by Michael Stewart
Final Four ATS Record: 1-1 ATS
March Madness Record: 34-22-6 ATS (60.7%)
The Final Four matchups were amazing, with UConn dominating Florida like no other team has this entire season and Kentucky once again going to the buzzer in a thriller against Wisconsin. Listen, I expected UConn to keep it close but I didn't foresee them winning. And the Badgers almost victimized the flat footed Wildcats, who were bailed out by Aaron Harrison once again at the last second.
Those that read me during football know that I do a "buyer's remorse" column every Monday. On Friday, I release all of my x-factors and picks on every single NFL matchup over the weekend and then I revisit what I picked, keep track of my season record and be as transparent as I can be. It's more of a "ok what did I learn, why didn't I see that coming" kind of thing. If I did a mini buyer's remorse column of the Final Four it would read like this: UConn is WAY better than anyone thought and Kentucky is still an imperfect juggernaut capable of relying on their insane amount of talent.
So how does this effect how I'm picking the championship game? Well...
Kentucky Wildcats -3.0 over UConn Huskies (9:10pm EST)
If you're going to bet on UConn, you're hoping that DeAndre Daniels can continue to punch above his weight class while Shabazz Napier runs the Harrison Twins in to the ground. Napier didn't have a great statistical game against Florida (aside from the 4 steals) but he ran Scottie Wilbekin - one of the best defenders in the country - ragged. It was an incredibly smart approach by Napier and head coach Kevin Ollie, who knew that if they didn't force Wilbekin to empty his gas tank they'd have no chance. Maybe not the best way to play basketball but it worked. Wilbekin was so worn out on Saturday as he tried to keep up with Napier that he couldn't get anything going offensively and Florida struggled in nearly every way because of the cascading effect Wilbekin's struggles had on them.
The problem is that Napier won't be able to do that against the Harrison twins. The 6-foot-1 Napier will be blanketed by two 6-foot-6 twins who are as athletic as Napier if not more. Getting around Aaron Harrison is going to be Napier's biggest challenge. I've underestimated him before, and just seen him bury Gary Harris and Wilbekin, so it's hard for me to say with the utmost confidence that Napier will be silenced in the championship game by the erratic play of the twins. But the fear is there.
The other issue for UConn is the size of DeAndre Daniels. He's barley 6-foot-9 and 200 pounds. Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are all bigger and badder than him. People keep pointing to Daniels' 20-and-10 against Florida's dynamic front court. The part they're missing is that the offensively limited Patric Young scored 19 points. So while I expect Daniels to play at a level that is supposedly way beyond his potential, I just don't see how he stops Kentucky on the other end of the floor. Kentucky's defence relies on physical bullying so Daniels will find the seams but that also undersells that Randle and company will be able to whip Daniels around in the post at will.
Betting on this matchup with the dogs requires you to believe that UConn will continue to play at the mercurial level that they've established for themselves in the past few weeks. That's a realistic possibility, especially against a team as unpolished and unrefined as these Wildcats. I get that it's hard to trust Kentucky.
This is the point where I bring up numbers. The last ten NCAA Championships have been decided by an average margin of +9.7 points. Kentucky has won their last five games by +3.6 points so if the averages pan out they're a decent play. Furthermore, no team that has ever covered every game in the tournament has won the title, so the push that Kentucky earned against Wisconsin (or the loss if you grabbed the KU-WISC line at -1.5 like I did) is probably a little encouraging for those of you that lean on historical metrics especially since UConn has gone 5-0 ATS in March Madness so far. Most of the statistical trends lend themselves to this matchup being close as well, which is problematic for Kentucky. Eventually, all the mistakes that they've made throughout the tournament will have to catch up against them, right?
I'm not so sure. I think that this game is more basic than that. The overall size and length of Kentucky is going to give UConn problems, and as much as the Wildcats have looked ugly at times, they've continued to win games. The Huskies are a great team to back in this game; I'm not disbarring that at all. For me, Kentucky's ability to claim victory in spite of themselves is just too important to my wallet.
You're a grown behind man - you can do what you want with your money. But the writing's been on the wall since the SEC Championship game. Calipari figured out how to utilize all his talent well by simplifying the game plan, and the results have taken down undefeated giants, defending champions and everyone else. They can absolutely impose their size on the Huskies and have proven that they can overcome all of their deficiencies when it matters.
The best player left in the tournament won't be able to beat the most talented in the country. Most people are waiting for Kentucky's luck to run out, but I'm going the other way - the blowout you've been waiting for will happen when the Wildcats run wild on UConn early and leave them in the dust.
by Michael Stewart
Who has two thumbs and went 4-0 SU and ATS in the Final Four? THIS GUY. I'm going to quit the chatter and get down to business right away. Enjoy the games like you're supposed to. The anticipation of this Final Four is ridiculous.
Final Four Record: 4-0 SU and ATS
March Madness Record: 33-21-6 (61.1%)
UConn Huskies +6.5 over Florida Gators (126.5)
Every part of my brain is telling me to take Florida. They're the best defence under adjusted metrics, Scottie Wilbiken is a pittbull who can stop Shabazz Napier and they're heading in to a revenge game. The last time Florida lost was against the UConn Huskies back in December 2nd.
I also hate the Huskies when they play against big, physical teams. Florida is a lot like Louisville, which pasted the Huskies twice in the past month. The Gators should absolutely win this game straight up, but the cushion has sat at +6.5 points all week pretty much and that's because there are a lot of people - heavy hitters included - who share the same fear that I do.
That when Shabazz Napier erupts in to molten lava like he did against MSU and Iowa State, his teammates will respond in kind. The metrics are truly risky with this approach, but that's the kind of galvanizing effect that Napier has on the betting mind. If his shot is falling early, the Huskies can stay in this game and that's what I believe will happen.
Even though every part of my being is telling me to take Florida at -6.5 in a heartbreaking demolition. Why do you do this to me, Shabazz!?!?!
Kentucky Wildcats -1.5 over Wisconsin Badgers (8:49pm EST)
This line has been shaved down by a whole point from where it opened, but this is where I expect it to stay. Ultimately I don't expect it to matter. Both teams feel like "flash in the pans" to a certain degree, but at least one of them was supposed to be this good.
There is a ton I could write about this game quite literally, but I think it boils down to one player and that's Frank Kaminsky. The gangly, sharp shooting, confusing-as-hell Kaminsky baffled an Arizona defence that's really not nearly as well coached as you might think. The Arizona Wildcats seemingly took a lot for granted. After a season of turmoil, these Wildcats are doing anything but.
Like their games against Michigan, Louisville and Wichita State, Kentucky has been exceptional at turning their matchups in to wars of attrition. One of the reasons that the line is so low despite a massive disparity in talent between the two teams is that Kentucky has barely won their last three games. To be fair, that's meant beating three of the best teams in the country. You can't always expect blowouts and those games were the typical games that Kentucky has always lost; they never really understood how to play together.
The basketball hasn't been pretty but it's been effective, and while other teams have allowed Kaminsky to set the tone in the post with his amazing footwork and body positioning, I don't think Kentucky will even care. They'll fly at him all day, try to get him in to foul trouble and push his lanky body around using their deep roster of big men circulating around Julius Randle, who has been more than willing to drop the gloves and get dirty in the tournament.
The perimeter game is actually toe-to-toe. Wisconsin is excellent at shooting. Kentucky can drive to the basket efficiently and shoot with insane confidence. That parts a wash as far as I'm concerned.
What worries me more is that Kaminsky has not been a reliable force in college basketball. He's had two double-doubles this entire season (against Michigan and Arizona). I'm just not as convinced that he's ready to battle Randle and company in the biggest game of his life. Two games have created a landslide of popularity for the Badgers, but I'm not getting caught under it by betting against the most talented team in the country playing at their peak.
And yeah, half of the reason I'm backing Kentucky is because I totally swung hard at them when they were +2000 to win it all heading in to the Sweet Sixteen.
by Michael Stewart
Bet you thought I was going to open by BRAGGING IN CAPITAL LETTERS ABOUT MY 4-0 ATS WEEKEND in the Elite Eight didn't you? Well there'll be time for that later this week as I break down my Final Four picks. So I thought I'd take the midweek purge to touch on some tips on how to bet the 2014 MLB season (MLB stands for major league baseball if you're really new to this).
A confession first and foremost: I don't watch a ton of baseball. My brain is usually so fried from reading and watching and writing about sports so much that I need to take a break because otherwise my soon-to-be-wife would kill me in the face. Also, quite frankly, I just need to switch off from being so hardcore about betting for at least a couple months. It's the summer, I like to walk Batman (my black labrador), get out in the sun and do other things that other human beings enjoy when the sun is out. Everyone needs to recharge, and the off-season of the three majors gives me a bit of a break unless there's a World Cup or a Summer Olympics on the horizon. Wait a minute...damn you, Brazil!!!
That's the beauty about baseball. You can learn a mountain of pertinent information by tracking box scores, understanding advanced metrics and getting generally nerdy about numbers. I'm not a "math guy" but I do believe that the truth lies somewhere in those precious box scores. Betting on baseball is like anything else you gamble on. Simply put, if you know more about the sport and the current context of the season you can absolutely reap the benefits. Tracking games on my phone is often more enjoyable because I don't really lose anything by not seeing it live. In basketball, for example, two-points by Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter with 38.5 seconds left can be MUCH different than any other point he scores in the game. It's much simpler in baseball. A run is a run, a strike is a strike and a hit is a hit. I don't need to see the ball dinging off a bat to know that the runner got to second base. The box score tells me everything.
So as I'm glued to my phone, organizing alerts with whatever app I'm using to follow games and betting online I can also - ya know - do other stuff. I don't need to be obsessively glued to my television so I can devour every minute of a game like I do on NFL Sundays or TNT Thursdays or Saturday college bonanzas.
Here's a few things you need to understand about betting baseball if you're new to the game, followed by a few friendly tips to get you started.
Embrace The Grind
There are many different types of bettors out there. Some people come in and just bet the Super Bowl. Others bet Weeks 1 thru 16 of the NFL season. Some love betting on March Madness, or just the NBA playoffs. Others throw in $100 in to their account and see if they can turn it in to $500 with a few quick bets and then they're gone forever never to be seen by our account managers ever again. This is the revolving door of sports gambling that people in the business have come to know and love.
You might be programmed differently or, like me, trying to make a sordid living off of the action. Being "up" or "down" in the short term doesn't mean anything unless you're pulling out more money than you put in a few months ago. There are those of us that are willing to take our lumps, keep our heads down and burn the oil, so to speak.
That's baseball betting in a nutshell. Unless you swing wildly for the fences on one particular game, it's actually pretty tough to know what's going to happen in any specific matchup unless we're in the post season. There are 162 games in an MLB season and 30 teams. That's 2,430 games during the regular season which more than doubles the NBA lot. What I'm trying to say is that the opportunities are bountiful. You just have to be willing to understand that betting on baseball is a sprint, not a marathon. How heavily you throw your money around is ultimately up to you, but you can take a bad beat during the course of the week and eat it knowing that there's plenty of action on the board the next day and the day after that.
If you can't embrace the grind, then baseball betting is not for you which is totally fine because football is just five months away while the NBA and NHL playoffs go well in to June. You'll be totally ok without baseball betting in your life. But if you want to add it to your list of hobbies, then follow my lead...
The Moneyline Is Where The Party Is
Last season, the Angels were the best OVER team in all of baseball with an 88-68-6 O/U record. That's a record of just over 56.4%. The best UNDER team was the Texas Rangers who held below the total in 58% of their games. Keep in mind, those were the leaders in both categories. What this means is that there's no such thing as a good total bet in baseball. It's just not a consistent entity on the market.
That doesn't mean that there isn't value in the TOTAL, it's just that you have to play it on a per-game basis instead of an every-game basis. If a pitcher's having a bad stretch, or has historically struggled against a certain team, then you can safely take the OVER. You can find wrinkles in the system, like betting against the Blue Jays when R.A. Dickey pitches against an American League contender, but they're few and far in between.
You can bet the runline if you want to, but it's too much of a headache for an idiot like me. Clearing a runline on a consistent basis as a bettor means accounting for an insane amount of variables, knowing how each batter performs against certain pitchers and memorizing the rotations of the bullpen so you know who's up next and how the opponent reacts to them. Sounds like a lot of work doesn't it? It is.
Listen, guys I know who do bet the runline are almost exclusive baseball bettors. They spend their entire year studying the game because, more than anything, they love it. This kind of dedication pays off huge dividends. Unfortunately for me, I simply love the wild swings of NFL betting and basketball gambling more. I'm simply programmed to enjoy betting on these sports with larger wagers than I am with the nickel and dime style of baseball betting. If you can do it, consider me envious of your position. But if you're just a general sports gambler, then this isn't a sound strategy for you. Have fun, you filthy rich nerds.
The moneyline tends to be a stronger value overall as long as you can find the right teams. Cleveland and Pittsburgh were by far my two best bets of 2013, and both ended up near that coveted +2500 mark at the end of the year. That basically means that they were paying out freighters of cash to their loyal backers who bet on them frequently throughout the year. Both commodities cooled off towards the end of the year after the public caught on, so it's a bit of a momentum game as a gambler.
Overall the moneyline is easier to digest as a gambler because a win is a win. Good teams on the road will always boast good value.
Start With Pitching, But Don't Stop There
There's an age old adage that reads, "Bet on the best starting pitchers". This works in some respects, but it doesn't always work out for the gambling man. Hey, a win is still a win even if you're betting on a -250 favourite. It just takes a lot of stones both literally and figuratively to bet stiffly enough to make money on those kinds of odds.
The best pitching in baseball currently belongs to Detroit, Washington, the L.A. Dodgers, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in that order. Betting on those teams' moneylines each and every night is a profitable exercise, but only marginally. The oddsmakers know that the layman is out there betting on every game where Verlander starts, and build in a small buffer to account for that market behaviour. It's the oddsmakers' right and we see it all the time - massive public bets get weird lines. It happens in all sports. You're not allowed to cry about it, especially in baseball.
Pitching is also only two-thirds of the game. You can make up for a ton of deficiencies by having a great infield defence. We're seeing that now with the Seattle Mariners, who have Brad Miller and Robinson Cano at short stop and second base. Nobody's hitting up the middle on these guys. Aside from Felix Hernandez, Seattle doesn't have a ton of arms to really speak of but their infield defence makes up for it. That in itself boosts the overall value of Seattle's pitching. So do things like - ya know - hitting and scoring.
While starting pitching is the easiest and best place to start, it's not the only thing you should consider. Touting a pitcher as an "automatic play" is lazy handicapping in my opinion even though I say it quite often. It just doesn't take in to account all of the other elements that effect the outcome of a baseball game.
Exploit Pitching Anomalies That Nobody Else Believes In
Sometimes there's a diamond in the rough that you're overlooking. One of my favourite starting pitching bets was on Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett, who was slinging so well that the Pirates went 19-4 SU in his first 23 games. He literally couldn't lose that summer. So what happened towards the season? Pittsburgh ended up going 2-9 SU in his last 11 games. Now, Burnett was only credited with a 16-10 SU record over those 31 starts. This is where the numbers don't tell the absolute truth - Burnett wasn't always starting in those games or finishing them, it was just this crazy thing where any game he was involved in from April through August ended up with the pitiful Pirates winning.
Burnett wasn't the sole catalyst. Andrew McCutchen and the patchwork Pirates were still finding their offensive rhthym and in the process, the oddsmakers undervalued the 2012 Pirates whenever Burnett played because NONE OF IT MADE ANY FREAKING SENSE.
Burnett followed that up with a pretty dismal 2013 campaign even though the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in a lifetime and he has never, ever been that awesome as an asset in my betting portfolio. But for that one glorious summer, I made a small fortune off of Burnett specifically.
If baseball betting was as easy "betting on starting pitching" then the entire industry would implode in on itself. Nobody would bet on football, everyone would pay off their mortgages during the summer and the word "degenerate" would be redefined as "super successful baseball gambler who just bets on good pitchers". Look around - that's not how this works.
Gems like Burnett's nutty 2012 campaign aren't impossible to find, you just have to look in the right places. Burnett's example is pretty extreme, but Kansas's Jason Vargas had an explosion in May where his Royals went 6-0 SU whenever he started. Jorge de las Rosa of the Rockies had similar stretches through May and August/September in 2012 as well. The trends are there, you just have to keep an eye out for them.
Momentum Plays Are A Very Real Thing
A team that looks unbeatable is probably unbeatable for the moment. There are about ten teams that are just built to contend for the championship in actuality. The other twenty squads are just trying to float by and survive. Last season the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Indians and Athletics were amongst the biggest surprises in baseball betting. None of those teams should have been any good. Instead, they were all amazing and the oddsmakers refused to give them enough credit until it was too late.
Right now, the momentum play in the MLB is the red-hot Seattle Mariners who have outscored the Angels 26-to-8 in a three game series that they swept. Trust me, nobody believes that this is indicative of Seattle making a serious run because they shouldn't have the legs for it. So while everyone is underestimating the legitimacy of Seattle's momentum, just get in and bet on it until it stops payout out. You wouldn't walk away from a craps table if someone's throwing money at you, right?
Ok, I've written more than I probably should have but that just goes to show how much there is to baseball betting when a guy who doesn't watch much can vomit out about 2,000 words on the subject. Here's the summary if you're the type of person that just skips through lengthy articles and looks for bullet points:
1) Betting on starting pitching on good teams will only get you so far; you have to find the one hot-hand on a bad team that is routinely paying out and ride him until he goes cold.
2) Beyond that, you can safely bet good teams playing on the road against bad ones. That's the gold mine in baseball betting. Kershaw's going to be a -350 juggernaut every time he pitches at Dodgers Stadium. Anywhere else and the odds on his starts comes way down. You have to understand how his run support reacts from playing away at home, but you get the general idea here.
3) Bet on the good bad team. This will be a small market team with a tiny public backing that is playing well beyond its potential. Last year that was Pittsburgh and Kansas City. This year? Well it's too early to tell.
4) Ignore bad beats. There's a lot of them out there simply because there are more games. Higher frequency is going to lead to more losses. That's simple math. But as long as your wins are cashing in on good moneylines, you're going to end up ahead.
5) Bet the moneylines unless you're a well versed baseball bettor who knows everything about the majors, in which case you have no need for a moron like me and probably just wasted 10 minutes of your day reading this.
That's it. Have fun and I'll keep posting a weekly "thoughts on the league" type article during the MLB season as I try to last through the rest of this round ball mayhem.
by Michael Stewart
Sweet Sixteen Record: 2-4-2 ATS
March Madness Record: 29-21-6 (58%)
My overall record in the tournament is taking an absolute beating after I had a fast and furious start during the opening rounds. The Sweet Sixteen round bucked the historical trend of favourites winning straight up, and my needle was a bit off in some of the matchups. That's the ultimate problem with betting on college sports - they're kids and sometimes they just don't show up. In college, when you're off you can be way off because a bad game is usually a blowout. I've had some bad beats lately too. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up. Like the tournament itself, betting is a grind and I've embraced the challenge (even if I'm going slightly insane in the process).
If your'e relatively new to my writing, then I should say something that I usually preface my football picks with. I'm summarizing a multitude of excessively boring metrics and analytics in to something that's readable for all types of gamblers. Do you really want to hear a breakdown of a super confusing spreadsheet? I thought so. Let's breakdown the Final Four in my usual, x-factor style.
Dayton Flyers +10.5 over Florida Gators (Saturday - 6:09pm EST)
First of all, there's that whole "first game of each day has been an underdog cover thing" (hey even Tennessee pushed!), but I'm also absolutely terrified of Dayton at this point. The one thing I really like about this team is that they're too complicated to truly understand. Part of is that I didn't spend my year tracking the Atlantic 10 to a great degree (and who the hell would without pulling their face off?) but it's also virtually impossible to grade matchups when a coach is rotating 12 players. Dayton's ability to mix and match their lineups depending on who's hot doesn't just give them a sneaky variable that opponents can't account for - it also gives them a silly amount of fresh legs.
Florida can be an excessively frustrating opponent, so subbing guys off to recharge both physically and mentally while they watch the game and try to break down the different reads with their coaches gives Dayton this weird, twisted edge that I haven't really come appreciate until recently. The way they beat the piss out of Stanford really set alarm bells off for me when upsets over Syracuse and Ohio State should have. I'm not suggesting that Dayton wins this game outright, but they have so many capable guys to turn to that this line has backdoor cover written all over it.
The Gators are also totally comfortable winning a close game. As I've said, they keep their composure better than any other team in the country, which is what happens when you're built mostly around seniors. Dayton will continue to throw bodies at the Gators until something works, and that gives them plenty of opportunity to either keep this game close or find away to catch the tournament's best team from behind.
#2 Wisconsin Badgers +3.0 over #1 Arizona Wildcats (Saturday - 8:49pm EST)
I really like Arizona from a talent standpoint, but something about this team isn't clicking for me. Listen, San Diego State was not a good team and they just played one of their best games of the season and still ended up losing because they had no finishing power. This Badgers team can beat you offensively, defensively and run up the score before you know what hit you. Kaminsky is a huge, neutralizing force and Arizona has never really stood on sturdy legs this entire season. I've written pretty extensively about my fear of Arizona in big time games because I just feel that they're vulnerable to upsets. They looked shaky against a bad Aztecs team. If they come out soft against the dialled in Badgers, they're going to be sucking on a dirt bottle pretty quickly.
#7 UConn Huskies +5.5 over #4 Michigan State Spartans (Sunday - 2:20pm EST)
After sending Shabazz Napier upstream without a paddle in my last mention of the Huskies, I'm begging him to take me back. I love this match up for him, and the confidence that a guy like DeAndre Daniels is going to have after helping frustrate a physical Iowa State team is going to be massive for UConn. There's a ton to like about MSU but they don't have anyone in the backcourt who can stop Napier from getting what he wants. Plus, the Spartans are the only team who haven't covered in one game this entire tournament (0-2-1 ATS). With a generous line, UConn can easily take over this game and grind out a win. And if they can't, the cover is right there for the taking.
#8 Kentucky Wildcats -1.5 over #2 Michigan Wolverines (Sunday - 5:05pm EST)
Sorry, Michigan. You're pretty good, but Kentucky is way better. Beating the only undefeated ranked team in the country and the defending champion in two decisive wars has proven that the Wildcats are ready to step in to the ring with anyone and keep on swinging. There's just no quit in these monsters. Kentucky's overall size, speed and power is going to be too much for Michigan. This is a battle between two big name programs, so don't account for any market inflation. What you should remember is that Kentucky was the top rated team heading in to the season. We knew why before, but now we're seeing it in the flesh. I'm all in. Seriously.
by Michael Stewart
I'm starting to lose my mind...
Thursday's Elite Eight Record: 1-3 ATS
March Madness Record: 28-20-4 ATS
Last night didn't go so well at all. All of the teams I backed came out ridiculously flat, including Florida which was the only team I pegged to cover that did. Dayton continued to defy all logic and reason and seem blessed as Stanford was routinely stumped during their comeback attempts. Baylor was eviscerated by Kaminsky and the Wisconsin Badgers' defence, and in a final attempt to really turn my screws, Arizona missed the cover by a freaking half-point! Let's try and make up for a bad start, shall we?
#11 Tennessee Volunteers +2.0 over #2 Michigan Wolverines (7:15pm EST)
The first game of every single day has been an upset. How's that for an x-factor? I also really like this Tennessee team's length. Both teams have been burying opponents so far in the NCAA Tournament, but the real reason the Vols have a major advantage is Jarnell Stokes, a huge big man under the rim who has recorded a double-double in every single game. Without McGrary in the middle, the Vols have a reliable force of nature inside who can take over this game on both ends of the floor. The Volunteers play a stiff man coverage that should also give Michigan some problems on the perimeter so if you're banking on the Wolverines' outside shooting, I'd go the other way.
#3 Iowa State Cyclones -1.5 over #7 UConn Huskies (7:27pm EST)
Could this game be any more exciting? If you've been reading my picks throughout the tournament, then you know I'm a big fan of Shabazz Napier. Watching him terrorize Villanova was an absolute delight even though I bet against him. But I don't like his chances of taking over this game. Iowa State is too fast, furious and physical. The combination of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, who combined for 43 points against UNC, is electric and the Huskies don't have the overall size to compete with these wild Cyclones. Napier will have to have the game of his life for UConn to advance. I'm betting against it as much as it hurts my own feelings :(
#8 Kentucky Wildcats +4.0 over #4 Louisville Cardinals (9:45pm EST)
I'd be really, really worried about Kentucky "losing steam" if they hadn't already played like champions during the SEC Tournament. Louisville is undeniably great - fantastic coach, program, point guard, center. They have everything you could want. But Kentucky has been one of the best assembly of teams in terms of pure talent all year. Things simply never came together...until recently. That's why this line has inched away from the defending champions in this Elite Eight matchup. Sure, the wheels could fall off at any time for Kentucky because there's no telling how long this momentum blast will last. Louisville is the more logical take by almost every measure, but these Wildcats are playing at a tempo that is surreal. In recent months, Louisville has not faced or beaten a team as stacked as Kentucky. So yeah, this means that I love Kentucky's 20-to-1 odds to win it all this year from a sheer value standpoint but I also really, really like this slender point cushion as well.
#1 UVA Cavaliers +2.0 over #4 Michigan State Spartans (9:57pm EST)
WHAT?! Damn right, I'm going against the President of the United States! Listen, I tend to think I do a pretty damn good job of keeping my finger on the pulse of things. Michigan State is one of the best teams left in the tournament and UVA has been cast aside as a "who do they think they are?" type of team. I feel the same way about them as I did about Wisconsin. The difference with the Cavs is that they play in a crazy competitive conference. Since the turn of the New Year, they've lost one game in overtime and another to Duke by four points. Plus they're the ACC Champions. That's got to count for something.
The matchup itself presents one glaring problem: Adreien Payne. The thing is that UVA has a really strong defence and center Mike Tobey is pretty much there just to create problems for opposing front court players. Payne gets the nod in that specific matchup, but everywhere else on the court Virginia is remarkably competitive. I am fine getting run over here by MSU. What I can't deal with emotionally is betting against UVA and getting turned upside down like I did with Dayton, Wisconsin and other upstarts I haven't measured properly. The Spartans are a great team and a strong bet. All this pick says about me is that THE MADNESS IS TOTALLY GETTING TO ME.
Now excuse me while I start day drinking with my new, imaginary friends!