NCAA/NBA picks: Friday, March 28

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NCAA/NBA picks: Friday, March 28

UConn (+1.5) vs. Iowa State

Iowa State enters this Sweet 16 matchup as one of the hotter teams still standing, riding a six-game win streak that included a Big 12 tournament title. They’re a perfect 6-0 against the number in that stretch as well, which would seemingly make them a play against Connecticut. However, the Cylones lost forward Georges Niang to a broken foot in their NCAA tournament opener. Niang was averaging nearly 17 points a game and had spearheaded Iowa State’s run through the Big 12 and into the Big Dance. Though they were able to overcome his loss in their third-round game vs. North Carolina, it required a furious late comeback against a Tar Heels team that was forced to deal with an injury to one of its own key players, forward Brice Johnson. On the other side are the Huskies, who appear to be peaking at the right time after knocking off Atlantic 10 tournament champion St. Josephs in their opening game before pulling away from second-seeded Villanova for a comfortable 12-point win in the following round. With senior guard Shabazz Napier playing at a high level (49 points in two games) and the added bonus of a de facto home game at Madison Square Garden – a tournament venue they are very familiar with from their Big East days – UConn is live both on the side and modest moneyline.

Indiana (-1.5) at Washington

This line looks to be stacked with value on the Indiana side. First, Washington is getting less than a bucket ostensibly because they are at home. The problem is, they’ve been a mediocre home team to begin with this season. At 17-17 in their building, the Wizards are the only current Eastern Conference playoff team fewer than five games over .500 at home. In addition, they haven’t been playing well lately, dropping four of their last five straight up while going 2-8 ATS in their last 10. Most importantly, they have been run off the court by the Pacers in both previous meetings this season, losing by 20 and 27 points, respectively. While those games were both in Indiana, it’s pretty clear the Pacers – despite their recent woes – are simply a bad matchup for Washington. Lay the points.

Chicago (-4.5) vs. Portland

A straight situational play here. The schedule-makers have not been kind to the Blazers, who were saddled with their two longest road trips of the season – five games – within a three-week span. The result has been a 4-8 straight-up stretch that began on March 7, in which they’ve been forced to play seven of their last eight games without LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s dealing with a hip injury and is questionable for this game. This second road swing has been particularly grueling, as Friday will mark Portland’s fifth game in seven days, as well as a second game in less than 24 hours following Thursday’s win in Atlanta that doubled as Aldridge’s return. The Blazers have dropped both of their road back-to-backs this month (103-90 in San Antonio and 95-85 in Orlando), and are undoubtedly both physically and mentally exhausted heading into Friday. The physical, grinding Bulls are not the team you want to face in such a scenario.

Overall picks: 11-10-2

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