Kornegay’s Korner: Rolling with the Tide?

March 22, 2023


“I would be comfortable in putting Alabama in the Final Four at this point.”

Of all the teams left, amidst all the chaos, SuperBook Sports Chief Oddsmaker Jay Kornegay is just fine rollin’ with the Tide. It is March, however, and the chaos that comes along with the release of the bracket (that madness seems to be going deeper into the tournament than ever before) always allows room for a “but…

But…with the way the tournament has unfolded,” Kornegay warns, “you never know.”

And he knows you know. No bracket, even heading into the second weekend, is safe.

“Alabama (+325) and Houston (+400) are the clear favorites at this time,” he says. “Alabama has the easier road with Arizona, Purdue, and Marquette being knocked out. Alabama’s South Region only has San Diego St, Creighton and Princeton left.

“Houston still has Texas to go through to get to the Final Four, and UCLA is looming out of the West.”

It’s been anything but typical this year for the folks setting the odds. The Blue Bloods are gone.  There have only been two NCAA tournaments – ever – in which Duke, UNC, Kansas or Kentucky failed to reach the Sweet Sixteen (this year and in 2021). The Jayhawks were set to play in Las Vegas but failed to advance into what will be city’s first NCAA Regional. The Strip will not be turned into “Lawrence West” as is typically the case when what Kornegay considers some of college basketball’s best fans venture a few states over.

“Fans of the Blue Blood programs all travel very well and it will show up at the betting side,” he says,  “but fans and bettors will quickly latch on other teams.”

There are plenty of new faces to choose from, too. In fact, there are plenty of unlikely candidates still alive.

“I see a few Cinderella-types competing in the Sweet 16, but beyond that, it will be very tough for them to advance,” Kornegay says. “Princeton could get to the Elite Eight but then it’s Alabama. Miami and Arkansas both will relish the underdog roles and have a chance to represent in the Final Four. They’re both very capable and I wouldn’t put it past them based on what we’ve seen so far.” 

At this stage of the tournament, it’s time to get smart. Kornegay gets less behind hype and puts his faith in the fundamentals.

“I prefer senior, experienced teams,” he says. “Double digit seeds with experience are very dangerous in this format. I also prefer teams that can play defense especially during crunch time. A senior laden team that plays defense, that’s me.”

His theory will be put to the test again this weekend.

Thursday Night Trio

Three bets worth considering when the Sweet 16 tips off

(9) Florida Atlantic vs. (4) Tennessee
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
9:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Tennessee -5.5

Something has to give. These two teams contrasting styles will collide at the Garden.

Florida Atlantic scores more than 40 percent of their points from beyond the three-point arc. Meanwhile, Tennessee is the best team in the country when it comes to three-point defense. That makes for a fascinating matchup.

The Volunteers aren’t a particularly good offensive team. They averaged just 61.5 points per game, which ranked seventh in the SEC. So, they’ll have to defend well to stay with the upstart Owls. 

Tennessee is just 1-4 against the spread (ATS) in their last five games following an ATS win. They beat Duke by 13 points to advance.

FAU is 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 games against a team with a winning percentage above .600. The Vols are 25-10.

Good offense beats good defense in college basketball right now and FAU is not afraid of playing against the big boys. Catch the points with a team that can shoot.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Florida Atlantic -5.5 (-110)


(9) Florida Atlantic vs. (4) Tennessee
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
9:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Over/under 130.5

Sticking with the FAU-Tennessee matchup in New York, another opportunity looms. A quick glance at each team’s recent scores suggests why.

The under is 4-1 in Florida Atlantic’s last five games. It’s 5-1 in Tennessee’s last six outings at a neutral site. That combined 9-2 record is tough to ignore.

The Volunteers can defend the three-point shot, which is the Owls primary mode of scoring. While FAU will find enough success to cover the line, they won’t quite be themselves. That means the game will likely be lower scoring than most expect.

Florida Atlantic plays at a relatively neutral tempo, while Tennessee tends to play very slow. The Vols like to milk the clock in the half court, which should limit overall possessions in this game.

This one won’t be pretty. Take advantage of that fact.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Under 130.5 (-110)


(7) Michigan State vs. (3) Kansas State
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
6:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Michigan State -2.0

Tom Izzo gets a lot of respect in March. And for good reason. The Michigan State head coach seems to always have his team ready to play come tournament time, no matter what seed they are heading into the madness.

This year is no exception. The Spartans entered last weekend as a 19-win team. Yet here they are in the Sweet 16, favorites over a No. 3 seed. That’s the Izzo effect.

There are a number of reasons to go the other way, however.

Kansas State is 5-1 at neutral sites this season. Michigan State is just 5-4. 

The Spartans are 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a straight-up win. Kansas State 4-1 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win; they beat Kentucky by six.

A lot of people are buying the Izzo hype, and rightfully so. He is the only coach remaining in the tournament that has won a national championship. 

Kansas State is hot right now, however. Take the points and fade the Izzo hype.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Kansas State +2.0 (-110)

Perfect Parlay

Thursday’s best packaged deal

  1. Florida Atlantic +5.5 (-110)
  2. Florida Atlantic / Tennessee under 130.5 (-110)

For all of the reasons outlined above, this combo makes all the sense in the world. While two legs from one game can sometimes derail in a hurry, that rule doesn’t apply when everything is dialed in like it is on this one.

Hoops Harlen’s Two-Leg Parlay = +260