Everyone knows the NCAA tournament is a glorified lottery. Filling out pools can be the ultimate rush, nothing else can provide such economical entertainment, but more often than not they go up in flames by opening Saturday. It’s hard to predict the future and trying to see four or five games down the line to envision the Final Four is mostly an exercise in luck. The pool is the game for the masses. A 5th grader got busted this year for a running a pool. That’s incredible market saturation, and yet, where’s the profit? It’d be nice if someone could make money aside from the NFL agents who represent wide receivers. That’s where the straight picks come in. Let’s not forget we can bet on actual games. Here are eight, sure-fire locks to get you through that 1st round (oh, excuse me, the 2ND ROUND).
West Virginia (+1) over Gonzaga. Down year for the Big East, West Virginia perhaps the last Big East team to get an invite, playing American’s former darling of a Cinderella and they’re only getting one point? I don’t want to pile on Gonzaga, because I took a few shots at them on Monday, but they don’t get to play an All-Star team of the 2000s in this game. Dan Dickau will not be launching from 27 feet. Even when Gonzaga was highly ranked they were prone to the upset, this year a solid spanking from Huggy Bear and company will send them home wishing they could have made a deep run in the NIT.
Baylor (-8) over South Dakota St. I’m giving Baylor one chance. Prove your mettle. Are you going to be a threat in this region? Could you possibly reward the haters that picked you to knock off Duke and/or Kentucky? If Baylor is a legitimate high seed in this tournament they should be able to handle South Dakota St. by more than eight points. That is intended as a slight to South Dakota St. What, are they too far south to recruit hockey players? What’s a recruiting visit to South Dakota entail? Blowout city.
Vanderbilt (-5.5) over Harvard. When Harvard loses this game they will go back to thinking basketball is dumb. There’s a lot of “feel good” money keeping this line lower than it should be. I’m going as far as saying Linsanity has affected this point spread. It’s possible. Vanderbilt just won the SEC tournament. They just beat Kentucky, who most people think will waltz to the title–they should be able to handle an Ivy League school. Harvard went 26-4, but they lost to Fordham, who lost to Lehigh, who lost to American, who lost to St. Francis, who lost to Sacred Heart…which I thought was a girl’s prep school. Give me the Commodores.
Indiana (-6) over New Mexico State. Indiana has a strange recent history when it comes to their basketball program. Since the Bob Knight heyday, it’s been periods of dormancy interspersed with unexpected runs and the occasional blip on the radar screen. This season, with my limited understanding of college basketball, I notice that the Hoosiers have been blessed with freshman Cody Zeller who has helped drag the program up a few notches once again. The early rounds of the tournament are where the good players on average teams can really shine. And, considering all I know about NMS is they have a good home gym…I’ll take the Tom Crean experience.
Lehigh (+12) over Duke. Is there a digit missing in this line? Twelve points. In a
1st 2nd round game against Duke? What in the heck is going on here? When is Duke ever favored by less than 18-20 points in their first game? I feel like the standard Duke line is 20.5. There’s a lot of grumbling about Duke this year, about how they have incredible upside and downside potential. Not sure what that means, but I think the experts are just covering their ass. This line screams “closer than you expected” to me, and who knows, maybe Lehigh gots a squad. I’ll take them even though they abandoned their engineering roots.
Florida State (-6) over St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies are just happy to be here. They’re the nominee who dives into the swag bag and leaves at intermission. After a landmine dodging trip through the conference tournament, I’m afraid their luck is about to run out. Florida St. on the other hand needs to earn its seed. Much like Baylor. Show me something Seminoles. The last time you were relevant I was rooting hard for Bob Sura. With Syracuse losing Fab Melo a lot of people think the East has opened right up for the ‘Noles. Gotta roll Bonny to get things going.
Belmont (+4) over Georgetown. I don’t know if this line is reflective of G-Town being awful and ripe for an upset, or if it’s just an usual amount of idiotic, upset money on Belmont. I’m hoping for the former. The way I look at Georgetown is, here’s a team that isn’t going to blow anyone out, even if they are playing well. I fear the suffocating Hoya defense, but if Belmont by chance gets out early…it’ll take Georgetown ages to get back into command. I wish Belmont had a quirkier mascot than the “Bruin,” but I’m going to hop on the bandwagon. Georgetown screwed me over once in the 90s. Never forget.
St. Mary’s (-1.5) over Purdue. How many years ago was it that St. Mary’s took out Villanova? Was that two years ago? That was my St. Mary’s indoctrination. They were a popular sleeper pick that year, but I wasn’t buying it because my ‘Nova bandwagon status was strong. One signature, Jay Wright, awful coaching performance later and St. Mary’s was marching on. This time around, without any personal animosity toward St. Mary’s I can look at things more objectively. Or, not. I don’t like Purdue. I don’t like boilers. Throw conference strength out the window and give me the Gaels.