I don't think I'm going to sleep well tonight. To me, the night before the NCAA Tournament begins -- sorry, play-in games, but while I watch you, you'll never count as the tournament to me -- is no different than the night before Christmas or the last day of school to a kid. I can only think about waking up Thursday morning, heading downstairs to the living room where the wife has let me set up multiple televisions for the first weekend and digging into non-stop college basketball.
Seriously, it takes me back to my youth when my mom would pretend to believe me when I told her I wasn't feeling well on that first Thursday and I couldn't go to school. She'd take my temperature, stare at the 98.6 on it, and say, "wow, you do have a fever, I better call the school." At the time, I thought I just wished hard enough to raise my body temperature, but as I grew up, I realized she was just playing along.
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I'm happy to keep that tradition alive, though I no longer have to pretend to be sick. Still, maybe I'll hold a thermometer up to a lightbulb for a few seconds just to get that old feeling back. Another March tradition? Bracket pools. You can never be in enough of them, and if you haven't joined one yet, join mine. The Cover 3 Podcast and I are running a bracket pool that will feature prizes for the winner that could include hosting the show for a day if you want. Maybe I'll let you write an edition of this newsletter. You can write about how terrible I am at picking games! Just click on this link start picking winners
When you're finished, kill the remaining hours between now and tip-off by reading these stories. Then we'll dive into a special NCAA Tournament heavy edition of the newsletter.
- So, if Baker Mayfield's time in Cleveland is over, where might he end up?
- The Blue Jays swung a big trade today.
- Kyle Schwarber found a new home.
And now for the first of what I hope are many shining moments for us this March.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
🏀 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers, 9:10 p.m. | TV: truTV
- Key Trend: The under is 4-1 in Rutgers' last five games
- The Pick: Under 134 (-110)
We have two more NCAA Tournament play-in games tonight before the real deal tips off Thursday, but I don't know a whole hell of a lot about either Bryant or Wright State. I have seen plenty of Rutgers and Notre Dame, though. Perhaps I've seen too much of them. While I would appreciate it if these two played a better game than the one we had to endure between Indiana and Wyoming, I cannot guarantee that will be the case.
Notre Dame is easily the more palatable offense of these two teams, as it ranks 30th in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency, but the Fighting Irish move at a slow pace. They also jack up a lot of threes. When those threes aren't falling, there doesn't seem to be a backup plan outside of "throw more at the rim and maybe some will go in." Seriously, between Blake Wesley, Dane Goodwin, Prentiss Hubb, Cormac Ryan and Nate Lasczewski, the Irish have five players who have attempted at least 100 three-pointers this season.
Now, that might not seem as impressive based on raw data, but that's because of the pace the Irish move. On the season, 43.1% of their shots have been threes. Rutgers moves slowly as well, but does not shoot well and rarely attempts threes. The Knights shoot from distance only 31.4% of the time, which ranks 315th nationally. The problem is they don't shoot much better on the interior, either, and instead rely on a defense that can be suffocating. The Knights rank 42nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and do a fantastic job forcing opponents to use up most of the shot clock before finding an open look.
So when you consider the pace these teams move at, that they're playing at an unfamiliar venue, and there's a lot on the line, I don't expect a high-scoring thriller. It is likely to be close, though, which should only contribute to nerves affecting offensive performance. Add it all up, and it sounds like we're in for a rock fight.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model has the slightest of leans toward Notre Dame covering the spread tonight, but it's screaming at you to take one side of the total.
The Men's bracket deadline is less than 24 hours away! Enter our Bracket Challenge now for the chance to win a trip to the 2023 Men's Final FourⓇ.*
Make sure to also join our Women's Bracket Challenge before the Friday deadline (12 p.m. ET) for the chance to WIN A NEW TRUCK or a trip to the 2023 Women's Final FourⓇ!
Here's where to get started:
Don't wait, get your brackets in today!
*No purchase necessary. See Rules for details.
💰 NCAA Tournament Futures
The NCAA Tournament starts for real tomorrow. You've filled out your brackets. You've come up with excuses to get out of work. You'll be betting individual games, but have you bet any futures yet? I've found that the tournament futures market is often the best place to make money, and today I'm sharing my favorite futures for the first weekend. I've got picks for teams to survive the first weekend and reach the Sweet 16, as well as regional winners and title picks.
🏀 To Reach the Sweet 16
It's funny. The first weekend of the tournament is when most people are rooting for upsets, which means you can usually find some strong value on chalk. That's rarely the case in any sport, but while you aren't used to paying the prices you see on some of these futures, I assure you that they are smart bets to make.
🏀 To Reach the Final Four
I had planned to do a value pick for each region, but as I went through the South, there wasn't much value to find. It's a harsh region, and while Arizona and Villanova should be favored, they shouldn't be favored as heavily as they are. Tennessee, Illinois, Houston and even teams like Michigan and Ohio State are capable of going on a run and winning this thing. So I'm avoiding the South until next week. For now, these three are the best value on the board by far.
🏀 To win the whole dang thing
We took Kentucky (+1800) to win the national title back in January, and until now, that was the only college basketball title future we'd taken out this season. It's time to add a couple more! Obviously, we will be rooting for Gonzaga in this tournament, as this is the third future we're taking on them. Gonzaga is that rare favorite that's underestimated because of its seemingly permanent Cinderella status, but how often does Cinderella have the possible No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on its roster?
As for Wisconsin, this isn't a bet that I'm expecting to win, but there's no way the Badgers should be getting odds like this to win it all. It's worth a punt, even if you don't want to risk a full unit on it.
- Gonzaga to win title (+325)
- Wisconsin to win title (+8000)
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Still waiting to fill out your bracket? Make sure you read this first. SportsLine's Projection Machine simulated the tournament like a billion times to find the optimal bracket for your pool.
⛳ Valspar Championship Top 10s
OK, fine, so not everything in today's newsletter is related to the NCAA Tournament. We've been profitable on our PGA top 10s for the last three weeks, so let's keep that run going. The best values this week are with a few "longshots." Remember, we're betting on each of the following golfers to finish in the top 10.
- Cameron Tringale (+600)
- Jhonattan Vegas (+800)
- Mito Pereira (+1200)
- Charley Hoffman (+1200)
- Pat Perez (+1400)