Posted 03/11/2010 at 11:41 AM
What gets you in the mood for March Mayhem? What whets the appetite most for the three-weekend event that will culminate this year on a Monday night in Indianapolis? Well, for me, it’s three days and nights of non-stop action at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Big East Tournament.
Today is Day 3 – this year’s Big East quarterfinals. And what better way to start than Syracuse and Georgetown at noon Eastern. We’re just minutes away from tip-off at MSG with most books listing the ‘Cuse as a six-point favorite with the total in the 139-140 range. Bettors can take the Hoyas to win outright for a plus-220 return (risk $100 to win $220).
Please continue to check back on this page and hit refresh all day, as I will be blogging on the action at MSG and throughout the rest of the country from Music City to Tinseltown and beyond. I’ll be recommending halftime bets as well, so stay tuned for an epic day of bets and ballgames!
11:45 a.m. UPDATE: Before 'Cuse and G-town tip, let's look at the second game of the day that'll feature Villanova and Marquette. The Wildcats beat the Golden Eagles twice during the regular season, but both games went to the wire. In fact, nearly every Marquette game goes to the buzzer and yesterday was no different. Buzz Williams' team blew a double-digit halftime lead and had to rally at crunch time to capture a 57-55 win over St. John's. The Red Storm took the money as a four-point underdog.
Most books are currently listing 'Nova as a five-point 'chalk' with a total of 141 1/2. Most spots have the total at 141 1/2 but I do see the tally as high as 142 1/2 at Stations Casinos in Las Vegas. Gamblers can back Marquette on the money line for a plus-180 payout (risk $100 to win $180).
Most spots currently have Pitt as a 1 1/2-point favorite for tonight's clash against Notre Dame, which sealed its at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament by beating Seton Hall last night. The ND-Pitt total is in the 126-127 range. More on Luke Hargangody's dynamic play from last night in a bit...
NOON: Oh, no! Doris Burke on the color call. Memo to ESPN: Tigten up!!
We're underway at MSG. Quick Thought: How hung over is Bill Raftery right now? No worries, though, Raft will have his A-Game on by the time Pitt and Notre Dame take the court tonight.
The Orange draw first blood with Wesley Johnson's bucket. And Johnson, the Big East Player of the Year, follows that up with a deep trey from the left wing. 'Cuse up 5-0 early.
Let's talk some Cincy-West Va. The Bearcats, who barely survived a game effort from Rutgers two nights ago, took it to Louisville last night and held on for a 69-66 win as six-point underdogs.
Most betting shops have the third-seeded Mountaineers tabbed as nine-point 'chalk' with the total wavering between 128 and 129. Mick Cronin's squad is an attractive plus-375 to win outright (risk $100 to win $375).
We go to the under-16 TV timeout with the Orange leading by an 11-6 count. That's a nice start for 'over' backers as the total closed at 140. Andy Rautins hit a trifecta and I suspect that won't be his last of this event.
Big props to Rautins, who really improved his overall game during his senior year. But make no mistake, he's had one of the best jumpers in college basketball for several years. His shooting stroke, dare I say, is sweet as Tupelo Honey (music reference if I lost you there).
If I'm John Thompson III, I'm all over Greg Monroe to quit worrying about the officials. This is the Big East Tourney. It's extremely physical and there are going to be fouls that don't get called. Monroe needs to move on to the next play regardless of whether or not he hears the whistle.
I passed on 'Cuse-Georgetown (until halftime, that is) but have picks galore in my pick pack after going 4-1 yesterday. I had these winners: USF-Gtwn 'under,' Oklahoma St., Notre Dame and Iowa St. The USF Bulls were my lone loser.
A 10-0 Hoyas' run has them in the lead at 14-11 with 12:08 left.
12:20ish: They are also in progress in Greensboro, NC., as UVA has a 10-9 lead on BC at the under-16 timeout.
Back to the action at MSG...check that, they go to under-12 timeout with G'twn still up 14-11.
Back to Cincy-WVU: I just talked to BoDog Sportsbook Manager Richard Gardner, who told me that "Cincy had 50/1 odds to win the tournament before it started. We took a little action on them, but the Big East futures are going to be a break-even proposition for us regardless of what happens. Fortunately we had the most handle as far as futures on the Big East Tournament."
Gardner continued, "We've been getting a lot of action for Cincy-WVU and most of the bets are on the Bearcats at plus nine. We haven't been as busy yet for Notre Dame-Pitt, but the action has come in on the Panthers slightly more than the Irish so far."
12:47ish: Syracuse takes a 40-37 lead to intermission. Therefore, I'm guessing the Orange will be a three-point favorite in the second half, which will offer no value from the original line. With 77 points so far, the 'over' is looking good. Bettors will probably be able to get some line value for a second-half 'under.'
In G-boro, look at the Wahoos with a 34-25 lead on Boston College with 1:47 left in the first half. KU leads Texas Tech 14-13 at the under-12 timeout in the Big 12 quarterfinals. The Jayhawks closed as 17 1/2-point favorites.
Ok, most books have indeed made the 'Cuse a three-point 'chalk' in the second half (Who knew?!). The total is 77, which equates to 154. Again, who knew the value (but not necessarily the winner) would be with the 'under?' Since it closed at 140, gamblers taking the second-half 'under' will be getting 14 points of value from the original line. Once again, I'm not endorsing an 'under' play here but I do think you look 'under' or pass on the total. Personally I'm going to pass. If I had to pick it (I don't), I'd go Georgetown and/or 'under' for halftime wagers. That would give you the Hoyas plus six and 'under' 154. We'll see what happens.
Allright, it's lunch break time. On that note, let me give a shout-out to my man Mr. Mike and Hudson (whose Auburn squad is going down tonight!!!) at Cocoon's on 30-A in Seagrove Beach. Florida. I'm headed that way right now for lasagna and a big sweet tea, in addition to cucumber salad and Mr. Mike's bread that's incredible.
Back in a bit...(12:54 p.m. ET.)
2:00ish: I'll review my lunch in a little while. While we were away, Syracuse's season took a turn in a negative way. Not in terms of losing to Georgetown, I'm fine with that if I'm a fan of the Orange. That just means fresh legs for next week, which is much more important. But big man Arinze Onuaku went down with a knee injury and if he's unavailable in the NCAA Tournament, that's really bad news for Jim Boeheim.
Syracuse plays just seven players and that's a huge concern if it is now six. We don't know anything about Onuaku's status yet, but it didn't look good. He sort of had a delayed reaction to an awkward fall that made me initially think it might just be a cramp. But when he started reaching toward his knee and thigh area (instead of his right calf for a cramp), you knew it wasn't good. We should know more later today.
Onuaku isn't Kenyon Martin, who went down in the C-USA Tourney with a broken leg and missed the 2000 NCAA Tournament for Cincinnati. (Remember, the Bearcats lost their No. 1 seed due to Martin's injury and ended up losing in the second round.). But Onuaku is an integral part of what Syracuse does, moreso than his stats (10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds per game, 67% FGA's) suggest.
Georgeown won by a 91-84 count, so all 'over' bets were winners for the game and both halves. The Hoyas hooked up money-line backers with a nice payout.
In other action, UVA beat BC 68-62 as a five-point underdog. Right on cue, Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened top-seeded Duke as a 16-point favorite for Friday's noon Eastern matchup against Virginia. The total opened at 128.
Memphis is in deep trouble. The Tigers trail Houston 53-47 at the 8:10 mark. I say they're 'out' of the NCAA Tournament field with a loss to the Cougars. We'll keep you posted.
KU beat Texas Tech 80-68 but failed to cover as a huge 17 1/2-point 'chalk.' The Jayhawks will face the Texas A&M-Nebraska winner. Speaking of the Aggies, I'm on them today along with the 'over' for that contest.
I have those two selections with two others that are now in progress. Marquette (+5.5 is me) is down 12-10 to Villanova. I'm also on Wake Forest minus 3 1/2, but the Deacs are down 27-17 to Miami right now. Ouch!
ESPN just showed Boeheim in the presser saying Onauku's injury "was a strain. We'll know more after the MRI tomorrow." Burke indicated she saw him walking around the lockerroom on crutches.
Alabama has mounted a furious rally in Nashville, coming from down double digits to trim South Carolina's lead to 57-53 with more than five minutes left. The winner of this game faces Kentucky tomorrow.
Memphis down four, Marquette up by four. Lazar Heyward has nice range on his 3-pointer and that makes me think he's got a shot at the next level. We know he can rebound and will get after it defensively.
Alabama freshman Tony Mitchell just put a Crimson Tide win on ice by draining the front end of a one-and-one situation at the free-throw line. Mitchell's FT has given 'Bama a 67-63 lead with 6.3 ticks left. The line closed 'Bama -2. So here's the game for bettors........and Gamecocks don't even get the ball to Devan Downey for a 3-point attempt for the push. Tide gets a steal for the win and cover. Fitting for 'Bama, which lost so many games it led in the second half during the regular season. They get one back here and will face Kentucky tomorrow. LVSC should send out the opening line in the next few minutes and we'll let you know. Update: UK opens -12. Total: 134
Memphis? The Tigers are done, losing 66-65 to Houston. Josh Pastner's team is now NIT bound and that's a good thing for fans of schools like Washington, Florida, Ole Miss and Rhode Island.
3:25: Let's talk halftime bets. Wake Forest trails Miami by 14 at intermission and has been tabbed as a six-point favorite for the second half. I'm recommending the Deacs -6 here, equating to plus eight for the game which gives us 11 1/2 point of value from the originial line. Value doesn't alway equal a winner (think 'Cuse-Gtwn 'under' a few hours ago), but I like it in this scenario.
'Nova and Marquette are knotted up at 30-30 at the half. Shocker that the Golden Eagles would be wrapped up in a tight game, right? Most books have the Wildcats as a 3 1/2-point favorite, so I'll keep rolling with my original Marquette bet catching 5.5 for the side. The total is in the 75-76 range. Add the 60 first-half points and you get to 135-136. Original total was 141ish, so it's 'over' or pass in my opinion. I'll pass.
ESPN reporting now that Syracuse people are indicating that they now think Onuaku is going to be fine and play in the NCAA Tournament. Memo to 'Cuse fan: You can breath now.
Got get 'em Aggies! They lead Nebraska, which stunned Mizzou yesterday, by an 18-9 score midway through the first half. That catches us up for now. I shall return in a bit with hopes of a Wake rally and Texas A&M domination.
5:00ish: Marquette plays another game to the wire and beats Villanova, 80-76. (Where was my Marquette money-line parlay with the 'over?') The Golden Eagles will now square off against Georgetown in the Big East Tourney semifinals tomorrow night. There was no rally for Wake, which got beat by 21 by Miami. Should the Deacs be nervous about Selection Sunday now? Maybe.
Tennessee is going through the motions and only leads LSU by two early in the second half. 'My' Aggies? They have a 62-55 lead with just under two minutes left. Translation: Sketch City for my Texas A&M and 'over' bets. Might win both, might lose both.
For the rest of my coverage of Thursday's action and looking ahead to Friday, check out my latest on the Big East and the SEC Tourneys.