Getty Images

NCAA basketball odds, picks and predictions: Kentucky collides with Auburn in SEC showdown

Leave a comment

March Madness is moving in fast with February coming to a close. If you’re betting the NCAA basketball odds, we’re providing picks and predictions for the biggest Top 25 matchups on the college basketball schedule as well as need-to-know NCAA basketball betting notes for this weekend’s action.

PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS AT IOWA HAWKEYES

 

Penn State is not playing well, following two straight losses with a slim one-point win over Rutgers Wednesday. The Nittany Lions have failed to cover the NCAA basketball pointspreads in each of those contests, unable to put in a consistent 40-minute effort in those outings.

Penn State is plagued by slow starts, scoring just 26 and 24 points in the opening half in losses to Illinois and Indiana before exploding for 42 points in the opening half versus Rutgers. However, PSU went ice cold coming out of the break and scored only nine points in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and finished with only 23 points in the final frame.

Iowa has been competitive in its last three outings, covering in each of those games. That’s been fueled by strong starts, with the Hawkeyes putting up first-half efforts of 33 and 46 points in games versus Michigan State and Ohio State and averaging almost 40 first-half points at home on the year. That could offer an opportunity with Iowa’s first-half spread hosting Penn State Saturday.

AUBURN TIGERS AT KENTUCKY WILDCATS

 

Kentucky has revenge on its mind facing the Tigers at home this Saturday. Auburn dealt Kentucky a 75-66 loss in Alabama on February 1 but the real stinger was a 77-71 defeat at the hands of War Eagle in the Elite Eight of last year’s NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats bring their best basketball into this SEC showdown, winning seven straight games while posting a 6-1 ATS mark in that span. What’s more impressive is that four of those games came on the road, including tough stops at Tennessee, LSU and most recently Texas A&M, and UK has checked those foes to just 65 points per game. The Wildcats are extra stingy on their home court, allowing under 38 percent shooting from the floor while limiting visitors to just over 29 percent success from distance.

The Tigers have stubbed their toe away from home in recent weeks, losing four of their last six road outings outright while needing overtime to pick up those two victories – going 1-5 ATS as visitors in that span. Bruce Pearl’s team watches its shooting percentage dip from 46 percent to 39 percent in opposing gyms, including just 26.3 percent from 3-point range on the road. We’re going to take a long look at Auburn’s team total inside Rupp Arena, leaning toward the Under. 

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS AT MARYLAND TERRAPINS 

 

Maryland is breathing a little heavy after a narrow one-point win at Minnesota Wednesday, edging the Golden Gophers 74-73 and playing Over the 134.5-point total. The Terrapins have topped the total in three straight games and seven of their last 10 contests heading into Saturday’s huge home date with Michigan State.

The Spartans lost at home to Maryland on February 15 in a 67-60 contest that stayed below the 138-point number despite a fast and furious opening half which produced 70 points, including 39 first-half points from Maryland. Since then, Michigan State has hung scores of 86 and 78 points on the board, including 51 second-half points in Tuesday’s victory over Iowa.

These Big Ten rivals have been a winner for Under bettors in recent meetings, with a 2-7-1 Over/Under mark in their last 10 matchups. However, with the Izzone buzzing for this 8 p.m. ET national TV start and both team capable of lighting it up – depending on the opening total – we think the Over is worth a wager between Maryland and Michigan State.

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: MONTANA GRIZZLIES (17-10 SU, 13-12 ATS, 13-12 O/U)

The Grizzlies are battling to stay atop the Big Sky Conference with four games left on their schedule, including this Saturday’s matchup with Sacramento State – the program’s third straight road game after playing at Montana State last Saturday and at Northern Arizona Thursday.

Montana was one of the hottest mid-major wagers in college hoops, having covered in six straight games heading into Thursday but came up short as a 2.5-point road favorite in a 57-56 loss at Northern Arizona. Keep an eye on its odds against the Hornets and how much Montana may have left in the tank after a tough week of travel.

ODDS TO WIN 2020 MARCH MADNESS

TEAM ODDS TO WIN
KANSAS JAYHAWKS +800
BAYLOR BEARS +1,100
GONZAGA BULLDOGS +1,100
DUKE BLUE DEVILS +1,500
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS +1,600
DAYTON FLYERS +1,700
MARYLAND TERRAPINS +1,800
SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS +2,200
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS +2,500
KENTUCKY WILDCATS +2,500
OREGON DUCKS +2,500
SETON HALL PIRATES +2,800
ARIZONA WILDCATS +3,300
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS +3,300
VILLANOVA WILDCATS +3,300
CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS +3,300
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES +3,300
AUBURN TIGERS +4,000
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES +4,000
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES +4,000
BUTLER BULLDOGS +5,500
IOWA HAWKEYES +5,500
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS +5,500
VIRGINIA CAVALIERS +5,500
COLORADO BUFFALOES +6,000
BYU COUGARS +6,000
XAVIER MUSKETEERS +7,000
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS +7,000
WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS +7,000
MEMPHIS TIGERS +7,000

BETTING TRENDS AND NOTES

• One of the best under-the-radar NCAA basketball bets has been taking the Over in Seattle Redhawks road games this season. Seattle is just 4-7 Over/Under at home but a remarkable 10-2 Over/Under in the role of visitor. The Redhawks average 70 points for and allow 76.4 points against away from home – not exactly stat sheet-stuffing results – but continue to come in above the number in those road games. Bettors get one last kick at the can with Seattle road Overs when the team visits California Baptist this Saturday, its final away game of the regular season.

The Butler Bulldogs could have guards Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson back on the court for this Saturday’s showdown with DePaul. Both players were injured in a bad loss to Creighton on Sunday and are officially listed as day-to-day, but Bulldogs coach LaVall Jordan told a radio show that he believes the two starters will be available. Baldwin leads the team with 15.9 points per game while Thompson is scoring 6.8 points and dishing out almost five assists per outing. Both are among Butler’s best defenders, headlining a defense giving up only 62.8 points per game this season.

• A number of mid-major conferences play their final games of the regular season this weekend, with regular season titles and No. 1 seeds in the conference tournament still up for grabs. The Big South has a battle at the top between Radford and Winthrop, Wright State and Northern Kentucky play for No. 1 in the Horizon League Friday, and Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA) will duke it out for the Northeast regular season crown (in a weird twist with true No. 1 Merrimack ineligible to compete in postseason) on Saturday.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

Leave a comment

Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.