Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Picking The Lines: First Round

I like to pick the lines of all of the games in the Tournament. I don't have a lot of time before the first game starts (I'm finishing up this post with about 15 minutes left before UNC-Asheville and UALR tip off the Tournament), so I'm only going to pick the four "first round" games now. I'll pick the "second round" either later tonight or tomorrow. Last year I went 35-25-3 against the spread, but as it always is with money, past success is no guarantee of future success. If I give you a pick that doesn't work out, I'm happy to refund the $0 I charge everybody for full access to this blog. Last year I actually didn't bet a penny on the Tournament, so I didn't make any money off of my picks.

These picks are about previewing the games as much as anything else, so even if you don't gamble, please enjoy the previews. I'll continue these throughout the Tournament.

UNC-Asheville (-3.5) over Arkansas-Little Rock: If you're betting on a 16/16 play-in game, you have a gambling problem. But I'm picking UNC-Asheville for two reasons. First, the computers like them to cover this narrowly. But second, they actually did win during the season. Arkansas-Little Rock was below-.500 in a down Sun Belt Conference, and actually lost seven of their last ten regular season games before having a miracle run through the Sun Belt tournament. I think they've peaked.

Clemson (-4.5) over UAB: I talked about this game here. Clemson is an underrated team that has been playing their best ball down the stretch. And as I said, UAB might be the worst team to ever earn an at-large bid. They don't do anything particularly well, and haven't beaten anybody particularly good either. Clemson has been playing really well lately. In their last six games they've only lost two - to Duke and UNC, and that UNC game was in overtime. I'll be very shocked if UAB wins this game, and that spread isn't large enough for me to think about UAB covering it.

Texas-San Antonio (-4) over Alabama State: I haven't watched either of these teams play this year, but all you have to know is that Alabama State is from the SWAC, and the SWAC is approximately 3-542 over the past few years against non-SWAC opponents. That record might be slightly off, but that's what it feels like. And Alabama State isn't even the best team in the SWAC this year (that would be Jackson State), and was the 4 seed in the SWAC tournament. UTSA is my pick.

USC (-4.5) over VCU: Both Sagarin and Pomeroy only project a five point victory for USC, which is why the line is where it is. But USC has been getting consistently better throughout the season. Look at their results before Jio Fontan gained eligibility - they were atrocious. So they're a lot better than their computer numbers would suggest. I talked about this game here, where I noted that VCU has been fading at the same time that USC has been improving, and also that VCU is terrible at rebounding and on defense (other than forcing turnovers, which Fontan should go a long way toward preventing). So USC is the clear favorite for me here.


Justin said...

I've been reading your posts for about a year and think they are meticulously (sp?) researched and think there is alot of substance behind your picks. No pressure but I'm taking who you take basically. If I win, I'll be sure to donate to your cause, may not be much but will be more than what your making from what you charge for this blog...haha. Anyways, I wanted to see if you had a chance to watch the Fab Five documentary on ESPN sunday night and if so what were your thoughts on it. Do you think that Michigan team would dominate the tourney today being that we keep hearing about the lack of talent in the NCAA this yr. Or if not dominate, go deep into the tourney? Good job on the blog!

Jeff said...

Well, I got a gift of a cover on the first game. Not sure I want to waste my good luck on a 16/16 play-in game, though.

Clemson was one of the safest picks in the draw, though. I didn't think UAB had a chance.

Jeff said...

As for the Fab Five documentary, it was well made, but very one-sided. There were a few things they distorted.

1) They made it seem like all of college basketball was a bunch of white guys in short shorts before they came around. White America was way more threatened by Tark's UNLV teams and John Thompson's Georgetown teams than the Fab Five.

2) I remember hating that Michigan team, and not just because I was a North Carolina fan as a kid, but because they were so poorly coached and so undisciplined. As much as those guys hated Coach K, if you were with Coach K instead of Steve Fisher they'd have won a couple of National Championships. That Michigan team had more talent than that UNLV team - both teams had three future NBA starters but Michigan's were better (UNLV had Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony). But that UNLV team lived up to the billing. The year the Fab Five were high school seniors was the year that UNLV was one of the greatest teams of all-time. They made it to the Final Four undefeated, and when Duke took them out it was one of the greatest upsets in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

3) They really, really downplayed the cheating. Everybody at Michigan knew what was going on, and it was going on for years before the Fab Five got there. The cheating scandal spanned the years from the Glen Rice National Title run in 1989 all the way to the Tractor Traylor years in the late 1990s. The players can complain that the system sucks that didn't get paid, but they knew the rules going in.

One thing I really did enjoy was the breakdown of that national title game against North Carolina. Seeing a player on the bench call timeout was something I hadn't seen before, and also seeing that long tracking shot of Webber walking with his head down from the court to the locker room was unbelievable.

So it was a well-made movie, just one-sided.