Sweet 16 Dark Horses
Sweet 16 Kicks Off Thursday!
In this year of dark horses and midmajors no one has studied them all year like Kelso Sturgeon. Read on as he examines three prominent Cinderella schools that bettors must have knowledge on for these coming days...
It’s Easy To Follow Name Teams And Forget The Rest
A basic problem of handicapping college basketball is the overwhelming task of keeping up with 343 teams playing two or three times a week and in the end handicappers and bettors believe their best chances for success are to focus on high-profile teams on which they benefit from knowledge games from media exposure, or on teams covered by their local media or to make a choice to specialize in a conference or two.
That works for most but not for me, because it means literally missing scores of opportunities during the season to cash big ticket. Another casualty of following just a handful of teams becomes obvious at NCAA Tournament times when one finds he knows little or nothing about teams such as Northern Iowa, Saint Mary’s and Cornell.
As tough as it is, and as labor intensive and time consuming as it is, I follow more than 250 teams from day one of the college season and all 343 during the last six weeks of each season. I do this because I want to know with what I have to work when teams tare total strangers to one
another when the meet.
This also means the media, bookmakers and linemakers also are a little uncertain about them, leading to many soft numbers.Bookmakers make some effort to come up with reasonably accurate betting lines on games involving these strangers and more often than not miss the mark by enough points to open the door to a winning bet.
A perfect example of this came in the NCAA play-in game this year. Studying all the teams permitted me to get the money from day, getting the job done with underdog Arkansas-Pine Bluff (+3.5) over Winthrop with an outright, 61-44, blowout win in the tournament’s play-in game. Had I not been following these teams the last six weeks of the season I would have simply passed and missed an opportunity to cash a ticket.
There are just so many chances to win a bet during the college basketball season and one must position one’s self to take advantage of every one of them.
Perfect 3-0 In March Madness 100-Unit Plays
I have released three 100-unit March Madness plays and won them all, with the last one coming this past Friday when Maryland (-9.5) got past Houston, 89-77. That was the highlight of last week’s plays—a run in which I had some outstanding days and some not so good. But the bottom line showed a substantial profit after the first week of NCAA Play—and that is all that matters.
The winning is going to continue this week in the NCAA and the three other minor college tournaments going one—the NIT, the College Basketball Invitational and the College Insiders tournaments.
Here is a partial schedule of the big game plays that will be played this week.
--I will kick off the NCAA Sweet Sixteen round on Thursday, releasing all four games, topped by a 10-unit play.
--On Friday, it will be my 100-Unit Sweet Sixteen Game of the Year and I am looking for the easiest of winners.
--On Saturday and Sunday I will be releasing the four NCAA regional championship games, with the unit ratings yet to be decided.
--On Monday, it will be another winning 25-unit NBA Game of the Week, with a team that is in the perfect spot to take down all the money.
--On Tuesday I will move to Madison Square Garden for the two semi-final games of the NIT—and one of them will be my 50-Unit NIT Game of the Year.
As noted, this is just a partial list of big game plays I will be releasing. As the schedule develops, there will be more, so stay in touch.
You can still get on board for my complete March Madness Package that includes the NCAA and the three other tournaments. The price is right, all major credit cards are accepted and you can sign up on this site or toll free at 1-800-755-2255.
The Most Dangerous Sweet Sixteen Teams
This brings me what I consider the most dangerous teams in the NCAA, especially when it comes to covering the number. Without a doubt the teams nobody wants to play are Northern Iowa, Saint Mary’s and Cornell—all of which advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by winning both their games straight up as underdogs.
Ninth seeded Northern Iowa (30-4) opened the NCAA with a 69-66 win over eighth-seeded UNLV and was a 1.5-point underdog in that one. That sent the Panthers from Cedar Falls into the second round as an 11.5-point underdog to top-seeded Kansas whom they knocked off, 69-67, in one of the most stunning upsets in recent NCAA history—and the game was never as close as the final score.
Tenth seeded Saint Mary’s (28-5), a team that has played second fiddle to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference for years, opened against seventh-seeded Richmond and won, 80-71, as a 1.5-point underdog. It was then on to bigger and better things as they faced second-seeded Villanova in the second round and buried the Wildcats, 75-68, as a 4.5-point underdog.
Few, including myself, gave 12th-seeded Cornell (29-4) from the powder-puff Ivy League much chance in its opening game against fifth-seeded Temple but the Big Red fired and pulled off a major upset, beating the Owls. 78-65. Cornell came right back against fourth-seeded Wisconsin and simply destroyed the Badgers, 87-69.
From whence did these teams come and what makes me think they would not have to get too lucky to get to the Final Four and, once there, anything can happen?
For Openers They Are Very Good
One can look at teams such as Kentucky and Duke, with their McDonald’s All-Americans and a roster hand-picked from the cream of each crop of graduating high school seniors and know why they are good. Northern Iowa, Saint Mary’s and Cornell have little prime-time blue-chip talent, so how did they get here.
Simply put, each in its own way, and I am offering here some insight into each one—a look that might show you why you should give these teams a second look in each game they play. Keep in mind that collectively they have a record of 87-13.
Here is a rundown of the three and what makes them dangerous
Why Northern Iowa?
Northern Iowa, a state university of 13,000 students located in Cedar Falls, did not get to the Sweet Sixteen round by accident. While the Panthers from the Missouri Valley Conference lack high-profile star players, they more than make up for it by the chemistry or experience.
The Panthers starting line up is made up for three seniors, a junior and a sophomore, but that is not the real news.
Northern Iowa’s top seven scorers have played a combined 675 career games and 379 career starts heading into Friday’s game with Michigan State but more than that the experience of the starters is nothing short of amazing.
--Senior forward, 6-8 Adam Koch, has played in 131 games and has started the last 100.
--Senior center, 7-0 Jordan Eglseder has played in 117 games and has started 89 of the last 92 games.
--Junior guard, 6-2 Kwadzo Ahelegbe, has played in 98 games and has started the last 72.
--Senior guard, 6-0 Ali Farokhmanesh, has started in all 68 games he has played at Northern Iowa.
--Sophomore guard, 6-1 Johnny Moran, has played in 66 games and started all 34 this season.
Experience of this depth produces amazing results and it trumped talent in that win over Kansas.Around off this experience Coach Ben Jacobson has built a deadly ball-control offense, a great defense and a team that simply does not make mistakes. Against Kansas, Northern Iowa took immediately control, took Kansas out of its high-octane offensive game, and made the Jayhawks play Panther ball.
It goes without saying, if Northern Iowa could silence the great talent of Kansas, the Panthers can stop anybody.For the record, Northern Iowa has the second best defense in the NCAA, giving up just 55.0 points per game this season, is ranked 10th in fewest turnovers (10.5 per game), is 12th in free throw percentage (76.1), 24th in fewest fouls (16.0 per game) and has a bench that runs five deep.
As an added note, the playing floor may give Northern Iowa an additional edge. They are returning to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, where they have won the last two Missouri Valley Conference tournaments Take it to the bank. This team is no easy out. Northern Iowa is currently a 1.5-point underdog to Michigan State.
Why Saint Mary’s?
Saint Mary’s College is a school of 3,916 students located north of San Francisco in Moraga, California, and it has taken a different route to build its basketball team. It has gone to Australia and grabbed every decent basketball player it could entice to come to the United States.
Five of the 14 players on the Saint Mary’s squad hail from Australia and all had been successful in elite leagues in that country before coming here. Three members of the starting five come from the Land Down Under.
The public is hardly aware of the outstanding basketball program in Moraga and that is because the Gaels have for years been right behind Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, but also hidden in the shadow of the latter. Since the NCAA has shown little respect to the WCC, other than to give Gonzaga a place among the elite, Saint Mary’s has struggled for recognition.
Last year the Gaels went 28-7 and didn’t get a smell from the NCAA. This year they buried Gonzaga by beating the Bulldogs by 19 points, 81-62, in the conference tournament championship game.
What the public sees with Saint Mary’s right now is what the Gaels have been for the past several years. The team could simply never get its foot in the door to show the world what it had. The wins over Richmond and Villanova were not flukes. Saint Mary’s is that good.
The Gaels start two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman.
--Fifth-year senior center/forward, 6-11 Omar Samham, who has started all 33 games this season, averaging 21.5 points and 10.9 rebounds.
--Fifth-year senior center/forward, 6-11 Ben Allen, who has started all 33 games, averaging 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds.
--Junior guard, 6-0 Mickey McConnell, who has started all 33 games, averaging 14.0 points.
--Sophomore forward, 6-7 Clint Steindi, who has started 25 games, averaging 7.0 points.
--Freshman guard, 6-4 Matthew Dellavedova, who has started 33 games, averaging 12.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
If Saint Mary’s is vulnerable in any area it would be a short bench. The Gaels normally use but eight players in each game and that can be costly at NCAA Tournament time where fresh legs carry many a team to the next level.
Regardless, this team is for real and can beat anybody in the Sweet Sixteen. It is no surprise the Gaels are 3.5-point underdogs to Baylor on Friday.
I am certainly not going to deceive you and tell you I tapped out on Cornell in its first two games in the NCAA when in fact I went again the Big Red when they played Temple and doubled up when they took on Wisconsin. So much for being smart. Personally speaking, I respected Cornell for going 27-4 during the regular season but despite the fact it took Kansas to the money in Lawrence before losing 71-66 as a 21.0-point underdog, I doubted its quality. Beating Ivy League teams just didn’t get it for me and that dreadful 20-point loss at 6-22 Penn late in the season turned off what interest I had.
So much for being smart.
When the late Chuck Daly was coaching at Penn, the Quakers proved Ivy League teams could win at the highest level of the game and I shall never forget the great Princeton teams of Bill Bradley. In my mind Cornell was not the quality of either. But I was wrong and now know it—and it certainly made me take a much deeper look at this team. The jobs it did on Temple and Wisconsin were nothing short of amazing. Nobody manhandles teams of this quality but Cornell did.
Again it is a matter of experience that breeds confidence. Cornell, a university of more than 20,000 under-graduate and graduate students, has eight seniors on its squad and four of them have been playing together for four years, much of the time starting together.
Here is the Cornell starting lineup.
--Senior center, 7-0 Jeff Foote, has started all 33 games this season, averaging 12.4 points and 8.1 rebounds.
--Senior forward, 6-7 Ryan Wittman, has started all 33 games this season, averaging 17.8 points and 4.0 rebounds.
--Senior forward, 6-7 Jon Jaques, has started 22 games this season, averaging 7.0 points and 2.7 rebounds.
--Senior guard, 5-11 Louis Dale, has started 30 games this season, averaging 12.6 points and 2.9 rebounds.
--Sophomore guard, 6-0 Chris Wroblewski, has started all 33 games, averaging 9.0 points and 2.7 rebounds.
In addition to an experienced starting lineup, it is of note Cornell returned eight of its top nine scorers from last year and obviously has a deep bench. All 14 players who dressed for Wisconsin saw at least limited action. Cornell is as advertised and will be a 9.0-point underdog to Kentucky Thursday. As noted with Northern Iowa, this team will be no easy out.
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