Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 8:58 AM
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - OUR FINAL FOUR NOTEBOOK ...
PLUS TONIGHT'S NIT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW AS VALPO BATTLES GEORGE WASHINGTON AT MSG ...
AND OUR QUICK-HITTER MLB 2016 PREVIEW
Okay, so here is what we know - and what we don't know - while heading into Saturday's NCAA Tournament Final Four in Houston:
We know that there will be an ACC team playing for all the proverbial marbles come Monday night in the championship game with either heavy-duty favorite North Carolina or long-shot Syracuse making it into the title game and we also know neither Villanova nor Oklahoma has made it to the final night of the season since way back in the 1980s ... see Villanova's stunning championship game win against Georgetown back in 1985 and Oklahoma's hard-to-stomach loss to Kansas in the 1988 national championship tilt.
What we don't know is how any of these four teams will react to the big stage come Saturday afternoon/evening:
Will Oklahoma mega-star Buddy Hield rise to the occasion - again - and catapult the Sooners past 2-point betting favorite Villanova?
Will Syracuse's "new kids on the block" Malachi Richardson and/or Tyler Lydon step up and paint this Final Four orange as they did in Sweet 16 and Elite 8 upset wins against Gonzaga and Virginia, respectively?
The bottom line is NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites have won at a decent .571 clip - the chalk is a composite 36-27-0 with one pick 'em game so far - and if the chalk holds here than we're getting a Villanova versus North Carolina showdown come the final Monday night of the season but, as anyone who's followed this sport for years and years know, form doesn't exactly hold all that often when you get this deep in the tourney!
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers steamrolled their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and there's more on the way now that we're into April! Get in now on the NCAA Tournament's Final Four plus tonight's NIT Championship Game from New York City - just go online or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Hey, we're also banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.
NIT TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Madison Square Garden - New York City, NY
VALPARAISO (26-6) vs. GEORGE WASHINGTON (23-10) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Talk about survive-and-advance ... the Valpo Crusaders raced out to a 16-point lead against 2.5-point underdog BYU two nights ago, blew it and then roared back to win as David Skara's standstill three-point jumper with 20 seconds left in the 72-70 non-cover win proved to be the difference.
Go ahead and exhale, Valpo!
George Washington's rousing 65-46 win against 3-point favorite San Diego State in the NIT's other semifinal game, on the other hand, lacked that sort of drama - in fact the Colonials were never threatened as F Tyler Cavanaugh starred with 20 points and 11 rebounds while the SDSU Aztecs shot a miserable 17-of-59 from the floor (that's 28.8 percent).
Note that Valparaiso held BYU to 26-of-68 shooting from the field (that's 38.2 percent) and holding down GW to below 40 percent is the key here because the Atlantic-10 team is gonna fire up shots and the Colonials moved the ball expertly the other night.
Right now, GW's the one-point betting fav,
MLB 2016 PREVIEW
If you've checked out those season-long win totals prices, then you know the San Francisco Giants (90) and the Chicago Cubs (89) lead the way but there are - in fact - 13 Major-League Baseball teams that are projected to win 85-or-more games and there's nine big-league squads expected to win fewer than 80 games this year and let's just say we have our eyes on the Tampa Bay Rays (78 wins) and the Philadelphia Phillies (66.5 wins) as solid "overs" ... we shall see:
NATIONAL LEAGUE - The New York Mets are coming off their first pennant since 2000 and all the chatter is about that young, blazing-hot rotation that stars Matt Harvey, Noah Syndegaard, Jacob deGrom and Stephen Matz but is there enough offense to complement OF Yoenis Cespedes?
Both the aforementioned Cubs and Giants have excellent lineups but the key for the Chitowners is how does 2015 Cy Young winner RHP Jake Arrieta hold up after that "innings bump" and can the Giants' win-every-other-year theme continue with a remade starting rotation behind ace LHP Madison Bumgarner.
NL Division Champs - New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco
NL Wild Cards - Pittsburgh and Washington
NL MVP - Kris Bryant, Cubs
NL Cy Young - Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh
Manager of the Year - Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
AMERICAN LEAGUE - The Kansas City Royals are coming off back-to-back pennants and last year's first-time-in-30-years world championship and yet the smart guys/gals in Las Vegas don't think they'll be back as KayCee's win total is projected at just 87 ... hmmm. Our advice is don't be too quick to bury the Royals just yet.
The consensus feeling is the AL East is loaded with as many as four teams legitimately in the running for the divisional crown plus everyone's expecting a bounce-back year from Detroit and there's whispers that the Los Angeles Angels may be better than everyone thinks.
A surprise team in the AL? As we said above, count on Tampa Bay (78 wins total projected) to be a major pain to the likes of Boston, the New York Yankees and reigning divisional champ Toronto. Out west, Seattle is trying to bounce back from a dour 76-win season but 2B Robinson Cano is finally healthy.
AL Division Champs - Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Texas
AL Wild Cards - Houston and Toronto
AL MVP - Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
AL Cy Young - Chris Archer, Tampa Bay
Manager of the Year - Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
Our World Series Prediction - Tampa Bay Rays over Chicago Cubs in 7 games
NOTE: Get our NCAA Final 4 Game Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.