Putting the mad in March Madness with an upset Hail Mary: Best Bets for March 18

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Duke players celebrate during a first-round college basketball game against Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

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 Saturday, March 18:

TOP PLAY

The play: NCAA Tournament, Duke -3 over Tennessee

The odds: -106

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 2:40 p.m. (CBS)

Our take: First-year head coach Jon Scheyer had no trouble navigating his first NCAA Tournament game as the frontman at Duke. The Blue Devils demolished Oral Roberts — who many (myself included) said would be a tough out — from start to finish.

Duke is one of the hottest teams in the country right now after setting the Atlantic Coast Conference ablaze en route to tournament triumph. The momentum trail stayed on the tracks in the 74-51 win over the Golden Eagles.

Meanwhile, Tennessee was barely able to get by UL. You simply cannot trust Rick Barnes and the Volunteers in March. It’s a mystery how the Blue Devils are only three-point favorites. I won’t be asking any questions, though, I’ll take the small spread all the way to the bank. I won’t be alone either, as Zach Ewing is also on record stating he’d wager a large amount of money on Duke -3, as well.

The Blue Devils to cover is today’s best bet.

AN UPSET BID COURTESY OF AUBURN

The play: NCAA Men’s Tournament, Auburn money line over Houston

The odds: +198

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 7:10 p.m. (TBS)

Our take: Houston is one of the best teams in the country when at full strength. Unfortunately for the Cougars’ head coach, Kelvin Sampson, his team is banged up right now. 1-seed Houston survived a historic upset bid from a No. 16 seed in Northern Kentucky in the first round, but it cannot bring that same energy in its next matchup.

The Cougars drew the short end of the stick for their Round of 32 contest. Houston will be playing the 9-seed Auburn Tigers in Birmingham, Alabama.

This is a home game for Bruce Pearl’s team for all intents and purposes. Auburn has had a down year all things considered. Nevertheless, the Tigers were excellent at home (14-2). There is simply too much value at +196 to pass up the opportunity for an upset. Houston isn’t healthy and Auburn is a team nobody wants to face when the Tigers get hot.

Consider this a warning: the Cougars are officially on upset watch.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Friday’s best bets

NCAA Tournament: Indiana ML over Kent State (WON)

NCAA Tournament: Gonzaga -15.5 over Grand Canyon (LOST)

Friday’s record: 1-1

Total for the week: 5-4, 1 pending

Total for March: 19-15, 1 pending

Total for 2023: 51-55, 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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