Our first “longshot” is Syracuse at 22/1. When we look for “longshots” in the tourney, there are always a few things we look for. Now, a team doesn’t need to fall into every category to be considered as a good investment. However, Syracuse falls into nearly everything we are looking for. Not only that, the return on investment looks very good at 22/1 odds. First of all, do they have a good, experienced coach? Check. Jim Boeheim has coached 29 years, has over 700 wins and a National Championship just two years ago. Second, does the team have a good, experienced point guard? Check. Gerry McNamara (16 PPG) has now started three years and was a key contributor on the 2003 National Championship team. Third, do they play good defense? Check. Not only does Syracuse play good defense, they play a brand of defense (2-3 zone) that most of their opponents don’t see during the regular season which gives them a huge advantage. The Orange allowed their opponents to shoot just 39% from the field this year. Fourth, does the team have a superstar that can carry them if needed? Check. Forward Hakim Warrick (21 PPG, 8 RPG, 55% FG) is one of the best players in the nation.
Along with McNamara, Syracuse has one of the best inside/outside combos in the tournament. Finally, do they shoot well from the FT line? Check, well not really. Here is their one downfall. They shoot just 66 percent from the line as a team which can be a big difference come tourney time in close games. This is a VERY experienced team with four starters that were contributors on their 2003 National Championship team. We also like their bracket. In round one, they should be able to get by Vermont without a whole lot of trouble. They then have Michigan State staring them in the face. The Spartans are very good but have found ways to lose big games all year. Plus, MSU sees very little zone defense in the Big Ten. The No. 1 seed in their bracket is Duke and they are definitely beatable this season. The No. 2 seed is Kentucky, a fairly young team that can struggle on offense at times. With their experience in this situation, we really think Syracuse is a very good “futures” play at 22/1.
If we had to look at a team with really long odds, we would consider Alabama at 60/1. This is another team with a bunch of experience. This Bama’ team was in the Elite 8 a year ago losing to eventual National Champion Connecticut. The Tide returns four starters from that team including the fantastic trio of guard Earnest Shelton (16 PPG), forward Kennedy Winston (18 PPG) and forward/center Chuck Davis (14 PPG, 7 RPG). Shelton is a great outside shooter, Winston is a slasher who can score inside or from behind the arc and Davis is very good in the paint. Alabama can get hot from the outside as they hit at 40% as a team from behind the arc. They also shoot nearly 49% from the field as a team.
The one downfall this Alabama team has is lack of depth. Their only real contributor off the bench is forward Jean Felix. Thus if they get in foul trouble or are really fatigued, they could be in trouble. Their opening round game is vs. UW Milwaukee. While many will be calling for the upset, we don’t see it. UWM does not have much of an inside game and will struggle in the paint vs. Bama. The Tide should have a huge edge in the paint. The Panthers love to press, but that won’t bother this very athletic Alabama team. PG Ronald Steele has proven to be one of the best floor leaders in the SEC and he is only a freshman. The No.1 seed in this bracket is Illinois. We think Alabama could match up pretty well with the Illini if it came down to that. Thus for a ‘very longshot’ we’ll take Alabama at 60/1.