SEC vs. Sun Belt in opening round of NCAA tourney: Best Bets for Thursday (March 16)

Tennessee forward Olivier Nkamhoua (13) keeps the ball away from Mississippi State guard Cameron Matthews (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Tennessee won 70-59. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Thursday, March 16:


The play: NCAA Tournament, Tennessee -10.5 over UL

The odds: -120

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 9:40 p.m. CBS

Our take: This is -11.5 at some books, which means we’re getting value (although some of you homers might not have it in you to make the bet, and we get that). But this is not a good matchup for the Cajuns, who are going against one of the better defenses in the SEC.

Meanwhile, although the Vols haven’t played all that well since the loss of their star guard Zakai Zeigler to a torn ACL, look for them to play with a chip on their shoulder as long as they’re in this tournament. Keep telling them they’re no good without him, and they’ll keep proving you wrong.

We know how Zach Ewing loves to fade Rick Barnes in the tournament, but we’ll save that for later when they have a chance to get to the Elite Eight or Final Four. For now, we’ll have at least one good weekend making money off a team that could have been a top-two seed before the injury.


The play: NCAA Tournament, UCLA -17.5 over UNC Asheville

The odds: -110

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 10:05 p.m. truTV

Our take: There are plenty of close games in the first round of the tournament, but this won’t be one of them. The Bruins have had injury issues leading up to the big dance, but they have only lost ONE game against the spread the past month. In other words, they’re ready to make another run.

It starts with a big win against a team that is playing way out of their league, including a 76-70 loss to SC Upstate on Feb. 4 and a two-point loss at Winthrop earlier this season.


Wednesday’s best bets

PGA, Valspar Open: Sam Burns to finish in the top 20 (PENDING)

NCAA Tournament: Arizona State -2 over Nevada (WON)

Wednesday’s record: 1-0, 1 pending

Total for the week: 3-2, 1 pending

Total for March: 17-13, 1 pending

Total for 2023: 49-53, 1 pending

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).


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