Before you bet the March Madness bracket, circle these mid-major Cinderella teams

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Whether you’re betting the odds to win March Madness or building your NCAA tournament bracket, sniffing out potential Cinderella teams is a must. And with so much being made of the parity across college hoops this season, the 2020 Big Dance might be set up for a surprise mid-major program to run to the Final Four – or maybe even win the national title.

We still have a couple weeks before conference tournaments tip off and the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament isn’t until March 19, but you can start trying the glass slipper on these potential mid-major March Madness Cinderella NCAA basketball picks.

BYU COUGARS

CONFERENCE: WEST COAST
RECORD: 23-7 SU, 18-11-0 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: Gonzaga (L,W), Kansas (L), San Diego State (L), Houston (W)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +6,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: +850

A win over the third-ranked team in the country will put you on the radar of anyone betting the NCAA basketball odds, but BYU would still be a Cinderella if it can make waves in the national tournament. The Cougars stunned Gonzaga this past weekend and faced some stiff competition in non-conference play, including a close loss to San Diego State and hanging tough with Kansas for a half.

WHY BYU COULD BE CINDERELLA

Brigham Young can score with any team in the country, averaging almost 81 points per contest, and is lethal from long range – a trademark of past March Madness Cinderella runs. The Cougars top the country in 3-point percentage at 42.2 and knock down an average of 10.6 shots from beyond the arc an outing. Brigham Young is also among the most experienced teams in the country and have a proven superstar in Yoeli Childs, who is starting to heat up after dealing with a suspension and an injury earlier in the season.

NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS

CONFERENCE: MISSOURI VALLEY
RECORD: 23-5 SU, 17-8-1 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: WEST VIRGINIA (L), SOUTH CAROLINA (W), COLORADO (W)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +10,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: N/A

You know the Panthers from the ghosts of March Madness past, most notably Ali Farokhmanesh leading NIU over No. 1 Kansas in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. Most recently, the Panthers bounced Texas in the Round of 64 and then suffered a historic collapse against Texas A&M in the Round of 32 in 2016. This program, which is once again the class of the MVC, doesn’t fear the big-name teams nor the pressure of the national stage.

WHY NORTHERN IOWA CAN BE CINDERELLA

Beyond the program’s resume as well as the conference’s history of producing Cinderellas (Loyola-Chicago in 2018), this year’s version of the Panthers looks a lot like the 2019 champion Virginia Cavaliers in terms of style and pace. Northern Iowa runs a methodical offense, chewing up the shot clock and firing at an efficient 48 percent from the field – including 39.5 percent from long distance. It also takes care of the little things, like hitting foul shots and keeping opponents off the offensive glass.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN LUMBERJACKS

CONFERENCE: SOUTHLAND
RECORD: 24-3 SU, 13-10-1 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: DUKE (W), ALABAMA (L)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +25,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: N/A

We’ve got to go back to November to recall the Lumberjacks’ massive upset over Duke as 27.5-point road underdogs at Cameron Indoor. Stephen F. Austin has stepped back into the shadows since that stunner but is quietly going about its business in the Southland, riding an 11-game winning streak into this week and suffering only one loss since December 8.

WHY STEPHEN F. AUSTIN CAN BE CINDERELLA

Take the fact that they beat Duke out of the equation for just a second. The Lumberjacks are a team that thrives on chaos, forcing almost 21 turnovers per game – most in the country. That produces a lot of easy buckets and is why SFA is clicking at an efficient 49 percent from the field and chewing up extra possessions, scoring more than 80 points per night on the year. The Lumberjacks also have plenty of upperclassmen and a strong bench… and they beat Duke in Durham. Dangerous.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE BUCCANEERS 

CONFERENCE: SOUTHERN
RECORD: 25-4 SU, 14-12-0 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: KANSAS (L), LSU (W)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +15,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: N/A

Not only has East Tennessee State battled the likes of Kansas and LSU, but it has its own stellar rivalry brewing at the top of the Southern Conference versus fellow mid-major stud UNC Greensboro, taking both meetings against the Spartans this season. That said, nothing is guaranteed in the conference tournament – even with ETSU suffering only one loss in its last 13 games.

WHY EAST TENNESSEE STATE CAN BE CINDERELLA

The Buccaneers are adaptable and can beat teams in various ways. They rank Top-50 in both points for and against, showcasing an efficient offensive attack that hits at a near 48-percent clip from the field and isn’t shy about throwing it up from deep either. Eastern Tennessee State has four players in double figures and seven players averaging seven or more per contest. That includes standout forward Jeromy Rodriguez, who is expected to return soon from a foot injury. Coach Steve Forbes cut his March Madness teeth with Wichita State earlier in the decade and knows what it takes to bust the bracket.

TOP ODDS TO WIN 2020 MARCH MADNESS

TEAM ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT
Kansas Jayhawks +800
Baylor Bears +1,100
Gonzaga Bulldogs +1,100
Duke Blue Devils +1,200
Louisville Cardinals +1,600
Maryland Terrapins +1,800
Dayton Flyers +1,800
San Diego State Aztecs +2,000
Michigan State Spartans +2,500
Kentucky Wildcats +2,500
Oregon Ducks +2,500
Seton Hall Pirates +2,500
Arizona Wildcats +2,800
Penn State Nittany Lions +3,000
Villanova Wildcats +3,300
Creighton Blue Jays +3,300
Florida State Seminoles +3,300
Auburn Tigers +4,000
Ohio State Buckeyes +4,000
Michigan Wolverines +4,500
Iowa Hawkeyes +5,000
Butler Bulldogs +5,000
West Virginia Mountaineers +5,500
Virginia Cavaliers +5,500
Colorado Buffaloes +6,000
BYU Cougars +6,000
Xavier Muskateers +7,000
Purdue Boilermakers +7,000
Wichita State Shockers +7,000
Memphis Tigers +7,000
Houston Cougars +7,000
St. Marys Gaels +8,000
Indiana Hoosiers +8,000
Texas Tech Red Raiders +8,000
Wisconsin Badgers +9,000
Tennessee Volunteers +9,000
Marquette Golden Eagles +9,000
Rutgers Scarlet Knights +9,000
Florida Gators +9,000
Providence Friars +9,000

Verlander injury shuffles Astros’ MLB futures odds

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MLB betting got a shake-up Sunday afternoon, specifically on World Series odds and AL pennant odds, with news that Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander could miss the rest of the season – or at least a significant chunk of it – with an arm injury.

Initial reports suggested Verlander had an elbow ailment, but both he and manager Dusty Baker quickly denied that. Baker called it a forearm strain and said that Verlander would be re-evaluated in “a couple of weeks.” The reigning AL Cy Young winner pitched a solid six innings in an 8-2 Opening Day rout of the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Verlander’s injury led oddsmakers to shuffle futures book odds on the defending AL champions. Covers checked in on the MLB odds moves with a couple of Las Vegas sportsbooks.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ World Series odds?

At CG Technology books, risk analyst Rich Zanco said the Astros quickly moved from +1,200 to +1,800 in World Series futures. The SuperBook at Westgate also had Houston pegged +1,200 prior to Sunday’s news and initially went to +1,600, then dialed it a little further to +1,800.

However, there were apparently buyers on the Astros at that point, prompting the SuperBook to reel the price in to +1,400.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ American League odds?

In AL pennant futures, the Astros initially moved from +600 to +800 at The SuperBook, then ticked back to +700.

World Series odds

Team Odds to win
Los Angeles Dodgers +350
New York Yankees +350
Houston Astros +600
Atlanta Braves +1,600
Minnesota Twins +1,600
Tampa Bay Rays +1,800
Washington Nationals +2,000
Cleveland Indians +2,000
New York Mets +2,000
Chicago Cubs +2,000
Oakland Athletics +2,000
St. Louis Cardinals +2,500
Cincinnati Reds +2,500
San Diego Padres +2,500
Philadelphia Phillies +3,000
Chicago White Sox +3,000
Los Angeles Angels +3,000
Milwaukee Brewers +4,000
Boston Red Sox +5,000
Arizona Diamondbacks +6,000
Colorado Rockies +8,000
Toronto Blue Jays +10,000
Texas Rangers +10,000
Pittsburgh Pirates +20,000
Detroit Tigers +20,000
San Francisco Giants +30,000
Seattle Mariners +30,000
Miami Marlins +30,000
Baltimore Orioles +30,000
Kansas City Royals +30,000

Odds courtesy The SuperBook

MLB picks and predictions for Opening Day

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It was a long and scary road, but we finally get MLB betting back on Thursday, July 23. Opening Day of the pandemic-shortened 60-game baseball schedule is headlined by a pair of matchups, with the New York Yankees visiting the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers rekindling their rivalry with the San Francisco Giants.

Like we do each MLB season (COVID-19 or not), we’ll be taking a swing at today’s baseball odds and giving our best MLB picks and predictions. Up first: Opening Day 2020.

MLB picks for today

New York Yankees vs Washington Nationals

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was supposed to miss the start of the season back in the spring, but the delay to the 2020 campaign allowed the outfielder to heal up from broken ribs and return to his longball-launching self.

Judge looked great in New York’s warmup games, albeit for a limited number of at-bats. He went 3-for-7 with all three hits leaving the ballpark. And he wasn’t alone, with the Yankees’ other power bats providing plenty of pop around him in the order. He’ll get a chance to go yard again on Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Aaron Judge home run (+210)

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Giants are no strangers to Clayton Kershaw, who has long dominated the Dodgers’ divisional foes. In 49 career appearances against San Francisco, The Claw is 23-12 with a 1.74 ERA and has allowed just 0.71 hits per innings pitched in those starts.

The Giants don’t pose much of an offensive threat, averaging 8.22 hits per game in 2019. San Francisco has managed 45 total hits in its last eight starts against Kershaw – an average of 0.86 hits per inning faced. Given the Dodgers’ ace looked ready for work in his tune-up efforts, we could see him go seven innings or more on Thursday, panning out to a little over six hits for San Fran.

PREDICTION: Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)

Mookie Betts has reportedly landed a whale of a contract extension with the Dodgers after joining the ballclub this offseason via a trade with the Boston Red Sox. And what better way to lock down that deal than an impressive effort on Opening Day.

Betts recorded 313 total bases in 2019 (30th) and 353 in 2018 (fourth). He’s been swinging well in training sessions this offseason: in 27 at-bats during the spring/summer schedule, he has 13 total bases, including two doubles and a home run, while hitting leadoff during Summer Camp. We like that to continue into Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)

Top MLB consensus for today

Want to know who today’s biggest MLB betting and consensus bets are right now? Check out our top MLB consensus picks.

Opening Day betting card

  • Aaron Judge home run (+210)
  • Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)
  • Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)