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College basketball tourneys continue

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Joe Ellison

By this time next week the field will have been set, many other teams’ bubbles will have been burst, and one game will have already been completed in college basketball’s 65-team national tournament. This week’s conference tourney action will help determine who gets invited to the Big Dance, and as always, huge upsets are expected along the way but are difficult to select.

Here are predictions for the remaining conference tournaments:

Atlantic Coast – The last five years you could have thrown out the records and picked the winner here by simply taking Duke. The Blue Devils and national championship winning coach Mike Krzyzewski take pride in defending the ACC tournament, and this year they finished first during the regular season.

Southeastern – It would only seem right if Kentucky and Mississippi State met in the tourney final because each won their division of the SEC handily. If it works out that way, that gives MSU a chance at revenge for its fluke-finish one-point January home loss to the Wildcats. I’ll take Mississippi State.

Big 12 – One would think that the Texas teams would have an advantage in Dallas, but last year this tourney ended with Oklahoma beating Missouri. Even though the best team never seems to win here, the choice is Oklahoma State.

Big Ten – This one is really wide open. The only slight edge goes to Michigan State because of head coach Tom Izzo’s experience of taking a team to a national title.

Pac -10 – Heaven help the foes of Washington. The Huskies beat Arizona twice and No. 1 ranked Stanford last week, yet in some circles they are not considered qualified enough to be invited to the NCAA tournament. Last year’s tourney was wild and full of upsets, but Washington needs to earn some more respect here. Prediction: Washington.

Mountain West – Speaking of wild and full of upsets, in 2003 Colorado State finished 5-9 in the MWC before capturing the tourney. Still, I’m going with BYU who is riding an eight-game winning steak.

– For those teams that came closest to obtaining an NCAA berth, the consolation event is the National Invitational Tournament. The NIT is much different than the Big Dance in that some schools get to host games before the semi-finals and finals at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Factor in each teams’ abilities when at home or on the road, and lean towards those from the stronger conferences.

– In the midst of all that season-ending excitement is the beginning of Major League Baseball’s spring training. Odds are available daily for exhibition baseball, if that’s your cup of tea. But all of that reminds me that the MLB season takes way too long. It’s hard to believe we’ll be two months into another football season before someone wins the World Series.

(See, I didn’t mention one thing about steroids or the Yankees. Oops.)

– The Arena Football League is in full swing and bettable in local sports books. The AFL is remarkably in its 18th season and 19 teams strong. Like any other team sport, keep track of scores, who is covering the point spread, over and under totals, and maybe even watch the games in order to make money at it.

– In recent years handicappers in local books could wager only on the major tournaments when betting on golf. Now odds are available every week. Predicting tournament winners is tough enough in the majors, and almost impossible in regular tourneys. It is much easier to win money on player versus player match-up propositions.

– Finally, boxing propositions are available for many championship fights, like tomorrow’s “Winky” Wright-“Sugar” Shane Mosley bout. Rarely do I know enough about a match to make a prediction, but I do know that when you think an underdog has a chance to win, always bet the plus money.

– In the That’s Racin’ section of Saturday’s Nevada Appeal, the poll question was whether or not a NASCAR driver should be able to place a wager on himself in Las Vegas. The answer, of course, is yes, he should. He is betting on himself to win, not crash, although I suppose he could bet against himself in racer versus racer match-up propositions.

– The news from the NFL is that wide receiver and former 49er Terrell Owens is again unhappy. What a shock! Terrell screwed up and is going to make about $15 million less than he wanted in Baltimore instead of Philadelphia. Terrell, I feel sorry for you – not!

Have you ever listened to Owens speak his mind? Whereas some athletes are in the habit of saying “You know” at the end of every phrase, Owens is the NFL record-setter for the use of the words “I,” “me” and “my,” and he is completely annoying on and off the field.

Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com.