Back to the Futures: Bracket Busted? Who cares? Now’s the time to bet on the champ.

March 24, 2023

Just because you’re not about to win the ol’ office pool – we know, you really had high hopes for that Arizona-Kansas national championship game – doesn’t mean you still can’t line your pockets with March Madness moolah. This isn’t the time to mope. Instead, it’s time to redirect your attention to the part of your bracket that’s already busted.

Look to the future – or futures, as it were.

Here are three Hoops Harlan bets to consider:

Exact National Final Result: Alabama beats Houston +1000

If what everyone is saying – including our very own Jay Kornegay – that Alabama has the easiest path to the Final Four and likely the national title game – then why not ride the Tide? Heading into Friday night’s games, ‘Bama looks as if it’s the best team in the country. If you believe in that theory, take them to win it all against “somebody.” Hoops Harlan likes Houston, but really, you could gamble on Alabama beating any number of teams and still come out on top. Beating Houston pays +1000, beating Texas pays +1400, beating Gonzaga pays +1800, and so on.


Gonzaga to win National Championship +600

Those darn bulldogs; they’re such a tease. When they enter the tournament as the favorite, they find a way to disappoint, even if it’s in the national championship. But this year they’re flying somewhat beneath the radar. And Thursday’s night’s big shot that broke UCLA put them right back on the map. Gonzaga is one win away from its third Final Four in the last five men’s NCAA tournaments, so clearly this squad is no stranger to the spotlight. If you like the Zags, bet them now while the price is right.


Miami to win Midwest Region +905

There was a point this season where the Hurricanes were ranked as high as No. 13 in the nation. Ironically, they were one spot behind Gonzaga – and don’t mind that Kansas was ranked 3rd, UCLA was 4th and Purdue was 5th. Of course, that’s ancient history, but the point is just about anything can happen – especially once the tournament commences – in men’s college hoops. For a team that’s been playing well, a +905 to win their region certainly seems to be a good value. Houston is excellent; so is Texas, but Miami is no slouch. If the ‘Canes win tonight, this number will be long gone. If you’d like to hedge tonight, put a little dough on Houston M/L and you’ll be back at square one with no regrets.

Friday Night Trio

Three bets worth considering when the tournament rolls on

(5) San Diego State vs. (1) Alabama
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
6:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Alabama -7.5

So far in the tournament, San Diego State has played 12th-seeded Charleston and No. 13 Furman. The Aztecs cruised to the Sweet 16 and haven’t had much competition along the way.

Until now. The Aztecs will face the top-seeded Crimson Tide on Friday night. Alabama came into March Madness with a 31-5 record and the No. 1 overall ranking. The Aztecs came into the tournament at 29-6 and were a respectable 18th in the country.

But the ranking difference alone doesn’t quantify how big of a mismatch this one really is. Alabama averages 82.3 points per game and gives up just 68.2. That’s a 14.1 differential. The Aztecs, on the other hand, score just 71.9 PPG and give up 63.1. Their defense may be better, but their offense is far worse than Alabama’s.

The Crimson Tide offense is centered around Brandon Miller, who is currently the third-best prospect in this year’s NBA Draft. Miller is a 20-year-old forward who leads the team in points (19.1) and rebounds (8.2) per game.

But he isn’t the only Alabama player lighting it up. Mark Sears and Noah Clowney also average double-digit points. Jahvon Quinnerly has been another bright spot throughout the tournament, as he has scored a combined 35 points in the two games. For San Diego State, Matt Bradley is the only player averaging double digits. He pours in 13.0 PPG.

Despite their stellar defense, San Diego State won’t be able to keep up with Alabama. The Crimson Tide were built for a title run, not a Sweet 16 exit. Take the Tide, with the points.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Alabama -7.5 (-110)


(15) Princeton at (6) Creighton
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
9:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Creighton -10.0

Heading into the Sweet 16, Creighton had the fifth-best odds to win the tournament. As a No. 6 seed, that is odd.

They were above teams such as Texas, Kansas State, Xavier, San Diego State and Miami. All of those teams are seeded higher than the Bluejays, yet they have worse odds.


Well, Creighton is playing some of the best basketball at the moment. In the first round, the Bluejays beat No. 11 seed NC State 72-63. In the second round, they won by nine points yet again, as they beat Baylor 85-76.

Ryan Kalkbrenner and Ryan Nembhard have taken turns scoring 30-plus points. Kalkbrenner had 31 against NC State and Nembhard had 30 against Baylor. All five of the Creighton starters average 10.0 points per game or more.

Princeton, on the other hand, only has two players averaging double figures. Ryan Langborg averages 12.3 PPG and Matt Alloco chips in 10.8.

The Bluejays also come in at No. 17 in Net Rankings while Princeton comes in at 111. It seems like a mismatch and it is.

However, Princeton is used to mismatches. They were a 15-point underdog in their first game against Arizona. They won by four. They were a 6.5-point underdog against Missouri. They won that game by 15. It’s familiar territory for the Tigers.

Despite having already beaten a No. 2 seed, Princeton may be facing their toughest challenge yet. The Creighton Bluejays combine athleticism with basketball IQ. They play tough defense and can score at will.

It’s not an impossible task for Princeton, but it will be an uphill battle for sure. Lean toward Creighton.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Creighton M/L (-500)


(3) Xavier at (2)Texas
T-Mobile Center – Kansas City, MO
9:45 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Texas -4.0

The classic 2 vs. 3 match-up in the Sweet 16. No. 2 Texas will take on No. 3 Xavier in the Midwest Region of the bracket. The winner will move on to face the winner of the Houston-Miami game.

Both teams have faced No. 10-seeded teams or lower the entire tournament. Texas started with 15th-seeded Colgate and then beat No. 10 Penn State in the second round. Xavier came back to beat No. 14 Kennesaw State in the first round and then ousted 11th-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round. Now, the two teams with easy schedules thus far will clash.

Xavier has a high-powered offense that averages 81.2 PPG, led by 6-foot-3 guard Souley Boum. Texas’ offense averages 77.8 PPG, led by 6-foot-2 guard Marcus Carr. So, it’ll be a battle of the smaller guards tonight.

Texas’ defense is far better than Xavier’s. The Longhorns allow 67.2 PPG, while Xavier allows 73.8 PPG. Texas comes into the game on a six-game winning streak, which includes two wins over the highly-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Despite it only being a 4.0-point spread, 82% of bettors are placing their moneyline bets on the Longhorns.

To be fair, there have been multiple signs indicating Texas being the better, more refined team. Xavier narrowly avoided an upset in the first round as they dug themselves out of a 13-point hole against Kennesaw State. That cannot happen against a team like Texas, as they’ve led for all 40 second-half minutes they’ve played in the tourney.

The Longhorns are a well-oiled machine thanks in large part to interim head coach Rodney Terry. The Longhorns have responded well under his leadership and they are poised for a long March Madness run.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Texas -4.0 (-110)

Perfect Parlay

Friday’s best packaged deal

  1. Princeton +400 M/L
  2. Princeton-Creighton UNDER 140.5

Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, we just told you Creighton was the better team. But, what if there’s that little voice in your head telling you that perhaps Cinderella isn’t ready to stop dancing? Here’s how to play this one. Put a unit or two on a Creighton M/L win; that will essentially pay or cover some of the loss for a much riskier bet with a big payout. Now, take whatever you’re comfortable with and put it on this flier. If Creighton gets upset, you can sure bet it will be a defensive slugfest – and you’ll be a major beneficiary.   

Hoops Harlen’s Two-Leg Parlay = +854