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03/12/2012 10:53 PM
Five teams that could screw over your bracket sheet

March Madness seems to be getting more unpredictable.

Two years ago, three double-digit seeds reached the Sweet 16. Last year, four double-digit seeds made it, with No. 11 VCU dancing all the way to the Final Four.

In 12 of the past 15 years, at least two double-digit seeds played on the second weekend.

Here are five double-digit seeds that could follow suit and screw up brackets everywhere:

No. 13 Davidson Wildcats (25-7)

After the Wildcats beat Kansas 80-74 in Kansas City in December, Jayhawks coach Bill Self said, “That wasn’t an upset tonight.”

Davidson is in the tournament for the first time since Stephen Curry led the 2008 Wildcats to the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed. This team doesn’t have an NBA lottery pick, but it has SoCon player of the year De’Mon Brooks (16.0 ppg) leading an attack in which five Wildcats average in double figures. This smooth offensive club ranks 12th nationally in scoring (78.4), 15th in rebounding margin (6.7) and ninth in free-throw percentage (76.4).

No. 4 seed Louisville has bowed out in the first round two straight years. And the Cardinals can go into offensive funks. They averaged 53.3 points in their final four regular-season games before getting hot in the Big East tourney.

If Davidson pulls the “upset,” the Wildcats will face the winner of New Mexico-Long Beach State.

No. 15 Detroit Titans (22-13)

Six of Detroit’s 13 losses came early while 6-10 Eli Holman, the Indiana transfer, sat out due to suspension. The Titans blew out Valparaiso in the Horizon League championship game. They’ve got the best guard most people have never heard of: Ray McCallum, son of Detroit coach Ray McCallum.

McCallum could have played for any D-I powerhouse. He stayed home to revive his dad’s moribund program. With the tourney in sight, McCallum took his game to another level, shooting 59 percent over the last five games while collecting 22 assists and 11 steals.

No. 2 seed Kansas is a tough draw. But the Jayhawks have been known to bow out way earlier than expected. With Holman and another 6-10 senior, LaMarcus Lowe, the Titans can contain Thomas Robinson.

Aside from the Power 6 conferences, the Horizon is the only league that’s won at least one NCAA tournament game the last seven years. The Titans would face the Saint Mary’s-Purdue winner if they advance.

No. 10 Virginia Cavaliers (22-9)

Under coach Tony Bennett, who picked up the “Pack-Line” defense from his dad’s Wisconsin teams, the Cavs lead the nation in defensive efficiency. They hold opponents to 53.7 points. Teams do not get easy baskets against UVA.

Senior forward Mike Scott probably should have won ACC player of the year over Tyler Zeller. Scott (18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg) shoots 56 percent from the field, 81 percent from the foul line.

True, the Cavs have no bench. But with the long TV timeouts in the NCAA tournament, depth is overrated.

After frustrating Florida, Virginia likely would face another run-and-gun team in Missouri.

No. 14 Belmont Bruins (27-7)

The Bruins, who enter on a 14-game win streak, feature a trio of versatile and experienced guards. Kerron Johnson (14.1 ppg), Ian Clark (12.6 ppg) and Drew Hanlen (11.0 ppg) helped Belmont rank third nationally in scoring at nearly 82 points per game.

This team can play with anyone, as evidenced by its one-point loss at then-No. 6 Duke on Nov. 11.

Belmont faces a Georgetown squad that’s lost in the first round in two straight years. If the Bruins advance, they’ll face the San Diego State-N.C. State winner.

No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9)

The Aggies open against an Indiana team that just lost its backup point guard and doesn’t play well away from Assembly Hall.

New Mexico State ranks 11th nationally in scoring (78.5). Senior forward Wendell McKines, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds in the WAC final, averages 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds and teams with senior center Hamidu Rahman to form a potent inside duo. The Aggies feature two playmakers in senior Hernst Laroche (12.0 ppg, 3.8 apg) and freshman Daniel Mullings (9.3 ppg, 4.1 apg).

All season, WAC coaches said New Mexico State, with its size and athletic ability, would be scary if the team jelled. That happened in the conference tourney. In the championship game, the Aggies led 36-16 and were never threatened. They swarmed Louisiana Tech, holding the Bulldogs under 33 percent shooting.

If the Aggies advance, they’ll face the Wichita State-VCU winner.
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03/12/2012 10:56 PM
NCAA preview & pick: Iona Gaels vs. BYU Cougars

Iona Gaels vs. BYU Cougars (-2, 160.5)

THE STORY: BYU and Iona will help kick off the NCAA tournament’s First Four on Tuesday, with the winner moving on to tackle No. 3 seed Marquette as part of the West Regional in the Round of 64. The Cougars look to build on last year’s run to the Sweet 16 after securing an at-large bid to make the 27th tournament appearance in school history. This is the ninth NCAA berth all-time for the Gaels and their first since 2006.

TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV. LINE: BYU -2

ABOUT BRIGHAM YOUNG (25-8, 12-4 WCC): Last year’s Cougars entered the tournament as a No. 3 seed and saw their dream cut short at the hands of Florida after wins over Wofford and Gonzaga. This season, BYU comes in a little more under the radar, falling to Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals and are 2-2 in their last four. The Cougars rank among the nation's leaders in assists per game, averaging 17. Noah Hartsock is BYU’s leading scorer, averaging 16.7 points per game and the Cougars have four players overall averaging double figures.

ABOUT IONA (25-7, 15-3 MAAC): The Gaels have marked their territory among national powers all season long from a statistical perspective, leading the NCAA in scoring at 83.2 points per game, and assists with 19.3 on average. Iona is also near the top in field goal percentage, connecting at a 50.4 percent clip on the season. Mike Glover leads the Gaels’ offense and topped all MAAC scorers with an 18.6 points per game average – good for 33rd in the nation. Scott Machado averages a near double-double with 13.6 points and a 9.9 assists per game.

TRENDS:

- The under is 5-0 in BYU's last five.
- Iona is 12-3-1 against the spread following an ATS loss.
- BYU is 1-5-1 against the number in its last seven non-conference games.

PICK: Iona +2
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03/12/2012 10:58 PM
NCAA preview & pick: Western Kentucky vs. Mississippi Valley State

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (4.5, 138)

THE STORY: Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky will meet Tuesday as part of the NCAA tournament’s First Four, with the winner advancing to take on No. 1 seed Kentucky in the Round of 64’s South Regional on Thursday. This marks the fifth NCAA tournament bid for the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Delta Devils, while the Hilltoppers will make their 22nd appearance in the dance, after capturing the Sun Belt Conference title.

TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV. LINE: Western Kentucky -4.5

ABOUT MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE (21-12, 17-1 SWAC): The Delta Devils rolled through the SWAC tournament, defeating Jackson State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Texas Southern en route to the title. They have ripped off 20 wins in their last 21 games, including their championship run, after a 1-11 start to the season. MVSU has a nose for turnovers, ranking in the top 10 nationally with 8.8 steals per game. Paul Crosby and Terrence Joyner pace the Delta Devils’ offense, averaging 13.6 and 13.4 points, respectively, while Cor-J Cox adds an 11.4 average. MVSU’s last tournament appearance came in 2008, as a No. 16 seed, losing to UCLA 70-29.

ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (15-18, 7-9 Sun Belt): The Hilltoppers enter as improbable conference champions, having won six straight games overall to claim their first NCAA tournament berth since 2009. WKU has developed a knack for edging out close wins, with just two of its 15 wins this season coming by more than 10 points. During their six-game win streak, the Hilltoppers have prevailed by an average of 4.2 points. Derrick Gordon is Western Kentucky’s leading scorer, averaging 11.8 points per game. The Hilltoppers last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2009, upsetting fifth-seeded Illinois before falling to No. 4 seed Gonzaga 83-81.

TRENDS:

- Western Michigan is 24-9 against the spread in its last 33 neutral-site games
- Mississippi Valley State is 1-6 against the number in its last seven overall.
- The under is 17-8 in Western Michigan's last 25 non-conference games.

PICK: Hilltoppers -4.5
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03/12/2012 11:02 PM
Odds to win the 2012 NCAA tournament

The Syracuse Orange lost just two of their 33 games this season and went 17-1 in Big East play, which was enough for the tournament selection committee to hand Jim Boeheim’s boys the second overall seed in the Big Dance.

Oddsmakers don’t share the same confidence in the Big East champs. The LVH lists ‘Cuse, Kansas and Missouri at 12/1 behind tourney favorite Kentucky (2/1), North Carolina (6/1), Ohio State (8/1) and Michigan State (10/1).

Kentucky was +185 to win the tournament last week but the LVH raised its odds to +200 after losing in the SEC tourney final to Vanderbilt. Cincinnati’s odds dropped from 100/1 to 60/1 after winning the Big East tourney.

South Dakota State is the biggest long shot at 1000/1 with BYU, California, Colorado State, Colorado and Southern Mississippi next at 300/1. VCU, who made it all the way to the Final Four last year as one of the play-in teams, is 200/1 to win this season tourney.

Here is the complete list of odds to win the 2012 NCAA tournament:

Kentucky 2/1
North Carolina 6/1
Ohio State 8/1
Michigan State 10/1
Syracuse 12/1
Kansas 12/1
Missouri 12/1
Duke 20/1
Marquette 30/1
Louisville 30/1
Florida State 40/1
Baylor 40/1
Vanderbilt 40/1
Wichita State 40/1
Georgetown 50/1
Wisconsin 60/1
Indiana 60/1
Michigan 60/1
New Mexico 60/1
Cincinnati 60/1
Florida 75/1
Gonzaga 75/1
Memphis 75/1
Kansas State 75/1
UConn 75/1
Temple 100/1
UNLV 100/1
Murray State 100/1
Notre Dame 100/1
Saint Mary’s 100/1
St. Louis 100/1
Alabama 100/1
West Virginia 100/1
Texas 100/1
San Diego State 200/1
Iowa State 200/1
Creighton 200/1
Xavier 200/1
Virginia 200/1
Purdue 200/1
North Carolina State 200/1
VCU 200/1
Long Beach State 200/1
Southern Mississippi 300/1
Colorado 300/1
Colorado State 300/1
California 300/1
BYU 300/1
South Dakota State 1000/1
Field 100/1

Odds courtesy of The SuperBook at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
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03/13/2012 06:20 PM
Big Dance Preview

March 13, 2012

"If you're goin' dancin', you don't care where you bought the ticket."

-New Mexico State HC Marvin Menzies, after being asked if his Aggies team would have rather advanced to the NCAA Tourney by beating regular-season champion Nevada than winning vs. longshot La Tech in the WAC Tourney finale

Yes, Marvin Menzies and his New Mexico State Aggies were pretty excited after winning the WAC Tournament at the Orleans Hotel Arena in Las Vegas last Saturday night. As they and the other 67 Big Dance qualifiers should be as well.

After all, if there's one thing March Mayhem has taught us lately, it's that almost anything is possible. Thank Butler (twice), Virginia Commonwealth, and George Mason for allowing the likes of New Mexico State and several others to dream that they, too, could get to the Final Four.

Now, be honest, do you prefer the March Magic in hoops, or the staid BCS and bowl system of college football? (Just asking.)

We'll get to some possible "new" Butlers and Virginia Commonwealths and George Masons. For the moment, however, a quick review of the weekend and our take of developments on Selection Sunday.

For the first time in a while, we had no serious beefs with the NCAA Tourney Selection Committee on either its choice of teams (with one exception, addressed below) or their seeding. Maybe it's because we're getting pretty good at this "bracketology" stuff ourselves. We only missed on two of our projected at-large selections, with one of those the result of St. Bonaventure's mild upset win over Xavier in the Atlantic 10 finale which came after our final bracket update late Saturday night. That put the Bonnies into the field, and since we figured the Musketeers were in win or lose, that result automatically knocked out of our at-large candidates.

As it was, our only misses were Miami-Florida and Drexel, which were replaced by Cal and, effectively, the Bonnies in the final field of 68. We had Iona into one of the last at-large play-in spots and thought that Jim Larranga's Hurricanes might also get a favorable call, along with Drexel. We knew those last few picks were going to be dicey, but the chips fell mostly where we expected. Including all of the protected (one thru four) seeds, which we correctly tabbed on Sunday morning.

Still, it wouldn't be a Selection Sunday without a few bones to pick with the Committee. Although we suspect it was simply the inability of Committee Chair and Big East consultant (and former UConn AD) Jeff Hathaway to properly explain procedures and decisions that left us a bit baffled.

Such as:

1) Hathaway, like almost all past Committee chairs, dodges most questions relating to decision-making within the 10-member group. His roundabout non-answer to a very simple question from CBS's Jim Nantz regarding the Big Ten Tourney finale, and if Ohio State would have been on the top line instead of Michigan State had the Buckeyes instead won the game, would have made Mitt Romney proud. Hathaway also lost us when trying to explain Missouri's spot as the "eighth team" when seeded at the end of the second line, which shot holes in the supposed "S-curve" system in which the eighth-ranked team should have been matched up with the top tourney seed, which was Kentucky. With Hathaway admitting that Michigan State was the fourth seed and thus earning the final spot on the number one line, Mizzou was then likely the fifth overall seed, not the eighth. While going to great lengths to dodge a direct answer to one of the questions from the CBS panel regarding the Tigers, Hathaway instead botched the explanation.

Note to Committee chairs: why not simply tell the interviewers they are right once in a while with their theories, instead of acting as if information inside of the Committee room should be treated like national security directives?



2) Hathaway did a bit better when explaining the reasons behind selecting Iona instead of Drexel as one of the final at-large entries. But if what Hathaway said was true, we challenge the premise.

The reason? The Gaels were given credit for a much-tougher non-conference strength of schedule rating than the Dragons, but we are disappointed if the Committee members used that as the determining criteria, and didn't examine those slates a bit more closely. Drexel was apparently penalized heavily for scheduling games against Binghamton and St. Francis (PA), which turned out to be two of the nation's worst D-I squads, but also hit some bad luck when a potential matchup vs. Marquette in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam in November never materialized. Meanwhile, Iona drew Big Ten Purdue and ACC Maryland in the Puerto Rico Tip-off Tourney. The Gaels did beat St. Joe's and Drexel lost to the same Hawks, but both games were in November.

And if we're talking about mid-majors "stepping up" their non-conference slates, don't show us a team that makes stops at Hofstra and William & Mary, and modestly challenges itself vs. Marshall, Richmond, Vermont, and Denver, as did Iona. Show us a team like Long Beach State, which went to Pitt, to San Diego State, to Louisville, to Kansas, to North Carolina, to Creighton, and tackled Xavier and Kansas State in the Hawaii Diamond Head Classic. Remember, Drexel has beaten the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, Temple, and Villanova in recent years, all on the road, and its giant-killer reputation has made it hard for Bruiser Flint to schedule higher-profile foes who want NO PART of the Dragons. Hardly Drexel's fault for not being able to schedule a couple of more higher-profile entries who wanted no part of the Philly bunch. That would include most of the local "Big Five" which has always viewed Drexel as a class below, with only Phil Martelli's St. Joe's brave enough to schedule Bruiser's boys this season.

Moreover, don't tell us Iona's Metro-Atlantic was anywhere near as tough as Drexel's Colonial this season. While the CAA had its weak links at the bottom of the loop, the upper and middle tier of the Colonial was much stronger and deeper than the Metro-Atlantic. Drexel's season-ending 19-game win streak ended in a narrow loss in the CAA finale vs. VCU, which advanced to the Final Four last season. Iona? Beaten soundly by Fairfield in the semifinals of the MAAC Tourney.

As we mentioned, we also had Iona in our field of 68, but we had Drexel on the safe side of the cut line, too. And if the Selection Committee used the argument of a stronger non-conference slate to make the decision between Iona and Drexel, it's a lot of hooey. The Committee was flat-out wrong if that was the criteria.

3) Elsewhere, the fascination with the Big East continues. Although we might be as guilty as the Selection Committee for granting the league such a wide berth; we had the same nine teams pegged into our field of 68 as did the Selection Committee. But it's about time we all ask ourselves if we aren't collectively overrating this loop. Only two of the record eleven entries into last year's NCAA field from the Big East advanced to the Sweet 16. And even though UConn stormed from the pack to eventually win last year's crown, few Big Dance entries were shaking at the prospect of facing Big East opposition. Don't be surprised if the Big East becomes the Big Least in March.

4) BYU? We had the Cougars into our field but in retrospect we overseeded Dave Rose's team, projecting the Cougars in the 10-11 range for the past few weeks. We suspect that the WCC connection helped BYU make the final cut this season, as the league rated highly with not only its top teams, but some other impressive wins by lesser entries in the loop (try Santa Clara, which went 0-17 in conference play, beating New Mexico and Villanova in pre-league play, and Loyola-Marymount notching several good wins, including non-conference successes vs. Saint Louis and UCLA).

5) Is there a Butler, Virginia Commonwealth, or George Mason in the house?

Maybe. Here are some stealth mid-major squads to keep an eye on this week. We exclude Murray State because everyone has been talking about the Racers since mid-January.

Virginia Commonweath...Why not the Rams again? Few teams were hotter down the stretch than VCU, which enters the Dance having won 17 of its last 18 games, with the only loss on a miracle 30-foot buzzer beater by George Mason's Sherrod Wright on Valentine's Day at Fairfax. VCU subsequently avenged that loss twice and then won a heart-stopper over aforementioned Drexel in the CAA final. Not as accomplished offensively as last year's Final Four team that could bomb from the perimeter with Joey Rodriguez or dump the ball on the blocks to Jamie Skeen, but even better on the stop end with relentless, full-court pressure "havoc" defense that unnerved Drexel in the CAA title game and is best exemplified by lightning-quick frosh G Briante Webber, one of the best pickpockets (2.2 steals pg, while averaging just 19 minutes on the floor) in the nation. The closest thing to a go-to scorer is sr. swingman Bradford Burgess (13.3 ppg), a holdover from the starting unit that caused such a stir last March, but it's the Ram pressure that can distort games. We guarantee that Wichita State HC Gregg Marshall, who drew VCU in the sub-regionals at Portland, was hoping he would see any other name than the Rams' on the 12 seed line against his team.

Belmont...Rick Byrd's Bruins have been dancing several times (this being their fifth trip), nearly knocking off Duke a few years ago, and in fact played the Blue Devils real tough in this season's opener at Durham, losing by only 1. Belmont likes to force the pace and shoot 3s (making almost nine of them pg while scoring 81.5 ppg), which gives the Bruins a puncher's chance vs. the right foe. Last year, Wisconsin proved to be the wrong foe in a 72-58 Badgers win, but let's see if Georgetown can handle the Belmont tempo led by Gs Kerron Johnson (14.1 ppg), Ian Clark (12.7 ppg), and Drew Hanlen (48% triples) that helped the Bruins post some good non-conference wins over Middle Tennessee and Marshall, and fueled the current 14-game win streak and storm through the Atlantic Sun Tourney.

New Mexico State...We want to see the looks on the faces of the Indiana Hoosiers when they look across the court at New Mexico State during warm-ups in Thursday's sub-regional action at Portland. The internationally-flavored Aggies are arguably the most physically-imposing team in the tournament, a menacing collection of athletes with plenty of scary size (6-11, 6-10, and 6-8 types on the frontline), and a couple of unique weapons in bruising 6-6 sr. F Wendell McKines (18 ppg & 10 rpg), who is comfy on the blocks or creating shots from the perimeter, and highlight-reel 6-2 Canadian frosh Daniel Mullings, a high-wire act who made the midseason departure of shooting G Christian Kabongo much easier to digest. The Ags start three seniors and a junior and also have a heady PG in sr. Hernst Laroche, another Canadian (via Montreal, French accent and all), who steadies the troops. One of the best-rebounding teams in the country (+9 rebound margin pg) and almost impossible to keep off the glass, with McKines, 6-11 Hamidu Rahman, 6-10 Tshilidzi Nephawe (via Johannesburg, South Africa) and 6-8 Bandja Sy (via Cergy, France), all capable of frightening dunks as well. But it's their voracious rebounding that intimidates. "Missed shots are like assists for them," said Hawaii HC Gib Arnold at last week's WAC Tourney. "We tried every scheme in the book to keep them off the glass, and nothing worked," said La Tech HC Michael White after losing the tourney finale by an 82-57 score. "No team in the league could keep them off the boards." Indiana has been forewarned.

Montana...The last time HC Wayne Tinkle brought his Grizzlies to the Dance, they almost pulled a major upset over New Mexico two years ago. Now they're back and confident again, led by explosive G Will Cherry, who hails from legendary McClymonds High in Oakland, prep home to the likes of Bill Russell, Frank Robinson, Paul Silas, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Jumpin' Joe Ellis, and 1968 Olympic 100-meter champion Jimmy Hines. Cherry (16 ppg) and 6-5 swingman Kareem Jamar (14 ppg) are a potent and versatile combo on the perimeter, and Tinkle even has a post presence in 7-0 C Derek Selvig. Beat Long Beach State at Missoula in December and enters the Dance on a 14-game win streak and winner of 20 of its last 21.

Detroit...With enough athletes to match up with almost any team in the field, the Titans are not your usual 15th-seeded entry. UD struggled early in the season as its frontline was depleted by the suspension of 6-10 former Indiana transfer C Eli Holman and season-ending knee injury to PF Nick Minnerath. In the interim, HC Ray McCallum introduced a zone defense to the mix, and Holman would return in mid-December, still coming off the bench but playing starter's minutes most nights. A potent backcourt led by coach Ray's son, "Little Ray" McCallum (15.6 ppg; could have attended any school he wished but chose to play for Pop at UD) and Chase Simon (13.5 ppg), can cause problems for a variety of foes. Nice personnel mix that seemed to gel in the recent Horizon Tourney when beating host Valpo, 70-50, in the finale. Kansas, which has lost to less-accomplished lower seeds in the past, is forewarned against Dick Vitale's former team (the court at Calhian Hall, by the way, is named after Dickie V).

Stay tuned...
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03/13/2012 06:23 PM
Vegas ready for the Madness

March 12, 2012

One week removed from a busy NASCAR weekend that also includes two college basketball conference tournaments, Las Vegas is at it again this week with another dynamic weekend offered to the public that no other city in the world can come close to matching.
It’s the first weekend of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament where a segment of America travels from all corners the country to convene in their favorite sports book and let it all hang out.

“The first four days combine to create the second biggest weekend of the year for us,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick. “I like to compare each of the four days of action to having four consecutive NFL Sunday’s.”

Beyond the gambling, the tournament has always held a special place in the hearts of fans everywhere and Las Vegas always brings out its best in shining fashion because of the massive crowds everywhere.

“The tournament encompasses the entire country and reaches out to almost everyone,” said LVH Super Book vice-president Jay Kornegay. “Whether you gamble or not, almost everyone has an opinion or interest in it one way or another whether being affiliated with the state a certain school is at or just filing out a bracket in an office pool.

“What’s truly amazing about it is that it’s one of the few events that are bigger at the beginning than at the end when the champion is ultimately crowned.”

That excitement and interest translates to massive four day revenues, not just in the sports book, but all casino games, restaurants, bars and hotel occupancy.

The excitement isn’t just reserved for all of our wonderful visitors, either. Here in Las Vegas, the UNLV Rebels always create a buzz in the city with locals hoping to recreate some of the magic from the Jerry Tarkanian glory years.

“We’re expecting huge crowds at all of our properties for the Thursday night UNLV game,” said McCormick. ”We got a perfect 6:50 pm (PDT) start time for us that will maximize the amount of people who want to watch the game with fellow Rebel fans and should help drive business everywhere in the casino before and after the game.”

With so many visitors expected for the weekend just about every casino will offer special accommodations that allow everyone to watch the game comfortably. Places like Station Casinos, Coast Resorts, The South Point, Golden Nugget and the LVH are all opening up their showrooms in addition to having the games on in or near the pit to keep those who want to play black jack updated on what’s going on.

Cantor Gaming sports books will also be jumping with excitement in special locations at the Palms, the Joint at the Hard Rock and M Resort, not to mention the always entertaining and visual pleasing Legasse’s Stadium at the Venetian.

To ensure guests come back for the second, third and fourth day of the tournament, some sports books are offering food and drink specials along with contests.

“Beginning Tuesday all of our (Station) books will be offering $1 Buds and Hot Dogs through the tournament while games are being played, “said McCormick.

Beers for $1 always go over well and in a day that never seems to end like Thursday and Friday where the drinking starts early, keeping your drinking money on the cheap is a good idea. And of course, if you’re playing the games, be sure to get your free drink tickets when wagering.

Lucky’s sports books, the Riviera, LeRoy’s and Station Casinos are all offering great contests with a minimal entry fee to further add to the Las Vegas March Madness experience.

Perhaps the biggest and most successful contest over the last decade has been Station Casinos ’Last Man Standing’ which requires each contestant to pick one game against the spread a day. Win your pick and advance to the next day until there is one man, or woman, standing at the end. The entry fee is $25 and if you buy four, you get one free. They are guaranteeing $40,000 to the winner. Last year the pool rose to $49,200.

So who do the sports books ultimately want to come out of the NCAA Tournament that will maximize action through the betting windows? Is it better to a have Cinderella from a mid-major conference capture the fancy of everyone’s imagination or is it better for the house if all the heavyweight ranked teams advance through the field.

“It benefits our business if we have the name recognition,” said Lucky‘s sports book director Jimmy Vaccaro. “If we could get all No. 1 or No. 2 seeds into the Final Four, that would be ideal and attract the most action."

We’ll find out who those Final Four teams are in a few weeks, but as for now, let the excitement begin.

My weekend will include stays at several different locations beginning Thursday at the South Point where they have .75 cent hot dogs every day. Friday, I will be at the Wildfire on Sunset taking in some of those $1 Buds. Saturday's a tough one because of St Patrick's day which will have me bouncing around from McMullen's Pub to the Orleans all day and likely ending up at New York-New York's Nine Fine Irishmen. On Sunday, I'll experience downtown at the Golden Nugget, Plaza and El Cortez. The El Cortez is a Station book which also has the $1 Bud special.

Enjoy the city and keep the word of mouth spreading news of what a great place Vegas is for the tournament. The more people that come, the merrier it will be.

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03/13/2012 06:25 PM
Travel Trouble

March 13, 2012

They may not know it yet, but whoever gets through Wednesday's Vermont/Lamar first round game will find that they have a few thousand more fans at the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday.

Dressed in dark blue with a big D plastered somewhere on their bodies, Duke fans will be rooting vigorously for the Catamounts or Cardinals against hated rival North Carolina once they're done with Lehigh. Consider it one of the quirks among the venue chatter at this year's NCAA Tournament.

When the ‘Heels and Blue Devils last split regional play in nearby Greensboro back in 2009, the team that played last had to deal with the other's fans that remained attendance to get their money's worth. The decks are stacked against anyone not named Duke or North Carolina in the city that's hosted the most ACC Tournaments, but every little bit helps.

The Creighton/Alabama survivor has the same boost to look forward too, provided the Blue Devils advance on Sunday.

That said, it's not like the Tar Heels would trade the built-in homecourt edge playing in their backyard offers. In an elimination format, every edge gained by traveling less or having more fans in your corner is invaluable.

“The closer to home, the better served you are,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune of his meeting with N.C. State in Columbus. “In a perfect world, it would have been Portland or Albuquerque.”

Instead, the Aztecs are one of eight schools that find themselves over 1,800 miles from home when tipping off action at the NCAA Tournament.

California is up first, 2,000 miles from First Four action against South Florida in Dayton.

Reigning Cinderella VCU finds itself furthest from home, exactly 2,373 miles from Portland, where it’s scheduled to do battle with Wichita State.

That bests Davidson's odyssey to the Rose Garden by less than 100 miles, where they take on displaced cousin Louisville. Make a note that this will be the first game that tips from Portland on Thursday, which starts at 10:40 a.m. PT.

Albuquerque-bound Harvard is playing nearly 2,000 miles from Cambridge.

Seeding a tournament is complicated, so when you add venues to the equation, it's expected some things will fall through the cracks. This committee did a solid job of avoiding many of the glaring errors recent facilitators have committed, but there are a few injustices. Double-digits seeds like Cal, VCU, Harvard and Davidson being forced to travel to far away destinations is just a price they pay for being part of the show.

Needlessly putting obstacles in front of higher seeds that have earned the right at a fair shake in this tournament seems to be an annual talking point. This year's victims are Gonzaga, San Diego State, Indiana and Louisville, forced to trek nearly 2,000 miles a piece to face double-digit seeds that are closer to home.

Nowhere is that more egregious than for the Zags and Aztecs, heading East for what are essentially road games. Understanding neither won their conference tournaments, it's still a strange sight that the selection committee put them in games against teams in their own backyards.

Pittsburgh and West Virginia literally compete in the Backyard Brawl. Thanks to their good fortune, Mountaineers fans can cross the border and support their 10th-seeded basketball team against Gonzaga. Yes, (West) Virginia, there is an East coast bias.

Mark Few took the high road, stating something about all tournaments carrying unique challenges, but the Bulldogs coach should rightfully be seething. In what's expected to be a physical game featuring many massive frames, there will only be one side clamoring for calls.

San Diego State travels just short of 2,000 miles to reach Columbus, where N.C. State awaits. Wolfpack nation can hop in their campers, pull off speeds slightly above the speed limit and make it to Nationwide Arena inside of six hours.

Not surprisingly, both Gonzaga and SDSU opened as underdogs.

Indiana squares off against WAC champion New Mexico State, a No. 13 seed that has many key players still around from the team that nearly upset Michigan State in the 2010 Tournament. The Hoosiers haven't been dancing since 2008, so it's wholly unfair that the dream season that has landed this first appearance under Tom Crean was met with such a heartless reward. It certainly makes the Aggies a live dog candidate, not to mention favoring No. 5-seed Wichita State in terms of proximity should the teams meet in Round 3. Fortunately, Hoosier nation travels well, so they'll still be able to count on looking up and seeing plenty of Crimson and Cream.

Louisville is in that same boat, since Cardinals fans would venture to Shanghai if a big game called for it. Still, it's curious that they would potentially face No. 5 seed New Mexico at the Rose Garden. What's the point of being the No. 4 seed if the other school has the advantage?

Duke and North Carolina got the expected Greensboro treatment, but while UNC gets a potential road regional final against KU, the Blue Devils, losers of the most recent winner-take-ACC game between the Tobacco Road rivals, got the better landing spot. If it handles business in-state, Duke is headed for ACC-friendly Atlanta, site of the 2012 conference tournament.

Teams that were rightfully rewarded include No. 1 overall seed Kentucky attempting to advance through Louisville and Atlanta and No. 2 overall seed Syracuse drawing Pittsburgh and Boston, the same path as Ohio State. Kansas and Missouri both start in Omaha, but only the Jayhawks get to move on through St. Louis. That seems just, since the Jayhawks rolled through the Big 12 with a 16-2 mark in spite of getting bounced early in the conference tournament. Another league school, Baylor, is anchored as the favorite in Albuquerque, which seems fair given its body of work.

The committee also championed the little guy in one instance, putting top mid-major Murray State in Louisville. No. 3 seed Marquette may not like what it sees if both schools advance to Saturday's third round, but as the only team to carry a single loss into the tournament, the Racers earned their break.

Oddsmakers will have a difficult time picking a favorite in that potential clash.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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03/13/2012 06:32 PM
Tuesday's NCAAB Best Bets in BOLD:

Tuesday, March 13

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Western Kentucky - 6:30 PM ET Mississippi Valley State +4.5 500
Mississippi Valley State - Over 137.5 500

Massachusetts - 7:00 PM ET Massachusetts +6.5 500
Mississippi St. - Over 152 500

Robert Morris - 7:00 PM ET Robert Morris +5 500
Indiana St. - Over 129 500

Tennessee St. - 7:00 PM ET Tennessee St. +6 500
Mercer - Under 127.5 500

Coastal Carolina - 7:00 PM ET Coastal Carolina +10.5 500
Old Dominion - Over 130.5 500

Tennessee Tech - 7:00 PM ET Tennessee Tech +9.5 500
Georgia St - Over 137 500

McNeese St. - 7:00 PM ET Toledo -5.5 500
Toledo - Under 138.5 500

Stony Brook - 7:15 PM ET Seton Hall -12 500
Seton Hall - Under 127 500

Dayton - 7:30 PM ET Iowa -4 500
Iowa - Under 148.5 500

Savannah State - 8:00 PM ET Tennessee -14 500
Tennessee - Under 122 500

Princeton - 8:00 PM ET Princeton +4 500
Evansville - Under 137.5 500

Wis.-Milwaukee - 8:00 PM ET Texas Christian -4 500
Texas Christian - Under 138.5 500

Iona - 9:00 PM ET Iona +2 500
Brigham Young - Over 162.5 500

Akron - 9:00 PM ET Akron +6.5 500
Northwestern - Over 142 500

Utah Valley - 9:00 PM ET Utah Valley +13 500
Weber St. - Over 142.5 500

Marshall - 9:15 PM ET Middle Tennessee St. -5.5 500
Middle Tennessee St. - Over 136 500

Louisiana State - 9:30 PM ET Louisiana State +7 500
Oregon - Over 136.5 500

Texas-Arlington - 10:00 PM ET Texas-Arlington +9 500
Washington - Over 156 500

Washington St. - 10:00 PM ET San Francisco -5 500
San Francisco - Over 147 500

Cleveland St. - 11:00 PM ET Stanford -6 500
Stanford - Over 130 500
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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03/13/2012 06:43 PM
NBA Best Bets:

Tuesday, March 13

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Miami - 7:00 PM ET Orlando +4 500
Orlando - Over 189.5 500

Toronto - 7:00 PM ET Toronto +3.5 500
Cleveland - Over 194.5 500

Portland - 7:00 PM ET Indiana -3.5 500
Indiana - Under 191 500

L.A. Lakers - 8:00 PM ET L.A. Lakers +1 500
Memphis - Over 183 500

Houston - 8:00 PM ET Oklahoma City -11 500
Oklahoma City - Over 204 500

Washington - 8:30 PM ET Washington +12.5 500
Dallas - Over 200.5 500

Atlanta - 9:00 PM ET Atlanta +5 500
Denver - Under 195.5 500

Golden State - 10:00 PM ET Golden State +2.5 500
Sacramento - Over 205.5 500

-----------------------------------------------------------

NHL Best Bets:

Tuesday, March 13

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Washington - 7:00 PM ET Washington -118 500
NY Islanders - Over 5.5 500

New Jersey - 7:00 PM ET Philadelphia -118 500
Philadelphia - Over 5.5 500

Carolina - 7:30 PM ET Carolina +183 500
NY Rangers - Over 5 500

Boston - 7:30 PM ET Tampa Bay +143 500
Tampa Bay - Over 5.5 500

Toronto - 7:30 PM ET Toronto +147 500
Florida - Under 5 500

Dallas - 8:00 PM ET Minnesota +147 500
Minnesota - Under 5 500

St. Louis - 8:30 PM ET St. Louis -111 500
Chicago - Over 5 500

San Jose - 9:30 PM ET San Jose +118 500
Calgary - Over 5 500

Detroit - 10:30 PM ET Los Angeles -126 500
Los Angeles - Under 5 500
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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03/14/2012 06:15 PM
South Florida Meets Cal In First Four Fight

The first full day of March Madness is less than 48 hours away and the Kentucky Wildcats are the clear favorite according to the oddsmakers.

Kentucky is the 5/2 ‘chalk’ despite having its 24-game winning streak snapped in the finals of the SEC Tournament. Next on the list are North Carolina (6/1), Ohio State (6/1), Michigan State (17/2), Missouri (10/1), Syracuse (10/1) and Kansas (12/1).

All of those teams are not surprisingly No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. As you can see from the table below, No. 1 seeds have been a great future odds value since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, winning 16 of 27 championships (59.3 percent). The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds have four titles apiece, while any other seed winning is an anomaly.





SEED

TITLES


MOST RECENT



1


16


Duke 2010



2


4


UConn 2004



3


4


UConn 2011



4


1


Arizona 1994



6


1


Kansas 1988



8


1


Villanova 1985



This column is also looking at a busy Wednesday that includes two First Four games for the NCAA Tournament and a full slate in the NIT.

Vermont Catamounts (+3) vs. Lamar Cardinals
Wednesday 6:30 p.m. (ET) on truTV

This battle of No. 16 teams will take place at the University of Dayton and the total is 129 points. The winner gets to face powerhouse North Carolina in not-no-neutral Greensboro.

Vermont (23-11 SU, 3-1 ATS) is the America East champion after beating Stony Brook 51-43 as 3-point underdogs in the tourney final. The Catamounts (13-3) finished behind Stony Brook (14-2) in conference play, but have now made March Madness for the fifth time, going 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS previously. They upset No. 4 seed Syracuse 60-57 in OT back in 2005.

Lamar (23-11 SU, 5-1 ATS) has won six games in a row, including three in the Southland Conference Tournament. The winning streak came right after a postgame tirade by coach Pat Knight (son of Bobby) which seems to have inspired the team. The Cardinals are making their sixth tournament appearance, but first since 2000.

The Cardinals’ defense tightened up the last six games at 57.3 PPG compared to 65.4 PPG for the season. They are undersized, but a senior-laden group, and will present some matchup problems for the Catamounts.

South Florida Bulls (+2) vs. California Bears
Wednesday 9:00 p.m. (ET) on truTV

This second First Four game is also at the University of Dayton and features two No. 12 seeds from major conferences. The total is 115 points and the winner could make some noise next round against No. 5 Temple from the Atlantic 10.

The Bulls (20-13 SU, 16-14 ATS) finished tied-for-fourth in the Big East regular season with a 12-6 mark (11-7 ATS). They also won one conference tourney game, but had to sweat out an NCAA bid after a 7-6 (4-6 ATS) non-conference mark. This is South Florida’s first tournament bid since 1992 and third overall.

California (24-9 SU, 17-14 ATS) is one of just two Pac-12 schools to make the tourney in an incredibly down year for the conference. Regular season champ Washington got the snub after Colorado won the conference tourney. The Bears are playing in their 17th tournament overall, making it in 2009 and 2010 (going 1-2 SU and ATS). They opened 2010 with a win over No. 9 Louisville (77-62) before losing to No. 1 Duke (68-53).

California’s three-leading scorers all come from the backcourt in Allen Crabbe (15.3 PPG), Jorge Gutierrez (13.1 PPG) and Justin Cobbs (12.9 PPG). Gutierrez was named Player of the Year in the Pac-12, with the team scoring 71.7 PPG in regular season conference play (ranked third).

The Bulls were last in scoring in Big East play (58.3 PPG), but first in points allowed (56.9 PPG). The ‘under’ was 22-8 for them on the season and they will be looking to slow the game down and keep the score in the low 60s at most.

March Madness snubs look for revenge

There are a couple of NCAA snubs that will look to take their frustrations out on NIT opponents on Wednesday. Big East Miami is a No. 2 seed and 11-point favorite over No. 7 Valparaiso from the Horizon League. The Hurricanes will be playing at home at BankUnited Center where they went 13-3 SU and 7-6-1 ATS this season.

No. 3 Drexel is another team who had its bubble burst. The CAA outfit is a 7-point favorite over Central Florida from Conference USA.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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