cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 12:56 AM

Who Has What It Takes to Win the Big Dance

Who Has What It Takes to Win the Big Dance in 2012?

History shows us many things about what it takes to be a champion. I write this article every year, and just about every year, I have been able to identify the eventual NCAA national champion among my elite level teams. Last year, however, was an exception, with UConn coming from the middle of the pack to win the Big East title, followed by an impressive run to the national championship.

Past predictions do not necessarily indicate future success, but I’ll stand by my track record in this article. Remember, as always, this gets written at the tail end of February. That’s before the regular season is over for the major conferences, before the conference tournaments, before the seedings are announced and before a single tournament game has been played.

So as I pen this article for the 2012 campaign, I do have some concerns about whether my long term statistical model still holds juice in the modern era. Not to brag, but I’ve nailed the winner of the NCAA tournament three times in the last five years, correctly predicting Florida in ’07, Kansas in ’08 and North Carolina in ’09. I did NOT predict Duke in 2010, and didn’t even have UConn in the discussion last year. If the eventual champion in 2012 is not among my elite teams, it’s time to change the model. But, if as I expect, the eventual champion comes from one of my elite level teams, I’ll hold off on tweaking what has been a very successful model over the past decade plus.

The last 14 NCAA champions and the team’s they beat in the title game are listed here: Kentucky over Utah in ’98, UConn over Duke in ’99, Michigan St over Florida in 2000, Duke over Arizona in ’01, Maryland over Indiana in ’02, Syracuse over Kansas in ’03, UConn over Georgia Tech in ’04, North Carolina over Illinois in ’05, Florida over UCLA in ’06, Florida over Ohio State in ’07, Kansas over Memphis in ’08, North Carolina over Michigan State in ’09, Duke over Butler in 2010 and UConn over Butler last year.

13 of those 14 champions had very specific abilities, a very specific track record and a very specific statistical profile as a team that allowed them to go all the way. In Part 1 of this article, I’ll take a look at that statistical profile and make a ‘short list’ of potential NCAA champs. In Part 2, I’ll go through that ‘short list’ team by team, eliminating them one by one until we reach the last team standing.

Cinderella’s have reached the championship game. Florida in 2000, Indiana in 2002 and the Butler teams from each of the last two years stand out as the teams that were not among the top 16 seeds in the tournament but were still good or lucky enough to make it all the way to the championship game.

But those Cinderella’s have been unable to seal the deal – the eventual champion has been seeded no lower than #3 in every single year dating back to 1997, when Arizona won it all as a #4 seed. You’ll have to go all the way back to 1988 for a real longshot, when Larry Brown guided the Kansas Jayhawks to a title as a #6 seed. 18 of the last 21 national champions have been #1 or #2 seeds. Even UConn last year was a #3 seed, a factor that I couldn’t and didn’t predict at the end of February when the Huskies were in the midst of a 4-7 slump to close out the regular season.

To earn that type of a seed, the eventual champion must have been an elite level team all year. Prior to UConn’s title win last year, none of the previous thirteen champions had more than seven losses. To win the Big Dance, teams have to be better than good, or even very good. Winning six straight games over three weekends requires greatness, and great teams don’t lose more than seven games throughout the course of the campaign.

Each of the past 14 champions was from one of the six ‘major’ conferences. The mid-majors tend to measure success with Sweet 16 berths, not Final Four trips. We have seen several exceptions to that rule, like Butler’s string of upsets to reach the title game as a Horizon League squad in each of the last two seasons, or VCU’s remarkable run to the Final Four last year.

George Mason enjoyed an amazing run to the Final Four six years ago from the Colonial Athletic Conference; a big enough shocker that we still talk about it more than half a decade later. Memphis made the championship game from Conference USA in 2008 and Utah made it from the WAC in 1998 (at the time), but those are clearly the exceptions, not the rule.

Basically, if a team is not from the Big East, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC or PAC-12, they aren’t facing enough tough competition on a nightly basis to get them ready for an extended tournament run. Sorry Murray St, New Mexico, UNLV, Temple, St Mary’s, San Diego State, Wichita State, Creighton, St Louis, BYU, Gonzaga, Drexel, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee, Harvard, Iona, Nevada, Memphis or Southern Miss. Those elite mid-majors are not going to make my ‘potential champions’ list, even though many of them have managed to crack the Top 25 and have legitimate Sweet 16 potential.

Using just the seven losses, and major conference criteria alone, we can narrow the list of potential NCAA tournament winners down to the following group of 16 teams: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan St, Ohio St, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kentucky, Florida and Cal.

Even if we extend this list to include major conference teams with up to nine losses – like UConn had last year – it still doesn’t become an unwieldy list to manage. Florida State, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Kansas State, Washington, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Alabama are all major conference teams with eight or nine losses so far this season.

But can any of that baker’s dozen really make a title run? I wouldn’t bet on it. Based on my perception having watched those 13 teams play on multiple occasions this season, we might see a longshot Final Four appearance from one of them, but I don’t think there’s a team in the bunch that has what it takes to win it all. I’ll stick with my original list of 16.

Last year, I talked myself out of Connecticut right here, in the ‘projected seeding’ section of the discussion. Here’s what I wrote about UConn: “The Huskies lost at home to Marquette last week. They’ve still got regular season games against Big Dance locks West Virginian and Notre Dame, plus the always brutal Big East tournament next week. The loss to Marquette probably ended their hopes for a #3 seed or higher, which means I’ll give UConn the boot right here, right now.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to consider probable seeding in this year’s tournament. Remember, even though I got UConn’s projected seeding wrong prior to their Big East tourney run, the fact remains – no team has won a national title without earning a #3 seed or better since 1997. So let’s whittle down that list of 16 right here, starting with Virginia.

Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers are 21-7 overall, 8-6 in ACC play. But they’ve lost every ‘step-up’ game in conference action; 0-fer the season against Duke, North Carolina and Florida State. Currently, Virginia is projected in the range of a #7 or #8 seed. I’ll bounce them here.

Cal is another team ready to get the boot right here. It’s been a very down year for the PAC-12; a conference that hasn’t enjoyed a national title winner since Arizona’s back in 1997. Only two PAC-12 teams – Arizona and UCLA – have even made a Final Four appearance since the Wildcats title 15 years ago. Cal got waxed in all three of their non-conference ‘step-up’ games, losing to Missouri, San Diego St and UNLV by a combined margin of 57 points. They haven’t been able to make up any ‘RPI’ ground in conference action, currently projected as a #8 or #9 seed. That’s too low; eliminating the Bears from future discussion.

That leaves me with 14 teams to discuss in Part 2 of this article. I’ll wager dollars to donuts that the eventual NCAA champion will come from this list of 14: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan St, Ohio St, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kentucky and Florida.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 12:59 AM

College basketball betting notebook: Vegas wary of Wichita

Vegas books are keeping a close eye on the Wichita State Shockers as we head into March.

Multiple college basketball pundits, including Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis, have said the Shockers possess Final Four-potential. A Virginia Commonwealth-like run would not be good for at least one Vegas sportsbook.

The Shockers have gone from +25,000 (250/1) to +4,000 to win the national championship in the last three weeks at Caesars Palace.

“Most of these guys don’t ever expect to cash a ticket on some of these longshots like Wichita State; they just want to be in position to make money [by hedging],” said Caesars senior sportsbook analyst Todd Fuhrman. “Anyone who bet Wichita State--and you could have had them at 250/1 three weeks ago—all you need them to do is get into the Sweet 16, and you’re going to turn a profit.”

Fuhrman acknowledged on his blog taking some bets on the Shockers at 250/1.

Michigan State and Vanderbilt are two other teams Fuhrman would prefer not experience one shining moment at the Final Four in New Orleans. But a miracle run by Southern Cal would hurt the most.

“If USC wins the national championship, I’ll start eating fire for a part-time career,” joked Fuhrman. “But I’m not too worried about that.”

All teams will remain on the betting board until they are eliminated from the conference tournaments. Bettors can expect some serious shifting in the title odds, though, once the NCAA tournament bracket is released on March 11.

“Once we see the strength of the regions, you’ll see some drastic adjustments, especially with teams seeded No. 4 to No. 7,” said Fuhrman.

Current favorites to win national title at Caesars Palace as of Monday afternoon:

Kentucky 9/5
Syracuse 9/2
Michigan State 5/1
Duke 7/1
North Carolina 7/1
Kansas 9/1
Missouri 10/1

Syracuse vs. Kentucky

The No. 1 Wildcats and No. 2 Orange are the only teams to be favored in every game. But the betting market favors Kentucky.

John Calipari's team has been favored by 20-plus points 12 times, a fact that's led to a 10-17-1 record against the spread. Only five major-conference teams have worse marks against the spread than Kentucky.

In contrast, Syracuse has been favored by 20-plus points only twice. The Orange are 16-13 against the spread.

Pete Korner, owner and head oddsmaker for The Sports Club in Las Vegas, told that Kentucky would be around a "2 or 3-point favorite" over Syracuse.

Conference win totals

On Nov. 8, Caesars posted conference win totals on 24 college basketball teams. Sixteen of the teams have already been decided, with eight already exceeding their win projections in conference play and the other eight failing to reach theirs.

But there are two big decisions left on the board – Duke and UCLA.

Fuhrman opened the Blue Devils at 13.5 wins. If/when Duke (12-2 ACC) beats Wake Forest on Tuesday, it will set up a deciding game for Caesars against North Carolina on Saturday.

“I’d really like Duke to lose to North Carolina,” said Fuhrman.

It’s a similar situation on UCLA. Fuhrman reported taking multiple limit bets on the Bruins over 11.5 wins in Pac-12 play this year. The action balanced out a little when public money came in on the under when the Bruins stumbled out of the gates with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee. But Fuhrman is still rooting for UCLA (9-7) to collapse in home games against Washington and Washington State.

“I want UCLA to end with nine conference wins, if they could,” said Fuhrman.

NCAA tournament opening spreads

The sportsbooks at the Las Vegas Wynn expects to the first Nevada shop to post lines on the NCAA tournament opening round. Sportsbook director John Avello told Monday that he's planning on opening spreads on each of the 34 first and second-round games Sunday night after the bracket is released on March 11.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 01:02 AM

Pick 'n' roll: Wednesday's best NBA bets

Oddsmakers have yet to release a line for Wednesday's Portland-Denver matchup. Pick should be considered an early lean.

Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks (-9.5, 192.5)

New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni has been looking forward to this week for a long time.

The Knicks weren’t allowed to practice on Monday as per league rules following the All-Star break, but they were able to put a healthy group in for a full workout Tuesday and have a few more practices scheduled later this week.

In this strike-shortened season, practices might as well be pots of gold for coaches.

“We’ve got to get some things sorted out,” D’Antoni told reporters. “We get the All-Star break [and] we’ve got four or five practices and that will help. We’ve got to figure out the identity we have to have and that will be right after the All-Star break.”

There are still a lot of questions to be answered about what the Knicks are all about. Is Jeremy Lin for real? Can Melo share the rock? Can they all stay healthy?

We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one. New York has covered in eight of its last 10 home games.

Pick: Knicks

Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets (N/A)

Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets is a fresh start for the Trail Blazers.

They got out of the gate quickly by winning seven of their first nine games, but they have struggled to find that same consistency since then.

Portland won just four of its last 10 ahead of the break, leaving many players on the squad looking for answers last weekend.

"I truly believe that what happened at the beginning of the season was not an accident," Jamal Crawford told reporters. "It wasn't lightning in a bottle and that's it. I really believe that's who we are. We just have to find that team, find that energy again. When I first came here, I thought we were as good as any team I've been on. And I've averaged 50 wins the last two years. We just need to find that magic again."

Denver’s in a similar spot. The Nuggets covered the number in eight of their first nine, winning outright six times over that stretch before winning only one of their last six before the break.

Pick: Portland

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 01:04 AM

College funds: Wednesday's best NCAAB bets

Auburn Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide (-13.5, 117)

The hot Crimson Tide can take another step toward securing an NCAA bid if they can knock off rival Auburn for the second time this season, and earn their 20th win in the process.

Alabama has weathered the storm that came with the suspension of the team’s two best players and has won three straight games.

JaMychal Green was back in the lineup for Saturday's 67-50 rout over Mississippi State after being suspended for four games. Green, who averages team highs of 13.9 points and 7.0 rebounds, came off the bench and scored nine points in 25 minutes.

Freshman Levi Randolph tripled his scoring average with a career-high 18 points and seven boards versus the Bulldogs. Trevor Lacey’s status remains up in the air; he started the Mississippi State game but played only 11 minutes because a badly sprained ankle.

Either way, Tide should roll here – especially if Auburn suspended guards Varez Ward and Chris Denson are held out again.

Pick: Crimson Tide

Iowa State Cyclones at Missouri Tigers (-10, 146)

No. 8 Missouri, coming off a pair of tough losses, hosts surging Iowa State in what has become a battle for second place in the Big 12. The Tigers squandered a 19-point second half lead at No. 4 Kansas last weekend and lost 87-86 in overtime.

Iowa State, tied with Baylor for third place, has won three in a row and six of eight. The Cyclones are coming off an impressive win at Kansas State and have pulled within a game of the Missouri in the standings.

Royce White continues to be a dominant force, being the only player in Division I to lead his team in scoring (12.8), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocked shots (1.0). Scott Christopherson has also had the hot hand over the last three games, averaging 23.7 points and shooting 74 percent (14-19) from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, the Tigers lost their first home game last week to Kansas State and have dropped two in a row for the first time.

Pick: Cyclones

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 01:13 AM

Early Conference Tournament Games:

CBB[526] PURDUE - 11 1/2








CBB[620] BELMONT -17½


Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 06:58 PM


02/29/2012 @ 04:15 PM


[501] TOTAL o192½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:15 PM


[504] PHILADELPHIA +3 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:35 PM


[506] TOTAL u189½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:35 PM


[508] ATLANTA -7 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:35 PM


[510] TOTAL u185½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:35 PM


[511] CLEVELAND +10 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 05:05 PM


[516] MEMPHIS -2 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 07:35 PM


[524] LA LAKERS -6 1.91

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 07:01 PM

College Best Bets:

02/29/2012 @ 04:10 PM


[528] PITTSBURGH -10½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:10 PM


[531] MARQUETTE PK 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:10 PM


[544] NORTH CAROLINA -18½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:10 PM


[556] TEMPLE -12 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 05:00 PM


[564] HOUSTON U -1½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 05:00 PM


[570] ALABAMA -12½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 05:30 PM


[578] TOTAL u132½ 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:10 PM


[624] BUCKNELL -16 1.91

02/29/2012 @ 04:10 PM


[628] LEHIGH -19½ 1.91

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:33253 Followers:38
02/29/2012 07:06 PM

NHL Best Bets:

02/29/2012 @ 04:35 PM


[2] TOTAL u5½ 1.74

02/29/2012 @ 05:05 PM


[4] CHICAGO -1½ 2.70

02/29/2012 @ 07:05 PM


[5] BUFFALO 2.25

02/29/2012 @ 07:05 PM


[7] ST. LOUIS -1½ 3.30

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: