I will edit this as needed - our March Madness package is up, and of course we're already working backwards since games start, well, tomorrow - but really Tuesday. Time is of the essence.
Villanova - Last years' champ with a ton of experience, which matters a lot. Butler beat them twice, so there is perhaps the blueprint of a team that will push them. What the Bulldogs have that most other 'Nova opponents didn't is experience. That means not getting flustered if the WIldcats go on a run, which they always do.
Mt. St. Marys - There aren't many conference's worse than the NEC, but there aren't many teams that played a better non-conference schedule than the Mountaineers. They're not going to outrun anyone, and their small, relying on defense more often than not. They'll create some turnover with teams that aren't careful or taking them seriously.
New Orleans – The Southland Champ who although one of the most experienced teams in the nation, and also played a very good non-conference schedule, is probably in big trouble against a running team. That was evidence in the early season losses to Oklahoma State, Tulsa, and USC.
Wisconsin - An up and down and the really down year for the Badgers. They came down the regular season stretch losing five of seven and just weren't a dominant team, especially on the road. They bring a lot of experience, but couldn't defend the perimeter and were perhaps the worst Badger FT shooting team in my memory. And the Sunday game in the Big 10 is very relevant IMO, and defending the perimeter was a problem once again.
V-Tech – The Hokies are matched up with the Badgers perhaps BECAUSE they shoot very well from the perimeter. For a perimeter team, V-Tech gets to the line quite a bit and shoots from it well. This is a team that beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has a thin bench, which against a slow Badgers’ team won’t be an issue. This all comes down to whether or not the Badgers can score, as V-Tech’s defense isn’t great, but they do play in the ACC which has far more offense to contend with than Wisconsin does.
UNC Wilmington - These guys are another "Winthrop" - play fast, outscore people, and they do not turn the ball over. They gave Duke all they wanted last year in the first round, and have everyone back, so they're a Cinderella candidate for sure.
Virginia – They are what they are without the talent they’ve had in the past. They don’t have Brogdon and Gill which is exactly why we had a GOY on Notre Dame against them in the ACC Tournament.
Florida – We know the loss of Egbunu is a big deal, and where it should and has shown up is more on defense than offense. Their interior defense is vulnerable. The one thing they do have going here is that the game is in Orlando – three of their eight losses this season were to Vanderbilt, so there’s your blueprint. They’re playing a bit quicker under White than they did under Donovan, so although they’re winning, they’re a bit different than in years’ past.
ETSU -Another very quick and very experienced team, and one that doesn't rely totally on the three-ball to score. They have had some turnover issues, and the downside is that they played in the Southern Conference - I look at them as a poor mens' UNC Wilmington, who actually beat them this season, as fate would have it.
SMU – I tried to fade this team all year figuring the coaching change would eventually and/or somehow show up, and of course it did not. I was very high on Cincinnati and we saw what they did against SMU Sunday – nothing. The Mustangs are an awful good #6 seed, perhaps victimized a bit by the Conference they play in. They get to play Friday (having played Sunday) and won’t be playing a rested team.
Baylor – At one time this team was ranked as high as #1 in the nation, so although they’ve fallen off a bit from a bettors perspective, they’re still dangerous. Motely is capable of taking over a game, and they play slow and great defense, but they’ve got some inexperience at the guard position(s) so I’m not seeing them being around too terribly long, especially against a team that has an inside defensive presence and can make them run.
New Mexico State – The WAC champion – a team that just didn’t play anyone all season and tends to turn the ball over, which is surprising because they’ve got some experience, especially in the back court. They do have some length at center behind Eli Chuha, and if they’re going to be competitive against Baylor they’re going to need those guys – but Baylor is probably just a bad matchup for the Aggies.
South Carolina - To me a team headed in the wrong direction as many of Frank Martins' teams have done over the years. He wears them out - yes, they can play defense, but they're vulnerable to teams that can either shoot over them, or run with them.
Marquette – Exactly the type of matchup that could give South Carolina problems, especially since Marquette can play defense and South Carolina struggles to score. I won’t discount them too much for losing to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament because the Pirates are on the uptick. Marquette has the depth and plays quick enough to play with the Gamecocks. The games’ in Greenville, but that’s the only upside for SC.
Duke - This is a year that not many people are giving Duke a chance, which might make them that much more dangerous. They'll go exactly as far as Allen and Kennard take them, and nearly every team that beat Duke just committed to shutting down the arc and dealing with the consequences. It will be interesting to see how much four games in four days takes out of them, but they do have the benefit of playing Friday.
Troy – They’re a nice team that won the Sun Belt, but they just didn’t play anyone all season. They’ve got tons of experience, but not enough talent to give Duke much trouble on a good day. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, so if Duke doesn’t take them seriously they could stay within the number, but there’s no upset here.
Gonzaga – It seems like they’re still being disrespected for being in the West Coast Conference. The loss to BYU was probably the best and worst thing that could happen. It takes the pressure of off them, but also show how they CAN be beaten. They beat Florida (with Egbunu), Iowa State, and Arizona, who they may well get a rematch with in San Jose.
South Dakota State - The Summit League champions that play little or no defense. They rely on making three's and getting to the line (a great FT shooting team) and do have some length. But, this is a team that although they played some decent teams in the pre-conference season, were killed by them. They got hot at the right time and had the benefit of the Summit League Tournament in their back yard. They just don’t have a defense. Because they can shoot over the Zags, this could be high scoring.
Northwestern – First tournament experience and that announcement was one of the cool things of Selection Sunday. Personally I’m not sure they should be in based on beating Michigan and Dayton, really, and we crushed late by Wisconsin who was crushed by Michigan. They’ll play really slow and really good defense, but if they struggle to score things get ugly against the wrong type of team – teams that can shoot over them.
Vanderbilt – These guys beat Florida three times and were not overly dominant away from home – and I’m not sure they are a lesser team than Northwestern, since they’ve got exactly the type of team that can beat N’Western. However, they are away from home, and even they’re conference tournament was in their back yard. I still think it’s a matchup issue for the Wildcats, but that emotion that they’ll play with might be enough to have this game be as close as it’s supposed to be.
Notre Dame – I’m still upset about that ATS loss to Duke. But, all that aside this is a dangerous #5 seed with a ton of experience and one of the most dangerous players in the game. We have learned that one player can carry a team pretty far in these things. Although I’m not down on them by any means – and they did play in the ACC – but down the stretch they didn’t play the best teams. If they’re going to get beat, especially because they’re not deep - it’s by a team that will force them to run, which is hard to do – they didn’t have any bad losses.
Princeton – Not much changes from year to year with these guys. A slow team that just shoot’s three’s and in fact score 42% of their points from behind the arc, good for 4th in the nation. They’ve got experience and in fact most of the same team that lost in the NIT to V-Tech in the first round last year – they played some good team last Fall, and we’re in every game, so once again we can’t over look them. But, Princeton is not the type of team that’s going to force the pace, in fact far from it. The Tigers COULD beat Notre Dame – I don’t think they’re a 5/12 difference, but from a matchup we have to like Notre Dame.
West Virginia – Looking at their schedule, or anyone in that Conference – it’s hard to fathom that the worst team they’ve played since Christmas is Texas. There’s no blueprint to beat these guys. We know they’re going to pressure the ball until they drop, so any game they lose is going to be to a team that can protect the ball. They’re not a great FT shooting team which at some point will haunt them.
Bucknell – The one thing they will do with WVU is run – which I suppose can be a plus since that’s at least one thing not new to them. The Bison did beat Vanderbilt, so the talent is there – and the coaching – but not having played a really good team since the start of Patriot League play is going to make this one tough to win. Covering the number might not be quite so difficult
Maryland – Another Big Ten team that is in my opinion not deserving of a #6 seed. They’re just very young and they’re only going to go as far as Trimble takes them. I don’t see a great win for them, and in fact lose five of seven down the stretch and were bounced by Northwestern – so not coming in hot my any means.
Xavier – We know they’ve been downgraded since they lose Sumner, but perhaps they’ve had time to adjust to that by now since they beat Butler and almost beat Creighton in the Big East Tournament. I guess my takeaway here is that it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them beat the Terps.
Florida State – Perhaps the worst #3 seed in the history of seeds. They’ve got NBA talent but ABA mentality which is not unlike the Seminoles football team. Can you tell I don’t like them? In my opinion they’re completely the beneficiary of playing in the ACC. They beat UVA on the road way back when, and we don’t think that’s a great win anymore, and don’t have a good road win, period.
Florida Gulf Coast - These guys are best remembered for their Cinderella run that got Andy Enfield a job in SoCal. In truth, Dooley has built them back up and they are almost a mirror image of that team, and played Baylor, Florida, and Michigan State - so playing anyone is not going to intimidate. The problem is they may not sneak up on anyone this time. Beating FSU here is far from a stretch, especially in Orlando.
St. Marys - Throw out the losses to the Gonzaga, and they've got the one in-season loss to Texas-Arlington. UTA is very experienced and forced them to run, so there's your kryptonite. Teams that will want to go toe-to-toe in a slow game have little or no chance against the Gaels. They beat Dayton early in the season and had no problem beating BYU - so maybe an under rated sleeper team here. A lot of people have been discounting them since the brackets were announced – I’m not ready to do that. They’re a match up issue for some teams, for sure.
VCU – A team people are high on, and one that I’ve been down on. Not down as in I don’t like them, just “off” as in I don’t think they’re nearly as talented as they’ve been in the past, and not the old Shaka Smart past. The A-10 wasn’t as good as in years’ past, top to bottom, either. They’ve got the experience, for sure – this game will be won by the team that controls the pace. SMC wants to walk, and VCU wants to run.
Arizona - The WIldcats' inexperience will prove at some point to be their undoing, and it's the same oer rated Arizona team year after year. They didn't really have any great marquee wins, perhaps at UCLA earlier in the season - but lost to Gonzaga and Butler. They've got tons of length, few weaknesses, and get to the FT line - but a team with experience that can shoot over them and not turn the ball over is where I see them having a tough time. The pundits don’t seem to agree, and they’ve been installed as 12:1 to win it all.
North Dakota – They rolled through the Big Sky, and this is one of the faster-paced teams in the nation. But, they aren’t what I’d call a run ‘n shoot team – as they do score the bulk of their points inside. However, with Baldwin and Hooker both shooting over 40% from behind the arc, they certainly can score with anyone. They don’t have an overwhelming defense and they’re not a deep team, but a dangerous one.
Kansas - All their losses (WVU, Indiana, Iowa State) were to either very athletic teams and/or teams that will run with them - and just played better that particular night. Losing early in the Big 12 Tournament is potentially a huge plus, giving them a ton of rest – and the books seem committee agrees, giving them a #1 seed ,and the books to, do – installing them as 8:1 to win it all. Only Duke and UNC have better odds, or worse, depending on your perspective.
UC Davis – It’s their first ever NCAA Tournament bid, and they beat Irvine at the buzzer to get here. Of interest is it’s the same Irvine team that beat THEM by 30 a few weeks ago. They’ve got experience, but they’re tiny and are simply going to struggle to score.
NC Central – The best team in one of the worst Conferences (MEAC). But, aside from last years’ mess, being here is not new to them. The almost beat Ohio State and did beat Missouri. I know that everyone beat Missouri, but it’s not a team that should lose to a MEAC school. The almost beat LSU on the road as wel.They are THE most experienced team in the nation – they’re competition aside, and it has to be factored in, but they do play extremely sound defense.
Miami - A team that most gave up for dead after a poor start to the season, but wins over Duke (who was shorthanded), UVA (at a time they were in free fall), and UNC earlier propel them in. I don't think they'll last, if for no other reason than the fact that they've got a short bench and two Freshman in the backcourt, particularly in a weekend game with little rest, if they get that far.
Michigan State – Clearly this isn’t a time of year when it’s easy to bet against a Tom Izzo team, one that opened 12:1 to win it all and now sits a to 100:1. Perhaps If it weren’t for Izzo they may not have made the Tournament, and I have to wonder how much energy they expended mentally just to get here. Remember, they were beaten by the Badgers in the Big 10 Tournament in a game people thought they’d win, and they really needed to. If this is a coin flip of a game, I’ll take the ACC – but perhaps one of the more unpredictable games, other than it should be low scoring.
Iowa State: Almost everyone’s sleeper team, but they’re from the Big 12 so almost anyone in that Conference can beat anyone not in it. They’ve got a TON of experience, but I have to wonder whether a team that SO relies on three point shots to win six (or even four) straight games. They did win down the stretch, but most of their road wins were against the lower half of the conference. It was pretty easy all season and will be now – teams that defend the perimeter will have a chance, others won’t.
Nevada – It’s the MWC champion, and it’s not SDSU or Boise State. They’ll play extremely fast, and they’ve got one of the shortest benches known to man. They’ll be a tough team to bet on or against, depending on the matchup. The committee knows what it’s doing – because these guys have TALENT and can shoot with anyone – and in spite of their strength of schedule, they do defend the arc. And they run like the wind, so this could be a great 1H bet – I was looking to bet on these guys and was hoping for a better matchup to do it.
Purdue: I have not been as high on this team all season as many people have. They shoot really well, but I’ve found them to be like many past Ohio State teams, soft. They don’t get to the line as much as they should. Like many teams, they’ll go as far as Swanigan takes them – Michigan beat them twice, so perhaps a team that can slow them down a bit and just outscore them has a chance.
Vermont – They’re a very methodical and well coached team that does a lot of things well, and haven’t lost since December 21st to Butler. They do have some length and aren’t going to beat themselves, so if they’re allowed to keep a game slow enough, they can beat anyone. And Vermont would be exactly the type of team that could give Purdue trouble, so this is far from and auto-advance for the Boilermakers. The only disadvantage here is that this game is in Milwaukee, so Purdue might have some fans.
Creighton: A #6 seed that opened against an #11 seed as a slight favorite and may well be a slight underdog when all is said and done. I think winning a couple of games in the Big East Tournament got them in – because they just didn’t have many marquee wins before Watson went down, and certainly didn’t after he got hurt. Of course anyone that shoots like they do is always dangerous, but tough to bet on.
Rhode Island – Another Sunday game – and a team that’s going to win with defense. They’ll play slow, and teams that have beat them, and not many lately, have forced them to run. They’re conference losses were twice to Dayton, to LaSalle, and Richmond, all teams that play faster. Creighton does fit that bill, but fortunately URI has the benefit of playing Friday and not Thursday. I suspect this is a low scoring game since Creighton will be pushed on the arc, but URI is at a significant length disadvantage inside. But, even with the extra rest, they’re still playing in Sacramento. Tough draw.
Oregon – No Boucher is certainly going to devalue this team, now to the point where a team that once people thought had a #1 seed chance is now 25:1 to win it all. Let’s not forget they played Arizona to a 3 point game without Boucher, and after the first weekend this tournament becomes more about coaching and less about the players, and the Ducks have a great coach.
Iona – The Gaels are the anti-Princeton in that nothing changes from year to year, except Iona does it with speed. Iona was off this season, finishing third in the MAAC – but experience and coaching won them the Tournament Title. The MAAC was way off this season. I just don’t think the Gaels have enough defense to give Oregon a huge scare, and the total will be big, perhaps too big, because Altman isn’t dumb enough to play run and shoot with these guys, especially down a man. - I think most people expected Monmouth to come out of the MAAC, but alas here is Iona, again.
Michigan – I don’t know if a team could possibly be more over valued by bettors and under valued by the committee than Michigan, since they came in a #7 seed. Their defense was a huge problem most of the season, and clearly they’ve been better lately, but I just don’t see how there’s not somewhat of a letdown and somewhat of a regression to the defense at some point.
Oklahoma State: These guys are probably the best #10 seed in the history of seeds. Nobody took them very seriously early on, and fortunately me and my clients did. They made us a lot of money. They played very much like SF Austin did, and Underwood has had my vote for coach of the year for some time. They don’t play a lot of defense, but some of that is the conference they play in, but they’ve got one of the best players in the nation (Evans) and four others that shoot over 40% from behind the arc. They play quick and can beat anyone – so this game will be a total battle for tempo, and that’s where the extra Cowboys rest gives them a bit of an advantage, IMO.
Louisville - A team I never count out. But, it's pretty clear that teams that beat them are the ones that can simply shoot over them and play reasonable defense. Such as Notre Dame, UVA, and Wake. Anyone that can play that kind of defense, plays in that Conference, and has a great coach – is quite capable of beating anyone.
Jacksonville State - It might not be a HUGE surprise that they won the OVC, or at least to those that follow them. They're capable in their own sphere of influence. They're very thin off the bench and play very, very slow. They beat Tulsa to start the season - but this is a team that will struggle to defend and if they're made to run, probably not your Cinderella.
North Carolina - Losing Kenny Williams might have had a bigger impact if it had been later rather than sooner. They've had plenty of time to secure a "new" rotation. It might have hurt them defensively more than offensively. Lots of talking heads have them playing Duke in the Finals – that would certainly annoy a lot of people. They’re 6:1 (only Duke is better at 5:1) favorites to win it all. Interesting that both favorites to win it all are NOT #1 seeds. They get some extra rest losing to Duke on a Friday – and my only question with these guys is the second game of the week(s) because they play so fast. If they run into a team they can’t pressure or slows them down, that’s where they could struggle.
Texas Southern – The best team in the worst conference, but these guys won’t be intimidated by anyone. They played the third toughest non-conference schedule – and they are TINY. They can put the ball in the hole, but I’m not sure they can stop many teams from scoring. That’s the downside here for UNC is that if they get worn out chasing these guys for 40 minutes before they play Sunday.
Arkansas – Finally, the Hogs get some respect. They’re not that far removed from other Arkansas teams in that they’re deadly at home and not so much on the road. Clearly these are neutral site games, however. They’ve been fine until they have to play the upper echelon teams, losing to Florida, Kentucky, and getting beaten by Oklahoma State out of the Big 12 when they played out of the SEC. They play fast, they score inside, and they’re very experienced.
Seton Hall – The Pirates are kind of a trendy team right now, and I get that. But, they’re pretty thin off the bench and don’t shoot FT’s well at all, so Arkansas could be a very tough team for them to play right now. They don’t see too much of the speed Arkansas has, and the three teams in the Big East that play fast (Creighton, St. Johns, and Marquette) all beat them.
Minnesota – The Gophers were rolling along just fine til they were crushed by Wisconsin in the season finale and then ran into Michigan in the Tournament. They fell way behind in that game and to their credit they made a game of it, of sorts. They play quick and as all “Pitino” teams to, play good defense. They’ve got issues scoring at times – and they’re young, which could be their biggest drawback.
MTSU – They Conference USA champs that played their way in but this is a team that might have been an at-large team anyway, having beaten UNCW, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Belmont. These guys beat Michigan State in last years’ tournament, so they’re also not sneaking up on anyone. They’re very experienced and very methodical – the one thing I will concern myself with is they’ve got a Freshman PG, so I’ll have to consider how Dixon might do on a bigger stage. They’re going to want to control the tempo and slow Minnesota down – so again, whoever wins that battel probably wins the game.
Butler – Their claim to fame this season, if nothing else, is beating Villanova twice. For some reason I’ve never been sold on this team being as solid as previous Bulldog teams, but yet their stats say they are, beyond the wins and losses. They have a TON of experience and just are not going to beat themselves, and in fact their offense is a bit more efficient than previous years.
Winthrop - This could be your dangerous "little team nobody wants to play" - they play fast, shoot three's - and are VERY experienced. Perhaps not in terms of playing on a bigger stage, but they're Senior-laden with no expectations. They're tiny - but they played Dayton and FSU (hanging 86 points on the Noles) so this could be an "over" team that will fight to the finish. I was hoping they’d draw a less disciplined team than Butler, but that could mean this game goes over.
Cincinnati – This is a team I was very high on most of the season and was somewhat surprised at how easily SMU beat them, and again that was a Sunday game so less rest for these guys. And having to play in Sacramento. A team like Wake would probably push them more than KSU since Wake can shoot over them, as SMU did. But, they’re still a very dangerous team and one with a chip on their shoulder after that beating – and this season they found an offense (until they played SMU)
Kansas State – Clearly a beneficiary of playing in the Big 12, but, they pushed WVU to the bitter end in the Tournament so they’ve got some confidence here. My problem with them is that Wake will have had a couple more days rest. If Wake can up-tempo the game they’ve got every chance to win, and I love the fact that they live at the line. That means that much of this one (as many CBB games are) could well boil down to how it’s officiated. It’s quite the interesting match up in that K-State doesn’t defend the perimeter well (and Wake shoots from it well) and Wake just doesn’t play enough defense to be considered seriously. K-State’s had turnover issues, but Wake’s not a pressure defense – so lean Wildcats here.
UCLA – A team that was 80:1 last April that’s now 12:1. Yes, they’ve got one-and-done Ball, and they play quick (very) but they’re not very deep off the bench, so this is another team that could struggle in the second game of a week if they have to work too hard in the first one. Not that they will here, but Arizona beat them twice, so there’s your blueprint of a team that might give them trouble.
Kent –Kent was 2000:1 to win it all when the odds came out last April, and now that they’ve actually made the Dance they’re 5000:1. Not that it matters, I just found it comical. They weren’t even close to being the best team in the MAC, just played four straight games and now travel to Sacramento – so they probably ought to leave the plane running. Hate that for them.
Dayton – Another case where they’re the 7th seed and yet a touchdown underdog to the 10th seed. If you’d tell me before any game that I could take Dayton and that many points I’d probably do it without even knowing who they play. In fact, they didn’t lose a game by that many points all season.
Witchita State – This one’s all about the committee and the “metrics” that have the Shockers as a top ten team in the nation. Now, I do not think that they suck, but, their strength of schedule (weak) simply has to be accounted for. Yes, they’ve got a great coach (so does Dayton) and tons of experience and a deep bench – however, they are a 10 seed for a reason – probably a game I’ll watch. Witchita is bigger, Dayton has more depth – pick your poison.
Kentucky – They are what they are – since Calipari has them playing defense, I do think that perhaps they’re being over looked a bit as far as a Final Four team. Yes, I know they’d have to probably beat North Carolina to get there and I’m not saying they will, it’s just that it’s certainly not a stretch.
Northern Kentucky - So no Valpo out of the Horizon League, and NKU is only two years removed from a middle-of-the-road A-Sun team. That speaks volumes about Coach Brannen, because they surely haven't turned the roster THAT much. They've got some experience in the back court but it seems to me like they're a huge beneficiary of not having to play Valpo OR Oakland in the Horizon League Tournament.
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Excellent read dave. Your CBB knowledge is second to none
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Thanks Dave, what a great ride!
Wtf. Lol. At least I make the right decision every year following uncle dave.
Excellent Dave. Best of luck to you!
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Dang bro you are amazing. Thank you
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Wow Dave. Lotsa work. Good Stuff.
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On board with you Dave. Let the madness begin. Appreciate the write up