Tiny Nick Game Pick: 3/26

Locks

NCAA Basketball Classic (0.5 unit) Portland/Southern Utah Over 154.5 (-110): 5:00 p.m. CT on ESPN+

The Elite 8 may be underway, but I can’t discount the possibility of another shootout involving this Portland team. After putting it all together in mid-February, the Drivers clinched a 7-1 record over the top. When Portland takes on fast-paced teams like Southern Utah, which is 53rd in possessions per game, the score skyrockets. After exploding for 94 points against New Orleans last week, the Pilots are now 9-2 on that total against fast-paced and/or defensively challenged opponents.

Southern Utah won’t be caught up in trying much defensively, as the Thunderbirds are only 251st in adjusted defensive efficiency. But they can fill it with a great guard game and an offense that’s 51st in field goal rate. It shows in this Basketball Classic tournament, averaging 82.5 PPG against a few opponents known for their good defense. I’m expecting it to be extremely quick with some great shots from both teams, and that should replace cashing in here.

NCAA Tournament (0.25 unit) Villanova +2 vs. Houston (-110): 5:10 p.m. CT on TBS

If I don’t support Villanova here at all, I can’t live with myself. I picked them in my parenthesis contest, on my podcast, and on the Cy Amundson Show, so I better put my money where my mouth is. It’s a bit scary because of Houston’s quality at beating Illinois and Arizona, dominating on the inside against bigger teams. But Villanova is a very similar team to the Cougars, as both are extremely disciplined, well-drilled teams who won’t fight each other. In a game like this I’m usually looking to grab points in what should be a tight game.

Nova will need to continue to make timely three-pointers in this one, as well as stay clear of the charity strip. Those are the two areas where the Wildcats hold a significant advantage over Houston, as well as the intangible of veteran Collin Gillespie leadership. Be sure to watch Gillespie’s health as his surgically repaired knee was rolled up against Michigan, but with him ready to go, I like holding 2 insurance points with what has become my team.

NCAA Tournament (0.5 units) Arkansas/Duke Over 147 (-110): 7:45 p.m. CT on TBS

I just can’t watch this game and see anything but a high score affair. I said in the first round that Arkansas’ pace would speed up an extremely effective Vermont offense, leading to a lot of points. Well, Duke is much more dangerous on the offensive side, possessing the 2nd highest adjusted offensive efficiency rating. Once they found the lineup Thursday against an elite Texas Tech defense, they couldn’t miss, finishing the game with 8 straight goals.

Arkansas was more than willing to step up the pace against Gonzaga. They fell short of the total due to a seriously ineffective attack as their leading scorer JD Notae went 9 for 29 from the floor. But if they create a similar possession game against the Blue Devils, that total is very accessible. Duke’s defense didn’t show up until late in games, so I expect it to be a back-and-forth affair for most of the night. And with a Final Four spot on the line, there could be plenty of desperation fouls and free throws to push that over the total.

degenerate

No degenerate today.

Tiny Nick is 661-532 ATS (+81.9 units) on his locks since joining Zone Coverage.

Each day it will offer its Locks and Degenerate choices. The locks are the games he trusts. Degenerates are fun but riskier choices

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