Dinero Tracker – March 16

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Last night's ATS Records
NBA: 3-0 | NCAA BB: 12-17

It was a rough opening day of the NCAA Tournament in Dinero Land. We lost our national champ, Arizona, against a Buffalo team we loved watching all season. They would've been an upset pick in most matchups, but I had pledged allegiance to the 'Cats being locked in and couldn't have been more wrong. Although DeAndre Ayton is going to take the bulk of the criticism, it was Arizona's guards that were to blame, unable to handle the Bulls' ball pressure. It didn't help that Sean Miller had no answers. In all, it was a forgettable day that started with a bad break and ended with a thud. In the NBA, all three plays won, including the lock. Here is Thursday's recap, complete with some of the highlights (and lowlights):


The pick: New Mexico State +4.5
My expectation is that the Aggies win this outright. Brad Brownell's Tigers had to change their identity on the fly when Donte Grantham went out and look vulnerable since they're now a team that has to outscore you. With Grantham, they could lock you up. A veteran NMSU squad led by Zach Lofton, Jemerrio Jones and sophomore A.J. Harris, who is a blast to watch. Ride New Mexico State plus the points.


The pick: Trail Blazers -4.5
Although LeBron James has been as dominant as ever, his short-handed squad is in no position to cool off the sizzling Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard is shooting the ball too well and Jusuf Nurkic will keep the Cavs defense honest by continuing his strong play in the post. Lay the points and ride Portland, guaranteed.

Result: James tried to put Nurkic underground with a career highlight and beefed with head coach Tyronn Lue on an eventful night. What he didn't do was win, since Lillard wouldn't be denied a 10th consecutive win, helping overcome a late Cavs comeback to deliver the cover, 113-105.


The pick: San Diego State +4
It took a while to get everyone on the same page, but Brian Dutcher, long-time assistant to Steve Fisher, has his team playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. The Aztecs have the fifth-longest winning streak in the country, hoping to get a 10th consecutive win in this matchup. They've beaten opponents by a margin of 13.3 points during this run and have averaged just 10.7 turnovers, which is impressive since a lot of those games have been played at an escalated tempo. Ride San Diego State +4, guaranteed.

Result: This was a sloppy game where the Aztecs failed to stop Rob Gray and couldn't hit anything from beyond five feet until late in the game. Somehow, despite all this, they drew even with one minute remaining and got one last look at an unlikely game-winner at the buzzer, falling by a bucket. San Diego State isn't advancing, but did come through against the number.


The pick: Iona +20.5/OVER 158
These The Blue Devils have a huge edge in size here, but the fact this game is likely to see the Gaels run in transition and get easy baskets makes them a strong candidate to hang around here. Tarakeyi Edogi needs to be a presence on the boards, but Rickey McGill, Schadrac Casismir and Deyshonee Much should be able to fill it up enough to at least earn a backdoor cover. Ride Iona plus the points and the over for the in-game parlay.

Result: Despite Mike Kryzewzewski doing us a solid by emptying the bench a little early, giving Iona an even better shot to cover, it fell 89-67. Notice the total? As we came down the stretch, both bets had a chance to come in, but McGill missed a free throw with 49 seconds left and then a runner he makes in his sleep. We had one more chance to split, but Justin Robinson missed a pair of free throws for Duke, leaving the door open one last time. McGill missed a contested 3-pointer from the corner that would've cashed both. Iona's leading scorer managed just 10 points, three off his average. We were rooting hard for him to get there.


The pick: Rhode Island/Oklahoma UNDER 158.5
Trae Young and his Sooners got a reprieve despite a terrible end to their season, so don't be surprised to see them make the most of it. Instead of an NIT appearance, all Rhode Island Squad that doesn't shoot the ball particularly well awaits as a vulnerable foe. Take the points and ride Oklahoma. For the in-game parlay, back the under.

Result: This one could definitely qualify in the bad-beat category, since it was cruising to victory before the prospect of overtime hauntingly came to fruition. Being on Oklahoma too didn't help. URI won 83-78.


The pick: Loyola-Chicago +2/UNDER 132.5
The Hurricanes suffered a blow when versatile guard Bruce Brown went down and will definitely miss him against the Missouri Valley champs. Look for a low-possession game that Clayton Custer helps control down the stretch, helping the Ramblers pull out the upset. Ride Loyola-Chicago and the under for the in-game parlay.

Result: Lonnie Walker's missed free throw with 9.3 seconds left basically clinched this parlay, but it was still great for our bracket to see Donte Ingram drain the game-winner. Unfortunately, Arizona ruined everything hours later.


The pick: South Dakota State +8.5
If it feels like the Buckeyes haven't played in forever, it's because Penn State put them out of the Big Ten Tournament way back on March 2. We'll see if there's any rust in store, but since South Dakota State will create matchup problems with Mike Daum and David Jenkins, Jr., look for a strong performance from the Jackrabbits. Ride South Dakota State.

Result: The Dauminator came through with a big day, but Ohio State was able to get enough to survive the upset bid. Fortunately, the Jackrabbits didn't foul unnecessarily despite having the opportunity to do so. As a result, the 81-73 served to get us home.


The pick: Montana +10.5
The Wolverines struggle at the free-throw line, which should prove to be a factor as they look to move past Big Sky champ Montana. The Griz have an excellent lead guard in Ahmaad Rorie who should be able to get his team easy buckets as they likely look to trim a deficit down the stretch. Expect this to be tighter than many are counting on. Take the points with Montana.

Result: The Griz went scoreless for what seemed like a full hour in the second half and were still in position to cover but obviously didn't. Charles Matthews made more free throws than he normally does, but it was Montana's lack of offense that prevented a win. Michigan came out flat too. Missed opportunity.


The pick: Kentucky -4.5/OVER 142.5
Winning the SEC Tournament provided a major boost to the confidence of a team that has heard all season how inferior they are compared to John Calipari's other teams. Look for them to come out firing aggressively as they avoid an upset bid out of a capable Davidson squad. Ride Kentucky and the over for the in-game parlay.

Result: Despite Davidson draining a couple of 3-pointers in the closing stages, we snuck in with a 78-73 win that delivered the goods.


The pick: Raptors -4
The Pacers have been tremendous of late, covering the number in 10 of 13, which includes outright wins over the Celtics and 76ers on the road, catching Boston twice. They also took down Utah at home, so they're getting respect despite being a home underdog. It's not like they'll be sneaking up on the Raptors, who lost their lone visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season. Indy will be without Domantas Sabonis, a key member on that second unit, while the Raps are looking for a 10th straight win, having already won 18 of 20. Lay the points and ride Toronto.

Result: Indiana pulled ahead early but couldn't sustain their edge, ultimately falling apart down the stretch. The Raptors won their 10th straight, 106-99, officially covering when Darren Collison's 3-pointer with nine seconds left misfired.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at mejia@vegasinsider.com