Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013 01:57 PM
Posted Monday, April 08, 2013 01:54 AM
1* Take San Diego
This is a straight ‘fade’ of Chad Billingsley in his 2013
MLB debut. Billingsley came on strong
after the All Star break last year following a 4-9 start to the campaign, but a
torn ligament in his elbow cut his season short.
Billingsley avoided surgery, but his rehab has not been
without problems, including a badly bruised index finger on his throwing hand
from a bunting drill in spring training.
He finished the spring allowing seven runs in just 7.2 innings of
work. His minor league rehab start last
week was equally problematic, struggling with his control in another subpar
effort. I’m not expecting vintage
San Diego bounced back strong yesterday following a dismal
1-5 road trip to open the season – two series where they were outscored by a
combined 40-14 margin. The Padres lineup
pounded out nine runs; their first legitimate outburst in the reconfigured,
more hitter friendly confines of Petco Field.
And let’s not forget that the Padres ranked among the top eight MLB
money winners at home last year, despite finishing ten games under .500
Padres starter Eric Stults threw seven innings of one run
ball in his lone start against the Dodgers last year. The Padres have won nine of his last eleven starts,
despite the fact that Stults has been the underdog eight times during that
span; clearly an undervalued commodity right now. And Bud Black’s bullpen behind Stults was an
elite unit last year, and shut the door on the Dodgers yesterday. Expect more of the same tonight! Take
Teddy is making good money for himself and his clients, riding a 24-14
(63%) all sports run
into Wednesday. He’s locked and loaded with three rock solid winners
tonight, including his 10* NBA Big Ticket and a pair of MLB cashes. Go
for the 3-0 sweep riding Teddy’s complete Wednesday
Posted Monday, April 01, 2013 01:14 PM
I’ve been writing about college basketball fairly
consistently since the Super Bowl. Now
that the calendar has shifted to April, it’s time to shift focus and start
writing about the NBA. With less than
ten days remaining in the regular season, most of the prevailing focus is on
playoff teams. That’s why I’m writing
this week’s column about the bottom feeders that have already been eliminated
from playoff contention.
Can we make money betting on or against these squads down
the stretch? Read on to find out my
thoughts on a handful of lottery bound teams before I shift my focus towards
playoff squads next week and beyond!
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
In the 2012 season, the Charlotte
Bobcats set a record for NBA futility, finishing the season 7-59 SU. Their pointspread futility made headlines
here in Las Vegas as well, as the Bobcats finished as the single biggest money
loser in the league by a wide margin, a woeful 23-43 ATS.
In 2013, the Bobcats didn’t set any records for futility,
but they’ve still got the single worst SU record in the NBA entering the
homestretch. And, for the second
straight season, the betting markets have been unable to catch up with how bad
this team truly is. Charlotte ranks as
the single biggest money loser in the league once again this year; 28-48-1 ATS
through the weekend.
That being said, unlike last year, we’re seeing the Bobcats ‘show
up’ late in the season. They’ve covered the spread in five of their last seven
while pulling off a pair of home upsets against fellow lottery bound squads during
Minnesota has played solid basketball for the better
part of the last month. And when the
T-wolves win, they cover – 14-0-1 ATS in their last 15 victories, dating all
the way back to December. Each of their
last six wins has come by six points or more, and Minnesota – lowly, lottery
bound Minnesota – has a winning ATS mark as a favorite for the season.
The T-wolves are riding a 7-3-1 ATS run over their last eleven
ballgames and head coach Rick Adelman just celebrated his 1000th
career victory, joining Don Nelson, Lenny
Wilkens, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and George Karl. Interestingly enough, like Adelman, Sloan,
Nelson and Karl have never won titles.
It’s surely worth noting that the T-wolves are 5-0-1 ATS
following their last six defeats, an emerging under-the-radar trend. With a healthy Ricky Rubio running the point
and center Nikola Pekovic developing into a double-double machine, there’s potential
upside supporting the Timberwolves down the stretch and into next year.
Orlando came into
the season with a hodgepodge roster in what was a clear rebuilding year. They’ve battled numerous injuries to just
about every solid veteran player on the squad, and first time NBA head coach
Jacque Vaughn hasn’t had any semblance of a consistent starting lineup or
player rotation all year.
Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised in the slightest that
Orlando is battling Charlotte for the worst overall record in the NBA. Nor should we be surprised that the Magic
have gone 2-11 ATS as favorites; not a team to lay points with even in the best
But the flip side of the coin is that Orlando has cashed
again and again in one particular pointspread role – as a double digit road
underdog. The results don’t lie – they’re
12-5 ATS as double digit dogs, including recent pointspread covers at Houston
and Atlanta in that double digit dog role on their most recent trip.
a pretty strong candidate to quit on their coach and their season following a
truly dismal post All Star break slide: 1-12 SU over a month long span from
mid-February to mid-March. Head coach
Doug Collins wasn’t expecting the skid: “'I sure didn't see this coming. It’s
kind of mind-numbing to me.”
But wing Evan Turner’s quote at the end of that skid spoke
volumes about their late season intensity: “I'm
not going to sit here and drop my head. I don't think the leaders on this team
will, either.” And that’s most assuredly
been the case. Center Spencer Hawes has
responded to his coach’s criticism with a series of strong efforts, as has
forward Thaddeus Young. Lo and behold,
suddenly the Sixers are winning games and covering spreads again, 8-6 SU, 8-5-1
ATS in their last 14 ballgames.
Even after Philly’s bad
fourth quarter against Miami over the weekend turned a close game into a rout,
Collins still had praise for his squad. “We went for
a home run and unfortunately it didn't work for us this year. But I will tell
you, the guys in the locker room, I'm incredibly proud at how hard they've
played every single night. We've competed and we've had some really tough
losses but we can only grow from that.''
bettors have been cashing Over tickets of late, as the Suns defensive intensity
has been sorely lacking for weeks. Prior
to Sunday’s home loss to New Orleans, the Suns had gone 6-1 to the Over in
their previous seven games while allowing 113 points per game during that
Without injured centers Marcin Gortat (out for the year) and
Jermaine O’Neal (in and out of the lineup), the Suns have no low post shot
blocker and no strong on-ball defender.
Phoenix shot a season best 61% from the floor and won the rebounding
battle last Friday against Golden State and STILL lost the game – no defense
plus 22 turnovers doomed their chances.
This quote from point guard Goran Dragic really doesn’t
inspire much confidence down the stretch: “We're not
going to make the playoffs, so (we'll) just try to compete until the end of the
season.” ‘Trying to compete’ hasn’t
cut the mustard for months – the Suns are just 7-16 ATS in their last 23
the good fight this year. The Blazers
starting lineup was solid, but Terry Stotts has been forced to utilize the
NBA’s weakest bench on a nightly basis; a team with absolutely no quality depth
whatsoever. Portland pulled the plug on
their season about two weeks ago, when leading scorer and second leading rebounder
LaMarcus Aldridge missed time with a sprained ankle. Things were ugly before Aldridge got hurt,
but they got significantly worse without him.
Even after his return, the Blazers have continued to lose
playing without their injured wing, Nicholas Batum. The bottom line? A team that was still very much in playoff
contention two weeks ago has now lost eight straight while going 1-7 ATS in the
process. And their ‘home court advantage’
at the Rose Garden has been non-existent of late, dropping five straight both
SU and ATS in Portland.
If there was a post-All Star break MVP award, Washington Wizards point guard John
Wall would quite deservedly get votes.
And this is a little ‘blow your mind’ stat is certainly worth mentioning
following Washington’s blowout win over Indiana at the Verizon Center on
With Wall in the lineup, the Wizards are 18-4 SU at home this
year; including a 9-0 SU run in their last nine tries. The only teams with higher home winning
percentages than that are all elite squads: Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City
And the Wizards haven’t just been beating bottom feeders at
home during this extended span of excellence either. They’ve pulled home upsets over the likes of
Indiana, Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, Houston, Denver, Brooklyn, New York, the
LA Clippers, Atlanta and Oklahoma City since January as part of their truly
impressive (and truly under-the-radar) 17-5 ATS run at the Verizon Center.
Posted Monday, March 25, 2013 12:20 PM
I’ve been writing about college basketball consistently
since the Super Bowl, and there’s room for one last college hoops column this
week. No, I’m not going to break down
the NIT Final Four, the CBI ‘best of three’ series between Santa Clara and
George Mason, or the CIT Championship Game between East Carolina and Weber
State. This column is about the big boys!
Four teams have stood out above the rest on the biggest of
stages over the past two weekends: Michigan, Syracuse, Wichita State and
Louisville. Bracketologists might be
surprised that only one of the top twelve seeds made it this far, with a pair
of #4 seeds and a #9 seed joining the top overall seed Louisville in the Final
But bettors know that seeding is essentially meaningless,
especially when we’re talking about the bevy of quality teams in the Big Dance. That’s why we’ve seen lower seeded teams
favored on more than a handful of occasions here in the tourney, like when
Syracuse was the chalk against #3 seed Marquette, in one prominent example this
Only one team can cut down the nets in Atlanta next
Monday. This week, I’ll take a closer
look at all four squads, assessing their chances moving forward. Teams are listed from ‘most likely to win it’
to ‘least likely to win it.”
Louisville is the
favorite to win the title – bettors have to lay some juice (in the -140/-150
range) to support the Cardinals to win it all as of Monday morning. And frankly, Rick Pitino’s squad deserves that
level of respect from the betting markets, given their level of play right
Louisville has been an undervalued commodity for more than a
month, riding a 10-1 ATS mark in their last eleven ballgames. And the Cardinals have been pointspread
machines in the postseason; 14-1-1 ATS in their last 16 Big East and NCAA
Tournament games dating back to the start of the 2012 Big East Tourney. Their spotty shooting during the regular
season has been a non-factor here in March, hitting better than 50 percent of
their shots since the start of the Big East tourney.
Besides their pointspread success, Louisville has the
personnel to give opposing head coaches nightmares. This
is a deep, veteran group for Pitino.
Senior point guard Peyton Siva has 22 steals in seven games since the
start of the Big East tourney while dishing out 38 assists in the process. Siva didn’t have a single turnover in the
Cardinals 22 point win over Duke.
Leading scorer Russ Smith, a junior, is averaging 26 points
per game here in the tourney, pouring in at least 23 points in all four
games. Junior Gorgui Dieng blocked eight
shots in two games last weekend while pulling down 20 rebounds. The Cardinals have won the rebounding battle
in all four tourney games, and their defense has been nothing short of stellar
Here’s what I wrote in my ‘Who Has What It Takes to Win the
Big Dance’ article a month ago, before Louisville’s current hot streak. “The Cardinals have
star power, depth, experience and talent. They rebound, play defense and
win games consistently away from home. Rick Pitino’s squad meets all the
criteria that has been effective at predicting past championship. Plain and simple, Louisville has what it takes to win it all.” I still stand by that paragraph.
has talent. Point guard Trey Burke will
be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
Glenn Robinson III should be a first rounder and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a
likely second rounder. Mitch McGary led
the team in both points and rebounds against VCU and fellow frosh Nik Stauskas hit
43% of his shots from three point land this year and led the team in scoring in
their blowout over Florida. Stauskas,
too, has an NBA future.
When we talk about the concepts central to March Madness
success like ‘guard play’ and ‘fundamentally sound team basketball’, John
Beilein’s squad is the poster child.
Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over, values every possession and does
all the little things right. Their
offensive and defensive efficiency numbers are exceptional. That’s how Michigan has won and covered all
four previous games over the first two weekends of the Big Dance, and why they
are live to cut down the nets next Monday.
certainly isn’t going to roll over without a fight. And the Orange match up well with the
Wolverines. Michigan’s Nik Stauskas isn’t
going to get open looks from the corner against James Southerland or CJ Fair
the way he did against Florida. Trey
Burke will be up against the tallest opposing point guard he’s seen all year,
NBA- ready sophomore Michael Carter-Williams.
Rakeem Christmas can bang with McGary in the paint.
The Orange are the #1 ranked defensive team remaining in the
postseason, holding foes under 37% shooting for the entire season. And they haven’t even gotten perimeter
sharpshooter (and another guy who should be drafted this spring) senior Brandon
Triche hot in the tourney yet – Triche was held to single digits twice in their
last three games. It’s surely worth
noting that Jim Boeheim’s squad is 7-1 SU and ATS in the last eight games that
Triche has put up 15 points or more – he’s the real ‘X-factor’ against the Wolverines.
Last, but not least, we have my personal favorite team so
far this NCAA Tournament, the Wichita State
Shockers. I’ve been on Wichita in all
four previous tourney games; so have my clients. And we’ve cashed with the Shockers as an
underdog on the moneyline in three of those four contests. There’s been nothing fraudulent about Wichita’s
impressive wins over Pitt, Gonzaga, LaSalle or Ohio State; the only team
remaining in the field that knocked off both of the top two seeds in their
Wichita State won the NIT two years ago and had a Sweet 16
appearance a few years before that. Obviously, their game against Louisville on
Saturday is a tough one – there’s a reason Greg Marshall’s squad is a double
digit underdog, with the early ‘wiseguy’ money pouring in against Wichita. But
the Shockers are a hard-working, physical team that maximizes their talent
level. They embrace their blue collar
nature; diving for every loose ball and battling for every rebound –
essentially, a poor man’s Louisville!
The Shockers have
depth, a ten deep rotation. They stay fresh down the stretch of tight games --
not a single player on the roster averages more than 29 minutes per game. And this quote from fellow Missouri Valley Conference
head coach Geno Ford (Bradley) speaks volumes about their talent level for a ‘mid-major’
best recruiters in the league. We're all out there recruiting. They just get the
best players. They've been able to beat BCS conference schools for guys. Nick
Wiggins could've gone to any BCS school in the country. (Cleanthony) Early
turned down several BCS schools to go to Wichita.....Their length and
athleticism are the primary concerns. They impact the game with that two ways.
They're probably the best defensive team in the league, mixing athleticism with
shotblocking and defensive rebounding."
Can Wichita beat Louisville in a best case scenario? More importantly, can they cover the
pointspread? In a game that is likely to
be rather ugly on the offensive end for both teams, Louisville certainly could
struggle to pull away and win by margin.
But if the Shockers fall behind early, they lack the requisite offensive
playmakers to rally against a superior foe.
Posted Monday, March 18, 2013 12:57 PM
The first weekend of the Madness is in the history books and
only 16 teams remain standing in the NCAA Tournament. The
two best conferences in the regular season – the Big Ten and the Big East -- proved
to be the two best conferences in the Big Dance, sending seven teams to the
Sweet 16 between them. The ACC and the
PAC-12 were the only two other conferences to send multiple teams onto the
second weekend of the Big Dance.
This week, I’ll be taking a look at the sixteen remaining
teams in the field; assessing their chances for continued tournament success as
the field gets reduced to the Final Four this coming weekend. Teams are listed in rotation order.
drawing comparisons to the UConn
team that won it all two years ago. The
Orange, like the Huskies, slumped down the stretch of the regular season. Like the Huskies, they came on strong in the
Big East tournament, rebuilding their confidence in the process. Also like UConn, Syracuse has all kinds of
NBA ready talent. Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland and Brandon Triche
are all expected to be drafted this spring.
Don’t sell the Orange short just because their regular season record
Indiana had more
turnovers than assists against Temple last weekend, and were outrebounded by
the Owls; failing to sniff a pointspread cover despite a significant edge at
the free throw line. This is nothing
unusual for Tom Crean’s squad – they’ve notched only two pointspread covers in
their last eight games; unable to win by the margins the betting markets are
squeaked out a pair of nail-biters over the first weekend of NCAA tourney
action, winning their two games by a combined total of three points. This Buzz Williams’ quote speaks volumes
about their attitude heading into the Sweet 16: “Our character, toughness and
the resiliency of our guys is maybe unlike any team I've ever been around. I
stand at attention and respect for how those kids are...We're not good enough
to blow anybody out…If we can turn it into a fight and make it ugly, then it
probably trends toward it helps us the most.''
Miami-FL is the
best ATS team remaining in the field; still cashing at a 68% clip for the full
season even after their non-covering win against Illinois in the Round of
32. Jim Larranaga took George Mason to the
Final Four, but shockingly, the ACC has only sent three teams to the Final Four
in the last seven seasons. Of course,
two of those ACC schools (Duke in 2010 and North Carolina in 2009) went on to
win the title.
Arizona and the
rest of the PAC-12 were dramatically undervalued coming into the Big Dance,
resulting in a 6-2 ATS mark for the conference as a whole over the opening
weekend. And the Wildcats will get the
rare benefit of being a lower seeded team in a crowd-friendly environment
playing at the Staples Center in LA on Thursday.
Ohio State has proven
they can win ‘grind-it-out’ affairs in the Big 10 tourney and ‘push-the-pace’
affairs here in the NCAA tourney. With three
Big 10 tourney titles in the last four years and three consecutive Sweet 16
appearances, Thad Matta is clearly a tournament coach worthy of respect!
LaSalle was the
only team to win three games on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, all
three in upset fashion. The Atlantic-10
conference opened the tournament on a 6-0 ATS run, but then proceeded to go 1-3
ATS in the Round of 32 before the Explorer’s come-from-behind win against Ole
Wichita State also
pulled off a pair of upsets over the first weekend of the tourney, and the
Missouri Valley Conference went 3-0 ATS before Creighton’s loss to Duke on
Sunday Night. But the Shockers upset win
over #1 seed Gonzaga was propelled by a barrage of second half three pointers;
not normally an area of strength for a team that finished the regular season connecting
on only 33% of their tries from beyond the arc.
It’s been a tale of three seasons for Oregon this year. The Ducks
were a major non-conference surprise and opened the season with an 18-2 SU
record. Then point guard Dominic Artis
got hurt, and the Ducks struggled even when he returned to the lineup, a woeful
2-11-1 ATS over a 14 game span down the stretch of their PAC-12 campaign. But Oregon has turned up the intensity here
in the postseason with five straight impressive wins and four straight
the team to beat, as far as I’m concerned – they’re the #1 overall seed for good
reason; the best team in the country heading into March Madness. And yet the betting markets really haven’t
caught up with Rick Pitino’s squad – they’ve won and covered nine straight
heading into the Sweet 16, playing their best basketball of the year right now!
took advantage of the very friendly crowds in suburban Detroit for their first
two tourney victories, and their defense was positively stifling in wins over
Valpo and Memphis. The crowds in Indy next
weekend won’t be quite as friendly, and the level of competition increases
significantly. Still, I don’t know of
many bettors who have banked significant profits betting against Tom Izzo in
four of their five losses this year when ‘stretch the floor’ 6-11 forward Ryan
Kelly was hurt; missing nearly two full months of ACC play. But since scoring 36 against Miami in his
return to the floor, Kelly has scored just 25 points in his last four games
combined; and the Blue Devils are just 2-2 ATS in the process.
Michigan was as
good as any team in the country for the first three months of the season, but
they slumped down the stretch. From the
beginning of February through the end of regular season play, the Wolverines
went 5-5 SU, 1-9 ATS, a dramatically overvalued commodity. But the Wolverines sure looked like the team
they were earlier in the season in the first two rounds of the tourney, blowing
out VCU and South Dakota State. Of
course the friendly crowds at the Palace of Auburn Hills certainly helped!
downright flat in their tourney opener against Western Kentucky, and looked
even worse in their sluggish first half against North Carolina. Of course, the second half against the Tar
Heels was at the opposite end of the spectrum – complete domination on both
ends of the floor, despite an 0-9 shooting performance from leading scorer Ben
McLemore. With four senior starters back
from the team that reached the championship game last year, this #1 seed has the
talent, resume and experience to make a return trip in 2013.
Florida Gulf Coast
took my money on Sunday, just one game after pulling off the biggest shocker of
the opening round of the tournament, knocking off #2 seed Georgetown. History told us to be very wary of lesser
tournament teams coming off a major upset – all three previous #15 seeds this
century that pulled off an opening round upset were bounced out in the next
round, suffering SU and ATS losses. But
not these Eagles; who were once again the better team on the floor in their win
over San Diego State, shooting 56% from the floor with point guard Brett Comer
dishing 14 assists with only three turnovers.
Florida is 0-6 SU
this year in games decided by six points or less, repeatedly unable to pull out
tight wins. But the Gators are so good,
they don’t play in many tight games; 28-1 SU in games decided by more than six points! This team has been to the Elite Eight in each
of the last two years, blowing a second half lead and losing to Louisville by
four last year following a three point OT loss to Butler the previous season. Head coach Billy Donovan has two national championship
rings already and as well as another trip to the title game in a losing effort
against Mateen Cleaves’ Michigan State squad.
This year’s deep, veteran team has similar upside.
With the madness that is March now in full swing, it’s time
to take a look through the brackets.
Today, I’ll offer a quick take on the 28 matchups already set for
Thursday and Friday. Games are listed in
the entire season losing close games on the road, falling in OT at UCLA and
Kentucky, while dropping games by three points or less at Tennessee, Arkansas,
Texas A&M, LSU and to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament. Larry Eustachy got the most he could out of Colorado State’s talent level this
year, but the Rams, too, lost nearly every step-up game on the highway.
As a #3 seed, Marquette
is only a 3.5 point favorite over #14 seed Davidson; the shortest 3-14 pointspread in recent memory. The betting markets clearly respect the
Wildcats five upperclassmen starters that started 30 of their 33 previous games
together this season.
Butler has won at
least the first two games of every single postseason tournament they’ve played
since 2010, including runs in the Horizon League and A-10 conference tourney’s,
two runs to the championship game in the Big Dance and last year’s run to the
CBI semi-finals. Bucknell’s fellow Patriot League member Lehigh knocked off #2 seed Duke
in the first round last year.
eleven juniors and seniors on the roster, and they’re loaded with size and good
shooters. But Michigan State will have an enormous crowd edge playing in suburban
Detroit and Tom Izzo has a pretty darn good history of avoiding first round upsets.
Everyone knows that Akron’s
point guard got kicked off the team just prior to their regular season
finale. Everyone knows that VCU’s defensive pressure is their bread
and butter, leading the nation in forcing turnovers. The ‘KISS’ strategy (keep it simple, stupid)
was on full display when the TV talking heads broke down this matchup when the
brackets were announced on Sunday Night.
So why have we seen some early wiseguy money come in support of the
Senior point guard Nate Wolters gets the headlines,
averaging more than 22 points and five assists per game, but he’s one of four
double digit scorers for South Dakota
State. They were good enough to
steal a game at New Mexico just before Christmas, but were bad enough to lose
by 24 at Minnesota. Michigan does
something that few Summit League teams are very good at – they play defense!
When Gonzaga faced
Southern in a non-conference tilt
three years ago, the Zags won the game 117-72 and won the rebounding battle
54-11. I know the Jaguars have improved
by leaps and bounds in the two years since head coach Roman Banks arrived in
Garland, but the Zags had a winning ATS record in the dozen games that they’ve
been favored by 15 points or more this year.
Pitt is on a 2-7
ATS run in the Big Dance dating back to 2008, and they’ve lost SU as a favorite
in each of their last four NCAA tournament appearances. Wichita
State has ‘Big East’ level size and depth, but lost five times down the
stretch by five points or less, repeatedly unable to pull out tight games away
Harvard lost and
failed to cover in their opening round matchup against Vanderbilt last year,
continuing a long and storied string of SU and ATS failures for the Ivy League’s
Bi g Dance entrant. Steve Alford’s New Mexico squad won the regular season
and tournament titles in the strongest mid-major conference in the country for
the second consecutive year.
Belmont is loaded
with strong three point shooters, including Ian Clark, Trevor Noack and JJ
Mann; a trio that combined for better than 40% shooting from beyond the arc
this year. But the Bruins lack of size
and consistent string of double digit defeats in the Big Dance gives Arizona a solid chance for redemption following
a disappointing 5-5 SU, 4-6 ATS mark in their last ten games.
Oregon gets a
friendly, close-to-home venue after winning the PAC-12 tournament title, and
Dana Altman’s track record in tournament situations cannot be understated. That being said, the Ducks weren’t the same
team after point guard Dominic Artiz got hurt mid-season – he scored only 20
ponits with 14 assists in six games since his return to the lineup. Oklahoma
State has a clear edge in the backcourt with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown combining
for more than 30 points and 10 boards between them.
St Louis was as
hot as any team in the country down the stretch: 15-1 SU and ATS in their last
16 games, the lone loss coming in OT at Xavier.
New Mexico State got a lucky
draw in the WAC tournament after conference leaders Denver and Louisiana Tech
both got upset as double digit favorites in their opening round matchups.
I remember the first meeting between Cal and UNLV very clearly,
because I had a Bears ticket at pick ‘em in my pocket. Trailing by one, UNLV’s Anthony Marshall
threw up a last gasp airball in the closing seconds, but Quintrell Thomas
grabbed it and scored on a short hook shot with a single second on the clock
for a one point Rebel win. The rematch
could be just as close.
three NBA draft picks on their roster (Michael Carter-Williams, James
Southerland and Brandon Triche), something that correlates extremely well with
extended Big Dance runs. Montana won the Big Sky regular season
and tournament titles for the second straight year, hoping to improve on their
performance from last year when they lost by 24 against Wisconsin in the
Duke will surely
remember their opening round loss to Lehigh as eleven point favorites from last
year, and they’ve only lost one game all season with a healthy Ryan Kelly in
the lineup. Albany lacks any sort of a signature win this year; a team with limited
interior size to complement their strong guard play.
particularly good down the stretch, losing seven of their last eleven in
straight up fashion while going 2-9 ATS.
Creighton, on the other hand,
snapped out of an ugly mid-season funk (1-9-1 ATS, losing SU six times during
that span) by reeling off five consecutive wins and covers on their way to a
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title.
Florida Gulf Coast
has only been a D-1 program for six years.
They lost on the road at VCU, Duke, St John’s and Iowa State all by double
digit margins, but pulled the upset at home over Miami and covered the spread
in all four of their lined games this season.
Georgetown has only two Big
Dance wins since 2007, consistent underachievers in March.
Lon Kruger knows Steve Fisher’s Aztecs well from his tenure
at UNLV, when his Rebels battled San
Diego State for years in a series of ‘down-to-the-wire’ classics. But Oklahoma
did not fare well down the stretch, including bad losses at Texas and Texas
Tech. That being said, San Diego State
lacks low post size and they struggled away from home against quality foes in
Mountain West play.
NC State has
future NBA talent with Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie, two of the five starters
who average at least a dozen points a game for the high scoring Wolfpack. Temple
has struggled with poor shot selection from leading scorers Khalif Wyatt
and Scootie Randall, and their three point defense has been problematic all
Iona has the nation’s
third leading scorer, MAAC Player of the Year Lamont Jones, and the nation’s
second highest scoring offense (80.7 ppg).
Unfortunately for the Gaels, they’re matched up against a defensive
minded, slowdown Ohio State team
playing a just short drive from Columbus.
Last year, Iowa State
entered the Big Dance with a strong 18-9-1 ATS mark and pulled off a double
digit win as an underdog in the first round against UConn. They were a strong pointspread team again
this year, facing off against a Notre
Dame team that is just 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS in their last five Big Dance
Kansas will enjoy
tremendous crowd support against Western
Kentucky at the Sprint Center in Kansas City; the same venue where the
Jayhawks just won another Big 12 Tournament title. Western Kentucky won their final three Sun
Belt Tournament games by three points or less; every bit as lucky as they were
Villanova was a
pointspread juggernaut all year, losing ATS only ten times in their thirty
lined games. But North Carolina was a pointspread juggernaut when it mattered most –
down the stretch – cashing seven of their last eight prior to the ACC
Ole Miss won SU
as an underdog against LSU, Missouri and Florida away from home over the past
two weeks; an ascending team right now. Wisconsin is as tough as nails
defensively, but their lack of consistent scoring options was on full display
in their Big 10 title game loss to Ohio State.
Florida has been
remarkably adept at blowing out lesser foes, closing out the regular season on
an 11-5 ATS run as double digit chalk. Northwestern State leads the nation in
scoring (82.4 ppg) and have ten players who average at least 15 minutes per
game, deep enough to avoid a second half meltdown.
UCLA looked like
a completely different team in the PAC-12 Championship Game, the first game
they’ve played all year without second leading scorer Jordan Adams
(ankle). Minnesota has the veteran talent to pull off the ‘upset’ as clearly
demonstrated by the pointspread -- the
#11 seed is favored over the #6 seed.
Miami enters the
Big Dance tied with Iowa, St Louis and James Madison as the best pointspread
teams in the country this year, all with 11 more covers than non-covers. Pacific
has only one double digit scorer, relying on a ten deep rotation to make up for
their lack of size in the paint; bad news against the dominant Hurricanes
always capable of knocking off superior foes when sharpshooters Brandon Paul or
DJ Richardson get hot from the perimeter.
Colorado pulled the upset
over UNLV in the Big Dance last year before getting blown out by Baylor; unable
to reach the Sweet 16.