Experiencing March Madness, Vegas Style

Posted by Sean Moran on March 27th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

RTC correspondent Sean Moran spent the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend in Las Vegas taking in all of the action on the Strip.

Memphis’ Michael Dixon Jr. steps to the line for two shots with 0.3 seconds on the clock for the Memphis Tigers. The crowd rises in unison. Screams of “MISS IT” are yelled out by one half of the crowd. The other half mutters and prays “please, please just hit the first one.” As the first of two free throws rips through the net, a loud roar erupts, dancing and hugging ensue. At the same time a look of despair appears from the fans hoping for a miss. A game-winner, you might ask? No, just a meaningless free throw that actually meant a whole lot to the fans gathered in Vegas.

March Madness in Vegas where fans hang on every play

The beauty of March Madness in Las Vegas is that the games are always interesting. Sure, the first four days were absolutely insane for the general fan too, with upsets, buzzer-beaters, and overtimes, but add in some gambling and you have March Madness on steroids. The casinos on the Strip open their betting windows early for the rush of college basketball fans streaming in from all over the country. Along with the standing room only sportsbooks, the casinos also offer stadium seating in their oversized auditoriums with big screen projectors to show every game. Fans are cheering, yelling, screaming, cursing, and pleading from 9:00 AM through the final buzzer 12 hours later that night. With overpriced light beers and food galore, everyone tends to get more rowdy as the day wears on.

Thursday started with an upset of Dayton over Ohio State and ended with a bang. Despite the early tip times on the West Coast it was almost impossible to find a seat in the Treasure Island auditorium. The day culminated with three scintillating overtime games in successive fashion along with a Cameron Ridley buzzer-beater for Texas. On day 2 the crowd turned quickly for the underdog right off the bat. Just like Florida Gulf Coast a year ago, the Atlantic Sun conference champion was not backing down against a high-level opponent. Mercer came in as a juicy 13-point underdog, and despite a three-point barrage from Duke, the Bears never backed down. Bold bettors were rewarded with an 8:1 payout on their bet as a few lucky winners cashed a sweet MoneyLine ticket. Even blowouts that the average fan turned away from turned into nail-biting affairs. If you took the “over” in the Baylor-Nebraska game you looked pretty much dead in the water with a 29-16 halftime score. Thanks to 18 fouls from Nebraska and a combined 99 points in the second half, the “over” backers were left shaking their heads in disbelief as the 74-60 final somehow made it past the 130.5 total.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Case for UNLV’s Dave Rice

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 27th, 2014

For those interested in bashing Dave Rice this season, it hasn’t been a challenge finding a few friends to join in on the fun. Even our own Andrew Murawa took a rip at UNLV’s walking, breathing, coaching piñata a few weeks back, listing Rice dead last in a ranking of the MW’s 11 current head coaches. This lack of love from Mr. Murawa and others is understandable: The Rebels have slogged their way through a season that began with a seemingly loaded roster and Mountain West title aspirations. Thomas & Mack Arena has turned uncharacteristically hospitable — feel free to ask Air Force, Nevada and UC Santa Barbara about UNLV’s new, friendlier visitor initiative if you don’t believe me. The Runnin’ Rebels may still finish third in the Mountain West and UNLV fans will fairly entertain hopes of running the table (at home) in the MW Tournament to find a backdoor into the Big Dance, but like the Vegas weekender stumbling onto his Sunday flight home, there is no hiding the disappointment for this UNLV team. Just don’t blame Dave Rice.

Dave Rice Has Plenty Of Destractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let's See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Dave Rice Suddenly Has Plenty Of Detractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let’s See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Remember last year’s UNLV team? The one that won 25 games and earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament? If the memories aren’t flowing in, don’t look to this year’s team for any help. The only current Rebels to earn serious minutes a season ago are Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones — the result of Rice losing seven rotation players from last year’s team. Adding to the offseason chaos was the fact that four of those seven departees still possessed college eligibility, so their decisions to pursue basketball careers elsewhere (for a variety of reasons) were largely unplanned. The impact of those defections has been dramatically overlooked by Rice critics; lose that much talent and production from any team, and creating a brand-new winner the next season is bound to be difficult. For every Kansas there is a Miami, Temple or Illinois, where rebuilding years are understood as necessary steps to a brighter future. Somehow the folks in Sin City missed the memo preaching leniency in the wake of an offseason exodus, as most explanations for the Rebel malaise have skipped over the overhaul, choosing instead to focus on the perceived deficiencies of the man at the helm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 3.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 13th, 2012

  1. After at least a week, and more likely months of conjecture, it’s official: the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is head to Las Vegas. In a news conference schedules for this afternoon, the conference will officially announce the move of their season-ending even to the MGM Grand Garden for at least the next two years. For the past 11 years, the tournament had been held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but attendance and fan interest in that event has waned over the years, in part due to the decline in talent in the conference, but also, perhaps, due to the venue. The move to Las Vegas means that Sin City will now host four different conference tournaments, with the Pac-12, Mountain West and WAC all going on at the same time, with the West Coast Conference tournament taking place the week prior. Great. Just what I needed. Another reason to go to Vegas in March. Although the prospect of a Vegas summit for hoops fans is pretty enticing.
  2. It began yesterday, but in case you missed it, we are now officially in that time of year where you have to check the news daily for stories about coaches and players perhaps on the move. With the relatively new opening for head coach at Nebraska, and with current Oregon coach Dana Altman’s ties to the state (he was born in Crete, NE and was the head coach at Creighton, in Omaha, for 15 years), rumors are already swirling that a change may be afoot in Eugene. Altman, however, has been quick to shoot those stories down, saying he is “the coach at Oregon.” While that may not be the strongest possible affirmation of Altman’s intent to stay with the Ducks, it will have to do for now. But the fact that Nebraska has recently sunk a ton of money into its basketball program and that Altman is a Nebraska native should leave Duck fans on edge until that Husker job is filled.
  3. Sticking with the Oregon program for a bit longer, they received bad news today when it was learned that former coach Dick Harter died at the age of 81 on Monday. Though he only coached the Ducks for seven years (1971-1978), he left an indelible mark on the program. Perhaps the high point of his career was ending UCLA’s 98-game winning streak at Pauley Pavilion in 1976, but he built a reputation for his team’s defensive excellence. His “Kamikaze Kids” never won a Pac-8 title (Harter coached before the Arizona schools were added to the conference), but they helped continue the tradition of McArthur Court being an intimidating place for opposing teams to play. Future Oregon head coach Ernie Kent was among Harter’s key players, as was future New York Knicks head coach (and NBA executive) Stu Jackson.
  4. In an announcement that surprised exactly no one, Sean Miller confirmed on Monday that freshman point guard Josiah Turner will not play again this season for Arizona, after being suspended indefinitely prior to the Pac-12 Tournament last week. The only real question remaining surrounding Turner is whether he will ever wear a Wildcat uniform again. Last week’s suspension was Turner’s third disciplinary action in his brief career in Tucson. Miller left the door open for a possible return for Turner next year, saying “I’m not telling any player on our team that he doesn’t have the option to come back, but it’s more about the path Josiah wants to go from this point forward that will determine whether he’s at Arizona or whether he would choose to have a new beginning.”
  5. Let’s wrap up the Morning Five on a positive note: Colorado’s season continues. After taking home the Pac-12’s automatic bid in their first year in the conference, the Buffaloes move on to Albuquerque on Thursday to face UNLV. Though they’ll be an underdog, this is very much a game that the Buffs can win. And head coach Tad Boyle is not content to stop there: “We’re not going to be just happy to be here,” he said. “We’re playing for a national championship.” I appreciate the sentiment, but a win over UNLV on Thursday makes for an excellent season for the Buffs. A further surprise over (potentially) Baylor on Saturday is gravy, while any further advancement is pie-in-the-sky madness. But, stranger things have happened.
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 7th, 2012

  1. On the eve of the kickoff of the Pac-12 Tournament comes news that the conference has reached an agreement to move at least the next two conference tournaments to Las Vegas. No official announcement has been made yet, but it could be official as early as Saturday night. The games would be played at the MGM Grand Arena, making it the fourth different conference tournament to be held in Las Vegas (joining the WCC, MW and WAC). Given declining attendance and a reputation for a less-than-thrilling atmosphere at its current home at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, this could be a welcome boost of adrenaline for a flagging event.
  2. Heading into the tournament, we’re still wondering whether the Pac-12 can get two teams, maybe even three, into the NCAA Tournament. Of all the teams, it appears that California is the safest best to get in, with an RPI of #37 and a couple wins over top 50 RPI teams. California Golden Blogs notes that Joe Lunardi says that the Bears can get in even with an opening round loss to Stanford this week, but, of course, if they want to be safe, they get that win and even another one against Oregon (which could, paradoxically, knock the Ducks out of the top 50 in the RPI and knock the Bears back down to 0-3 in that metric) to tighten up their case.
  3. At the Autzen Zoo, they’re making a case for three Pac-12 teams worthy of bids, a stance that is not particularly surprising given that the third team would be their beloved Oregon Ducks. They write that “the Pac-12 isn’t as bad as the biased east-coast fans think it is” and I would agree with that – I think that the top four, maybe even as deep as the top six teams are capable Pac-12 squads, even if there is no one great team here. The problem is of course that the tournament resumes of these teams are not good at all. There are no real statement wins against great teams; there are precious few wins against any teams of NCAA Tournament-caliber; and there are poor RPI numbers right on down the line. If there is disappointment around the conference on Selection Sunday, it is deserved.
  4. John Gasaway takes the stance that, although this conference is literally the weakest major conference in years, it’s not as bad as some make it out to be. What really drags the overall conference numbers down is the bottom of the conference – teams like USC, Utah and Arizona State that have suffered through horrifically bad seasons. Further, he sees the top five or so teams as consistent with what we’ve seen out of similar teams in the past two years in the conference. The bad news is, the past two years in the conference have been down years for the league as well, albeit not as far down as this season. Still, Gasaway sees promise in California and Washington, as well as UCLA, who he notes has been better on a possession-by-possession basis than the Huskies and right in the same general area as Arizona and Oregon.
  5. Lastly, Jeff Faraudo and Jon Wilner try to provide some reasons for the depths to which the Pac-12 has plunged. Among their reasons: 1) the decision to sign a TV contract with Fox instead of ESPN, hurting their national TV exposure and keeping Pac-12 teams off the radar of some recruits; 2) changes in personnel not only on rosters (early NBA entries, outgoing transfers), but on benches (Lute Olson, Tony Bennett, Tim Floyd); 3) UCLA’s well-publicized problems in their program; and 4) the fact that there just haven’t been a ton of elite-level recruits coming out of California in recent years.
Share this story

Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

  1. We suppose that we should recognize that there’s a football game going on this weekend in Indianapolis that involves a couple of well-known quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas sports gambling establishments are offering all kinds of ridiculous prop bets on the Sunday evening Super Bowl, but as The Dagger’s Ryan Greene writes in this piece, there are an interesting array of crossover props available that institute both this weekend’s college basketball action as well as the NFL championship. That’s right, if you are inclined to pick between Northwestern star John Shurna’s combined points and rebounds vs. Tom Brady’s number of completions or any number of other crazy wagers, Vegas invites you to come on down and give them some of your money.
  2. It’s not every day that you’ll read an article that compares the New York Times and Deadspin in the same sentence, but this piece by Dave Pickle at the NCAA does exactly such a thing. Feeling a need to respond to an onslaught of negative reporting from the Times’ Joe Nocera, the NCAA is fighting back using its own media platform. We read the original pieces that Nocera wrote regarding Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright, but he’s moved well beyond that criticism into other areas including the right to privacy and other associated injustices that he accuses the NCAA of perpetrating. The organization has responded in kind by accusing Nocera of an inherent conflict-of-interest (his fiancee’ is the communications director for a law firm suing the NCAA on the “likeness” issue) and bringing up a prior rebuke for calling Tea Party members “terrorists.” We certainly appreciate the interest that Nocera has taken in the inner workings of the NCAA, but we’d prefer if there were more news organizations asking similar questions on multiple fronts so that the one-man crusade aspect of this would disappear.
  3. A bit of recruiting news beyond Nerlens Noel on Thursday — the Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced for the April 14 game in Charlotte, and seven of the top 10 players according to Rivals will be on the rosters. Noel himself will not be there because he did not reclassify to the Class of 2012 in time for consideration, but somehow we don’t think that will affect his hyper-recruitment in the next couple of months. The West team will be comprised of consensus #1 player Shabazz Muhammad (undecided) along with “forward Brandon Ashley (Arizona), center Isaiah Austin (Baylor), forward Anthony Bennett (undecided), wing Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), wing Danuel House (Houston), wing Grant Jerrett (Arizona), guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina), wing Alex Poythress (Kentucky) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).” The East team will consist of UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson, “guard Kris Dunn (Providence), wing Jerami Grant (Syracuse), guard Garry Harris (Michigan State), forward Brice Johnson (North Carolina), wing Ricardo Ledo (Providence), center Tony Parker (undecided), guard Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), center Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) and wing J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina).”
  4. This story doesn’t involve Division I basketball, but it’s scary enough to be newsworthy. A charter bus from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, carrying the men’s and women’s basketball teams (the ‘Roos) caught fire during the trip to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday forcing both teams to evacuate the bus to get to safety. One athlete was provided medical treatment for smoke inhalation, but the remainder of the traveling party was able to transfer to another bus and move on to its road trip to Colorado. Still, a harrowing situation that luckily didn’t involve anything more serious than that.
  5. It’s Friday, which means that Luke Winn‘s latest and greatest Power Rankings came out yesterday. In this week’s column, you’ll learn which of the elite teams in America has the most balanced offense (hint: it’s not a school near Lake Oneida), Ricardo “Right Hook” Ratliffe’s offensive tendencies, a titillating teaser for more defensive charting on Syraucse, and even a reference to St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova’s mouthguard. Read it. In case that doesn’t provide you enough hoops analysis for one morning, Seth Davis also released a new Mailbag, which features an analysis of all the unbeaten conference teams’ chances for an at-large bid. Compelling stuff, as always.
Share this story

Tracking The Four: Let’s Play 21 Questions

Posted by EJacoby on January 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

For this week’s wildcard edition of TT4, we’re going to tackle some burning questions regarding each team. All four teams have pressing issues as they try to hit their strides in conference play, and there’s one team on our list that specifically needs to find some answers, quickly, if they want to stay relevant as a contender. Find out the answers to each question, or at least our quick takes, below each question. If you want to play along, comment with any of your answers!!!

Is Mike Moser the Best Player of our Four Teams? (Getty Images/E. Miller)

1. Which game on Syracuse and Murray State’s schedules should be circled as their toughest challenge to an undefeated regular season?

Monday night’s game in Cincinnati is Syracuse’s first shot at going down, while Murray State’s game on February 15 at Southeast Missouri State will be their toughest test.

2. Can Indiana recover from this losing streak to regain their status as a top three team in the Big Ten?

They’ll be able to recover, but Indiana is not a top three Big Ten team (OSU, UM, & Michigan State are better).

3. Will UNLV be able to win big games outside of Las Vegas, like SDSU did in The Pit this week?

They’ve already played seven true road games, so yes this will help UNLV win conference road games.

4. The Hoosiers have lost three straight games while the Racers have won 19 straight, but who would win on a neutral court if they played today?

We’d love to see this in the NCAA Tournament and today we’re going with Indiana, but if Ivan Aska comes back strong for MSU, ask again in two weeks.

5. When they inevitably need a bucket in crunch time, whom will Syracuse and Jim Boeheim draw the play for?

He doesn’t specialize in taking over games, but Kris Joseph is still the most talented offensive player and toughest mismatch on the team, so he should get his number called.

6. Will UNLV’s 69.1% free throw percentage come back to haunt them at some point this season?

Although it’s the worst of these four teams, no a 69% rate should not be a huge concern for the Rebels.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Tournament To Las Vegas? Yes, Please…

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

Since Larry Scott took over as commissioner of the Pac-12, changes have come fast and furious. To begin with, when Scott accepted the position, it was a quaint 10-team conference playing most of its conference games outside of the eyes of ESPN’s cameras. Now, with this year’s additions of Colorado and Utah, there are more teams (and twice Scott almost succeeded in landing Texas and Oklahoma on his way to a 16-team conference), and with a $3 billion agreement with ESPN and Fox in tow, the conference and its member institutions have a new high-profile television contract and plenty of money to spend.

But Scott’s nowhere near done remaking this conference. Recently he spent some time in China, investigating the possibility of playing regular season games across the Pacific, and last week it was announced that a group from Las Vegas had entered a bid to host the Pac-12 Tournament beginning in 2013. The Pac-12’s agreement with the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the conference tournament has been held since its re-introduction in 2002, expires following this season, and given the repeatedly low attendance at that location, a possible alternative venue is being explored.

Staples Center, Pac-12 Tournament

A Nearly Empty Staples Center Has Become An All Too Familar Sight For The Pac-12 Tournament (credit: Chris Fetters, Dawgman.com)

Enter Las Vegas, and specifically the MGM Grand Garden, a venue that has never hosted a basketball event in its 18-year history. The venue would seat roughly 13,000 people in its basketball configuration, and although it lacks luxury suites, would provide a good neutral-site location for the tournament. There are five Pac-12 schools within a six-hour drive of Las Vegas, and the schools from the furthest reaches of the conference footprint are all within a 2½ hour flight. And perhaps more importantly, Vegas is an entertainment destination that would provide a good incentive for fans from around the league to attend the tournament while providing other options for fun should their team be eliminated early.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Inside The Mack (And the Two Other Biggest OOC Arenas Pac-12 Teams Will Visit)

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 28th, 2011

The road is a difficult place. It’s foreign, it’s hostile, and it can just be plain annoying. It’s where seasons and teams can fall apart (See Oregon State @ Illinois-Chicago two years ago) or, it’s a place where teams can come together and start a great run. Let’s take a look at the three biggest non-conference arenas that Pac-12 teams will play in this year.

1. Thomas & Mack Center

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Capacity: 18,776
Pac-12 Games: California @ UNLV (Dec. 23)

It’s hard to imagine a time when UNLV played its home games in the 6,000 seat Las Vegas Convention Center, but 23 years ago, that was indeed the case. Now Rebel Nation flocks to “The Mack,” an 18,000+ seat basketball jewel that also hosts the NBA Vegas Summer League every year (well, not this year). Pac-10 (Not counting Colorado and Utah) teams are 4-5 against UNLV in The Mack since 2002, but considering UNLV doesn’t play top-notch basketball every single year, that is a pretty good mark. This year they will welcome the Golden Bears into their house, which is sure to be sold out whenever a power conference team ventures in.

A white out at the Thomas & Mack Center, which looks like an NBA arena more than ever in this picture. (credit: unlvrebels.com)

California doesn’t like to play on the road when they do not have to, as their only road non-conference games last year were either scheduled by the conference or a tournament committee. They went 1-1 in those two games, defeating Iowa State in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Challenge, and falling to Colorado in the NIT. A win at UNLV would mean a lot more to Mike Montgomery’s team this year, as a late-December road victory would surely put the Bears into the Top 20 going into conference play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Nevada Gaming Control Board Investigating Marcus Jordan

Posted by jstevrtc on August 30th, 2010

Ahhh, yes, the permanence of Twitter combined with the immaturity of (near-) teenagers. Central Florida’s Marcus Jordan is now being investigated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to determine what laws, if any, were broken last week when the 20-year old Jordan tweeted about spending $35,000 at Haze and Liquid Pool Lounge (a nightclub and pool in the Aria complex at Vegas’ CityCenter) and $56,000 during an entire day in Las Vegas.

Jordan now has this distraction to think about in addition to classes and hoops.

Jordan, who averaged 8.0 PPG and 3.1 RPG last season as a freshman at UCF, made news close to the beginning of last season when he found himself caught between allegiance to his famous father and the contractual obligations of the school. UCF was an Adidas-sponsored school, but Marcus understandably wanted to wear the Nike Air Jordans that his father immortalized. When Marcus stuck to his guns, Adidas ended their association with the school. UCF now has an agreement with Nike that started back on July 1.

Most people with whom we spoke at that time sided with Marcus and were surprised that a more creative solution couldn’t have been worked out with UCF and Adidas in what was certainly a bizarre set of circumstances. Regarding this new incident, we hear almost as much talk about the amount of money spent and the gambling habits of the Jordan men as we do about Jordan being under 21. This is yet another strange set of circumstances, since Jordan isn’t doing anything wrong by coming from a wealthy family. He’s allowed to have and spend as much money as he wants — as long as he isn’t buying alcohol and gambling while underage, of course. The NGCB obviously couldn’t care less about the amount spent or who spent it, and will surely focus more on the fact that, yes, even in Nevada, both drinking and gambling — and the commensurate loss of wads of cash — are still the exclusive domain of adults aged 21 and over.

Share this story

Beware Bracket Advice! (Note: Bracket Advice Enclosed)

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

We love brackets of all types!  (photo credit: alibaba.com)
We love brackets of all types! (photo credit: alibaba.com)

For the next 72 hours you’re going to be bombarded with advice on how to fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.  It’ll be a steady diet of punchy one-liners like “Always pick 12s against 5s!” and “Ones always beat sixteens!”  Sure, there’s some good advice out there.  Some of it’s pretty obvious.  And some of it just blows.  I’m not saying I’ve got the market cornered on how to pick a perfect bracket, and you should beware anyone who makes that claim.  But I think it’s good to take a quick look at some of what these so-called experts are telling you.

First, there are two things we can accept as axiomatic and move on:

1) One-seeds always beat 16s.
2) All four one-seeds almost never get to the Final Four (we know last year is the exception).

Right.  We get it.  Anyone who uses one of those as a selling point in their analysis is someone you should ignore.  If you’re reading a piece on NCAA tournament bracket-filling advice, it’s certain that you already have those pieces of information.  It isn’t news to you.  So let’s move on…

ALWAYS TAKE 12-SEEDS

Wrong.  This is my favorite piece of bracket-building advice.  It’s a fad statement because of how, in the past several years, 12-seeds have almost always scored at least one victory against 5-seeds in a given tournament.  Most people take this too far and choose three or even all four 12s to move on in their brackets.  But according to BBState.com (a hoops stat nerd’s wet dream — this means you, rtmsf), the all-time record for 12s against 5s is a discouraging 34-83, or about 29%.  This means that you’re completely justified picking a single 12-seed that you’ve got a hunch about to score a win over a 5, but leaving the rest alone.  If you choose right, great!  You showed those punk opponents of yours how it’s done.  Worst-case scenario if youre wrong is you drop a couple of points if another 12 that you didn’t select pulls off the upset.  Chances are, one 12 will pick up a win.  So I wouldn’t leave it alone and take all the 5s.  But choose a SINGLE 12-seed, and don’t sweat it if you’re wrong.

2008 Version of WKU. Are they a 12 over a 5 this year? (photo credit: cbc.ca)

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT IS ABOUT UPSETS

That isn’t necessarily an untrue statement, since we all love a good tournament upset unless it’s our alma.  Those stories are often what make the event so special and add to its legend.  But it does not apply to bracket-building.  Notice how most brackets have increasing point values as the rounds progress, i.e. you get a single point for correctly picking a first-round winner, two points for a second-round winner, etc.  So if you have a bunch of upset-picks advancing to later rounds, since higher-seeded teams usually end up rising to the top, all you’ve done is penalize yourself in the big-reward games.  Some bracket competitions assign even higher point values than I’ve mentioned above (8 points for a correct Final Four pick, 15 for a national champion, and so on) so it’s more important in those systems.  The payoff, then — keep the upsets limited to the first round and maybe the second where you can’t get hurt much if you choose wrong.  Now, I’m not telling you pick a totally worthless and boring bracket where the “better” seed always wins.  That’s the height of douchebaggery.  This is indeed about having fun, and it’s fun to pick a couple of mid-major upstarts to stick it to one or two BCS goons for a round or two.  It adds meaning to games you might not even watch or care about under any other circumstance.  If you’re wrong, and your favorite 10-seed doesn’t make it to the Sweet 16 and that 14 doesn’t score that first-round victory you predicted, big deal.  It’s your bracket and you took the chance.  But if you care about winning, keep that stuff in the early round games, and fill in your later rounds with more established programs.

CHOOSE A CHAMPION WITH GOOD GUARDS

A generic piece of advice.  Otherwise stated as “You have to have good guard play to win the title.”  What are you going to do, choose a team with bad guards?  Even if the person espousing this really means that you should choose a championship team and/or Final Four teams that are “led” by guards, be careful.  Look at every champion crowned in the 2000s.  Every one of them has forwards and/or centers who meant just as much or even more to the team than any of their guards.  This is why these coaches are out there busting their tails on the recruiting trail.  It’s talent at EVERY position that determines success at a program and in the Big Dance.  You can’t just have good guards, you need good players.  The statement that you have to have “good guard play” as a necessary component for tournament success is a bit of advice that sounds insightful and has therefore spun out of control in recent years as some sage bit of wisdom.  Don’t even consider this piece of pseudo-advice when you’re filling in your bracket.

Carmelo Athony.  Not exactly a typical guard.
Carmelo Athony. Not exactly a typical guard. (photo credit: enquirer.com)

The best piece of advice you can possibly keep at the front of your mind when building your bracket is to have fun with it.  Even if you fill out an all-upset or an all-chalk bracket (bag… of… douche!), it’s your bracket and you should do whatever adds to your enjoyment of the tournament.  It’s kind of like playing hardways or snake-eyes at a casino in Las Vegas.  True, the insiders and experts might roll their eyes and snicker at you as you reduce your chances of making money with those plays.  But, I figure, I don’t get to Vegas too often, so while I’m there I might as well have fun and do what I want.  And of course it’s great if it hits!  Yeah, it might not be the smartest play, but when I go home and someone asks me “Did you have fun?” I don’t want to say, “No, but at least the experts don’t think I’m an idiot.  I think I may have impressed those guys.”  Same thing with filling in tournament brackets, as far as I’m concerned.  But I think if, as I’ve outlined above, you can put a critical eye on those oft-repeated bits of advice, you’ll be able to maximize both how much fun you’ll have with this and your chances of winning.

Share this story

Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 3

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

Could it really be that, as of this coming weekend, we are only five weeks from Selection Sunday? That means we’re only four weeks from putting crowns on the heads of conference tournament champions and even closer than that to anointing some regular season champs. It doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. I think this also means the Ivy League announces its tournament representative, like, what, tomorrow?!? OK, maybe not that quickly. But it’ll all be here pretty darn soon.

After much cunning, good timing, and top-flite negotiation, the boys and I have made the Vegas hotel reservations (deals abound like you wouldn’t believe) and locked in our flights (deals aren’t as great as ya might be hearing) for the annual Vegas excursion for the first two rounds. The Vegas-related e-mail chatter has increased. Ah, how I love it. And since I’m here in the RTC Midwestern Compound, all this Vegas talk provides a wonderful antidote, a perfect bridge from now to the first tip in March, over what we hope are the last strains of what’s been one hell of a winter.

gpsmagazine.com)
The RTC MW Compound is nice, but does not have a view like this. (credit: gpsmagazine.com)

That said, let’s take another peek inside the collective head of the Vegas oddsmakers and see what they’re thinking. Most of you probably know, but for the untrained, the way the money line works is that if you see a team with, say, +1000 beside them then that means if you bet $100 on them, you get $1000 back, plus your bet. The lower the x is in +(x), the bigger the favorite. If you should ever see a team with a negative (-1000) that means you have to bet $1000 on them to win $100. That doesn’t apply to this list, though.

The last time we checked this was early January…here’s the latest from The Greek:

vegas-odds-2009-season-edition-vol-31

Yep, it’s still Carolina. They’ve given up another $30 since the last time we checked, going from +220 to +250. But it looks like someone in Sin City has found something to like about the oft-bewildering Connecticut Huskies, since their value has been cut in half from +1000 to +500. Odd that Vegas would basically feel twice as good about UConn, seeing as how the Huskies seem to lose focus so easily at times. It can’t just be about the #1 ranking, because the last time we looked at this, UNC had just taken their first loss and actually extended their lead as favorite over the next-closest contender. Connecticut is a fine team and undoubtedly a title contender, but that’s a big move. I wonder what else it’s based on?

Mr. Calhoun cant explain it, either.  But he aint arguing.
Mr. Calhoun can’t explain it, either. But he ain’t arguing. (credit: daylife.com)

Call me crazy, but I still think Louisville is an attractive option at +1800 even though they’ve been “demoted” a couple hundred bucks since last time and they have the occasional problem staying focused, as well. The chance to win 18x your money isn’t a bad value for the current #5 team in the country, eh? I also think UCLA is playing better recently than the mere $200 bump Vegas has allotted them (+2000 to +1800). Heck, even Memphis (+2000 from +3000), a very athletic bunch playing very well of late, can’t be ignored; come on, like you wouldn’t plop down a little dough for the chance to win twenty times your cash on that team. But as far as I’m concerned, along with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, I think the best bet on the board comes in the form of the Oklahoma Sooners (+1500), a current #2-ranked team that Vegas will give you fifteen times your money for if they take it all. Not a bad deal for a team that has who I consider the national POY (in spite of, uh, THIS) surrounded by an incredibly athletic and hungry surrounding cast. The only thing in the college basketball world bigger than the value you can get for the Sooners and Cardinals is perhaps Andy Kennedy’s head.

Another interesting matter is the continued presence of Gonzaga and an unranked Georgetown team high on the list. I was all about Gonzaga earlier this year — and why not? They have a good coach, exceptional guard play, solid inside game, what we thought was a budding star in Austin Daye…and yet they can barely stay afloat in the Top 25. Everyone thought this was going to be the year Gonzaga, as a program, took that next step into adulthood…what happened? True, the season’s far from over but all the evidence we have up to now has to make you wonder why they’re ranked 19th in the AP poll but still sit as the 9th favorite according to Vegas. And for some reason here sits Georgetown, careening downward like an Acula class submarine, GONE from the Top 25 but still perched here as Vegas’ 12th choice. These oddsmakers usually know their stuff — I wonder what they still see in the Zags and Hoyas?

One final thing I definitely have to mention…even with all of the lines up there that it seems strange that they’d even mention (Georgia at +50000? Texas Tech at +17500?), maaaaan…to just throw more dirt on Indiana like that, actually bothering to list them at +99999?!? That’s got to be classified as cruel and unusual!! Haven’t they endured enough for one year?

Coach Crean says “WTF, VEGAS?!?!?” (credit: ancestry.com)

The next time we check this will probably be in a month, as we take a final look right before the tournament starts. My hombres and I have our suite waiting and our sportsbook seats reserved, and we’ll be touching down the night of the play-in game…so hey, if you see something on the odds board you like, feel free to send us some dough, and we’ll put it in play for you, ya know? Come on…you can trust us!

chinadaily.com)
Mr. Stevens promises your money will not be used for…tips. (credit: chinadaily.com)
Share this story

Back From Vegas…

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2008

We’re back from Sin City, with a few dozen new STDs and liver transfusions in tow. Just walking The Strip among all the depraved humanoids, skeezers and trash these days makes you long for a Purell shower. What a town. There was even one celebrity sighting (using a very liberal usage of the word). We swear we saw new Arkansas St. coach John Brady outside the Treasure Island chumming up to a woman not named Misty Champagne (his wife).

LV Strip

First off, we need to throw some major love to our proxy while away, N-Bug, for keeping the site afloat and otherwise making a bunch of obnoxious predictions. Hey man, we’re the only ones around here who is allowed to choose every wrong team (currently sitting dead last in the RTC pool).

Next, on to the games. We watched the majority of all 32 weekend games, and besides the typical visual and other sensory overload of a Vegas sportsbook, we’d guess that roughly half of them were actually worth it. Here are a few of the thoughts we jotted down for each day… (Round 2 updated in a separate posting)

Thursday 3/20 – Round 1

Overall, a largely boring day. Fears of all-chalk reign after favorites go 14-2 (one #11 over a #6, and a #9 over a #8 – barely an upset).

  • Xavier 73, Georgia 61. We thought Georgia would get rocked by Xavier in the first round (see: Syracuse 2006 after G-Mac’s run through the Big East Tourney), but boy, were we ever wrong. For thirty minutes, it appeared Georgia was going to keep the run alive. Ultimately, tired legs prevailed and XU won (as well as a backdoor cover, much to the delight of the Caesars Palace sportsbook).
  • Marquette 74, Kentucky 66. Kentucky’s Joe Crawford finally fulfilled the promise that he brought with him to Lexington four years ago, torching Marquette with 35 pts before succumbing to the overall superior team. 64 of UK’s 66 pts came from Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Perry Stevenson, two of which are seniors. Where are the points going to come from next year aside from currently-injured Patrick Patterson?
  • UNLV 71, Kent St. 58. Kent St. blew up for a whopping ten points by halftime of this one, and it was significantly in doubt whether the Flashes would reach double-digits. Tremendous upset pick in our bracket there.
  • Purdue 90, Baylor 79. Wow, Purdue looked fantastic in this game.
  • Kansas St. 80, USC 67. We were kicking ourselves for listening to the hype on this one and going with USC. K-State was playing two hours from home – why didn’t we listen? This was a clunker of a game. Aside from a brief early second-half run by USC, they never seemed very interested in winning this game. Beasley was the and1 master, and surprisingly Mr. Oh-fer Bill Walker (22/5 on 7-12 shooting) got the best of his former and more heralded Rose Hill/Indian Hills teammate OJ Mayo (20/5 on 6-16 shooting).
  • Duke 71, Belmont 70. Game of the Day and monumental near-miss on par with 89 Princeton-Georgetown and 96 Purdue-Western Carolina. There were a 999 people in Caesars rooting for Belmont that night, and only one person standing right behind us rooting for Duke. The sad part is that this young shemale Dookie actually acted smug and self-righteous after nearly losing to Belmont. What the hell was that lob play to no one anyway?
  • Washington St. 72, Winthrop 41. We’ve never seen a team play so completely on par with one team in the first half only to be thoroughly dismantled and crucified in the second half. A halftime score of 29-29 quickly became 72-41. Wow.
  • West Virginia 75, Arizona 65. No, Kevin O’Neill, just because you were 16-6 with Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless doesn’t make you a good team. Most of those 16 wins were in the pre-conference schedule.

Friday 3/21 – Round 1

Somehow we wormed ourselves into the high-rollers roped-off section at the Caesars book, even though our average bet was around $20. Must have been the million-dollar haircuts and the winning smiles. On a day when two of our preseason F4 (Gonzaga & Indiana) were eliminated, this was the day to have great seats, though, as there were six upsets by seed, and three absolutely classic games.

  • Davidson 82, Gonzaga 76. We can’t add more value than has already been written about Stephen Curry and Davidson, but a 30 pt second half (40 for the game) on 8-10 shooting from three to lead a second half comeback for the Wildcats was absolutely thrilling to watch. At least we nailed this one back in October. As for the Zags, we’re so over them. The nation’s favorite mid-major is largely el busto come March (two S16s and no further in the last seven seasons).
  • Miami 78, St. Mary’s 64. Didn’t see this one coming, but Miami’s Jack McClinton equaled SMC’s score 32-32 in the second half all by himself. Oh, and he was sick too.
  • W. Kentucky 101, Drake 99. Like everyone else, we really believed that Drake had pulled off the improbable comeback from down 9 with 3:32 to go. But what an unreal shot by Ty Rogers to win that game. Not only did he pull the trigger from about 28 feet, he only cleared the defender’s outstretched hand by mere inches. This was one of the best Tourney first round games in several years.
  • Butler 81, S. Alabama 61. NCAA Tourney Committee, please stop pitting mid-majors against mid-majors in the first round!!!
  • San Diego 70, Connecticut 69. Would you have believed that out of the troika of WCC teams Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and San Diego that USD would be the one to win its first round game? Against a power like UConn, no less? Of course, we didn’t pick it, but UConn was clearly a flawed team, and they haven’t been a serious threat the last two seasons. Great upset win for the Toreros on an absolutely brass-balls shot by De’Jon Jackson.
  • Siena 83, Vanderbilt 62. Vandy was garbage away from home all season, and it was no more apparent than ever in this game. Siena led from start to finish, and the Dores never seriously threatened them. Worst protected seed selection of the Tourney by far.
  • Arkansas 86, Indiana 72. What a wasted season for DJ White and Eric Gordon. We’ll never know how good this team could have been had phone-gate not delivered the termination of Kelvin Sampson, but it was clear from there forward this IU team was just going through the motions.
  • Villanova 75, Clemson 69. A most improbable 12-over-5 matchup, considering that Nova was probably the last team invited, and Clemson had been playing so well lately. Yet, in typical Clemson self-destruction fashion, the Tigers blew a ginormous first-half lead of 16 pts and gave Villanova the preferred entree into the second round against a waiting #13 seed.
Share this story