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Duke, Indiana look to finish
Are Duke And Indiana The Best Bets In Championship Week Futures?
The ACC and Big Ten Conferences have been mainstays when providing college basketball with top contenders for the national title. This year, there have been multiple threats in each league trying to lay claim as the best of the best. Are Duke and Indiana really the frontrunners they deserve to be? If not, which teams deserve your investment?
Eventually, you need to figure out who the alpha in a group is and no conference exemplifies that fact better than the ACC. Is it the conference title winning Miami Hurricanes? Are the perennial champion Duke Blue Devils the team to beat as always? Can the NC State Wolfpack finally come through on all the promises their initial potential created?
The ACC Tournament will be the warzone that provides the answers to all the questions we’ve had about this conference through a bizarre 2012-13 college basketball season.
Let’s start with the top seeded Miami Hurricanes at +300 who came out of nowhere to become one of the best teams in the country. There was a lot of talk about the North Carolina schools during preseason, with some mention of Miami, but nobody saw this coming. Led by Shane Larkin, the Canes went 24-6 SU overall and 15-3 SU in-conference to win the ACC regular season title. They were also a blistering 17-9-1 ATS on the betting line which endeared them to gambling circles around the country.
People are loading up on the 3-to-1 odds presented by Miami because they present the best value in terms of actual potential and return on investment. It’s also promising that they went 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS against the top competition in the ACC, barely losing to Duke by just three points after crushing them in their first meeting.
Which actually brings us to the Duke Blue Devils, who have been surging since the return of Ryan Kelly from injury. Duke holds even odds to win the ACC and has arguably the easiest path to the get to the finals as well. Defending champion FSU and UNC will squabble over who gets to face Duke in the semis, and neither team presents a serious challenge to the Blue Devils. It would be shocking if Duke wasn’t in the tournament finals considering the teams supposedly standing in their path.
An intriguing play on UNC at +500 could warrant some action, but this is a thin ice bet at best. James McAdoo hasn’t really taken steps forwards or backwards, and hasn’t proven that he can take over important games when it matters. It doesn’t help that he gets smothered by the elite bigs in the ACC including the Plumlees at Duke, Larkin of Miami and the plethora of towering talent at NC State. It’s also very discouraging that UNC went just 1-4 SU against the best of the ACC.
I would wipe UNC from your consideration and instead take a gander at NC State which holds +650 odds to emerge victorious at the ACC Tournament. In terms of raw talent, NC State still holds most of the cards but they haven’t really played up to their potential. A loss to FSU in the season finale pretty much sums up their season so far. It’s hard to really have faith in all that talent when it hasn’t shown up in important games.
The only two worthwhile bets are Duke and Miami, and my money is on the Hurricanes exacting revenge. No team has been sturdier against top end competition than Miami and though Duke has come on strong lately, I still think people are undercutting how good Miami actually is. The Blue Devils are obviously a reasonable play here, but Miami gives you a better bang for your buck and have proven they can hang with Duke already.
At the beginning of the season, Indiana was rated as the best team in the country and that sentiment hasn’t really shifted with the championship tournaments on the horizon. What has changed, however, are the reasons that Indiana is favored. The Hoosiers are +140 to win the Big Ten for the first time in forever, but do they have the moxy to hold off the other contenders?
Cody Zeller reminded us all why he’s a nominee for the Wooden Award by pounding the Michigan Wolverines in the regular season finale. He plays with such an advanced fundamental skill set that it’s hard to believe he’s just a sophomore. While Zeller was the main reason Indiana was anointed the top ranked team in preseason odds, teammate Victor Oladipo has emerged as a major reason to back this team as a national title favorite.
Oladipo’s rise to prominence has been compared to – gulp – that of Michael Jordan since they were both late bloomers. I wouldn’t get swept away in those comparisons, but at this level Oladipo is an absolute stud on both ends of the floor. He averages just 13.7 points per game, but makes everyone on his team better with an endless work rate that is extremely evident when he plays defense.
The one-two punch of Oladipo and Zeller creates a massive mismatch for basically every team in the Big Ten. Outside of those two, Indiana has very capable spot up shooters and role players who fill their duties admirably.
But the Big Ten isn’t devoid of talent which is why Indiana isn’t the runaway favorite to win this conference championship outright.
Led by Trey Burke, the best point guard in the country by almost every measure, the Michigan Wolverines post +450 odds as one of the major threats in the tournament. Where Michigan falters as a play is that they’re wholly unreliable away from home. They barely beat Purdue in their last game on the road, and lost four straight away games prior to that. Travelling is not this team’s strong suit, but when you have one of the best show runners in town it’s hard to look past them. Michigan is definitely a decent play, but they’re not as solid as their backers would like them to be.
I would absolutely take any money you plan on using to back the Michigan State Spartans at +400 and use it to pay down your mortgage or buy some groceries because those are going to be sounder investments. The Spartans simply don’t have the depth or front court presence to deal with the other top teams on the board. If you bleed Spartan Green, go right ahead. Just don’t be surprised when you start to bleed another type of green after throwing money behind your beloved Michigan State hopefuls.
The best bet on the board outside of Indiana is actually the Ohio State Buckeyes at +350, a cagey under-the-radar pick that went on a chippy 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS streak. That included wins against Indiana, Michigan State and the pesky Minnesota Gophers. The Buckeyes haven’t received much press because they were never a real national championship contender, and this year has been filled with more storyline twists than a season of Lost.
The perception in the Big Ten is that Indiana is unbeatable, and I wouldn’t be so quick to judge. Indiana has been an outstanding team all season, and are worth betting on simply because they have two of the best players in the country. The outside shot belongs to Ohio State. For sheer value alone, I prefer the Buckeyes. I think there’s a lot of fuss being made about Indiana’s win over Michigan, which was very nearly a loss. These two should make an incredible Big Ten Championship finals. Just make sure you have your money on the right side when it comes to a futures investment.

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