Submitted by Wayne Root on Monday, March 21, 2016 at 5:00 PM
Even though the 2016 NCAA Tournament will go down in history for some of its shocking surprises (popular National Championship pick Michigan State going down in the first round, Northern Iowa blowing a 12-point lead in less than 50 seconds), the dog/favorite dichotomy is exactly 50/50 heading into the Sweet 16. For every dog that covers a closing Las Vegas pointspread, a favorite does as well.
That’s part of why so many bettors are finding choppy waters. Results haven’t favored dog lovers or chalk players. Oddsmakers have done a fairly good job with their numbers. Sportsbooks have largely taken stands on the right games against the mis-informed general public. A few outright shockers did slip through the cracks though. Let’s see what we can learn from those.
*MIDDLE TENNESSEE (+16) BEATS MICHIGAN STATE!
The media overreacted, calling this the biggest upset in tournament history. Did they forget Norfolk State was more than +20 a few years ago? Steve Nash and Santa Clara were +20 when they stunned Arizona back in the early ‘90’s. All the pundits who picked Sparty to go the distance had to make it seem like it took a miracle for MTSU to win. Look, Nebraska won in East Lansing at +15 earlier this season. Those TV pundits didn’t know because they don’t pay attention to college basketball until March!
The big lessons to me here were that:
Parity is real
Some national powers are inconsistent
Talented mid-majors can beat the low end of “inconsistent!”
Upsets are often keyed by three-pointers (Blue Raiders were 11 of 19 on treys)
Lightning is going to strike somewhere in every tournament. Lightning bolts usually involve the underdog hitting a bunch of treys against an overconfident team that’s had issues with inconsistency.
*ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (+8) BEATS PURDUE!
Similar situation here in terms of parity and those other points I just mentioned. I should add in now that often teams from “overrated conferences” tend to get shocked in unison. The Big 10 has rallied to get some entries into the Sweet 16. But, the two teams who played in the conference tournament finals (Michigan State and Purdue) were way too proud of that accomplishment. Other points to add…
Teams with no overpowering strength can look very human in the Dance
Teams who play at a slow pace can keep opponents within striking distance
Hey…a #12 seed always beats a #5 seed!
Now you know why at least one #12 wins every year (Yale also beat Baylor). It’s because of the reasons I’ve been listing! In a world of parity, a team hitting some treys will beat a flat vulnerable opponent because 40 minutes isn’t enough time for the superior team to overcome those issues.
*STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (+7) BEATS WEST VIRGINIA!
Sometimes an unheralded team is just a lot better than the Selection Committee realized. There’s no justification for SFA being down at a #14 seed. The most respected computers had them much better than that. You saw this past weekend that the markets did as well when SFA closed at only +1.5 against Notre Dame of the ACC (the Lumberjacks were a PINNACLE play for me…that either pushed at +1 or won near the close). This team had a chip on its shoulder, and came seconds away from pulling off a run to the Sweet 16.
That brings us to…
Talented, veteran underdogs with a chip on their shoulder will bring everything
It can be tricky to know which of the teams seeded in the 12-15 range will have that chip on their shoulder, and which are just happy to show up and play. It helps when veterans are involved who know it’s now or never. And, teams who are legitimately burned by bad seeds are more likely to come out breathing fire. Iona wasn’t “insulted” by getting a #13 seed. Stephen F. Austin really was by getting a #14 (as were Wichita State and Gonzaga by getting #11’s).
I should also mention “overrated” conferences again. I’m just listing the three biggest pointspread upsets in today’s web article. Just below West Virginia of the Big 12 losing to Stephen F. Austin were Texas of the Big 12 losing to Northern Iowa, and Baylor of the Big 12 losing to Yale. Maybe Kansas will run the table, and Iowa State or Oklahoma will go deeper than they already have. But, the mid-level of the Big 12 was exposed pretty badly this past week. (And, Texas Tech shouldn’t have even been invited!)
There aren’t really any true Cinderella’s left in the Dance, so this closes the book on the 2016 storybook. Sure, Gonzaga is a #11 seed…but that was a ridiculous choice by the committee. They were favored here in Las Vegas over Seton Hall and Utah, and are favored again in the Sweet 16 over Syracuse. Cinderella’s aren’t favored that often!
My clients and I are positioned for a storybook finish. I have my eye on some great PINNACLE opportunities already for the Sweet 16. And, we’ll be building bankroll between now and then with the NIT and the other tournaments (and maybe some NBA!)
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