The Power and the Glory

So far, the Lieberman power ratings seem to be working like a charm during March Madness.
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The

power ratings RULE! While favorites won most of the first-round games straight up (SU), the underdogs dominated last week's second-round games. On both Saturday and Sunday, underdogs were 7-1 against the spread (ATS), and if readers used the Lieberman power ratings, many of the "upsets" were suggested by the comparative power ratings of the teams.

St. John's

, which we suggested was overrated at a No. 2 seed, is now out, and

Tulsa

, which we suggested was underrated as a No. 7 seed, is now the favorite to move into the Final Four in the

South Regional

.

Let's look at how the power ratings stack up in this week's games:

While the raw power ratings are probably the best guide to utilize in determining whether a team will cover the spread, other factors should be considered in evaluating the games. Where the Lieberman power ratings suggest a line more than two points away from the official line, you have a suggested play.

Oklahoma State

-7 1/2 is a suggested play and if the

Gonzaga-Purdue

line moves any higher, Purdue will be a likely play.

Let's discuss some of the other factors to consider.

In the third round of the NCAA tournament, favorites are 56-61-2 ATS since 1985. In the fourth round, the record is 29-30. Thus, there is no clearly discernible pattern, although in the last two years, favorites are only 4-10 ATS in the third round and 2-6 ATS in the fourth round. Teams that are playing in their home state in the NCAA tournament are a spectacular 36-15-1 ATS in their last 52 games. This is a factor that must be considered in handicapping the

Michigan State-Syracuse

game being held at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.

While not strictly applicable, this angle also should be looked at in the Tulsa-

Miami

game, which is being played in Austin, Texas -- far closer to Tulsa than Miami.

Also,

Seton Hall

-Oklahoma State is being played in Syracuse, N.Y. -- an eight-hour drive from South Orange, N.J., where Seton Hall University is located.

We will also reiterate our advice from

last week -- we always look at the underdogs first. If the underdog can be competitive and is getting points, we will usually be on that team's side. If we can get 2 1/2 points or more, we will definitely be on

Wisconsin

, Purdue and

North Carolina

.

One bet that we like a lot is the over-under on the Tulsa-Miami game. While Miami plays half-court defense as well as any team in the country and can stroke the three with the best teams, its ball-handling ability is suspect. Tulsa plays a rotation of 11 players, which gives them the ability to play pressure defense for the entire game.

In games where pressure defense has been played, Miami has shown an alarming tendency to turn the ball over. In a 102-75 victory over

Bethune-Cookman

, Miami turned the ball over 19 times. In a 97-61 win over

Hartford

, the Hurricanes turned the ball over 21 times. And in two games against

Georgetown

(one win and one loss), the Canes turned the ball over an amazing 46 times. We noticed this deficiency in the Miami-

Arkansas

game. Although the power ratings provided us with a bet on Miami, we were disturbed by the inability of the Hurricanes to fully handle the pressing defense of the Razorbacks, which resulted in 23 turnovers. In the

Ohio State

game, Miami turned the ball over 21 times.

Tulsa's head coach, Bill Self, is one of the brightest young coaches in the game. We are sure that if we can spot this problem, Coach Self will also spot it. Tulsa has the perfect playing style to pressure Miami for the full game and try to get some easy buckets. We think this will result in a higher scoring game than the oddsmakers predict, and we've made plays on over 128 1/2 for the entire game and over 60 1/2 for the first half of the game.

With Shaheen Holloway doubtful for Friday's game, we also like Oklahoma State -7 1/2 against Seton Hall. Then again, if Seton Hall can repeat its 15 for 30 3-point shooting performance from the

Temple

game, we'll be ripping up our ticket. But we don't think they can pull that off against the aggressive man-to-man defense we think the Cowboys will play in this game.

Good luck this week.

Barry Lieberman is the general counsel for a Las Vegas gaming company and an associate of James Padinha. He's been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years, and welcomes your feedback at

barrylieberman1@prodigy.net.