End of college regular season offers winning opportunities

Like the U.S. hockey team, our state budget “deal,” Wayne Newton to his debt collectors and Mr. Chow from The Hangover, I came up a little short last week, going 1-2-1 for a net loss of $155. That was after consecutive weeks of positive results.

Overall, I remain in a bit of a hole with a bankroll of $6,220 after a month on the job (and you better believe I curse Peyton Manning daily for it), but I’m ready to cut into that deficit with three selections this week as the madness that is March officially begins.

$440 (to win $400) on Minnesota (-12.5) over Iowa (Sunday, March 7): If Minnesota wants to be playing in the only meaningful March tournament, it must continue to win and win impressively. Thankfully for the Gophers, who entered this week on a 3-1 run (4-0 against the spread), they have the perfect foil in Iowa.

Barring a miracle, the Hawkeyes lost at Wisconsin on March 3 to fall to 10-20 overall and 4-13 in the Big Ten. Not counting the Wisconsin result, the Hawkeyes have dropped six Big Ten road games by an average of 14.6 points. How weak is Iowa? It started the season with losses to Texas-San Antonio and Duquesne … at home!

Minnesota has won and covered in its last three meetings with the Hawkeyes, including a 12-point victory in Iowa City on Jan. 2. The Gophers are also 13-3 on their home floor this season, covering the spread in 10 of 15 games that were on the betting board, and two of those home losses were one-point defeats to third-ranked Purdue and seventh-ranked Michigan State. Iowa is ranked, too—311th (out of 347 teams in the country) in scoring at 61.8 ppg.

$110 (to win $100) on Louisville (-2) over Syracuse (Saturday, March 6): Motivation matters in March, and even though Syracuse will be looking to avenge last month’s home loss to Louisville (and hang onto the No. 1 ranking it earned this week), the Orange likely will come into this game in a flat spot.

All Syracuse had to do to clinch the Big East regular-season title (and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament) was beat St. John’s in its home finale on Tuesday, March 2. With that accomplished, the Orange’s only goal at Louisville will be to remain healthy.

On the other hand, the Cardinals need to win to A) improve their position in the Big East pecking order; B) bolster their NCAA Tournament résumé; C) send their seniors out with a victory in their final home game; and D) prove their win at Syracuse wasn’t a fluke. To add to that latter point, Louisville has had its way with Syracuse lately, winning the last five meetings (4-0-1 ATS).

$110 (to win $100) on Air Force (+9.5) over San Diego State (Saturday, March 6): Instead of rally towels, posters or T-shirts, the folks at Air Force ought to give away surgical masks to its fans to ward off the stench of the Falcons basketball team. Assuming they lost at Wyoming on March 2—which is like assuming the sun came up, since they haven’t won a road game all season—the Falcons enter their game against San Diego State with a 1-14 Mountain West Conference record (including last week’s 30-point home loss to UNLV).

But if ever Air Force is going to show some fight, it would be in this contest. For one thing, it’s the Falcons’ final home game (and the final home game for four seniors). For another, all the pressure is on the Aztecs, who are “on the bubble” and cannot afford a slip-up against an inferior opponent. Problem is, the kids from sea level have struggled playing in the Mountain West’s higher altitudes (they blew a 14-point halftime lead at Wyoming earlier this year, barely won at mediocre Utah and lost by 14 at Brigham Young last week).

The Aztecs, who haven’t been favored on the road by more than 7.5 points all year, also have just one victory in their last six trips to Colorado Springs.

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