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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 2:25 PM

I am pleased to report I won my 100-unit College Conference Tournament Game of the Year last night as UAB (-7) slipped by Tulane 72-64 on a night I went a perfect 4-0 with my March Madness play. While I take pride in being an investment grade handicapper, I also give credit where credit is due and that means I gave a humble bow to Lady Lucky today.

While I had predicted an easy 15-16 victory by 5th seeded UAB against 11th-seeded Tulane in the first round of Conference USA play, it took two free throws with 11 seconds left to get the cover. Again, thank you, Ms. Luck, and believe me I appreciate all the time you can spend with me.

Meantime I would be remiss if I did not remind myself Ms. Luck plays both sides of the fence. I released a 15-unit play on the Los Angeles Lakers (-7) over the hapless Washington Wizards, winners of just nine games this season, and felt somewhat confident as the former held a 21-point, 76-55, third quarter lead over the latter.

Final score: Washington 106, Los Angeles 101.

It's not over until it's over, a fact reinforced Tuesday night by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers who as a 3 ½-point underdog came from 10 points down to beat North Texas, 74-70, and win the Sun Belt Conference championship and the automatic NCAA bid that goes with it. Western Kentucky becomes but the seventh team since the NCAA went to a 64-team format with a losing record (15-18) to make the Big Dance.

Western Kentucky's late-season success is little short of remarkable. The Hilltoppers opened the season 4-11, fired head coach Ken McDonald on January 5, made Ray Harper head coach the next day and good things began to happen.

College Basketball Coaches Mean Everything

Harper's name may not be a household word in college basketball but he is an outstanding coach who has a resume of success as long as my arm, highlighted by winning four small college national championships at Kentucky Wesleyan and Oklahoma City and an additional five national runner-up finishes. He is a five-time NAIA and NCAA Division II Coach of the Year.

We will discuss his resume in more detail later. Suffice it to say he is considered by his peers to be a pure basketball genius in getting his teams ready to play and even better on the sidelines. He was a second-year assistant at Western Kentucky before taking over.

As head coach, he lost his first three games and went 6-8 in his first 14 before putting his official stamp on the Hilltoppers. He leaves the Sun Belt championship game standing 6-0 straight up and against the spread in his last six games.

Coaching does make a difference and history says Western Kentucky, which may be one of the four teams that has to play a play-in game to get into the final NCAA field, is not going to be anyone's easy out. Harper is in charge and that makes WKU a dangerous opponent every time it takes the court.

Important Element Of Handicapping March Madness

There are numerous new elements added to the handicapping process at March Madness time and while many are hidden beyond statistics and data, one is obvious-and many seldom take time to even look at it.

When one handicaps the college conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament that follows, one must be certain that the team on which he is betting, or is betting against, is the same team it saw during the regular season. Personnel changes-usually because of injury-and it is a cardinal sin of handicapping to overlook it.

While there is neither time nor space to list all the changes, here are a few worth noting.

Duke will be without starting forward Ryan Kelly for the entire ACC tournament because of a sprained right foot. The 6-11 junior forward/center averages 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Michigan State has lost is outstanding freshman guard, Branden Dawson for all the post season because of an injury to his left knee. The 6-6 Dawson ranks third in team scoring (8.5 points per game) and is second in rebounds (4.6 per game).

Arizona has suspended point guard Josiah Turner indefinitely for violating team rules. He averages 6.8 points per game and did not accompany team to Los Angeles for PAC-12 tournament.

Long Beach State will be without guard Larry Anderson (14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) indefinitely because of a knee injury.

Before you bet, make certain what you see is what you get.


This Is What Investment Grade Handicapping Delivered On 4-0 Wednesday Night

100 Units...UAB (-7) 72, Tulane 64 Win
10 Units...UCLA (-12 ½) 55, USC 40 Win
10 Units...Louisville (-3 ½) 61, Seton Hall 55 Win
10 Units...South Florida (-2) 56, Villanova 47 Win

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One 25-Unit Winner * One 15-Unit Winner * Three 10-Unit Winners

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Teams Already In NCAA Tournament

Team Record Last appearance League
Belmont 27-7 2011 Atlantic Sun
Creighton 28-5 2007 Missouri Valley
Davidson 25-7 2008 Southern
Detroit 22-13 1999 Horizon
Harvard 26-4 1946 Ivy
Lehigh 26-7 2010 Patriot
Long Island 25-8 2011 Northeast
Loyola-Md. 24-8 1994 MAAC
Montana 25-6 2010 Big Sky
Murray State 30-1 2010 Ohio Valley
Saint Mary's 27-5 2010 West Coast
South Dakota St. 27-7 None Summit
UNC Asheville 24-9 2011 Big South
VCU 28-6 2011 Colonial
Western Kentucky 15-18 2009 Sun Belt


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