Get the best handicapping articles and gambling advice throughout the football, basketball and baseball seasons from the world's top sports handicappers, as well as from Bovada (Bodog) Sportsbook and Casino.
Monday, Mar 13
by Larry Ness - 03/13/2006
Gonzaga celebrated its highest ranking of the season (No. 4) last Monday by edging Loyola-Marymount 68-67 in the WCC championship game that night. It was the school's 18th straight win this year and its 40th consecutive home win. Gonzaga's fellow top-15 schools did not fare as well this past week, as only No. 3 Duke, No. 5 Memphis and No. 13 UCLA made it through the week unscathed.
It's a very short card on Monday and I do not have a free selection today. However, I am following my 20* NBA Western Conf GOY winner on the Kings last night with a 15* NBA winner tonight (67% on NBA 15* plays since Feb 3!).
Duke won its seventh ACC tourney in eight years by beating Boston College 78-76 on Sunday and its 16th all-time (most of any ACC school). Memphis won its first-ever C-USA championship by avenging a March 2 loss at UAB, in a 57-46 win over the Blazers early Saturday afternoon. UCLA followed its first regular season Pac-10 title since 1997 by winning its first Pac-10 tourney since 1987 on Saturday, beating Cal 71-52.
In descending order, U Conn, Villanova, George Washington, Ohio State, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Boston College, Washington, Tennessee and Pittsburgh all lost. Duke (ACC) and UCLA (PAC-10) were also the only two schools from the six power conferences to win their respective conference tourneys. U Conn and Villanova (Big East co-champs) both lost early, Ohio State lost in the Big-10 title game to Iowa, Texas lost in the Big-12 title game to Kansas and LSU lost to Florida in the SEC semis.
There were really no surprises Sunday, when the selection committee announced the four No. 1 seeds. Duke (the overall No. 1) garnered its 10th No. 1 seed since the seeding process began in 1979 and U Conn was the second No. 1 seed, its fourth all-time. Villanova and Memphis were the third and fourth No. 1 seeds, both schools getting a top-seed for the first time in school history. It should be noted when filling out your brackets, that the four No. 1 seeds have never all made it to the same Final 4 in the 27 years since seeding began. In fact, over the last three years, only four of the 12 No. 1 seeds have made it that far!
As always, there was plenty of controversy to go around, starting with Tennessee getting a No. 2 seed. Gonzaga (a No. 3 seed in the Oakland region) was a big loser. Considering that Memphis is the fourth of the four No. 1 seeds and Gonzaga is in the Tigers' regional, the committee had the Bulldogs ranked 12th. This for a team that finished 30-3, enters the tournament with a nation-best 18-game winning streak and will be ranked no worse than 5th, when the final AP poll of the regular season comes out later today.
While few argued over George Washington getting only a No. 8 seed, there's little denying the Colonials took a big 'hit' this week! GW (ranked No. 6 by the AP) was one of just three Division I schools this year to complete its conference schedule unbeaten (Bucknell and Gonzaga were the others), plus entered the A-10 tourney on an 18-game winning streak and as the nation's lone one-loss team.
However, the Colonials were 'spanked' by Temple in the quarterfinals (68-53) and using the same 'math' as with Gonzaga (are an eight-seed in Memphis' region), it's reasonable to conclude that the committee had the Colonials rated as the 32nd-best team!
When the dust settled and all 34 at-large bids were announced, the arguments began. Bradley and Air Force (both seeded 13th) plus Utah State and Texas A&M (both seeded 12th) were clearly the "last teams in." Left out were in alphabetical order, Cincinnati (19-12), Creighton (19-9), Florida State (19-9), Hofstra (24-6), Maryland (19-12), Michigan (18-10) and Missouri State (20-8). Air Force and Utah State seemed to be the most questionable at-large selections, while most felt Cincinnati got a "raw deal."
Despite Cincinnati not getting in, the Big East placed a record eight schools in this year's tourney, including two No. 1 seeds. Syracuse, which entered the Big East tourney on the proverbial "bubble", actually got a No. 5 seed, after winning the Big East tourney for the second consecutive year. Syracuse is the only at-large selection in the tournament to have posted a losing conference record this season, going 7-9 in the Big East.
Behind the Big East, the Big-10 and SEC each received six bids with the MVC getting as many bids (four), as the ACC, Big-12 and Pac-10. It was really interesting to hear all the complaints from the commentators and analysts as they "cried the blues" over the lack of respect shown the "power" conferences.
This from the same people who over the years, typically complained that the mid-majors and smaller conferences were being underappreciated! Guys, make up your minds!
Hofstra's 24 wins were the most of any school to not get an invite, while 16-15 Hampton (winner of the MEAC tourney), came the closest of any school to enter the tournament with a losing record. Since the tournament expanded to a 64-team field in 1985, there have been 14 schools that have qualified for the Big Dance with losing records by winning their conference tourneys, including at least one school, in each of the previous four years.
As for Hofstra, the Pride's 24 wins may be the most of any team left out this year but they are still short of the all-time record. Howard went 26-5 in 1987 and Southern Illinois went 26-7 in 1990 and neither school got an invite in those years. Seven schools have won 25 games and not gotten an NCAA bid, the most recent of which was Utah State (25-3) in 2004!
There will be much more NCAA tournament coverage over the next three days plus let's not forget the 40-team NIT field, which begins play tomorrow. The four No. 1 seeds for that tournament are Cincinnati, Maryland, Michigan and Louisville.
In a change just this year, schools that won their regular season titles but lost in their respective conference tourneys, were guaranteed bids to this year's NIT. Delaware State (MEAC), Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC), Ga Southern (Southern), Manhattan (MAAC), Northern Arizona (Big Sky) and Western Ky (SBC) were the six schools that benefited this year.
In the NBA over the weekend, the Pistons lost at Washington on Saturday night (now 3-9 ATS their last 12 on the road!) and beat the Bobcats at home on Sunday. Detroit still owns the league's best record (50-12) and is comfortably ahead of the Heat, who at 41-21 have the East's second-best mark. Miami saw its 10-game winning streak snapped on Friday night by Golden State (none of the Heat's wins had come against a team with a better than .500 mark!) but did beat the Cavs on Sunday.
The Cavs also lost at Orlando on Friday night in embarrassing fashion, 102-73! The Cavs own a 36-28 mark but can only get the East's fourth seed, as the winner of the Atlantic Division (likely the Nets) will get the third seed. Behind the Pistons and Heat in the East, the 3rd through 8th seeds are within five games of each other. Chicago is in the 9th spot 2 1/2 games out and Boston is 10th, 3 1/2 games out of the conference's final playoff spot.
Over in the West, San Antonio and Dallas each went 1-1, leaving the two Southwest Division teams still tied at 49-14. The Suns (43-19) got Nash back but after beating the T-wolves on Saturday, lost at Portland Sunday night (111-101), to a Blazer team that won for just the third time in 17 games.
The Kings beat the Mavs in Arco Sunday night (85-80), for their 12th straight home win (9-0 SU and ATS with Artest). Sacramento is over .500 (32-31) for the first time this year and slipped a half-game ahead of the Hornets (losers of six straight) for the final playoff spot in the West.
Monday night's NBA schedule features five games.
The announcement that Edgerrin James signed a four-year $30 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals makes a reasonable person wonder. Did his agent, Drew Rosenhaus (who so wonderfully handled the T.O. situation), really explain to James where exactly he was going?
Now we know he'll win the starting job at RB, as the Cardinals ranked last in the NFL in 2005, averaging 71.1 YPG and the team's leading rusher (Marcel Shipp), had just 451 yards. By the way, the Cards have had just three 1,000-yard rushers since 1990 and have averaged finishing 24th in the league in rushing yards the last 16 years.
However, did Drew tell him that the Cardinals have missed the playoffs the last seven years and that the team's 1998 playoff appearance was the club's only one since 1975 (excluding the 1982 strike year when 16 teams made the postseason)? Does he also know that the Cardinals are one of just four pre-1995 NFL franchises, joining the Browns, Lions and Saints, to have never made the Super Bowl? Just wondering?
Ness Notes is available by 1:00 ET Monday through Friday.