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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, March 21, 2016 at 1:00 PM

I haven’t had a chance yet to discuss the 2016 NIT yet in any of our coursework. Let’s take care of that right now since we have a few days before the Sweet 16 matchups in the Big Dance arrive on the sports betting schedule Thursday and Friday.

This year’s NIT is particularly interesting because it features so many teams who deserved more serious consideration for the Big Dance. It was a crime that St. Mary’s was left out (a 25-unit winner over Georgia for us Sunday night). That’s extremely obvious now that Gonzaga has made it to the Sweet 16. You’ll recall that Gonzaga was only favored by -2 or -2.5 in the West Coast Conference championship over St. Mary’s (held here in Las Vegas). Gonzaga’s a bigger favorite than that over Syracuse this week. They were just a point under that vs. #3 seed Utah and #6 seed Seton Hall. Gonzaga probably should have been about a #4 or #5 seed (Utah and the whole Pac 12 was overrated), with St. Mary’s around a #8.

San Diego State can make a case as well. Western mid-majors really got hosed this year…just so some bad Pac 12 teams could get in the Dance and embarrass themselves. Back East, Monmouth has a case to make, though the computers and the betting marketplace are less sympathetic to their plight. Winning at UCLA and Georgetown looked better at the time than it did at the end of the season when neither the Bruins nor Hoyas reached the postseason.

There are three games for handicappers to consider tonight. Obviously I can’t tell you who I’ve picked in those games. That information is for paying customers. Here are the matchups and lines.

George Washington (4) is +3.5 at Monmouth (1)

Georgia Tech (4) is +4 at South Carolina (1)

Washington (3) is +5 at San Diego State (2)

If Monmouth is -3.5 at home over a team like George Washington, and home court advantage by itself is worth about 3 in these games (sometimes more), then it’s hard to imagine Monmouth being a “Dance caliber” team in the market’s eyes. Sure, they’re better than a couple of the worst teams that got in (like Tulsa, for example). A lot of teams are better than the NCAA Selection Committee’s worst mistakes. Monmouth has a chance to prove skeptics wrong tonight.

South Carolina is from an SEC that was mostly embarrassed in the Big Dance. Vanderbilt lost by 20 in a play-in game. Kentucky lost to Indiana as a favorite of -3.5. Texas A&M should have been bounced by Northern Iowa, but benefitted from one of the all-time choke jobs in sports history to advance. At least the Gamecocks will be playing on their home floor.

San Diego State is the biggest favorite of the night because they’re hosting a Pac 12 team. What a horrible postseason for the Pac 12. Oregon is the only team left in the Dance. They were a #1 seed with favorable bracketing, but still couldn’t cover their second round spread against St. Joseph’s (and I’m still mad about it!).

Tuesday brings the first “Elite 8” matchups, with the winners advancing to Madison Square Garden next week and the Final Four.

St. Mary’s (2) at Valparaiso (1)

Creighton (4) at BYU (2)

Those winners will play each other in New York. I’m really looking forward to St. Mary’s and Valpo because both teams should have been in the Dance…and because both are looking to send a message about that by winning the whole tournament. Creighton probably deserved more respect considering how well Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference played before exhaustion took them out…and how well Northern Iowa played for 79 of its 80 regulation minutes. BYU is from the same conference as Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. Wouldn’t that be something if all three were still playing next week?

Wednesday, we have the rest of the Elite 8…

Florida (2) vs. the Monmouth/George Washington winner

The winner of South Carolina/Georgia Tech vs. the winner of San Diego State/Washington

The superior seed will host, which means Monmouth would host Florida, but Florida would host George Washington.

Our classic fundamentals will still apply here. Study PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS for the remaining teams. I think MOTIVATION FACTOR largely cancels out because all of the remaining teams have established they care about this tournament now. Perhaps you can find an edge of an extra point or two with particular squads.

Again, I can’t post free selections here in the coursework of our College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. But, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Plenty of college basketball left. And, this busy NIT schedule gives us a chance to go to war every day this week on the college hardwood.  

Back with you in a couple of days to talk about handicapping the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Things aren’t going as well as I had hoped. But, I did learn a lot in the Round of 32 that will set us up, I believe, for a fantastic run the rest of the way. The Dean of Sports Handicapping never backs away from a challenge, which may be the most important enduring lesson I can teach you on these pages. See you midweek.


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