St. Patrick’s Day Pair

March 17, 2023

Two bets worth considering when the tournament rolls on

© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

(12) VCU at (5) Saint Mary’s
MVP Arena – Albany, NY
2:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Saint Mary’s -4.5

VCU will face Saint Mary’s in an interesting 12 vs. 5 match-up. VCU comes into the game as only a 4.0-point underdog, which is on the low end when it comes to 5-12 matchups.

But there’s a good reason for it. Not only does VCU have a chance to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2016, something the Rams were unable to do in 2021 because of COVID, but they are also on a nine-game win streak. The Rams were able to win the Atlantic 10 conference championship by defeating Dayton 68-56 on March 12.

They now face their toughest opponent yet in Saint Mary’s. But how tough is it?

Saint Mary’s may be the highest-ranked team VCU has played all season long, but the Gaels are coming off of an absolute blowout loss to Gonzaga in the West Coast tournament. Gonzaga defeated Saint Mary’s 77-51. It was a disappointing result for the Gaels, as they had an opportunity to earn as high as a No. 3 seed with a conference championship. Instead, it was Gonzaga who was awarded the No. 3 seed, while Saint Mary’s was handed the No. 5. It may end up proving costly, as they face a VCU team who is playing great basketball.

As far as statistics go, the teams are fairly even. Saint Mary’s averages 71.4 points per game and gives up just 60.1. VCU also averages 71.4, but gives up a slightly more at 62.9. Each team also shoots around 46% from the field. Saint Mary’s shoots 37% from three-point range, while VCU shoots just 34%.

So, while it may be slight, it seems like Saint Mary’s has the edge. The public seems to think so, as well, with 70% on the Gaels.

Even though crazier things have happened, it is probably best to play it safe on this one. Take Saint Mary’s to win.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Saint Mary’s M/L (-200)


(9) FAU at (8) Memphis
Nationwide Arena – Columbus, OH
9:20 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Memphis -2.0

What. A. Story. Florida Atlantic has a chance to win its first NCAA Tournament game ever when the Owls face No. 8 seeded Memphis on Friday night. The Owls came into the tournament as a well-deserving ninth seed, as they went 31-3 (their most wins in school history) and won the Conference USA tournament by 22 points.

Their Cinderella story will now be put in jeopardy against the Tigers. However, it is very much a possibility for FAU to come away with a win.

They are just a 2.0-point underdog and certainly have the firepower to do pull off the upset. The Owls average 78.8 points per game and give up just 65.0. Their points largely come from star players Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin who are averaging 13.5 and 13.2, respectively.

On the other end of things are the Tigers, who average an even better 79.8 PPG, which ranks 22nd among all NCAA teams. However, their defense isn’t quite as stout as FAU’s, as they give up nearly 72.0 PPG.

Memphis also has more stars on their team, as Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams are their top scorers. Davis averages 22.1 PPG and Williams averages 17.8. The Tigers also shoot a more efficient field goal and free throw than the Owls.

Florida Atlantic, however, outrebounds Memphis and commits less turnovers per game. All in all, it is an extremely fair matchup between two teams who are playing their best basketball at the moment.

The only thing that stands out is who Memphis beat in the American Athletic Conference tournament. The Tigers were able to knock off top-ranked Houston, winning 75-65. The Cougars top scorer, Marcus Sasser, may have been out, but it is still an impressive win nonetheless and one that has certainly turned heads. Some are even saying that Memphis can beat Purdue in the second round.

So, it’s the Cinderella story of the FAU Owls versus the up-and-coming Memphis Tigers. Sadly, the Cinderella story will come to an end for the Owls. Memphis is just playing far too well and they have the firepower to win this one.

Hoops Harlen’s pick: Memphis M/L (-135)

Perfect Parlay

Friday’s best packaged deal

  1. Baylor -10.5
  2. Miami -2.0
  3. Vermont +10.5

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Odd things happen. So put together three teams that will be decked out in green on Friday and see what kind of magic and luck can be generated.

Hoops Harlen’s Three-Leg Parlay = +600

Around the Tourney

Things learned on day one

The Top Seeds are in a Different Class – While there were high seeds that struggled, the three No. 1 seeds in action largely rolled through the first round. Kansas dispatched of Howard, winning 96-68. Alabama made light work of Texas A&M-CC, besting the Islanders 96-75. And Houston beat Northern Kentucky, pulling away for a 63-52 record. Purdue is a 23.5-point favorite today against Farleigh Dickinson, so they’ll add to the list. The top seeds are going to be tough to knock off.

Chasing the 5-12 Game is Dangerous – Everyone who has ever filled out a bracket knows the trick. Seemingly every year, a No. 12 seed upsets a No. 5 in the first round. The trick, of course, if figuring out which one. Yesterday, those chasing this pick were sorely disappointed, as both No. 12 teams lost. Charleston gave San Diego State a scare, but fell 63-57. Meanwhile Oral Roberts got run out of the gym by Duke, losing 74-51. It’s better to take all of the No. 5 teams and go at least 3-1 in those games. Saint Mary’s and Miami can prove that today.