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Nate’s Best Bets for Friday Afternoon – March 22, 2024

Nate’s Best Bets for Friday Afternoon – March 22, 2024

NATE’S BEST BETS FOR FRIDAY AFTERNOON – MARCH 22, 2024 – We are onto the second day of the NCAA tournament and things have not been going well. As a gambler, all I did was repeatedly hemorrhage money on losers. As a fan, watching Nevada blow a 17-pt. lead in seven minutes to Dayton was about as terrible as it gets. On a personal — and possibly related — level, I’m hungover.

Anyways, here’s what I like for some Friday afternoon gambling excitement.

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West Region

#11 New Mexico vs. #6 Clemson (3:10 pm EST)

Odds: UNM -2; o/u 151.5

I’m already over-invested in the Lobos due to some reckless and, perhaps, overly optimistic futures bets made a couple of months ago. With triple digit odds on both natty and Final Four outcomes, I’m the biggest Lobos fan at Godzilla Wins.

When I made those bets, they almost instantly went on a run where I looked very stupid and they looked like a very bad. Fast forward to today and New Mexico is popping up on some “expert” brackets as a potential dark horse to run the table in the West region. I’m growing increasingly optimistic.

As for handicapping this game, I can see this team clearly enough to know when they’ve got a good matchup, and this is a good matchup. These 6-seed vs. 11-seed matchup have already yielded upsets with Duquesne and Oregon winning yesterday. I suspect the trend continues today.

Clemson will have their hands full trying to contain the slashing trio of guards that New Mexico will throw at them with House, Dent and Mashburn, Jr. The defense has recently shown some life as nobody could crack 66 points against them in four games of the Mountain West tournament.

A lot has been written about potential size advantages down low for Clemson, but New Mexico plays big. The Lobos are a balanced team that nobody wants to face. Their run starts today.

Nate’s Pick: New Mexico -2

East Region

#13 Yale vs. #4 Auburn (4:15 pm EST)

Odds: Auburn -13.5; o/u 140

Time to get weird. We’ve already seen what continuity and familiarity can do for teams once the tournament rolls around. Oakland was the perfect example of that as they hung with Kentucky the whole way before prevailing at the end. Likewise, we saw Samford mount a furious comeback that was only halted by a controversial foul at the end which kept them just short of pulling off the upset.

Yale feels like a team that could do that. Four players have been the roster for three seasons, and while Yale doesn’t shake out as a classic giant killer, I think they can do enough to hang.

The narrative around this is that Auburn is woefully under seeded according to advanced metrics. They rank 4th in KenPom with offensive and defensive efficiency rating in the top-10. Auburn is balanced and nasty with a plethora of one-and-done and transfer portal players.

I suspect that Yale will try to slow this game down to a halt and rely on their best player Danny Wolf in the post. Wolf will be matched by one of the best big men in the country in Johni Broome. Their plan has to be to limit the possessions and to try and work through Wolf to get Broome in foul trouble. If they can — and I think they might — ugly this up a little and neutralize the size advantage of the Tigers, we could be looking at another shocking SEC upset.

Nate’s Picks: Yale +13.5 and Under 140. Throw a sprinkle on Yale +650 ML if you’re feeling the madness like me. 

South Region

#10 Colorado vs. #7 Florida (7:30 pm EST)

Odds: Colorado -1; o/u 157.4

This Buffs team is flat out dangerous. With a top-30 offense in terms of efficiency and a top-10 3-point percentage, they are built to take down higher seeds. They can struggle with turnovers, but that only matters against teams who can force them. Florida should struggle to contain the offensive attack of Colorado.

Colorado also ranks in the top-35 in defensive efficiency. What I’m saying is, they’re balanced. And they are excellent from the free throw line, should the game come down to the wire.

The easiest way to beat Colorado is to force turnovers, but Florida is dreadful at pressuring opponents into mistakes. The Gators rely on a lethal offense, and hope they can manage enough on the other end of the floor. I worry quite about about Florida if this game becomes a free throw contest because they rank 226th nationally in free throw shooting.

Colorado has all the makings of a team that could make a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight run. They should handle Florida in another SEC upset.

Nate’s Pick: Colorado -1

#12 James Madison vs. #5 Wisconsin (9:40 pm EST)

Odds: Wisconsin -5.5; o/u 145.5

The theme for this column is take some shots on the ‘dogs today. The whole entire world is banging the drum for JMU to be the classic 12-over-5 upset. And I’m drinking the Kool-aid.

The Dukes are not going to be scared of Wisconsin. Remember, JMU has already beaten Michigan State this season.

Wisconsin has always been known for playing a slower paced game, and this year is not different with a tempo rating of 308th. Tempo could be an issue for the Badgers to pull away in this game.

Ultimately, this comes down to matchups and vibes. I think JMU is scary deep and experienced, and I worry about Wisconsin’s horrible 3-point defense. JMU can roll a lot of shooters out there to put the pressure on Wisconsin.

If the Badgers get down early, they’ll have a hard time coming back against a JMU team that excels defending the perimeter.

I smell another upset.

Nate’s Pick: James Madison +5.5 (and a dash of JMU ML at +185)


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