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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM

The 64-team NCAA Tournament moves front and center today with Kentucky (32-2)-the country's only professional college basketball team-the rightful 2-1 favorite to win the national championship. My money says the Wildcats won't get it done because they get suspect  at one guard spot and have a bench that runs two players deep-not the stuff from which champions emerge.
           
After just two days of tournament play, no one has to explain why this is called March Madness. Underdogs have covered in three of the four NCAA play-in games with two winning outright. South Florida (21-13) opened up a 36-13 lead over favored California (24-10) last night and won, 65-54, while playing under wraps for the final eight minutes. In the other Wednesday game Vermont (24-11)  knocked favored Lamar (23-12) into the next county, 71-59.
           
But all of this paled in comparison to what happened Tuesday night when two NCAA records were set by the stunning comebacks of BYU (25-8) and Western Kentucky (16-18)
           
Tuesday night Iona (25-8), a 1 ½-point underdog, slapped sleep-walking BYU around like a rag doll in the first half, opened up a 25-point lead and was well on its way to the Big Dance. Pencil the Gaels in to play Marquette in Louisville Thursday.

But it was not to be as BYU staged an amazing comeback and became the first NCAA Tournament team ever to come from 25 points down and win.
           
That was just part of the excitement. In the other Tuesday night play-in game, Mississippi Valley State, a 3-point underdog to Western Kentucky, the only team in the tournament with a losing record, and was up 16 points with five minutes to play. Pencil the Delta Devils in to meet top-seeded Kentucky Thursday night.

But it was not to be as Western Kentucky came from those 16 points down to win 59-58.

Western Kentucky's comeback in the last five minutes of play also was an NCAA record. No team had ever won a tournament game that was down 16 points with five minutes to go.

The events of Tuesday night and the two games that followed last night serve as a reminder that no lead is safe during March Madness and that underdogs not only can get the cover but they can win straight up

Take it to the bank-what fans and bettors have watched the past two days is merely the beginning of this madness.

For the record I am releasing a five-game NCAA package for Thursday and it will be highlighted by a 50-unit tip-off play that grades out with a 90% chance to win and cover. The NCAA Package is available on this website and toll free at 1-800-755-2255 for just $50. All major credit cards accepted.

A Team Hitting 73.9% Of Its 3's Will Beat Anybody

There are handicapping lessons from the last two days I wish to share with you but, first, here is a complete list of all the games I released Wednesday night, with the results.

March Madness

NCAA Tournament
10 Units
South Florida (20-13) +3 over California (24-9)
Prediction: South Florida by 6-7
Results: South Florida 65, California 54 (W)

5 Units
Vermont (23-11) +2 over Lamar (23-11)
Prediction: Vermont by 6-7
Results: Vermont 71, Lamar 59 (W)

Starting Time: 6:35
TV: TRU (Formerly Court TV)

National Invitation Tournament (NIT)
Mississippi (20-13) -6 over Illinois State (20-13)
Prediction: Ole Miss by 13-14
Results: Illinois State 96, Ole Miss 93 (OT (L)

College Basketball Invitational (CBI)
10 Units
Butler (20-14) -10 over Delaware (15-10)
Prediction: Butler by 16-17
Results: Butler 75, Delaware 58 (W)

Best Bets Club
15 Units
Houston Rockets (23-20) -8 over Charlotte Bobcats (6-34)
Prediction: Houston by 14-15
Results: Houston 107. Charlotte 87 (W)

5 Units
Chicago Bulls (35-9) +3 over Miami Heat (31-10)
Prediction: Chicago by 7-8
Results: Chicago 106, Miami 102 (W)

5 Units
Orlando Magic (28-15) +7 over San Antonio Spurs (27-13)
Prediction: San Antonio by 2-3
Results: San Antonio 122, Orlando 111 (L)

Chairman's Club
25 Units
Los Angeles Lakers (26-16) -4 ½ over New Orleans Hornets (10-32)
Prediction: Los Angeles by 12-13
Results: Los Angeles 107, New Orleans 101 (OT) (W)
Starting Time: 8:05
TV: KCAL Los Angeles, Cox Sports TV Louisiana

Free For Internet
National Invitation Tournament (NIT)
1st Round
Home Team In CAPS
1 Unit
Nevada (26-6) +6 ½ over ORAL ROBERTS (27-6)
Prediction: Nevada by 2-3
Results: Nevada 68, Oral Roberts 59 (W)

Lessons And Observations

In looking at the results you will note I released three college underdogs, predicted they would win outright, and they did. It is my opinion that, as hard as were betting lines during the regular season, that has not carried over to the post-season. It appears to me line-makers are having a difficult time of evaluating teams competing against teams from other conferences. I intend to make it work for us until the bookmakers catch up and that means we have an edge for until at least Saturday.
      
I hate losing any game, especially those plays rated 50 units and up, but sometimes it is simply not meant to be. My figures said Mississippi would run roughshod over visiting Illinois State last night but there was no way for the Rebels to overcome the 3-point shooting of ISU which hit 9-of-12 (75%) in the first half and 17-of-23 (73.9%) for the game. It is as simple as that. There is no answer from any team when an opponent is hitting its 3s at that level.

However, that does not mean all is lost. For me it was an opportunity to save myself with a half-time bet. My feeling was that Illinois State could not hit 75% of its 3s in the second half and that Ole Miss would bounce right back from being down 44-32 at the half and win the game straight up, or at least make a contest of it.

Against that background, I made a half-time wager on Mississippi -7 and bet twice as much money as I had earlier bet on the Rebels to win the game. While Illinois State continued to hit the 3s, I was still able to win my half-time bet while losing the smaller wager on the side.

I also bet the half-time on the South Florida-California game, taking the Golden Bears and laying -5 on the second half. I had already bet on South Florida (+3) to win the game and my feeling was there was no way California would play as poorly in the second half as it had in the first. California was down 23 points at the half, 36-13, and not scored a single point in the last nine minutes of the first half.

This situation differed from the Ole Miss wager in the sense I had South Florida (+3) and was confident that its strangling defense would not let up until later in the game. Everything went to script. South Florida called off the dogs late in the second half, opened the door for California to score some points and the Golden Bears did just that.

In the process I won my side bet on the game, winning easily straight up as a 'dog and getting the job done on the second half as California outscored South Florida, 41-29.

Circumstances dictate half-time wagers but hardly a day goes by that one does not attract my attention and my money. I will write more on this, especially as it relates to the NCAA Tournament.

For whatever it is worth to you, I am buying half-points on almost all NCAA games and laying -120 instead of -110. Lines will get tighter as bookmakers get up to speed and those half points are going to be in play many times between now and the NCAA championship game April 2.

Odds To Win NCAA Championship

These are the current odds to win the NCAA championship as posted at the Super Book at the Las Vegas Hotel. Leading candidates are listed in bold-face.

TEAM ODDS
Alabama 100-1
Baylor   40-1
Belmont  Field
BYU 300-1
Cincinnati   60-1
Connecticut   75-1
Creighton 200-1
Davidson  Field
Detroit  Field
Duke   20-1
Florida   75-1
Florida State   40-1
Georgetown   50-1
Gonzaga   75-1
Harvard  Field
Indiana   60-1
Iowa State 200-1
Kansas   12-1
Kansas State   75-1
Kentucky     2-1
Lehigh  Field
Long Island  Field
Long Beach State 300-1
Louisville   30-1
Loyola-MD  Field
Marquette   30-1
Memphis   75-1
Michigan   60-1
Michigan State   10-1
Missouri   12-1
Montana  Field
Murray State 100-1
New Mexico State  Field
New Mexico   60-1
Norfolk State  Field
North Carolina   7-1
N.C. State 200-1
Notre Dame 100-1
Ohio  Field
Ohio State     8-1
Purdue 200-1
San Diego State 200-1
South Dakota State       1000-1
South Florida  Field
Southern Miss 300-1
St. Bonaventure  Field
Saint Louis  Field
Syracuse   12-1
Temple 100-1
Texas 100-1
UNC-Asheville  Field
UNLV 100-1
Vanderbilt   40-1
VCU 200-1
Vermont Field
Virginia 200-1
West Virginia 100-1
Western Kentucky  Field
Wichita State   40-1
Wisconsin   40-1
Wisconsin   60-1
Xavier 200-1
Field 100-1

 

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