Happy Friday, everybody. I'm sorry about your bracket. I know you spent hours sweating over it (OK, maybe it was five minutes), searching for the perfect outcomes, and seeing it all go up in flames on the first day because of Princeton or Furman was painful.
But it's going to be OK. We will soldier on. We will continue to watch the tournament, and we will continue to bet on it in this newsletter. We will also read these stories.
- Signing Orlando Brown has led to consequences in Cincinnati.
- Marcus Mariota has a new home.
- Five MLB teams that missed the postseason last year but could take a big step forward in 2023.
- The Champions League draw led to some Goliath quarterfinal matchups.
The ball was tipped, and now here we are.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence, 7:10 p.m. | TV: CBS
- Key Trend: The over is 9-3 in Kentucky's last 12 and 6-1 in Providence's last seven.
- The Pick: Over 143 (-110)
Kentucky has been one of the more difficult teams to figure out all season, but it probably shouldn't be a surprise. It's an efficient offense (14th nationally, according to KenPom)... but the efficiency is misleading.
Kentucky does not shoot the ball well. It ranks 148th nationally in eFG%, 103rd from three and 182nd from two. Its 70.3% free-throw shooting percentage ranks 240th. What it does well is crash the offensive glass, where its 38.7% offensive rebound rate ranks second nationally. So it misses shots but gets a lot of second chances.
Tonight it faces a Providence team that is almost the same team. Providence ranks 16th nationally in offensive efficiency but doesn't shoot the ball well. What it does is crash the offensive glass! All of which leads me to believe this game can go one of two ways. It will either be hideous, with both teams struggling to score, or it will be a bizarro track meet in which every missed shot results in a putback of some kind. While both outcomes are equally likely, my numbers tell me this total is too low. I would have it closer to 150, so I can't pass this play up.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: While it's not an A-grade, the Projection Model sees the same thing I do. It thinks this total is too low.
💰 The Picks
🏀 March Madness
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 14 Grand Canyon, 7:35 p.m. | TV: truTV
The Pick: Gonzaga -15.5 (-110) -- I've got a future on Gonzaga winning the entire tournament this year because the most dangerous Gonzaga is one without the weight of expectations on its shoulders. Tonight will provide a glimpse of what this team can do. I expect the Zags to cruise to victory.
Grand Canyon has won its last six games, but it's played a weak schedule. It beat Sam Houston State twice this year, and those are its only two wins against teams ranked in the top 100 by KenPom. It went 0-3 in its other three (yep, only five games against top 100 teams all year). Gonzaga is ranked No. 8 by KenPom and went 14-1 against teams ranked outside the top 100 (Grand Canyon is No. 109), winning by an average of 28.3 points per game.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State, Saturday, 7:45 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Texas -5.5 (-110) -- Yeah, there are only two games on tonight's slate I feel strongly about, but I couldn't let you go into the weekend without at least one play for the tournament. Thankfully, there's this play that hurts me spiritually -- I really enjoy this Penn State team -- but is the right play from a gambling perspective.
Penn State's on an incredible run. It's won nine of 11, with its lone losses coming by three to Rutgers and then two to Purdue in the Big Ten Championship. It blew A&M out of the water Thursday, thanks to making 13 of 22 threes. But it has to end eventually, and there's a strong chance it will happen Saturday night. Texas' defense is superior to Penn State's, and they have enough athletes on the perimeter to allow them to switch with ease and keep Penn State from getting so many open looks from three.
Brentford vs. Leicestery City, Saturday, 11 a.m. | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Brentford (-106) -- A few months ago, when Leicester got off to a slow start, I took a future on it to be relegated at +1000. The biggest factor in the decision was the team didn't have the money to solve their issues. For a while, it looked as if Leicester would get out of the muck. A 4-2 win over Aston Villa was followed by a 4-1 win over Tottenham, leaving Leicester in 13th place, six points clear of relegation. But then Leicester stopped winning. It's lost five straight matches since, including four Premier League matches. It's been outscored 10-2 in the span, and it's the only Premier League team not to manage a point in that time. Now Leicester enters the weekend still on 24 points, outside the relegation zone strictly due to goal differential.
And now that team goes on the road to face a Brentford team that's struggled a bit lately but has been much stronger at home than on the road. I'll let you guess whether or not Leicester has been better on the road than at home. Correct! It has not! Finally, while Leicester battling to avoid relegation could be seen as the inspiration it needs this weekend, Brentford is in the hunt for one of the Premier League's European qualification spots, so it has plenty to play for as well. I'm not overthinking this one.
Inter Milan vs. Juventus, Sunday, 3:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Juventus or Draw (-124) -- I've mentioned it before, but it sometimes feels like the 15-point penalty Juventus was given was the best thing that could've happened to this team. It freed them of expectations and allowed this team to enjoy itself while playing. I don't think it's a coincidence that Juventus has been the second-best team in Serie A behind Napoli since the penalty was handed down. It's won nine of its last 11 matches, and while it's been bad away from home overall this season, it's been much better recently. It's won four of six on the road, and it's facing an Inter Milan team that hasn't been consistent all season.
One day it's beating Porto in a Champions League match; the next, it's losing to Bologna. Then Inter rebounds with a win over Lecce before falling to Spezia 2-1. Tuesday's scoreless draw against Porto wasn't exciting, but Inter did what it set out to do. Recent results suggest that's bad news for Inter in this spot against Juve! While I don't hate swinging big on Juventus to win outright, I'd rather play it safer with the double chance.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Looking for an upset play tonight? There's a moneyline dog in the tournament tonight the Projection Model believes is offering excellent value.