Tuley: Friday Best Bets in NBA, NHL, XFL; Thursday recaps; NCAA Final Four play

By Dave Tuley  (VSiN.com senior reporter) 

March 31, 2023 06:06 AM


Friday Best Bets, Thursday Recaps

Thursday was one of our favorite days of the year in the Tuley’s Takes home office as it was Opening Day in Major League Baseball with every team having its lid-lifter on the same day for the first time since 1968.

I started the day by heading down to the Circa sportsbook as they had Greg Maddux throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Maddux is my favorite baseball player of all time – and regular readers will immediately recognize that my son is named after the Hall of Famer (and my other kids, Jordyn and Peyton, are also named after other Chicago sports legends).

As a young sportswriter at The Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois, in 1991-92, I covered about 3-4 Cubs games at Wrigley Field but don’t ever remember interviewing Maddux before he left for the Braves.

When my son was born, his birth announcement was a baseball card with all his stats: 7 pounds, 8 ounces, 20 inches, “likes to warm up in the (play) pen and can really bring the gas.” In 2009, I was also doing the ViewFromVegas Podcast and my producer also worked at FOX 5 here in Vegas and had the elder Maddux sign a baseball for my son.

After Maddux threw out the first pitch – a perfect strike as expected – I was able to meet him, give him my son’s card and have him verify his signature on the ball (note: they held a raffle for Maddux’s celebrity poker tournament that Circa is hosting on April 28-30 and I won an autographed ball, but I told them to give it to someone else since I already have one).

Anyway, it was a great time as Circa also had the book decorated with traditional bunting and had hot dogs and apple pie. As we’ll also recap below, favorites went 8-6 as we graded the Blue Jays-Cardinals game as closing pick-’em.

Everyone was wanting to see how the new rules, especially the pitch clock, would affect scoring and the early verdict was that Overs led 8-7 with a couple of slugfests. However, also note that a whopping 5 teams (Giants, Brewers, Tigers, Royals and Indians) were shut out! 

As for my own bets, I sat out Opening Day but won my top play of the day on North Texas +2 in the NIT Championship Game over UAB. We also cashed in with our top NHL play on the Sharks +140 (closed +160) in a 4-3 overtime win vs. the Golden Knights, though we did lose our NHL 1P Over parlay. (Note: I also mentioned in yesterday's column that the Bucks -3 was an "anti-swagger" play against the Celtics, but was glad that our "dog-or-pass philosophy" saved us again as the Celtics rolled 140-99.)

Let’s recap the rest of Thursday’s betting action and look for more Best Bets as we roll into the weekend. I have plays in the NBA, NHL and XFL on Friday, plus my early play for the Final Four on Saturday.

Thursday Recaps

MLB: Favorites went 8-6 on Opening Day with Blue Jays-Cardinals a consensus closing pick-'em at Las Vegas sportsbooks. The upsets were by the A's (+190 in 2-1 win vs. the Angels and Shohei Ohtani, who earned a no-decision with 6 shutout innings), Rockies (+190 at Padres), White Sox (+125 at Astros), Pirates (+120 at Reds), Cubs (+115 vs. Brewers) and Orioles (+110 at Red Sox). Road teams led 8-7. Overs led 8-7.

NIT: North Texas beat Alabama-Birmingham 68-61 to win the NIT title at the Orleans Arena here in Las Vegas. The Mean Green did it after closing as a 2.5-point underdog and +125 on the money line vs. its Conference USA rival. The game pushed on the consensus closing total of 129 points; some won on Over 128.5 or lower, while some won on Under 129.5.

NBA: Underdogs swept 2-0 SU and ATS on Thursday's short menu as the Celtics (+2) won in 140-99 rout at the Bucks (went just Over betting total of 238 points) and Pelicans (+2) won 107-88 at Nuggets (stayed Under 224.5). Road teams also swept 2-0 SU and ATS. Over/Unders split 1-1.

More NBA: On the season, favorites dipped to 750-381 SU with 16 games closing pick-'em, but faves/dogs now tied 553-553-25 ATS (50%). Home teams still lead 669-478 SU and 578-546-23 ATS (51.4%). In totals wagering, Overs still hold slim lead at 570-560-17 (50.4%).

NHL: Faves went 9-2 Thursday with the only upsets by the Red Wings (+180 in 3-2 home win vs. Hurricanes) and Sharks (+160 in 4-3 OT win vs. Golden Knights). Home teams also went 9-2. Unders led 6-3-2 with pushes in the Capitals-Lightning (6) & Panthers-Canadiens (7) games.

Friday NBA Best Bet

Clippers +6.5 at Grizzlies: This is an “anti-swagger” play against Memphis as the Grizzlies had their 7-game winning streaks snapped on Wednesday by the Clippers in a 141-132 shootout and now the teams meet again two days later. Both teams were playing short-handed Wednesday night with the Grizzlies winning as 2-point favorites behind Russell Westbrook's season-high 36 points – and the worst part of betting the NBA these days is not knowing who’s going to be in the starting lineup – but the “anti-swagger” angle keeps us on the Clippers. Besides, they’re still motivated as they currently hold the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and are trying to avoid the play-in tournament.

Friday NHL Best Bet

Flames-Canucks 1P Over 2 +125: This is a departure from what we normally recommend with these First-Period Overs, but we don’t have another 1P Over to parlay this with. Besides, we’ve had several times lately where the Canucks (the top 1P Over 1.5 team at 54-19, 74%) have easily gone Over for us but we lose the other leg of the parlay. Chalk bettors can go ahead and lay -155, but we’re taking a stand and the plus-money at +125 to go Over 2 as we also get the Flames, who are the No. 3 1P Over team at 48-26 (64.9%).

Friday XFL Best Bet

Seattle Sea Dragons-Arlington Renegades Under 37.5: This is the lowest Over/Under of Week 7, but I still don’t think the oddsmakers set it low enough. Both teams have decent defenses (they rank No. 2 and 3 in the league with Arlington allowing 16.8 points per game and Seattle at 17.8 points per game), The Renegades get an upgrade at QB after acquiring Luis Perez from Vegas, but I don’t expect him to turn Arlington’s offense – last in the XFL at 13 points per game and averaging just 10.5 in the last four games – into an offensive juggernaut after just a few practices. With some books (including DraftKings) up to Seattle -5, it’s tempting to take the points in what should be a low-scoring game, but we still feel the better play is the Under.

NCAA March Madness Final Four Best Bet

San Diego State-Florida Atlantic 1H Under 61: We’re going back to the well with the First-Half Under. The handicap is similar to Sunday’s San Diego State-Creighton game as the Aztecs are ranked No. 4 in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, with Florida Atlantic rated No. 29. There should be plenty of contested shots and the teams feeling each other out in the opening 20 minutes. More people are becoming aware that the Under has hit in San Diego State’s last 12 games, but with this bet you don’t have to worry about a potential foul-fest spoiling the Under like you do in a full-game wager.

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