring on the road. I think the arena, situation, and strong defenses keep this to a fairly low-scoring start.


NCAA Tournament (0.75 Unit) Furman +6 vs Virginia (-110; Odds via Caesars): 11:40 AM CT on truTV

This is a major contrast in styles, as Furman’s elite offense squares off against the elite Virginia defense. But I think the style of Furman can exploit that Virginia defense enough to make this a competitive game, or even pull the outright upset. The Paladins have one of the better shooting teams in the whole country, ranked 11th in effective field goal percentage, and love to launch from deep.

Mike Bothwell and JP Pegues have absolutely no fear and should be able to shoot over the top of the Virginia pack line defense. Where the Paladins are vulnerable is inside against teams that attack the offensive glass, but that’s not the Cavaliers who rank 270th in offensive rebounding. With Virginia also playing at a snail’s pace, the underdog has more natural value. Tony Bennett is just 7-13 ATS in the tournament with UVA, and this dangerous dog should give them trouble.


NCAA Tournament (0.5 Unit) Missouri +1 vs Utah St (-110; Odds via Caesars): 12:40 PM CT on TNT

I’m really not understanding why Missouri isn’t favored here. The SEC was easily the second-best conference in the country this season, and the Tigers made some impressive noise both in and out of league play. By contrast, the Mountain West is always overrated and always flops come tournament time, so I’m looking to fade their teams in general. When an MWC squad plays a team from a power conference since 2000, they’re just 12-37-2 ATS, including 5-25-2 ATS when seeded 8th or worse since 2003.

That conference strength and battle-tested nature of Mizzou is going to matter here, as is the matchup itself. I just don’t think Utah State has the athleticism, especially in the backcourt, to handle Missouri’s ball pressure. They also aren’t well-suited to exploit the biggest weakness of the Tigers: rebounding and defending the paint. The Aggies were only 3-5 against tournament teams this season, all from within the MWC, and I their fraudulence gets exposed today.

Bonus Bet (0.25 Unit): Missouri/Utah St Over 155 (-110; Odds via Caesars)

This is the second-highest total of the entire first round, and with good reason. These teams are both top-15 in adjusted offensive efficiency, top-25 in three-point attempts, and play at relatively fast paces. If Mizzou does go down today, it’ll be because of a barrage of three’s from Utah State, as the Tigers are 337th in opponent three’s made per game. But that also pads scoring, and should help carry this game over the high total.


NCAA Tournament (0.25 Unit) Charleston +5 vs San Diego St (-110; Odds via Caesars): 2:10 PM CT on truTV

This is another fascinating strength-on-strength matchup, in the tantalizing 12 versus 5 game that’s seen 12 seeds go 8-4 ATS the past 3 years. This is one of the worst possible draws for Charleston, as their offense that’s extremely reliant on three-point shooting goes up against an SDSU defense that’s 7th in opponent three-point percentage. But the Cougars are extremely aggressive, come at you in waves, and will never stop firing away from deep.

Success with that style is exactly what you’re looking for in an upset candidate, and I think it helps keep them in this game. Once again I’m fading the Mountain West which has collectively dropped 9 straight games in the tournament. So even the conference’s best, i.e. the regular season and tournament champion Aztecs, haven’t fared well. This is also tough travel for SDSU going to Orlando, and since 2014 the 4 teams with the longest flights each year cover at just a 39.3% clip. There are plenty of system indicators that say Charleston is a live dog here, so I’m taking the points.


NCAA Tournament (0.75 Unit) Illinois/Arkansas Under 145 (-110; Odds via Caesars): 3:30 PM CT on TBS

Both fan bases have relatively short travel to Des Moines for this game, so the arena won’t be empty enough for all the clanged shots to echo. If you can find a prop bet for total number of made three-pointers in this game, take the under with confidence. Arkansas is so bad from the perimeter that they don’t even try, ranked 350th in three-point attempts. Illinois tries, and certainly should against a vulnerable Hogs perimeter defense, but the Illini are just 335th in three-point percentage.

So with no shots going down from long range in this game to pad scoring, both teams will have to do their work inside the arc. But that’s where these defenses are strongest, with the Razorbacks 46th and Illini 16th in two-point percentage allowed. Illinois is also the best rim-protecting defense in the country per ShotQuality metrics, so they’ll hold up well against an Arkansas offense that needs to score in transition at the rim. Both teams have trended under this season, and I see another here as defenses shine.


NCAA Tournament (0.75 Unit) Iowa vs Auburn -1 (-110; Odds via Caesars): 5:50 PM CT on TNT

Either someone on the selection committee really doesn’t like Iowa, really likes Auburn, or perhaps both. Or they’re trying to make it even easier for me to fade the Big10 in general. Regardless, they did the Hawkeyes all of zero favors here in allowing Auburn, as a 9 seed, to play in Birmingham for a de facto home game. I think that’s going to matter quite a bit here for an Iowa team that has some of the starkest home/road splits in the country.

It’s the offense that falls off a cliff for Iowa when they leave Carver-Hawkeye Arena, as while they’re the third-best team nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, they score a full 20.5 PPG fewer on the road. That’s led them to owning a 4-7 ATS record in true road games and 0-4 ATS mark at neutral sites. Auburn has also struggled in true road games, so giving them the benefit of essentially a home game here should result in the Tigers advancing tonight.


NCAA Tournament (0.5 Unit) Oral Roberts +6 vs Duke (-110; Odds via Caesars): 6:10 PM CT on CBS

Max Abmas is back for more, and he’s brought an even better team with him this time. Abmas put Oral Roberts on his back two years ago and was a missed shot away from the Elite 8, but this year’s squad has a much better supporting cast. That will be needed against a Duke team that maybe hold Abmas relatively in check from deep, but will struggle particularly with the bigs for the Eagles who can step outside.

Even adjusted for the sub-par Summit League competition, this Oral offense is still 23rd in efficiency and will test a Duke team built mostly on defense. On the whole, I’m not terribly impressed with the ACC this season, and think Duke’s run through the conference tournament isn’t that impressive. The Blue Devils might be hot but they’re inconsistent, and I’m also concerned the moment might be too big for Jon Scheyer in his first season. If a surprise team is going to prove those concerns true it’s this Eagles squad, and I think they at least stay inside the number.


NCAA Tournament (0.75 Unit) Colgate vs Texas -13.5 (-110; Odds via Caesars): 6:25 PM CT on TBS

Typically, a team like Colgate profiles almost exactly to what you’re looking for in an upset pick. The Raiders are the best pure shooting team in the country and can get white hot from long range. Plus they’ve been here before, giving Wisconsin and Arkansas fits in the first round the past two tournaments. But what an awful draw for them, having to face the Big12 champion that’s getting healthier as well.

Big man Timmy Allen returns for the Longhorns after missing the conference tournament, and that will help Texas create a layup line at the rim. And the Horns have been excellent perimeter defenders all season, with the ability to switch everything on the outside and limit Colgate’s shooters. I don’t think the Longhorns pull another “Texas” like they did a couple years ago in losing as a 2-seed to Abilene Christian, as this team is too talented and should roll today.


NCAA Tournament (0.25 Unit) Northwestern vs Boise St +1.5 (-110; Odds via Caesars): 6:35 PM CT on truTV

Curse the committee for creating this matchup, as my desires to fade both the Big10 and Mountain West in the tournament run straight into each other. But I think Northwestern is the more inflated team here, getting public attention due to finishing second in the Big10 this season. But don’t be fooled, as they could have finished as low as 9th in the conference had things broken differently on the last day of the regular season.

Northwestern was only in that position thanks to a stretch of wins where guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige couldn’t miss. They’ve since regressed to the mean, and that mean is the Wildcats ranking 320th in effective field goal percentage. Boise is 14th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and will limit Northwestern’s efficiency through excellent rebounding and minimal free throws allowed. The Broncos will also have success through their pick-and-roll offense which Northwestern struggles to defend, and I think they sneak out a low-scoring close game.


NCAA Tournament (0.5 Unit) Northern KY vs Houston -12 1st Half (-110; Odds via Caesars): 8:20 PM CT on TNT

Thanks for coming out Northern Kentucky! Despite my concerns with Houston long term in the tournament, this is probably one of the worst mismatches of the entire first round. The Cougars might outscore the Norse on second-chance points alone tonight, and that’s not hyperbole. Houston is third nationally in offensive rebounding rate, while NKU is 333rd in defensive rebounding.

The Norse play a funky zone defense that’s tough to rebound out of, so a Houston team with worlds of difference in size, athleticism, and physicality will dominate the glass for put-backs. I also expect the Cougars to come in with a “watch this” attitude and dominate in all phases from the start. Houston is the nation’s second-best first half scoring defense, and leads the country in average first half margin. They’ll be running away with this by halftime.


NCAA Tournament (0.5 Unit) UNC-Asheville +17.5 vs UCLA (-110; Odds via Caesars): 9:05 PM CT on truTV

UCLA was headed to the Final Four until Jaylen Clark’s season-ending Achilles injury. Now I’m not sure what to make of this team that hasn’t looked the same since, as losing your best defensive player on a team without much depth is massive.

They’ve drawn an Asheville team here that should give them a fight, and at minimum can find their way in the back door on such a big number. The Bulldogs have lost once in 2023, as their shooting, experience, and athleticism make them a very dangerous 15-seed. They’re 33rd in effective field goal rate, and in Tajion Jones have the best 3-point shooter in the whole tournament. UCLA gives up a lot of 3-point looks for such an elite defense, so if those shots are dropping, Asheville can stay connected to the Bruins.

Elite interior presence Adem Bona is also banged up for UCLA, making life easier for Bulldogs forward Drew Pember who’s a monster on the inside. The shorthanded Bruins might be in for more than they bargained for here, so I’ll take the big number of points.


No degenerates today.


Tiny Nick is 1152-991 ATS (+78.2 Units) on his Locks since joining Zone Coverage. 

Every day he will offer his Locks and Degenerate picks. Locks are the games he’s confident in. Degenerates are entertaining but riskier picks.

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