Alabama, Houston in Sweet 16 — we’ll fade one, back the other: Best Bets for March 24

San Diego State forward Keshad Johnson (0) celebrates after their win against Furman in a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

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 Friday, March 24:


The play: NCAA tournament, San Diego State +7½ over Alabama

The odds: -120

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. (CBS)

Our take: The Crimson Tide has been the national title favorite since the tournament began, and nothing about their first two performances, easy wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland, have done anything to dissuade that notion. It also helps that the other Nos. 1 and 2 seeds on their half of the draw — Purdue, Arizona and Marquette — have been eliminated.

But we’re not talking about the national title here. We’re talking about Alabama beating San Diego State by at least eight points. That’s going to be tough. The Aztecs are a terrific defensive team in the half-court and will make the Tide work for everything it gets.

There’s also the matter of tempo. SDSU plays at the No. 263 tempo in the country, while Bama is No. 5, according to KenPom as measured by number of possessions per game. Look at the few games in which Alabama has struggled this season: losses to UConn (No. 211 in tempo), Oklahoma (No. 285), Tennessee (No. 288) and Texas A&M (No. 245); and even closer-than-expected wins over South Alabama (No. 270), Mississippi State (No. 336) and South Carolina (No. 323).

Low-scoring games are harder to win by eight-plus points anyway, and if Bama has a style it prefers not to play, this is it.


The play: NCAA tournament: Houston -7½ over Miami

The odds: -110

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. (TBS)

Our take: With the tournament’s other remaining No. 1 seed, this feels like an opportunity to lay the points. The Cougars weren’t impressive in their opening weekend, needing to rally past Auburn in the second round in a game that could have been even closer if the Tigers had hit more free throws.

So one can imagine Houston coach Kelvin Sampson putting his team through the wringer in practice this week and ratcheting up what is already one of the nation’s top defenses. On the other side, you have Miami, which is the second-lowest remaining team in KenPom’s efficiency rankings in the tournament (only Princeton is lower). The Hurricanes played well last weekend, and coach Jim Larranaga has a history of tournament success, but this feels like a team that should be satisfied with its run to the Sweet 16 but is out-classed at this point.


Thursday’s best bets

NCAA money line parlay: UConn/Tennessee (LOST)

NCAA total: UCLA-Gonzaga over 146 points (WON)

Thursday’s record: 1-1

Total for the week: 5-3

Total for March: 25-22

Total for 2023: 57-62

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, a $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).


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