/The best bet for Gonzaga vs. USC, which is shaping up to be a legendary game
The best bet for Gonzaga vs. USC, which is shaping up to be a legendary game

The best bet for Gonzaga vs. USC, which is shaping up to be a legendary game

Happy Tuesday, everybody! Tonight we’ll find out who the final two teams to reach the Final Four will be. It’ll also be the last time we see the NCAA Tournament played on its new 2021 schedule, as the Final Four and title game will revert to the traditional Saturday-Monday schedule.

What have you thought about the way the tournament was scheduled this year? Do you prefer the usual setup, or has having games on Monday and Tuesday instead of Thursday and Friday grown on you?

I haven’t disliked it, but I prefer the traditional schedule that sees games being played from Thursday to Sunday in the first four rounds and then the week off before the Final Four. Having it run through Tuesday night has messed with my mind a bit. I’m sure if they changed the format, I’d quickly adjust to it, but I don’t see a reason to do so. This year’s tournament was a particular case, with the tournament being played in one centralized location.

If there’s one thing I’ve loved about the changes this year, it’s having games in more cozy atmospheres like the ones at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. I’d love to see that continue, but I know it won’t. Once we’re allowed to have full attendance at sporting events again, all that will matter is getting as many people as possible, and football stadiums become more appealing to the people making the decisions.

Now let’s break down some basketball games.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook


🔥 The Hot Ticket

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 USC, 7:15 p.m. | TV: TBS
The Pick: Under 153 (-110)
: I cannot wait to watch this game tonight, as it’s a truly interesting matchup. Ken Pomeroy, the person behind KenPom ratings, has mentioned the possibility for an all-time matchup for a while now. You see, Gonzaga comes into tonight’s game shooting 63.9% from two-point range this season. It’s the highest mark ever by a team in the KenPom era (dating back to 2002). Then there’s USC, which has allowed opponents to shoot only 41.5% from two this season, the lowest mark of the KenPom era.

In other words, it’s the greatest two-point shooting team of the century going against the greatest two-point shooting defense of the century. There are also conflicting styles, with Gonzaga ranking 19th in the country in possessions per game at 76.3, while USC is much slower, ranking 215th at 70.2. Also, while Gonzaga is a complete team, it’s a big team, and it has used its size to overwhelm most of its opponents this season. That’s not the case with USC, one of the tallest, longest teams in the nation.

So, yeah, this is a tremendous matchup. One that’s very difficult to handicap. One in which I don’t see a lot of value on the spread (if it somehow gets to Gonzaga -7.5 or USC +9.5, then we’ll reconsider). I think Gonzaga’s been a better rebounding team overall, and it’s the much better team at the free-throw line. Those two areas will likely prove to be the difference in this game, but it’s not a significant enough advantage with this spread.

Instead, I like the under. Both outcomes for this game see USC keeping close and possibly winning through its defense or Gonzaga blowing the Trojans out by suffocating their offense. Either way, the game stays under the total.

Key Trend: I hope you appreciate this trend because I had to dig for it: the under is 6-2 in Elite Eight games with a total of 145 or higher since 2016.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has a slight lean on the spread in this matchup.


💰 The Picks

🏀 NCAA Tournament

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 11 UCLA, 9:57 p.m. | TV: TBS
The Pick: UCLA +6.5 (-110) —
Did you know we may have met before? Seriously, if you’ve been driving around town and you saw a man standing on a corner yelling, “Michigan’s basketball team is a lot better than anybody is giving it credit for right now,” that was me. Because Michigan has seemingly been forgotten about recently. I assume it’s partially the injury to Isaiah Livers, but that it’s also people extrapolating the Big Ten’s struggles to mean Michigan isn’t that good. Well, the Big 12’s struggles didn’t stop Baylor from reaching the Final Four, and Michigan is one of the three teams in this tournament that I consider to be the genuine title contenders.

Having said that, I still like UCLA to cover this spread even if I expect Michigan to win this game far more often than it loses it. The total for this game is at 136, and it’s been dropping for a reason. These teams don’t move quickly on offense. That limits overall possessions, and it’s hard to pull away from a team when there are fewer possessions to do it in. The outside shooting of Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard will keep UCLA within range, while Michigan’s interior defense will keep the Wolverines in the lead.

Key Trend: Double-digit seeds are 11-2 ATS on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2016, including 4-1 this season.

🏀 NBA

The Pick: Nuggets to win Western Conference (+1000) — The injury to LeBron James has shaken things up in the West. While James is likely to be back before the playoffs, the Lakers suddenly look a lot more vulnerable than they did before, and it’s opened the door for other teams. One of which is a Denver Nuggets team that just improved a lot at the trade deadline by adding Aaron Gordon, as he gives the Nuggets a defensive presence they’d been missing. Somebody who can match up with several different players the Nuggets will face in the playoffs. It’s not enough to make the Nuggets a favorite, but enough to think getting 10-to-1 is a tremendous value.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Advanced Computer Model loves a play on the total in tonight’s Elite Eight matchup between Michigan and UCLA.


💸 The DFS Rundown

USATSI

I’m spending up at PG tonight, because there aren’t a lot of attractive value options.

Building Blocks

PG: Trae Young, Hawks
SG: Devin Booker, Suns
SF: Gordon Hayward, Hornets
PF: Tobias Harris, Sixers
C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Value Plays

PG: Michael Carter-Williams, Magic
SG: Devonte Graham, Hornets
SF: Rui Hachimura, Wizards
PF: P.J. Washington, Hornets
C: Dwight Howard, Sixers

Full lineup advice

Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.


⚾ MLB Season Futures

With MLB Opening Day on Thursday, I figure it’s time we got some futures in before the season starts. So on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I’ll be sharing my favorite futures plays on teams to make the playoffs, win their division and win the World Series. Today I’m sharing my favorite plays for teams to win their division.

  • Astros +130
  • Twins +135
  • Mets +140
  • Brewers +320
  • Cubs +475