We've neglected rap music for far too long here at the Sportsmemo Blog and to atone for our mistake we've linked to a radio/video interview in which 50 Cent claims he's going to bet the arbitrary amount of $1.6 million on Floyd Mayweather for May's epic showdown against Manny Pacquiao. We even jumped on the grenade of finding the part of the interview that "50" talks about actually making the bet (it starts around the 40-minute mark). Enjoy.
Memphis’s track record is very clear. When the Tigers step down in class, their athleticism and talent can carry them to victory; hence their 7-2 ATS mark in games where they’ve been favored by 7.5 or more points. But as an underdog on any floor, the Tigers are 1-7 ATS, consistently failing to step up against quality foes.
Josh Pastner ranks among the Top 10 winningest coaches in the history of college basketball for his first six years on the job, with 147 career victories since he took over for John Calipari as an untested 31 year old. Yet despite all of that success, Pastner is in real danger of getting fired this offseason. Despite their talent, Memphis hasn’t survived past the opening weekend of the Big Dance in his tenure. The Tigers are just 5-20 SU in 25 tries against nationally ranked foes under Pastner. And Memphis isn’t developing NBA talent under his tutelage, recruiting only two players who were drafted during his tenure, one of whom was Duke transfer Elliot Williams.
Memphis has already matched their highest loss total under Pastner, suffering deflating back-2-back home losses to Tulsa and SMU last week. On the heels of recent losses to Temple, East Carolina and Gonzaga, we’re not talking about a particularly confident team these days. And with no NCAA Tournament bid forthcoming this year without an American Athletic Conference Tournament title, from all indications, the Tigers are more focused on next week’s conference tournament in Hartford than they are on their final two tough road games at UConn and Cinci this week.
While the Tigers are floundering, the defending national champs have won three straight, including an impressive home dog win over SMU last weekend. They’ll be honoring senior Ryan Boatright at Gampel Pavillion tonight, and his quote sure sounds like it’s coming from a very focused individual. “I’m proud of my decision, I’m glad I came back to school. But, like I said, I ain’t come back to play in the NIT. The season’s nowhere near over for us. We’ve still got an opportunity to make the tournament. I’m gonna do my best to lead this team to that goal.” Expect a comfortable win for the home favorite.
"We've always been hypocritical saying we didn't realize it was a big part of interest in the game," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "When you do any work on where people are actually gambling, it's all overseas and places we can't see, and the league has got to monitor all these third-party betting sites and that makes it a lot tougher.
"By bringing it where we can see it, you reduce a lot of the risk that something bad can happen."
With the 2016 Presidential Election right around the corner, betting on the event in the UK has really ramped up. Sportsbooks like William Hill and Paddy Power have steadily seen their handle grow to well into the six figures.
Paddy Power Odds Hillary Clinton 6/5
Jeb Bush 5/2
Marco Rubio 10/1
Chris Christie 12/1
Scott Walker 14/1
Rand Paul 16/1
Sarah Palin 100/1
Paddy Power says it has already taken in 5,000 wagers on the 2016 election, even though Election Day is more than a year away. In pounds (and dollars), that equates to a “chunky six figures,” says Rory Scott, a spokesman for Paddy Power.
San Diego State -4.5 at UNLV O/U 121
Recommendation: San Diego State
San Diego State needs to rebound from last Saturday’s confidence shaking home loss to Boise State. That result put the Aztecs on the short end of a regular season series sweep by Boise with each of their losses coming by double digits. Up three at half, SDSU was 20 minutes from avenging their 61-46 loss at Boise on Feb 8. However, they were dominated 35-22 in the second half scoring just 7 points in the final 11 minutes. San Diego State’s 32.7% shooting came on the heels of three straight games of 47% or better from the floor and eight of 10 in conference play where they shot 43.6% or higher. Defensively, they were sound once again and that area of their game has caused U.N.L.V. fits in this matchup recently. The Rebels have dropped four in a row to San Diego State and they’ve been held to 52 pts or less in three of those meetings. SDSU is on a 3-0 ATS streak versus UNLV here at the Thomas & Mack Center and a 4-1 ATS run in the series overall. The Rebels have played better lately despite being without leading scorer Rashad Vaughn for the last few games but they figure to sorely miss him against this stifling defense (Vaughn led the UNLV with 17 of their 53 points in the first meeting). Expect San Diego State to rise up and shut UNLV down in this spot and come away with a spread covering win.
Big blow to the Miami Hurricanes with point guard Angel Rodriguez (wrist, 12.3 ppg) out and Sheldon McClellan (groin, 14.9 ppg) questionable for tonight's game at Pittsburgh. There are conflicting reports on McClellan's official status with various outlets listing him as anywhere from "out", to "doubtful", to "questionable." The betting markets appear confident neither will play with Pitt bet up from -2.5 to -5/-5.5.
After opening as a +250 underdog, Manny Pacquiao has taken most of the early money for the May 2 fight vs. Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather has settled in as a -200 favorite.
“I’ve never seen Mayweather this low eight weeks out before the fight,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, who has booked money on every big fight for the past four decades in Las Vegas. “This is as close as we get to a legitimate pick ‘em fight since Mayweather fought (Oscar) De La Hoya.”
“It’s a one-way attack on Pacquiao,” Vaccaro said. “We’re well into a six-figure loss right now if Pacquiao wins.”
After starting 4-1 in SEC play, Tennessee has dropped nine of 11 to fall out of the NCAA Tournament discussion. The Vols' defense appears to be running on fumes having allowed well over a point per possession in six straight contests including 1.22 and 1.19 in recent losses to Vanderbilt and Florida, respectively. UT travels to LSU tonight. The Tigers dominated the first meeting in Knoxville, 73-55.
"I don't know that our team has lost any intensity," Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said. "I think the biggest thing is we've lost some detail."
"I don't care who you are, how strong you are," Tyndall said. "Losing is not fun, and it can wear on you a little bit."
Unlike past seasons, the San Antonio Spurs are finding it tough to "flip the switch." They just wrapped up their Rodeo Road Trip with a 4-5 SU, 3-6 ATS record though won and covered their last two. They open up a six-game homestand against the Kings tonight.
"When you lose games, three or four in a row like we have, people start to panic and want to change something or change everything," Duncan said. "You have to stay steady with it and understand it's a work in progress and we're not in as bad a position as it may seem at the time. We get some wins together and start feeling good about ourselves then we'll be in the right place during the playoffs."
Good article on the Dallas Mavericks' recent defensive improvements despite being without the services of Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler for multiple games. The increase in defensive play coupled with a few sub-par shooting nights has resulted in eight straight games going under the total.
"Our focus is a lot more on the defensive end of the floor," Rondo said after the Mavs' 102-93 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. "Offense never wins championships. Scoring 108 or whatever we were scoring means nothing if you're giving up 105 or 110.
"Guys are understanding what we need to accomplish," reserve guard Devin Harris said. "Our help-side defense is impacted. We've always had Tyson in the middle, but I think we're doing a better job of closing the gaps, forcing people to shoot more jump shots, forcing skip passes and things that we've been emphasizing all year long. I think guys are really honing in on that.
The Denver Nuggets finally disposed of drunk girlfriend Brian Shaw following a 2-19 SU, 5-15-1 ATS hot streak. Assistant coach Melvin Hunt will take over the remainder of the campaign. The Nuggets play host to Milwaukee tonight. The Bucks were bet from -5 to -6.
As of this morning, West Virginia's Juwan Staten and Gary Browne are listed as doubtful for tonight's game at Kansas. At 22-7, 10-6 Big XII the Mountaineers are a lock for the NCAA Tournament and don't play again until Saturday's regular season finale vs. Oklahoma State.
“Gary [Browne] and Juwan [Staten] understand – the worst thing about losing Juwan is that he knows. He knows where guys are supposed to come open and when they're supposed to come open. So he delivers the ball better. That's because he's been out there for three years. Gary is the next guy in line that understands because, again, he's been out there,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said following Saturday's loss at Baylor.
Ole Miss +2 at Alabama O/U 131.5
Recommendation: Ole Miss
Not trusting of Alabama in the role of a favorite even when you eliminate the issues of not being with starters Shannon Hale and Ricky Tarrant. Tarrant has been out from nearly a month but the recent loss of Hale suggests the Crimson Tide could have a real difficult time scoring the basketball. There's also the issue of Alabama's failures when asked to step up in class. Of their seven SEC wins, only one (Texas A&M back on Jan. 6) came against a high power rated opponent. Of late, it's been very formulaic: beat who your supposed to beat and lose against "better" competition. Ole Miss enters off back-to-back losses and is in desperate need a good performance. The Rebels have proven capable on the highway with five SEC wins away from Oxford including at Arkansas and Florida. In the end, there isn't a huge difference between these two squads despite Alabama not being all that visually appealing. But with injury concerns and asked to lay points, I see Ole Miss as the right side tonight.
Those pushing for legalized sports betting in New Jersey may have caught a break. Donald Trump's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, will be one of the judges presiding over the upcoming case. You'll remember last time the case was in court, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, the brother of former NFL running back Marcel Shipp, ruled in favor of the leagues.
"It certainly is a lot less of a conflict of interest than Judge Shipp had," Lesniak said of Trump Barry's involvement. "It's not even close. Donald Trump was hugely in favor of sports betting. But if it's a conflict just because your brother is in favor of sports betting, that would eliminate at least 50 percent of judges."
When it comes to visiting Las Vegas, no month is bigger than March. It's the top month in terms of tourists and also gaming revenue with over $800 million in 2014.
“It’s the cabin fever effect,” UNLV Lee Business School professor Jack Schibrowsky said. “March is usually the time of year when winter is still hanging on a lot of places, and a number of people are looking to take a long weekend to escape. Guys come out for a convention and add a couple days for a buddy golf trip, or vice versa.”
Nashville at NY Rangers -120 O/U 5.5
Today is the NHL trade deadline and if you think we've seen the last of the big deals you are surely mistaken. The New York Rangers were very active over the weekend making three separate trades to help bolster their playoff run in the short term. They are expecting big defensive acquisition Keith Yandle to play tonight. Nashville comes into New York looking to straighten things out after two straight losses. The Predators have been the NHL's best team this season, doing it both from an offensive and defensive standpoint. Nashville ranks seocnd in the league in goals against average so expect the Rangers to have a tougher time breaking through the defense than they have these past few weeks. New York has really added another offensive element to their game this season with the immense amount of speed through the neutral zone, but expect the Predators to put lots of defensive pressure on the Rangers tonight. Last meeting was a 3-2 win for Nashville in early February and not once has their last six meetings resulted in a score of greater than five combined goals. Despite some recent struggles from Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne, I fully anticipate the Predators goalie to shine tonight. This game has all the makings for a non-conference low scoring game where both teams are fine playing conservatively.
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History shows us many things about what it takes to be a champion. I write this article every year, and in every year except for two, I have been able to identify the eventual NCAA National Champion among my elite level teams. Both exceptions were the same team – UConn – making miracle runs to win the title as prohibitive longshots.
Last year, the Huskies were on the ropes in their tourney opener against St Joe’s, needing a late rally just to send the game to overtime. Three weeks later, they cut down the nets as national champs at Jerry’s World in Arlington. I didn’t see it coming. Neither did the betting markets, with UConn priced in the 100:1 longshot range prior to the tournament. And if a longshot like that wins every coinflip game in the tourney this year, I’m not likely to get it right either.
I write this article every year before the regular season is over, before the conference tournaments, before the tourney seedings are announced and before a single March Madness game has been played. And I’ve nailed the winner of the NCAA tournament four times in the last eight years, correctly predicting Florida in ’07, Kansas in ’08 and North Carolina in ’09 as well as Louisville in ‘13. I did NOT predict Duke in ‘10, and didn’t even have UConn in the discussion in ‘11 or ‘14. In ‘12, I picked Kansas to win the title, but it lost the championship game to Kentucky.
Here is a list of the last 17 NCAA champions and the teams they beat in the title game: Kentucky over Utah in ’98, UConn over Duke in ’99, Michigan State over Florida in ‘00, Duke over Arizona in ’01, Maryland over Indiana in ’02, Syracuse over Kansas in ’03, UConn over Georgia Tech in ’04, North Carolina over Illinois in ’05, Florida over UCLA in ’06, Florida over Ohio State in ’07, Kansas over Memphis in ’08, North Carolina over Michigan State in ’09, Duke over Butler in ‘10, UConn over Butler in ‘11, Kentucky over Kansas in ‘12, Louisville over Michigan in ‘13 and UConn over Kentucky in ‘14.
Fifteen of those 17 champions had very specific abilities, a very specific track record and a very specific statistical profile as a team that allowed them to go all the way. In Part 1 of this article, I’ll take a brief look at that statistical profile and make a short list of potential NCAA champs. In Part 2 next week, I’ll go through that short list team by team, eliminating them one by one until we reach the last team standing.
Cinderellas have reached the championship game. Florida in ‘00, Indiana in ‘02 and the Butler teams from ‘10 and ‘11 stand out as the teams that were not among the top 16 seeds in the tournament but were still good enough to get a shot at the title. But, with the exception of UConn’s miracle title last year, those Cinderellas have been unable to seal the deal.
The eventual champion has been seeded no lower than #3 in every single year except ‘14, dating back to ‘97, when Arizona won it all as a #4 seed. Before last year, you’d have to go all the way back to ‘88 for a real longshot, when Larry Brown guided the Kansas Jayhawks to a title as a #6 seed.
20 of the last 24 national champions have been #1 or #2 seeds. Even one I missed -- UConn in 2011 -- was a #3 seed, a factor that I couldn’t and didn’t predict at the end of February when the Huskies were in the midst of a 4-7 slump to close out the regular season. Last year, the Huskies were a #7 seed on their way to the title. I’m not expecting a longshot repeat!
To earn those top seeds, the eventual champion must have been an elite level team all year. Prior to UConn’s title win in ‘11, none of the previous thirteen champions had more than seven losses. To win the Big Dance, teams have to be better than good, or even very good. Winning six straight games over three weekends requires greatness, and great teams don’t lose more than seven games throughout the course of the campaign.
Each of the past 17 champions was from one of the six power conferences (now seven with the Big East/American Conference split). The mid-majors tend to measure success with Sweet 16 berths, not Final Four trips. We have seen several exceptions to that rule, like Butler’s string of upsets to reach the title game as a Horizon League squad or Wichita State and VCU’s remarkable runs to the Final Four.
George Mason enjoyed an amazing run to the Final Four nine years ago from the Colonial Athletic Conference; a big enough shocker that we still talk about it. Memphis made the championship game from Conference-USA in ‘08 and Utah made it from the WAC in ‘98 (at the time), but those are clearly the exceptions, not the rule.
Basically, if a team is not from the Big East, American, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC or PAC-12, they aren’t facing enough tough competition on a nightly basis to get them ready for an extended tournament run. Sorry Gonzaga – you’re not winning the title this year, despite your lofty ranking. It’s a similar story for the likes of VCU, Northern Iowa, Wichita State, San Diego State, Colorado St, Boise State, Murray State, Davidson, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Dayton, Iona or Valparaiso. Those upper tier mid-majors are not going to make my ‘potential champions’ list, even though several of them have managed to crack the Top 25 and have legitimate Sweet 16 potential.
Using just the seven losses and major conference criteria alone, we can narrow the list of potential NCAA tournament winners down to the following group of 16 teams: SMU, Tulsa, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, Villanova, Wisconsin, Maryland, Arizona, Utah, Kentucky and Arkansas.
This glaring fact stands out – only one team has won a national title without earning a #3 seed or better since 1997. So let’s whittle down that list of 16 right here, starting with the four teams that have virtually no shot to get seeded that high: West Virginia, SMU, Tulsa and Arkansas. All four of those squads fall into the good, not great category. And most importantly for our purposes, those four squads are all projected to be #6 seeds or higher right now. I’ll bounce them from consideration here.
That leaves me with a dozen teams to discuss in Part 2 of this article next week. I’ll wager dollars to donuts that the eventual NCAA champion will come from this list of 12: Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, Kansas, Baylor, Villanova, Wisconsin, Maryland, Arizona, Utah and Kentucky.
Sheldon Adelson's silly Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling was supposed to have a debate with the Poker Players Alliance at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference. The CSIG however decided to back out for reasons unknown.
"I guess when the rubber meets the road, prohibition supporters realize they can’t backup their fear-mongering PR campaign with actual facts," Pappas said in a PPA press release. "I was looking forward to an open and fair debate on the future of online gaming, and not just because the facts are on our side. Before Congress votes on any legislation that would impose a broad prohibition, like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), I think American voters deserve to hear both sides clearly articulate how such a ban impacts consumers, states and the economy."
One of the topics discussed at last week's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was sports betting. The panelists were asked to "handicap" when sports betting would become legalized. A higher-up for the NBA said it take "years, not months." Awesome.
Mississippi State +9 at South Carolina O/U 122.5
Recommendation: Mississippi State
Not sure why South Carolina is laying this many points against a very comparable opponent. The Gamecocks have been in when's-the-offseason mode for much of the last month. They scored an unimpressive five-point win over Missouri and beat a Georgia squad that was without its starting point guard. Unlike Mississippi State, there were expectations placed on Frank Martin's group after a 9-3 non-conference mark. But nothing has gone right as the Gamecocks can't shoot, they don't always play with effort, and Martin's perpetual foul mood has clearly worn on the players. The one thing I know I'm going to get with Rick Ray's squad is effort. Since getting blown out in its first two SEC games, Mississippi State has been outclassed only twice: at Arkansas and vs. Kentucky -- both of which perfectly understandable. The rest of their games were five wins and losses by 4, 6, 6, 4, 6, and 4. This line is based on a power rating from two months ago. South Carolina hit as high as 25th in Ken Pom and has dropped to only 70th. Mississippi State bottomed out at 245th and had slowly climbed to 161st. The gap between this two teams is currently significantly smaller.