Gallery Sports’ Betting Picks for March 24, 2023

Mar 12, 2023; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Houston Cougars guard Tramon Mark (12) hugs guard Jamal Shead (1) during the second half against the Memphis Tigers at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Gallery Sports’ Betting Picks for March 24, 2023

After a 1-2 Thursday will look to rebound on Friday with a trio of picks from the Big Dance courtesy of Dalton Brown:

5:30 p.m. CT: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: No. 5-seed San Diego State vs. No. 1-seed Alabama

The Pick: OVER 137 (-108) at WynnBet

Alabama and San Diego State will lock horns for a trip to the Elite Eight on Friday night from Louisville, Ky. This total intrigues me because it is an outlier – Alabama has only played in a game lined with a total below 140 once all season, a 71-65 win at Houston that stayed just under. While San Diego State isn’t exactly known for pushing tempo, the Aztecs play at a much faster pace than the aforementioned Cougars – 263rd nationally in tempo versus 342nd, per KenPom. I believe this total is overly adjusted downward because of the extreme number of unders that cashed during the tournament’s first round (27 of 36 games stayed under their totals), and because of an assumption that San Diego State will be able to slow down the tempo-happy Crimson Tide. I don’t buy into that assumption at all – San Diego State played nine games this season against teams ranking inside KenPom’s top 70 in adjusted tempo, and eight of the nine games saw a combined 141 or more points scored. Alabama is the fastest-tempo team the Aztecs have played all season and arguably the strongest offensive team they’ve taken on as well. There is a good reason we never see Alabama totals below 140 – take advantage of this over-adjustment and cash comfortably on over 137 Friday evening.

6:15 p.m. CT: Sweet 16: No. 5-seed Miami vs. No. 1-seed Houston

The Pick: Houston -7.5 (-110) at Caesars, UNDER 138.5 (-115) at FanDuel

For the second season in a row, Jim Larranaga’s Miami Hurricanes have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Canes made it to the Elite Eight before bowing out to eventual champion Kansas. This year, I think their story ends a game earlier. Houston does not fall into the traps that a Jim Larranaga team sets for opponents. The Coogs hardly turn the basketball over at all, pull down 37.4% of their misses (fourth-best in the country), and ferociously close out on 3-point shooters (second-ranked 3-point defense in the nation, per KenPom). All of this is terrible news for an undersized Miami team that relies on its ability to take the ball away from opposing guards and out-effort teams on the glass (Miami’s tallest rotational player is a mere 6-7). UH fans know that “out-efforting” a Kelvin Sampson-coached team just doesn’t happen, and the Cougars’ toughness is unflappable. Houston blocks more shots than any team in the nation and ranks in the top-3 in every shooting defense category KenPom measures. ShotQuality’s advanced data agrees that the Cougars are also undervalued here, making them a 10.7-point favorite.

Given Houston’s clear game advantages here, I believe the Coogs will control the game’s pace as well. I wrote earlier about Houston’s matchup with uber-fast Alabama, which closed with a total of 139 and stayed under. This total is within half a point at 138.5, despite Miami sitting 94 spots behind Alabama in KenPom’s tempo rankings. Miami will struggle to force turnovers against Houston, so it’ll struggle to run. Unless the Canes go nuts from beyond the arc, I don’t like their chances of turning this game into any kind of track meet.

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