Nick’s somewhat Final Four predictions and honest thoughts on March Madness
Watch as Nick shares to Damonza his Final Four picks.
Now that the NCAA Tournament is underway, it’s time to look at which teams will be moneymakers for gamblers.
Who better to consult regarding betting on the first- and second-round games than FOX Sports Betting Analyst Jason McIntyre?
JMac gives us his insights and picks for these exciting matchups. So if you’re ready to put down some money on the games, head on over to FOX Bet!
RELATED: NCAA men’s tournament bracket
Trailing at the half against Iona, the Huskies overwhelmed the Gaels in the second half with Adama Sanogo (28 points, six offensive rebounds). Freshman Donovan Clingman, who is 7-foot-2, had 12 points and nine rebounds. The Gaels have 6-10 Mitchell Saxen (17 points, four blocks vs. VCU), but they struggled with Gonzaga’s Drew Timme in three games (23, 19, 18 points). Expect the Gaels to pull the UConn bigs away from the hoop and beat them up with passing and cuts. They’ll need to do much better than 3-for-17 from deep, which is possible, since UConn struggles to defend guards. In Logan Johnson and Aidan Mahaney I trust.
The Bluejays defensive strategy was to let North Carolina State’s Terquavion Smith get his (32 points) in the first round, but lock up everyone else. It worked, but the Bears have multiple smaller guards who can score. The bigger question here is if Baylor’s defense can get enough stops to win, which has been a problem all season. Ryan Kalkbrenner, who was hurt last year in the NCAA Tournament, scored 31 Friday. If his guards don’t shoot 2-for-15 from deep again, Creighton should be in great shape to advance to the Sweet 16.
Fans will rush to bet FDU because they’re a Cinderella story after toppling No. 1 seed Purdue but Florida Atlantic is actually good. They’re a Top 40 team offensively and defensively, and even though they needed some luck late to topple Memphis, their dominance on the offensive glass might be a problem here. Unless you think FDU – the smallest team in the tournament – can duplicate their performance from the Purdue game? FDU ranks 353rd out of 363 teams defensively. Let it ride!
The Hurricanes are here because of a massive choke job by Drake, getting outscored 16-1 to end the game. Well, and the free throw discrepancy: Miami was 23 of 29; Drake was 5 of 8. Life will be more difficult inside against one of the country’s best defensive players, Trayce Jackson-Davis (24-11-5-5 vs. Kent State). The Hurricanes best player, Isaiah Wong, was just 1-for-9 shooting, and he’ll likely go up against prized freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino, who could be playing in the NBA next season.
The Horned Frogs have the best player in the game in Mike Miles – is he enough to take down a balanced Gonzaga team? TCU’s offense can be abysmal, and it would have lost to Arizona State if not for 26 points from Miles. They shot 35 percent from the field and 34 percent on 3-pointers. The Zags can be spotty on defense, but depth and pace may wear down the Frogs.
Two offenses that are not easy on the eyes, and with no take-over scorers, this will be a slugfest. Slight lean to the Panthers, who are a good 3-point shooting team (72nd in the country) and Xavier has struggled badly defending the three (275th).
The interior will be problematic for Kansas State as Kentucky pounds teams into submission with size and rebounding. Kansas State has a big edge in the backcourt with Markquis Howell running the show, but their key player will be Nae’Qwan Tomlin, their 6-foot-10 center. Their interior depth behind him is thin.
Tom Izzo put on a clinic in the opening-round win, and he might even have the edge in the backcourt despite facing Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, a tremendous talent. If Sparty is hitting from deep, they will prevail. And Marquette is not great defending the 3 (254th in the country). This feels like one of those Spartans teams that can get hot and fortunate against the better team.
Alabama is so loaded that it scored 96 points in the opening round, despite getting 0 points from its best player, top-five NBA pick Brandon Miller. They’ve got too many weapons for Maryland. Can the Terps slow this one down enough to get the cover?
The Wildcats picked up a nice win over Boise, but now they play the Bruins, who won by the largest margin of any team in round one (33). Northwestern has electric point guard Boo Buie but not much else. A bad offensive team (309th in 2-point shooting; 276th on 3-pointers) vs the best defensive team in the country? Strong lean to UCLA in this one, but I’ll go with the Under.
How do you defend the fifth-best 3-point shooting team in the country? Well, don’t let them shoot 3’s.
Texas A&M let Penn State go 13-for-22 from deep, and it was never close in the second half. The Longhorns have a smart, veteran team that held 3-point-happy Colgate to 3-of-15 from deep. Texas won’t have another 53/56 shooting performance from the floor, but the Nittany Lions are small and a very poor rebounding team.
The Tigers were hyperefficient offensively and held off a late Iowa push to advance. Let’s be clear — Auburn is not a great offensive team (46th in efficiency) and a horrible 3-point shooting team (309th). Worse yet, the Tigers get destroyed on the defensive glass (317th).
Iowa had 14 Thursday but couldn’t make 3-pointers. Everything screams Houston except for this: The game is being played in Birmingham, 90 minutes from Auburn’s campus. Marcus Sasser, Houston’s best player, only played 14 minutes in the opener and isn’t healthy.
I grabbed this when it came out at 4, and I have some on the moneyline as well. Arkansas didn’t play well at all and still beat Illinois by double digits. The Razorbacks offense can be a tough watch and iso-heavy, but the Jayhawks will struggle to stop aggressive wings Ricky Council and Nick Smith.
The Tigers shot 16% for 3-pointers, attempted just five free throws, and still managed to beat Arizona thanks to a game-ending 9-0 run. Missouri is built completely differently, led by powerful wing Kobe Brown, who shot 7-of-8 from the field and scored 19 points.
If Princeton can slow the game down, maybe it’s close.
San Diego State is a great defensive team; Furman just faced one in Virginia. San Diego State doesn’t like to push tempo; neither did Virginia. The SDSU defense showed up in big moments in the 2nd half against Charleston, and this feels like a low-scoring, ugly, defensive affair.
Watch as Nick shares to Damonza his Final Four picks.
Bad matchup for the Vols, who usually thrive thanks to their huge frontline, collecting offensive rebounds. But they were a step slow vs Louisiana and now face Duke, which has a massive frontline of NBA players. As big a discrepancy as you’ll see – the analytics have Tennessee winning by three, yet Duke is favored.
Somewhere in the Rules of March gambling book, it says don’t bet against Tom Izzo in the tournament. But the Pac-12 Conference has been undervalued the last few years and their ROI has been terrific.
The Owls, under Amir Abdur-Rahim, have gone from laughingstock to an NCAA tournament team in four years. If they get hot on 3-pointers, a spot where the Owls rank 34th in the country, Xavier will be in trouble. Oh, and look, Xavier ranks 281st in the country defending 3-pointers.
Baylor-UC Santa Barbara
These aren’t your older brother’s Baylor Bears capable of winning the title. Explosive on offense but woefully inept defensively. The range of outcomes here is massive, but UCSB will definitely be able to hang around playing at a snail’s pace, and scoring efficiently because Baylor can’t defense.
A bummer the Gaels – who I have a futures title ticket on – draw a powerful mid-major here. VCU’s relentless pressure could prove fatal for a team that didn’t handle pressure well down the stretch.
Love Marquette, especially point guard Tyler Kolek. But the only move here is to fade the Big East champs as they’ll be one of the most public sides in the first round. Vermont has won 15 games in a row after a 1-6 start including losses to St. Mary’s, USC and Iona.
The Cyclones have lost five out of seven, but, oddly, the two wins were over Baylor. Iowa State is a tough watch, playing at a slow pace with lots of turnovers and an inability to shoot free throws. Pittsburgh is a gross watch, too.
Creighton-North Carolina State
I hyped the Bluejays in the offseason, bought futures and then have been consistently let down all season. This includes a six-game losing streak. They’re the highest-rated sixth seed, by a lot, and efficiency numbers have Creighton closer to a 4-seed. Despite having 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner and future NBA wing Arthur Kaluma, they’re a very poor offensive rebounding team. The backcourt is young and will have problems with potential first-round pick Terquavion Smith, but I’m not sure the Wolfpack can get enough stops.
The Huskies are getting so much national love, they almost feel overvalued. The numbers love UConn, and say the Huskies are a 20/20 team – top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency. The only others are Houston, Alabama and Texas. But without a point guard – and the inability to defend them – this team will have big trouble in the tournament.
Don’t love the Boilermakers as they are the weakest No. 1 seed in the field. They don’t shoot 3’s well and will be in a dog fight against Memphis or FAU in the second round. But don’t overthink this.
The Friars are slumping, having lost three in a row and four out of five. And coach Ed Cooley is rumored to be moving to Georgetown. This is being billed as the Bryce Hopkins revenge game after transferring from Kentucky. John Calipari has really struggled in March the past few years as the talent in Lexington has fallen off.
The injury to Miami’s Norchad Omier has sent money coming in on Drake. These are two elite free-throw shooting teams so consider the Over. The best player on the court is probably Miami’s Isaiah Wong, who had a monster 2022 tournament. The number has cratered from 3.5 and Drake may close as the favorite.
The Zags possess the No. 1 offense in the country and won’t struggle until they run into a run-and-jump team full of athletic guards and wings, like Baylor in 2021 and Arkansas in 2022.
The public loves Memphis here, as the Tigers played Houston close twice and beat them in the AAC title game (Houston was missing its best player, Marcus Sasser). FAU has the worst strength of schedule of any single-digit team in the field and hasn’t faced a team in the tournament this season.
Kansas State-Montana State
I’m higher on the Wildcats than most, and feel there’s a chance they have the tools to make a run to the Elite Eight. That being said, this is a dangerous Montana State team, and interior defense will make points difficult to come by.
The Hoosiers have two NBA players (Trace Jackson-Davis, Tamar Bates) and quality road wins over Illinois and Purdue. But they will have their hands full with Kent State. The MAC has fared well in March in recent years, with Akron narrowly losing to UCLA last year, and the conference getting out of the first round the three prior tournaments.
The Horned Frogs are a great sleeper to have in your back pocket, with a superstar point guard in Mike Miles and a tourney-tested coach in Jamie Dixon.
The Terps haven’t beaten an NCAA tournament team away from home this season since a neutral site win over Miami in November. WVU has the better coach and the better offense.
Injuries to several players are being talked about, but not enough is being said about the loss of forward Ben Vander Plas. Virginia is seeded fourth but rates only 34th in Ken Pom’s efficiency rank, the lowest for a No. 4 seed. I may sprinkle some on the moneyline upset as it gets closer to tip off.
I’m smitten with Missouri’s offensive explosions — specifically Kobe Brown — and I’m taking them here in a mild upset as they are seeded higher but the underdog. You might remember their coach, Ryan Odom, who orchestrated the UMBC upset of top-seeded Virginia a few years ago.
The defending champs will win, but it sounds like they might be without senior guard Kevin McCullar (back). Their bench is extremely thin. And they know very dangerous Arkansas is looming. Howard keeps this close enough to get the cover.
Alabama-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
I have questions about how the young Tide will perform as the hunted vs. being the hunter, but their size and talent will be too much here. If you have an interest in fading the overall top seed, consider the first half.
San Diego State-Charleston
Brian Dutcher has had some grueling NCAA losses in the past five years — in overtime to Creighton last year after a late collapse, and by two points to Houston in 2019. The Aztecs can be offensively challenged (220th in 2-point shooting, 160th in 3-point shooting), but they should prevail over 31-win Charleston.
Usually I lean on guard play in March and don’t love Arizona’s guards. I don’t have high hopes for the Wildcats, but the numbers tell me they’re undervalued. File it away.
The Razorbacks underachieved this season, mostly due to injuries and also because they played several freshmen. The talent is there. They’re not quite a penny stock given they have two likely first-round picks, but there’s major upside for the Razorbacks the next two weeks.
The Hawkeyes come into this one having lost two in a row, but their offense will keep them in any game — including in the next round against Houston.
Duke had an uneven first three months of the season — that’s what happens when you start four freshmen. In a tournament full of teams loaded with 22 year olds, that could be the Blue Devils downfall. Oral Roberts upset Ohio State as a 15-seed two years ago.
The Longhorns have become a very fashionable team in the past week after rolling Kansas in the Big-12 title game. Colgate’s 3-point shooting will keep them in this one. But how long is the question. Texas, for sure, can win the title, but there are expectations and we’ll see how the Longhorns handle things early.
The Wildcats have lost four out of five games, with all four coming against tournament teams. Defense can only take you so far. First to 55 wins?
The Cougars may keep their best player, Marcus Sasser, out of this one as he sat out the AAC title game as well (groin), but it won’t matter. Your weekly reminder that you can’t win long term betting double-digit spreads.
The loss of Volunteers starting point guard Zakai Zeigler is massive. He was 10th in assist rate in the country. They lost two of three games without him. As such, Louisiana is a popular underdog. The Vols are the No. 2 defensive team in the country and the best team defending 3-pointers. Louisiana is one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the field. Yes, I know Rick Barnes is 4-13-1 against the spread (ATS) in his past 18 tournament games.
Texas A&M-Penn State
Delicious first-round matchup in which I lean to the most experienced team in the tournament which is Penn State. The Nittany Lions, who start three transfers, are a very high variance team because they’re great from deep. They rank ninth in the country on 3-pointers. But they’re second to last in the country in offensive rebounding and their defense stinks.
The Bulldogs have won 18 of their past 19 games but against a very poor schedule. The reason I lean to the dog here is the combo of UCLA being a slow team and UNCA being a great 3-point shooting team. The Bruins also may be without 6-foot-10 starting center Adem Bona, and their top defender (Jaylen Clark) is out for the season.
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, “Coming Up Winners,” in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.
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