Mar 18, 2023; Sacramento, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) and guard Tyger Campbell (10) high five during the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Gallery Sports’ Betting Picks – March 23, 2023
Off a 2-1 Wednesday, with the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament back in full swing, the Gallery Sports team has put together another trio of plays featuring two from the Big Dance and one from the NBA:
8 p.m. CT: Sweet 16: No. 9-seed Florida Atlantic vs. No. 4-seed Tennessee
The Pick: Tennessee -4.5 (-118) at FanDuel
Fourth-seeded Tennessee will take on No. 9-seed Florida Atlantic in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night from Madison Square Garden in New York, and I do not think 4.5 points is enough between two teams of different talent levels and pedigrees. Tennessee is shooting the basketball exceptionally well and just shut down one of the hottest (and most talented) teams in the country in Duke to get here. The Volunteers use brute strength to make opponents uncomfortable on offense, a strategy that worked better against a massive Duke team than I thought it would. Now, they’ll take on Florida Atlantic – and while the Owls have had a great season, I’m not exactly sold on a team that was fortunate to slip past No. 8-seed Memphis and won a tight game over No. 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson to get here. ShotQuality views Tennessee as a top-10 team, while Florida Atlantic ranks just 68th – and while FAU’s ranking of No. 22 in KenPom is impressive, the Vols have never fallen lower than No. 6 this season. The Owls’ stock has never been higher, while Tennessee is still not getting respect in the market because of Zakai Ziegler’s injury, and I think we are getting value on the Volunteers as a result. Florida Atlantic is a great story, and head coach Dusty May deserves plenty of credit, but Rick Barnes will have ample time to prepare and will have his team ready to squeeze the life out of the undersized and underqualified Owls.
8:45 p.m. CT: Sweet 16: No. 3-seed Gonzaga vs. No. 2-seed UCLA
The Pick: OVER 145.5 (-108) at WynnBet
UCLA and Gonzaga have played some legendary NCAA Tournament games over the last 20 years, including a Final Four matchup in 2021 in which Gonzaga came out on top and UCLA’s huge comeback in the Sweet 16 over the Adam Morrison-led Zags in 2006. Thursday night’s game has plenty of potential to enter that category, and I think there will be plenty of points as well. It’s no secret that Gonzaga wants to run – the Bulldogs are 40th nationally in adjusted tempo, per KenPom – while UCLA plays at a below-average pace and leans on excellent defense. As I wrote when I correctly picked the over in UCLA’s Round of 32 game against Northwestern, though, UCLA is not afraid of pace – and without one of the best defenders in the country in Jaylen Clark available, UCLA’s defense took a serious hit. Per ShotQuality’s data, each of UCLA’s last four opponents should have scored at least five more points than they did based on the quality (measured in points expected) of shots they created. ShotQuality’s data makes this total slightly above 150 as well. That, along with the extreme majority of games going under their projected totals in the first and second rounds of the tournament, is creating value on the over in this game and several others heading into the Sweet 16. Part of UCLA’s dominance on defense is their ability to force turnovers, and Gonzaga’s guards showed themselves more than willing to oblige versus TCU. Should that trend continue, both teams will be sprinting up and down the court for layups more often than expected.
6:30 p.m. CT: NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets
The Pick: Under 219.5 (-110) at BetMGM
This one is pretty simple, the Cavaliers play slow, ranking 28th of 30 NBA teams in pace of play in their last 20 games, while ranking third in the association in defensive efficiency in that span. On top of that, they top the NBA in points allowed per contest in their last 20 outings, holding teams to just 106 points per game. The Nets’ offense has cratered since Brooklyn traded Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, ranking 27th in both points scored per game and offensive rating in the 17 games since the two stars were traded. With the Nets putting up south of 110 points a night on average with their current rotation in a matchup with a team playing some of the best defense in the NBA and plays at a really slow pace, this one is unlikely to go over 210, much less approach 220. This under looks like a good play with some room to spare.