By Justin Mark, SGPN Football Handicapper
Justin Mark of the Sports Gambling Podcast Network finished the regular season ranked seventh in college basketball picks against the spread and seventh on the moneyline for the 2022-2023 season per Tallysight. He also finished third against the spread and fourth overall during the conference tournament picks per Tallysight.
Now, the big dance is here. Let’s dive into some of the local teams as well as others of interest to see if we can pick some winners. Don’t forget, you can find all of Sports Gambling Podcast Network’s college basketball picks here.
Make sure to get in on the action for all these games and tournament futures at WynnBet!
Penn State (+3) vs. Texas A&M
Thursday, March 16, at 9:55 PM ET
Penn State kicked, scratched, and clawed its way through the Big Ten tournament. Even though they fell short of winning the championship, I feel this team proved a lot about who they are: the overlooked, the underdogs, also known as the Nittany Lions. This team has been the underdog in six of their last eight games. They only lost two of those games, one against Rutgers on Feb. 26th and then the championship matchup against Purdue.
Ironically, they covered the spread in all six of those games. In fact, the last time the Nittany Lions didn’t cover an underdog spread was February 1st against Purdue. This team has improved over the past month and a half and has proven that they shouldn’t be taken lightly. They enter as a three-point dog against the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies also looked impressive in the past few weeks until they ran into the buzzsaw that is Alabama.
Unfortunately, a lot of the stats favor Texas A&M. They average more rebounds, steals and blocks per game, and have a better free throw percentage. They also have three different guards who can put up double-digit points. That said, I can’t help but be drawn to the swagger this Penn State team has shown through the conference tournament and I can’t fade them as underdogs. They can outshoot the Aggies in three-pointers, which is exactly what Alabama did to beat the Aggies so badly. Give me Penn State +3 and sprinkle a little on the moneyline.
UCONN (-9) vs. Iona
Friday, March 17, at 4:30 PM ET
UConn will have a little easier path than Penn State and that starts against Iona. Iona may have a better record (27-7) than the Huskies (25-8), but they play a significantly easier schedule in a much smaller conference.
Iona has averaged 76.6 points per game against easier competition than the Huskies who average 79 points per game. In games favored by nine points or more, UConn has only covered two of six.. This will also be the first time all season that Iona is an underdog. They’ve been favored in every game this year, including nine by 10 or more points. The Gaels haven’t faced a team of this caliber this year.
The last time these two teams played was in 2019. While the lineups are much different now, the caliber of the teams is about the same. The Huskies won that game by 18 and I expect this outcome to be similar. Give me UConn -9.
Princeton vs. Arizona (-14.5)
Thursday, March 16, at 4:10 PM ET
Princeton upset Yale in the Ivy League conference tournament to find their way into the “Big Dance”. Unfortunately for them, that got them a date with Arizona on Thursday. While Princeton had a good year, much like Iona, their schedule compared to Arizona’s is much different.
Interestingly enough this will be the first matchup between these two teams. Last year we did see 15 seed St. Peter’s upset the No. 2 seed, but it was only the 10th time in NCAA history that that happened. 75% of the 15. Vs. 2 seed games are settled by double digits.
None of this gives me a lot of hope for the Ivy League upset, and I think Arizona will prove to be too big and too strong, out-rebounding and out-shooting Princeton. –14.5 points is a lot, but I think I have to ride with Arizona on this one.
Other Games To Keep An Eye On
Providence (+4) vs. Kentucky
Providence finds themselves as underdogs to Kentucky on Friday at 7:10 PM. The culture that Providence has built over the past couple of years has been great to see and they’re no longer an underdog to big programs like Kentucky. They find a way to keep it close, Providence +4.
Xavier (-12.5) vs. Kennesaw State
We’ll see a theme of some of these teams facing off against an easy opponent in the first round. That’s true for Xavier as they face Kennesaw State on Friday, March 17, at 12:40 PM ET. Xavier is an excellent shooting team and should prove much too fast for Kennesaw State. Xavier covers -12.5.
Creighton (-5) vs. N.C. State
Creighton meets N.C. State on Friday at 4:00 PM. Creighton is no stranger to the tournament and should be able to beat the Wolfpack. They’ll win by almost double digits, so take them at -5.
Marquette (-11) vs. Vermont
Marquette gets what should be a cakewalk against a Vermont team on Friday at 2:45 PM. Both of these teams were phenomenal at home but struggled a little on the road. Marquette will come away with the win, but Vermont puts up more of a fight than expected. Vermont +11 is what my gut tells me.
Pitt (+4) vs. Iowa State
Pittsburgh faces an up-and-down Iowa State team. While Pitt has the better record, Iowa State is favored. The Clones were only 3-7 against the spread on the road, while Pitt was 10-2. This will be on the road and with all the emotions, Pitt pulls off the upset. Give me Pitt +4 on Friday at 3:10 PM.
VCU (+4) vs. St. Mary’s
Two smaller schools that have built winning programs, VCU really picked it up towards the end of the year. They are one of the best shooting teams in the tournament and could make some noise. They face St. Mary’s on Friday at 2:00 PM when they will pull off the upset and cover the spread. Take VCU +4.
Memphis (-2) vs. Florida Atlantic
Memphis falls right in the eighth seed to face the ninth seed Florida Atlantic Owls. Florida Atlantic had a really good year, finishing 31-3 on the season. While their only three losses came on the road, they will be focused. Memphis had a good run, but I like the Owls to win this one and cover +2.
Houston (-19.5) vs. Northern Kentucky
At one time I thought Houston might get the number one seed overall in the tournament. They fell to a two-seed and face off against Northern Kentucky. Houston cruises on this one, despite such a large spread. Houston -19.5 is the play on Thursday at 9:20 PM ET.
Justin Mark is co-host of SGPN Fantasy Football’s show “Old-Fashioned Football”, and co-host of a show on the NFL Gambling Podcast, as well as co-host of the XFL Gambling Podcast. He’s also a writer for the Sports Gambling Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JMarkFootball and The Sports Gambling Podcast @GamblingPodcast.
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire. Penn State Head Coach Micah Shrewsberry patrols the sideline.