|Favorites in First and Second Round |
Against the spread
|Year||First Round||Second Round|
The conference tournament appetizer dish is now finished, and it's time to bring on the main course. Thursday begins the 2003 edition of the NCAA basketball tournament. As usual, the NCAA selection committee has screwed up the seedings; although the only teams they left out of the Big Dance that my power ratings show should have received invitations are Boston College and Texas Tech. Auburn, Butler and Southern Illinois should consider themselves lucky to have gotten into the tournament. As we can see from the chart below, in the first and second round of the tournament there has been no discernible edge for favorites or underdogs, so the individual matchups need to be analyzed. Click here for the matchups for Thursday and Friday. The actual point spread is in the first column, and my point spread based on my power ratings is in the second column. Any advantage is listed in the third column. In the fourth column I've indicated whether a team is a good or poor road team, using the criteria of whether a team has a road point-spread record of 60% or more or 40% or less.
The Dayton-Tulsa game is a good example of how the NCAA has made mistakes seeding teams. Dayton is a No. 4 seed while Tulsa is a No. 13 seed. My power ratings have Dayton as an 11 and Tulsa as a 13, thus making the spread in this game 2 points, which means the oddsmakers' spread on this game is perfect. Dayton should have been a No. 7 seed and Tulsa should have been a No. 10 seed. I think Tulsa will use the snub as additional motivation, and I may bet on the Golden Hurricane if the line creeps above 3 points. I've also placed wagers on Illinois (-9), Arizona State (+3), Gonzaga (pick) and Connecticut (-4) in other Thursday games. On Friday, in the Louisville-Austin Peay game, my line differs from the oddsmaker's by 4 full points. This is a game where "public" money will come in on Louisville, because not many people have heard of Austin Peay. But the Governors have been on a spectacular run in the last half of the season, winning 15 of their last 16 games, culminating in a victory in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament final. Austin Peay does have height matchup problems with Louisville, but their guard play should be able to handle the pressing tactics of the Cardinals. I expect Austin Peay to slow things down and stay within the large point spread. Both Alabama and Indiana are very poor road teams, but I have the Crimson Tide rated slightly better than the Hoosiers, and I believe they will be the likely winner in this matchup between two underachieving teams. Although Britton Johnson is unlikely to play in Utah's game against Oregon on Friday, 4 1/2 points is too many to give to a team coached by Rick Majerus. Utah is a disciplined half-court team that will give Oregon all it can handle. I see the game as being nip and tuck all the way, with a final score in the 60s. I don't believe any team with a power rating of 10 or higher is likely to make it to the Final Four. Look for No. 1 seeds Kentucky and Oklahoma to make the Final Four, but I'll go out on a limb and pick No. 4 seed Illinois to advance from the West and No. 3 Xavier to advance from the South. To see the entire field's power ratings click here. I'll be back next Wednesday with a look at the Sweet 16.