Big Dance Trio

March 15, 2023

Three bets worth considering when the tournament tips off

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

(9) Auburn Tigers vs. (8) Iowa Hawkeyes
Legacy Arena at BJCC – Birmingham, AL (Midwest)
6:50 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Auburn -1.0

This first round matchup is a contrast of styles. Iowa is an offensive-minded team, while Auburn excels on the other end of the court.

The Hawkeyes rank as a top-five team in the country in terms of offensive efficiency. They average 80.2 points per game, good for 22nd in the nation. Iowa also boasts the eighth-lowest turnover rate in college basketball.

Meanwhile, Auburn is 29th in the country in defensive efficiency. The Tigers give up just 67.1 points per game.

This makes this 8-versus-9 matchup the coin flip game most would expect. Thus, other trends are important.

Currently, Auburn is in a slump. The Tigers are just 3-7 in their last 10 games and have lost three out of their last four.

As a result, lean toward Iowa in this one. The Hawkeyes have been a little more in sync of late.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Iowa M/L (-105)


(10) Penn State Nittany Lions vs. (7) Texas A&M Aggies
Wells Fargo Arena – Des Moines, IA (Midwest)
9:55 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Texas A&M -3.5

There’s a lot to like about Texas A&M in this matchup. In fact, all signs point toward the Aggies to advance.

They’re simply playing great basketball. Entering their first-round matchup with Penn State, the Aggies have won 10 of their last 12 games. That’s the definition of peaking at the right time.

The Aggies have done it by playing smothering defense. They’ve allowing just 65.7 points per game this season, while limiting opponents to 40.5% shooting from the field. They swarm, from tipoff to the final horn.

Texas A&M is led by its dynamic backcourt. Wade Taylor and Tierce Radford are as good as any combo in the country. Taylor leads the Aggies in scoring at 16.5 points per game, with Radford right behind him at 13.2.

This is the first tournament appearance for Buzz Williams with the Aggies. But the head coach has reached the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in previous stops. So, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for their leader.

Roll with the Aggies in this one.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Texas A&M -3.5 (-110)


(12) Oral Roberts Golden Eagles vs. (5) Duke Blue Devils
Amway Center – Orlando, FL (East)
7:10 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Duke -6.0

Everyone is back on the Duke bandwagon after the Blue Devils won the ACC tournament. Now, they’re dancing once again, this time without Coach K.

They’re a blue-blood program, facing a team that most people haven’t heard of prior to tipoff. But Oral Roberts is legit.

The Golden Eagles have won 17 straight games entering the tournament. They’re 30-4 overall. And they average 84.2 points per game, the fourth-most in the country.

They’re going to be a handful for the Blue Devils. This has all the makings of a classic first-round upset.

In 32 of the last 37 NCAA Tournaments, at least one No. 12 seed has upset a No. 5. This could be the latest addition to that March tradition.

Duke is just 15-19 against the spread (ATS) this season. The Blue Devils are also just 6-12 ATS when favored by at least 6.5 points. This game opened above that number.

Can Oral Roberts pull the upset? That’s not a bad way to go if looking for value. But taking the Golden Eagles and the points is the smarter play.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Oral Roberts +6.0 (-110)

Perfect Parlay

Thursday’s best packaged deal

Virginia M/L -240Boise State M/L +110

Virginia is a steady favorite. Look for the Cavaliers to get the job done against Furman. The public is on Northwestern, so fade and take the slight dog; Boise State does a good job of protecting the ball, while Northwestern struggles to find a flow on offense at times.

Hoops Harlen’s Two-Leg Parlay = +198

Around the Nation

Things we’ve learned this week

The Madness Has Already Begun – Here’s hoping the entire tournament lives up to the first two play-in games. First, Texas A&M Corpus Christi advanced past SE Missouri State in a 75-71 thriller. Then, Pitt hung on to beat Mississippi State by a 60-59 count in a game that came down to the final shot. Big moments. Clutch plays. Key possessions. These two games already had it all.

Money Matters – When the Walton Penner Family Ownership Group purchased the Broncos, there were some snickers about Walmart being in charge of an NFL team. The legal tampering period has quieted those naysayers, however, as Denver has been the most-aggressive team in free agency. The Broncos have been spending big, trying to surround Russell Wilson with talent and giving Sean Payton plenty to work with in year one.