ACC Tournament Favorites, Dark Horses and Prediction

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Last season the Virginia Cavaliers won the ACC tournament. This season the Cavaliers won the regular season title and come in as one of the favorites to win the ACC tournament, which starts Tuesday in Greensboro. Many questions remain unanswered heading into the tournament. Virginia lost its last regular season game to Louisville, while Duke has played exceptionally well since losing two straight earlier in the season. Miami is looking for at least two wins to assure themselves of a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Favorites:

Duke

Virginia will be the No. 1 seed, but Duke heading into the tournament is the team to beat. With Tyus Jones running the show and Jahlil Okafor the sensational freshman center, the Blue Devils look tough to beat. Duke can be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a victory in the ACC tournament. The only concern with the Blue Devils is they are just 8 deep.

Virginia

Virginia has the best defense in the nation with the exception of Kentucky with clutch offense that has kept them in the top 5 all season.

Louisville

The Cardinals must be given credit as they lost starting point guard Chris Jones but have not let up. Montrezl Harrell is able to take control of games, while Terry Rozier is great with the game on the line.

Notre Dame

The Irish have not received that much attention since losing to Duke last month, but with Jerian Grant, a great player no one talks about and Pat Connaughton the Irish can win the big games. Bonzie Colson has come on of late down low and at the wing making them even more dangerous on the offensive end.

Dark horses:

North Carolina, North Carolina State and Miami

Most on the Line:

Miami needs at least two wins to have a good shot at making the NCAA tournament field. NC State should make it as long as they are not routed in a game in this tournament. Both Duke and UVA are playing for possible No. 1 regional seeds, though both could get one.

Missing:

The Syracuse Orange are gone due to a self imposed ban for the postseason even prior to the harsh penalties set down last week by the NCAA. The 2-3 suffocating zone will not be missed, but the talented Jim Boeheim on the Orange bench will be.

Look for Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame and Louisville to reach the semifinals with Duke and Virginia playing in the finals.

Final:

Duke 69-63

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Duke Visits North Carolina in ACC Showdown

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The college basketball regular season is coming to a close and that means each game is vitally important. Tonight, one of the biggest rivalries of the past 20 seasons takes place in Chapel Hill when the North Carolina Tar Heels host the Duke Blue Devils in an ACC showdown.

The first time the two met this season, the game lived up to its billing and more. No. 3 ranked Duke on the season is 27-3 SU and 16-13-1 ATS. No. 19 ranked North Carolina is 21-9 SU and 16-13-1 ATS.

The current line has North Carolina favored by 1 point with the point total on 156.5.

On February 18, Duke rallied from a deficit of 10 points late in the game to send the game to overtime at home versus UNC. In OT, the Blue Devils pulled out the game 92-90.

Senior Quinn Cook and freshman Tyus Jones scored 22 points each in the game. Brice Johnson scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards for the Tar Heels, while teammate Kennedy Meeks scored 18. UNC easily covered as an 8.5-point visiting dog.

That extended the trend in this series of the visiting team covering. The away team is 12-4 ATS over the past 16 games between the two teams.

Both teams were dominant in their last games played. UNC routed Georgia Tech by 32 points on Tuesday and is 4-1 ATS in its past 5 games overall.

Duke defeated Wake Forest by 43 points on Wednesday. In its past 10 games played, Duke is 10-0 SU and 6-4 ATS.

UNC has won three straight at home over Duke. Last season, UNC rallied to defeat Duke at home 74-66. However, since 1998-99, UNC at home is 6-10 SU against Duke.

Duke will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, while the Tar Heels are tied with Louisville and UNC can only keep the fourth seed if Louisville loses.

Duke should be a No. 1 seed in one of the four regions in the NCAA Tournament, while it is thought North Carolina will be a No. 5 or 6 seed.

The UNDER has cashed in 6 of the past 7 games between the two teams in Chapel Hill. UNC has covered the number in just 1 of its past 8 games played at home.

There is not much difference between these two teams. A short number on UNC would be a good pick, while the OVER looks even better.

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College Football Conference Championship Lines and Trends

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This is championship week in college football with a number of conferences playing their conference championship games.

MAC – Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

Northern Illinois is 10-2 and 6-6 ATS, while Bowling Green is 7-5 SU and 4-7-1 ATS.

Friday night, the two will face off in Detroit, Michigan. NIU has opened as a 3-point favorite.

This is the fifth consecutive season Northern Illinois will be vying for the trophy. The Huskies are 2-2 in the previous four.

The two teams played in last year’s MAC Championship with Bowling Green winning 47-27.

The underdog is 5-1 ATS over the past 6 championship games.

Pac-12 – Arizona vs. Oregon

Arizona is 10-2 SU and 5-7 ATS, while Oregon is 11-1 SU and 8-4 ATS.

The two will meet on Friday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Oregon has opened as a favorite by 13.5 points.

This is the fourth championship game for the Pac-12. The favorite is 2-1 SU and 0-3 ATS in the first three Pac-12 championship games.

The Pac-12 North is 3-0 SU in the first three championships.

Arizona was a road dog by 21.5 points in October and defeated Oregon 31-21.

SEC – Alabama vs. Missouri

Alabama is 11-1 SU and 4-8 ATS, while Missouri is 10-2 SU and 8-4 ATS.

Alabama meets Missouri for the SEC championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alabama opened as the favorite by 10.5 points but that has increased already to 13 points.

In the SEC championship, the underdog is 11-10-1 ATS.

The SEC West is 5-0 SU in the past 5 SEC championship games. Missouri lost in last year’s championship to Auburn by 17 points as a favorite by 2.5 points.

The teams last met in 2012 with Alabama winning 42-10.

ACC – Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

Florida State is undefeated at 12-0 SU and 3-9 ATS, while Georgia Tech is 10-2 SU and 5-1 ATS.

Florida State will defend its ACC title against Georgia Tech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Florida State was a 5.5-point favorite to open but it is now just 4 points.

FSU is 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS in its four prior trips to the ACC Championship. Georgia Tech is 1-2 SU in its three trips.

The two played in the ACC Championship in 2012 with FSU winning 21-15.

Big 10 – Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Ohio State is 11-1 SU and 7-5 ATS, while Wisconsin is 10-2 SU and 7-5 ATS.

Ohio State plays Wisconsin for the Big 10 title in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Wisconsin is favored by 4 points.

The underdog is 1-2 SU in the 3 prior Big 10 championship games.

Wisconsin is 2-0 SU in two Big 10 title games and Ohio State is 0-1 SU.

T.J. Barrett the OSU quarterback is out with broken ankle.

Ohio State is 4-1 SU in its past 5 games head to head with Wisconsin.

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ACC Commissioner Supports Eight-Team Playoff But …

Swofford
Swofford

ACC Commissioner John Swofford is calling for an eight-game playoff and I agree. The problem is the excuses that get in the way of it happening.

John Swofford is making some sense. Sort of, in a kind of “he’s making sense but then he went and said something that’s kind of stupid” sort of way.

Swofford is the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference and this week he said what most of us already know; an eight-team college football playoff is the best way to go.

There’s a solid chance Swofford is making one of his own schools sweat a little bit here. With Florida State the only major college unbeaten left yet ranking third in the current four-team rankings, I’m guessing Jimbo Fisher doesn’t want to hear about an eight-team playoff any time soon.

Should his Seminoles stumble in their last three games though you can be darn sure Fisher would be supporting Swofford 100%.

This leads us to the points where what Swofford said don’t make a whole lot of sense.

Cato

Rakeem Cato and Marshall would deserve a playoff spot if it were an eight-team playoff right now.

First of all, Swofford said that by going to eight teams in a playoff, this would eliminate most of the controversy over who is in and who is out. The boss of the ACC apparently doesn’t pay close attention to the NCAA College Basketball Tournament shows where the hottest topics of conversation are about who got snubbed.

Regardless of who makes the playoff and regardless of how many make the playoff there will always be controversy.

Back to where Swofford is right… By letting in another four teams you add the “Cinderella” element to the playoffs. Take Marshall for instance right now. If we assume that in an eight-team playoff field the winners of the power five conferences would get automatic berths, that leaves three open spots.

In my opinion, Marshall would have to get a bid if they finished unbeaten. The two other bids would then go to at-large berths from the power five.

Think about that scenario for a second; you’d have Marshall as the eight seed no doubt playing against Alabama. No one would give the Herd a shot but that’s why they play the games though right?

Not having a “Cinderella moment” in college football is what is lacking from its’ postseason. We will still get great football games in the four-team playoff but there won’t be any true underdogs.

The other stupid thing that Swofford said was related to why the move to the eight-team playoff would be difficult. Stop me if you’ve heard this argument before… The university presidents are concerned with academics.

(Laughs for 20 minutes then returns to keyboard)

The majority of university presidents are not in favor of extending the season over two semesters. By adding one more week of playoffs, most two-semester schools would then enter into a second semester.

Don’t buy this for a New York minute. First of all, this would affect a very small amount of schools; probably four or so. Secondly, are we to believe that academics are suddenly so important when teams that reach the basketball final four basically miss classes for three weeks? Have you ever looked into just how much school these basketball players are missing?

If a team opens the tournament on a Thursday-Saturday pattern then most teams will attend classes on Monday and Tuesday and then travel to their site on Wednesday. Should they win and play again Saturday then the earliest they return to campus is late Saturday night or Sunday. If that pattern continues for the next two weeks that means players miss a total of a minimum of nine days of class.

Because basketball teams are smaller, they can actually have a decent number of tutors travel with them but still, please stop trying to use “education” as the reason for not expanding to an eight-game playoff. It’s a weak argument period.

At the very least, one of the power five conference commissioners has at least brought the subject to forefront and that’s a good thing.

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ACC Coastal Division Odds for 2014

Fedora
Fedora

Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels are looking to capture the ACC Coastal Division.

As my tour around college football continues, today is the ACC Coastal.

North Carolina 7/4 – The Tar Heels have seven starters back on defense but three of those that are gone went to the NFL. The offense returns eight players but one of the three gone is tight end Eric Ebron who was an absolute stud for UNC. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is not overly difficult. Besides the Irish, the Heels also have road trips to Clemson, Virginia and Miami. I see UNC finishing with seven to eight wins this year.

Miami 3/1 – Al Golden enters his fourth year with a 22-15 record and seven starters returning on each side of the ball. QB Jake Heaps who is with his third team now, seems to have the keys to the offense but Golden has yet to commit. The Canes were selected as the favorites to win the Coastal and that possibility obviously exists with their talent. Miami opens at the team they last saw in a game and that’s ACC newcomer Louisville who blasted the Canes in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. They also have trips to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech as well. They do get Florida State and Duke at home. The division title is there for them but is the schedule too much?

Beamer

I have a feeling Frank Beamer and the Hokies will challenge for the Coastal Division if not win it.

Virginia Tech 3/1 – The Hokies return nine starters on offense but just five on defense from a team that struggled last season with just eight wins and a blowout bowl loss to UCLA. QB Logan Thomas is gone and I think that’s a good thing as he never lived up to expectations. Despite few starters back on D, the talent is there especially in the secondary and on the D-Line. If the offensive line can gel, then the Hokies are a legitimate threat to win the division. The tough road trips are to Ohio State, North Carolina and Duke.

Duke 6/1 – The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and six on defense as they look to follow up last year’s division title. Duke must replace three starters on the defensive line and Anthony Boone is the only QB with experience. The Blue Devils should roll to a 4-0 record against weak non-conference opponents but then they have four conference road games in their next five and among them are trips to Miami, Pitt, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. I do not see repeat for Duke in 2014.

Georgia Tech 8/1 – The Yellow Jackets return just 10 starters from last year’s team that featured some big wins and heartbreaking losses. Because of the offensive system, losing backs isn’t usually a big deal. Coach Paul Johnson just reloads in the backfield. Other than Georgia to finish the season, the non-conference slate is easy. Besides the trip to Athens, GT also has trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State. If the defense comes together, the Jackets can be a threat in the division.

Pitt 25/1 – The Panthers come off of a 6-7 record in Paul Chryst’s first year in Pittsburgh. Eight starters return on offense and just five on defense. Pitt will rely on a new quarterback but he’ll have the benefit of receiver Tyler Boyd who was even better than Larry Fitzgerald was as a freshman. Tough road games are at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami. 6-6 is very possible again in the Steel City.

Virginia 25/1 – With 16 starters (9-Off/7-Def) returning, Mike London has no more excuses especially considering the solid recruiting class as well. London is one of America’s ‘coaches on the hot seat.’ The first four games will tell the story for the 2014 Cavaliers. They host UCLA, Richmond and Louisville and then travel to BYU. The only way London survives is by getting to a bowl game and even that isn’t a guarantee.

The Pick: I have a feeling Coach Frank Beamer will have his Hokies ready to be back among the elite in the ACC.The Tar Heels could put pressure on both Miami and the Hokies but I’m not sure I’m buying the UNC hype.

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Weekend Ramblings Include Phil, NCAA Uncertainty and …

Jackson
Jackson

Can Phil Jackson save the New York Knicks?

For the first time in his non-playing career, Phil Jackson is taking a risk. Every report this side of Antarctica says the zen-master is headed to the New York Knicks as team president and a ‘major announcement’ has been called by the organization for Tuesday morning.

I say that Jackson is taking a risk because during his tenure as a head coach in the National Basketball Association he has been fortunate enough to coach two teams that were both loaded with talent. He stepped into the head coaching position with the Chicago Bulls when the team was just coming into its own.

Six titles later and a Michael Jordan retirement saw him head to Los Angeles where the Lakers were Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were in their primes. Five titles later, retirement for Phil Jackson looked pretty darn good. Now, Jackson is entering a situation where there is no savior waiting in the wings. Carmelo Anthony is the only player the Knicks have worth a darn and may not even be there as free agency looms this offseason.

At 68 years old, can Jackson handle the rigors of rebuilding an organization that has fallen on the worst of times? Should he be able to get this team into the playoffs within two to three years then he shall have succeeded in some circles. Status quo or worse will tarnish his legacy whether he believes it or not.

Boeheim

Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim needs to get this team back on track.

NCAA Tourney Field Wide-Open

A month ago, Syracuse seemed destined to get to the Final Four and possibly the championship game as they cruised to an unbeaten start. Since they finally lost at Boston College, it’s been a train wreck to put it lightly. The Orange were bounced from their first-ever ACC Tournament appearance by NC State yesterday 66-63. It was the Orange’s fifth loss in their last seven games.

Syracuse wasn’t the only team though across the country to get beaten earlier than expected in their conference tournaments. Kansas was beaten by Iowa State who all of the sudden looks like a team that could make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Big Ten Champ Michigan escaped Illinois with a one-point win while #15 North Carolina was beaten by new ACC member Pitt 80-75.

#18 St. Louis also took it on the chin losing to St. Bonaventure and #13 Cincinnati lost to #21 UConn 58-56. All of this really shouldn’t be that surprising. Conference tournaments have often been the scene of big upsets ahead of the big dance but with every passing year these events seem to get more and more common.

Wichita State has so far held up their end of the bargain by finishing unbeaten and with a conference tournament title in hand. The Shockers will get a number one seed but they are no means a lock to roll into the Final Four.

Bottom line? You better do your homework when filling out your brackets this year because anything is possible.

Nash Speaks the Truth

We have to credit Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Steve Nash for being honest. In the sports’ world, fans often cry that players only take deals in certain locations because of the money but rarely ever admit that’s the reason.

Don’t worry about Steve Nash in this regard. The often-injured former NBA MVP flat out said he is coming back next year because he wants to collect his $10 million pay check. If you’re a Lakers’ fan, you probably aren’t thrilled with this. You’d rather he just retired so the team can move on and rebuild. For the rest of us, it was rather refreshing to hear a guy finally say, “It’s about the money.”

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Conference Tournaments Offer Wagering Opportunities Too

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NCAA

Don't wait for the Big Dance! Start March Madness with some conference tourney wagering.

While many conference tournaments are already underway across the country, the ‘big boys’ start their tournaments next week. We are just nine days from Selection Sunday and while the little conferences have their say in who will represent them, the larger conferences have no such worries.

Conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and so on know they will have multiple schools getting into the big dance while conferences like the Ohio Valley or SWAC are more than likely looking at just one team, the conference champion, getting in.

Fair or not, that’s the way basketball in the collegiate ranks works. It’s also why we as fans pay so little attention to these tournaments until their championship games are set. Even then our interest is little and is much more focused on the major conference tournaments ahead.

If you are already foaming at the mouth at the thought of filling out your NCAA brackets then I have something to tide you over. Many of you are already doing this but I know many of you aren’t and you are missing out!

I’m always on the lookout for numerous ways to gamble around the office. It’s a good way to build morale and goodwill in the workplace. All too often, we assume that there is nothing to do between the Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament and I’m telling you that just isn’t so.

Depending upon where you live in the United States, you should be holding a conference tournament pool based on your nearest major conference.

If you live in Texas then you should be hosting an office pool for the Big 12 Conference Tournament or perhaps the SEC Tournament for you A&M folks.

If you’re in the upper Northeast you should have an American Athletic Conference Tournament pool or ACC if you’re in New York, Boston or Western PA.

Big Ten

Get a bracket just like this for all the major conferences and get your co-workers involved.

I think you get the idea….

What you’ll want to do is just set up a very standard bracket. For the Big Ten, you can print them right off at BigTen.org. The amount of money you decide per entry is up to you and hopefully you’ve been your office’s ‘gaming commissioner’ long enough to know whether $2 per sheet is good or if $20 per sheet is the number.

I suggest filling out the bracket as you would any NCAA bracket but there a couple of things to consider. Because you’re dealing with a small amount of games, you might want to give point values to each round of the conference tournament.

This will help eliminate some potential ties but it won’t alleviate all of them. Therefore, you’ll need a tie-breaker and I have two such ways of going about this.

The most standard practice is to go with “Write in the final score of the conference championship game.” You could use point spread first or use closest in terms of total points for the tie-breaker as well.

The other option for tie-breaker (or as a second tie-breaker if you have a small number of players) is to have each entrant choose the tournament’s most valuable player. This can be quite fun because almost always we see teams make runs to the conference title game that we never saw coming.

That means a larger pool of players to potentially choose from.

Regardless of what you do, don’t wait around for Selection Sunday and March Madness. Get the madness going sooner by wagering on conference tournaments next week. Good luck!

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