Good afternoon gamblers, it's Chris Bengel back in the saddle with you.
We've officially made it to the Madness. The NCAA Tournament is upon us and we're just a few short hours away from the action getting underway with the First Four games. By now, everyone is agonizing as they fill out their brackets (fill yours out here). The name of the game is pretty simple, year after year: pick the right upsets. Good luck.
Now let's get to Tuesday's picks.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Nets at Thunder, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA.TV
- Key Trend: The Thunder are 5-1 ATS over their last six games.
- The Pick: Thunder -1.5 (-110)
Look, there's no debating that the Nets have been one of the NBA's hotter teams, even after shipping Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out of town. Still, they're facing a team tonight that is playing just as well, if not better, in the Thunder, so I'm taking the home team in this spot.
The Nets wrap up a five-game road trip in which they've gone 3-1. The only blemish is a 118-113 loss at the hands of the Bucks. The Nets are coming off of a 122-120 heart-pounding victory against the Nuggets on Sunday in which they nearly blew a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. On top of all that, the Nets have put together just a 10-10 record ATS across their last 20 road games, so they're clearly a mixed bag away from the Barclays Center.
On the other hand, the Thunder have been victorious in five of their last six contests, including three double-digit wins during that stretch. Back on Jan. 15, the Thunder take care of the Nets 112-102 in Brooklyn and the Nets still had Irving in the lineup for that one. Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 28 points on 8-of-17 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds. Gilgeous-Alexander has been playing like an MVP candidate all season as he's averaged 31.2 points-per-game (fifth in the NBA) and shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Look for Gilgeous-Alexander to put on a show against the Nets and the Thunder to come away with a win here.
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💰 More Picks
No. 11 Pittsburgh at No. 11 Mississippi State, 9:10 p.m. | TV: TruTV
The Pick: Pittsburgh +2.5 (-110) -- Of course I have an NCAA Tournament pick for you. We've got a very intriguing matchup between a pair of No. 11 seeds in Pittsburgh and Mississippi State -- two teams that could easily win a game or two throughout March Madness.
Despite being one of the last teams in the field, I believe the Panthers are going to have a lot to prove and could even win this game outright. They are actually darlings when it comes to their success ATS. The Panthers possess a 21-7 mark ATS over their last 28 games and have covered the spread in seven of their last 10 contests. This team scored 76.1 points-per-game (fifth in the conference) and is also one of the better defensive teams, allowing 70.5 points-per-game (sixth in the conference). They also limited the three, as opponents are shooting just 33.5 percent from long-range against them on the year.
It doesn't help Mississippi State's case that they're second-to-last in the SEC in scoring (65.9 PPG) and last in three-point shooting (26.6 percent). To make matters worse, senior forward Tolu Smith is the only Bulldogs player that averaged double figures at 15.8 points-per-game. The Panthers should be able to defend well enough to win this one outright, but the 2.5 points is a nice safety blanket to have.
Key Trend: The Panthers are 21-7 ATS in their last 28 games
Magic at Spurs, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA.TV
The Pick: Paolo Banchero Over 21.5 Points (-115) -- Paolo Banchero is making a strong push to be the league's Rookie of the Year. Considering how he's playing lately, I'm taking the over in his points prop here.
Banchero has netted 26 points or more in three of his past five games and he's been the leader for a tough Magic squad. The rookie forward may not be the most efficient shooter (43.4 percent in March), but he's taking nearly 18 shots per contest. That means that he'll have plenty of opportunities to score in this one. It also doesn't hurt that Banchero is facing the Spurs, who surrender the most points-per-game (122) in the entire league.
Key Trend: Banchero has scored at least 22 points in three of his last five games