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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, March 25, 2019 at 1:00 PM

The Dean of Sports Handicapping sure wasn’t expecting to write about something like THIS in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. This past weekend in the NCAA Tournament, favorites went a stunning 16-0 straight up in the second round.

That’s never happened before. It rarely comes close to handicapping. This is the event famous for shocking upsets and Cinderella stories. We came inches away from ONE such event happening when Central Florida’s tip-in at the buzzer rolled off the rim vs. Duke. Otherwise, it was win after win for the favorites.

Near-misses for Tennessee and LSU came against Iowa and Maryland…which means those wouldn’t have been Cinderella stories anyway. No Loyola-Chicago stories this season. Oregon is the highest seed at #12, but they’ve been playing like a #4 or #5 for a few weeks now. This year is more like “Clash of the Titans,” though there’s still time for upsets to put some relative surprises into the Final Four.

As much as I emphasize the importance of PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS when handicapping, I’m fully aware that the laws of math (and sports strategy) usually prevent superior teams from running the table in the round of 32. What’s happened this season to create such a chalky environment?

*Good teams can also make three-pointers. In the past, many Cinderella’s just got hot from long range while overconfident favorites came out flat, then went 2 of 22 or something after they panicked. If a favorite is going to make at least eight treys, it’s hard for lesser teams to get hot enough to top that. When a favorite makes 10 or more, it’s often a rout.

*Foul trouble for good teams is less of a problem than it used to be. Coaches have gotten smarter about protecting their big men…either by pulling them early with a couple of fouls, or encouraging them to back away from contact if an opposing scorer makes it to the rim. And, officials got into so much trouble in the past for too many whistles that many have backed off a bit. It still happens some. But, not as much as it used to.

*Coaches do a much better job focusing their teams for the travel and preparation challenges involved in the Dance. Teams guard against jet lag. Players better understand that opponents aren’t just going to lay down. Only the worst head coaches come in poorly prepared. Something as simple as taking naps and getting to bet on time is helping to eliminate the no-shows. And, it’s possible that “round of 32” schedules being adjusted to later in the day is helping favorites focus. Star athletes aren’t “morning people” even in college. 

I should emphasize…it’s not just that point spread favorites went 16-0 straight up. Fully 11 of the 16 won their games by double digits. The best teams PLAYED AT THEIR BEST! Hour after hour. It was something to behold.

That’s all behind is now. That historic weekend has created what is arguably the best Sweet 16 ever. When only quality teams are squaring off, you must focus on the fundamentals. Don’t just assume that betting favorites will keep working. Some excellent teams will be underdogs from this point forward.

Your prior work on PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS has you in touch with all the talent. THE MOTIVATION FACTOR probably won’t be an issue because everyone will be motivated. But, I have to admit that it might be possible for #1 seeds who haven’t had to sweat anything yet to come into Thursday or Friday action overconfident. Duke’s awake! Will Gonzaga, Virginia, and North Carolina start thinking ahead too soon?

Anyway, if you accept that defense and rebounding are very important in this event, you should devote additional energy to studying those angles this week.

*Defense…your homework between now and Thursday is to review defensive efficiency rankings (points allowed per possession) for all the remaining teams. The softest defenses are going to be in trouble vs. the caliber of scorers still on rosters. Also, go back and review box scores from the first two rounds to see how well each team protected the rim (focusing on defense on two-point shots).

*Rebounding…remember that every offensive rebound extends a possession, and every defensive rebound might as well be a “steal” because it ends the other team’s possession. This past weekends winners were 13-3 in the rebounding category. Between now and Thursday, review “rebound rate” stats for the remaining teams at either kenpom.com or teamrankings.com.

Though point spreads could move dramatically between now and the first tipoff of the Sweet 16, I believe I will have multiple major releases in that round…and possibly a 100-unit to 200-unit “game of the year” type selection in the Elite 8 if games play out the way I expect. KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure you ask about combination packages with the NBA and Major League Baseball when you call. The full baseball schedule starts this week!

I won’t talk about early season baseball handicapping until next Monday at the earliest. Friday’s class will continue our examination of the NCAA Tournament. I will probably do baseball Monday, and then “how to handicap the Final Four” next Friday. The NBA Playoffs are coming up on us quickly. We’re going to be very busy the next few months!

I hope the tournament has gone well for you thus far. Las Vegas had its biggest weekend ever. That means legal gambling must have as well because so many other states are now taking bets. It’s about time America realized how fun and profitable this industry can be. KELSO STURGEON will always do his best to make sure its fun and profitable for his followers and students. See you Friday.

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