Tiny Nick Game Pick: 3/24
NCAA Tournament (Unit 0.5) First Half Arkansas +5 vs. Gonzaga (-110): 6:10 p.m. on CBS
Gonzaga wasn’t sharp coming out of this tournament, leading Georgia State by 2 and trailing Memphis by 10 in their respective halves. Third time might be a charm, but I see a team so far that is much better at making halftime adjustments than starting strong. Plus, Arkansas need to fire here and hope to get an early lead before their downsides inevitably kick in.
The Razorbacks just don’t have enough size to compete with Gonzaga’s frontcourt, and that should ultimately be what gets them here. But before the Hogs start racking up the fouls trying to stop Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme on the inside, they should be able to hold that close for a half. Arkansas’ perimeter athleticism gives them an advantage over the Bulldogs’ backcourt, and if JD Notae comes out of his slump, the Hogs can score points in bunches. I’m counting on some levers pulled by Eric Musselman early on, as well as another slow start from the Zags to keep this one close at the break.
Bonus bet (0.5 unit) Arkansas/Gonzaga Over 154.5
Arkansas will have to score from the outside like I mentioned, which is plenty of three-point attempts. These go in or create outs for a Gonzaga team that likes to play in transition, but either way it really ups the score. With the Hogs also very vulnerable inside, layups and free throws will be a constant source of points for Gonzaga. But if the Zags allow Arkansas to stay in this game early as I suspect, a more frantic second half will see plenty of scoring, just like their first two games. These two players easily erased that total, and here I see another game that should play more in the 160-point range.
NCAA Tournament (0.5 unit) Texas Tech -1 vs. Duke (-110): 8:40 p.m. CT on CBS
Sorry Coach K, time to pack. This is the point in the Big Dance where Duke has struggled, as they are 0-3 ATS in the last 3 trips to the Sweet 16 and 5-11 in the last 16 opportunities. I see them in trouble again with a really tough opponent for them.
This Texas Tech team presents schematic challenges for the Blue Devils with whom they have already shown difficulties this season, but now they are at the maximum. Duke has already lost and then squeaked to Virginia in two meetings this season, which is their only opponent to lead the pack line defense. But Tech has a lot more talent and athleticism than Virginia this season to plug into that pattern, and I see that causing issues here.
Duke will have to shoot over that defense, and that’s made all the more difficult with their best shooter in AJ Griffin hampered by an ankle injury. The question then becomes how Tech’s inconsistent offense will fare, especially after missing so many easy shots against Notre Dame. But Duke’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating actually went down after two tournament wins, so the Red Raiders should be able to get plenty of easy looks. If they take advantage of this, their defense will take them to the Elite 8 and send Coach K into retirement.
NCAA Tournament (0.75 unit) Arizona -1.5 vs. Houston (-110): 9:00 p.m. CT on TBS
I see way too many people lining up in Houston here, turning the Cougars into a fashionable underdog. Sure, Houston has been great against numbers this season and they’re on an 8-1-1 ATS streak. But at that number, you’re asking the team with the 86th strength on the schedule to beat not only the best opponent they’ve seen all year, but arguably the best team in the country. I’ve been high on Arizona all season, and while they looked extremely vulnerable on Sunday night, I’m not ready to let them go just yet.
There’s a lot of talk about the Wildcats having to face two of the best offensive rebounding teams in back-to-back games here. But I see Arizona got scared on Sunday and made adjustments on this game to help them here. Houston crushes offensive glass better than almost anyone, but they’re also vulnerable on the transition offense, as they’ve been in their three losses to fast-paced opponents this season. Arizona is the deadliest transition offense in the nation, and I see them maximizing that advantage tonight. That’s the fewest points you’ve had with Arizona all season, so I’ll be backing the team that I still believe is the eventual champion.
No degenerate today.
Tiny Nick is 659-532 ATS (+81.5 units) on his locks since joining Zone Coverage.
Each day it will offer its Locks and Degenerate choices. The locks are the games he trusts. Degenerates are fun but riskier choices.