March 31, 2023
Pairing the Final Four matchups
1. San Diego State -2.5
2. UConn -5.5
Florida Atlantic is trying to become the lowest-seeded team to win the NCAA Tournament, as the No. 9 Owls would supplant the eighth-seeded Villanova team that captured the title in 1985. But their dream will end two steps short of cutting down the nets, as they simply don’t have the talent to hang with a San Diego State team that is playing great basketball at the moment. The Aztecs will win handily on Saturday night.
UConn has been the best team in the tournament. By a mile. In their four wins thus far, the Huskies have simply been dominant. They’ve won by 22, 15, 23 and 28 points. Their dismantling of Gonzaga in the Elite Eight was an eye-opening performance. They’re too good on both ends of the floor for Miami. Both teams average just under 80 points per game, but UConn is far superior defensively. They’ll easily cover the number.
Hoops Harlen’s Two-Leg Parlay = +260
Friday Night Trio
Three bets worth considering when the weekend kicks off
Chicago Bulls at Charlotte Hornets
Spectrum Center – Charlotte, NC
7:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Chicago -6.5
The Hornets are officially out of playoff contention, but the Bulls are still alive and are desperately trying to hold onto the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference. Chicago started the season incredibly strong, but they have faded, falling all the way down to the point where they may not even make the NBA’s play-in tournament.
The Bulls are currently 2.0 games up on the Wizards with six games left to play. They are likely in with a couple wins, but anything can happen. Luckily for Chicago, they get an easier matchup when they face Charlotte.
They are 6.5-point favorites. It would typically be more, considering the Hornets are 14th in the East and one of the NBA’s worst teams. But Charlotte has won three in a row, including two straight wins over Dallas. The Hornets put the Mavericks in a world of hurt and they are looking to do the same thing to the Bulls.
Charlotte has played the Chicago three times this season and have been victorious in just one of those matchups. The win, however, was on their own court. Now, the Hornets will play the Bulls at home again and will be looking to replicate the last home game against Chicago in which they won by 15 points.
LaMelo Ball was active for that one, though. Due to his season-ending ankle injury, he will not be active on Friday night.
For that reason and the Bulls having everything to play for, take Chicago to win.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Chicago M/L (-260)
(2) Iowa vs. (1) South Carolina
American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX
9:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: South Carolina -12.0
While the women’s tournament might not get as much attention as the men’s tourney, this showdown is generating a lot of hype. And for good reason.
South Carolina, this decade’s version of UConn, will square off against Caitlin Clark and Iowa in this semifinal showdown. It’s a great team versus a great player.
Clark is arguably one of the best women’s players to ever play in the NCAA. She averages 27.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. Against Louisville in the Elite Eight, she had 41, 10 and 12, becoming the first NCAA D1 player ever to record a 40-point triple double during March Madness. Yes, that includes the Men’s tournament, as well.
She also shoots 47% from the field and has led Iowa to a 30-6 record. However, the Hawkeyes will be facing their toughest test yet, as they play the No. 1 overall seed.
The Gamecocks haven’t lost a game so far this year. Yes, you read that right. They are 36-0 and win by an average of 20.2 points. They are 12.0-point favorites against Iowa. That’s a crazy number for a Final Four game.
South Carolina is led by Zia Cooke and Aliyah Boston. Cooke is one of the top guards in the NCAA, as she leads South Carolina in scoring with 15.1 PPG. However, Boston is the one to watch.
She is the likely No. 1 overall pick for this year’s WNBA Draft. She doesn’t average as many points as Clark, with only 13.2, but she is a 6-foot-5 forward who grabs nearly 10 boards and shoots over 56% from the floor. The matchup between her and Clark will be a fun one to watch.
It’s hard to bet against a team that has won 36 out of 36 games, but upsets do happen. Clark has proven just about everything she can except for one thing. Can she carry her team to a win on the biggest stage?
If she can defeat Boston’s perfect South Carolina team, it would be a huge story. Iowa may not pull the upset, but they’ll keep it close. Take the points.
Hoops Harlen’s pick: Iowa +12.0 (-110)
Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets
Toyota Center – Houston, TX
8:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Houston -4.5
When a team with 18 wins through 77 games is favored, that’s a blatant sign that the squad on the other side is filled with G-league talent, a franchise whose only hope resides in getting the No. 1 overall pick. It may seem harsh, but what positive outlook can there possibly be for the Pistons.
What. A. Joke. But they have Cade Cunningham, right? The former No. 1 overall pick? Well, they did. Cunningham hasn’t played since Nov. 9 due to a shin injury that he had season ending surgery on. The injury not only ended his season, but effectively ended the Pistons’ season, as well. Since Cunningham went down, the Pistons are 10-55.
Detroit has some other pieces too. They acquired Bojan Bogdanovic from the Jazz and drafted Jaden Ivey from Purdue. Bogdanovic averages 21.6 PPG and Ivey pours in 15.8. If awarded the No. 1 pick, which would likely be French standout Victor Wembanyama, the Pistons could be playoff contenders in the near future considering how young their team is.
But right now, they are the worst team in the league and are nearly a 5.0-point underdog to the second-worst team in the NBA. There literally can’t be a worse matchup.
These two teams have been eliminated from the playoffs since 2022 and are playing for pretty much nothing now. Aside from the fact that the Pistons are looking to even the series with the Rockets 1-1, there isn’t much of a desire to win.
The game will be played at the Rockets home arena, a place that sees the third-lowest attendance in the league with an average of 16,260 fans showing up per game. Although maybe more will attend this time considering the home team might actually win.
The Rockets, as bad as they are, haven’t gone as low as the Pistons and for that reason, they will get the win on Friday night. In fact, it might even be a blowout because that’s just how bad the Pistons are.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Houston -4.5 (-110)