Betting on Butler will reverse losing course

No truth to the rumors the producers of The Biggest Loser contacted me this week and requested I be part of next season’s cast … even though I certainly meet the contestant criteria in more ways than one!

Not only did I lose both of last week’s main selections (Northern Iowa over Michigan State; Ohio State over Tennessee), but I went 0-for-4 on my NCAA Tournament futures plays as Syracuse, Ohio State, Wisconsin and UNLV failed to even get to the Elite Eight, let alone the Final Four.

The final kick to the groin came March 28 when the last of my three bonus plays (I hit the first two on Butler +7 over Syracuse and Duke-Purdue “under” the total) unfolded as follows: The Suns, laying 8.5 points at the Timberwolves, watched a 22-point halftime lead shrink to nine in the game’s waning seconds. On the final possession, Minnesota bricked a 3-pointer with five seconds left, but somehow corralled the rebound and passed it out beyond the 3-point line and … swish!

Final score: Suns 111, Timberwolves 105, no cover. So after losing $155 on my futures plays and another $615 with my 2-3 showing last week, my bankroll now stands at $5,165.

Given the state of my recent picks and with the Final Four looming, I feel it only appropriate to channel the late, great Jimmy Valvano: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” And so I forge ahead …

$330 (to win $300) on Butler (-1) vs. Michigan State (Saturday, April 3); $50 (to win $125) on Butler (5-to-2 odds) to win the national championship: I realize that betting against Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is like betting against Oscar Goodman hitting the gin bottle tonight. What Izzo has done to get his Spartans to their second straight Final Four and sixth in the last 12 years is amazing—heck, he won two games without injured point guard Kalin Lucas.

That said, how do you go against a team that’s won 24 consecutive games (the nation’s longest active winning streak)? How do you go against a team that just knocked off a No. 1 seed (Syracuse) and No. 2 seed (Kansas State) in the span of 48 hours to reach its first Final Four? How do you go against a team that will be playing in Indianapolis, six miles from its campus?

Ironically, Michigan State pulled off a couple of upsets last year to get to the Final Four in nearby Detroit, then stunned Connecticut in the semifinals to reach the national championship game. Now it’s Butler’s turn to produce a little hometown magic.

What was most impressive about the Bulldogs’ victories over Syracuse and Kansas State was the way they controlled the tempo against both teams. In four NCAA Tournament wins, Butler has given up 59, 52, 59 and 56 points, respectively. Go back to Feb. 8, and the Bulldogs have held 11 of their last 12 opponents under 60 points. Remarkable.

The fact that Butler actually opened as a slight favorite in this game against an opponent/coach with a wealth of Final Four experience should tell you the Bulldogs aren’t a Cinderella story at all.

Butler is the real deal. Syracuse and Kansas State now know it, and Michigan State—followed by either Duke or West Virginia—will soon know it, too.

$100 (to win $450) on Tiger Woods to win the Masters Tournament (9-to-2 odds): I don’t claim to be the foremost authority on golf—or human psychology for that matter. But I do know this much: Tiger Woods is a freak of nature (I’m speaking solely of his golf game here!). He’s also the most hyper-competitive athlete in the history of sport. He would not be making his comeback at Augusta National if he wasn’t 1,000 percent ready to play and 1 million percent confident he could win.

For those who think it’s absurd to suggest the greatest golfer ever could win his first event back after all the turmoil he’s gone through, I take you back to the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger won that after playing 90 holes … on a freakin’ broken leg! Absolutely I believe there’s a legitimate chance he’ll be slipping on his fifth green jacket as the sun sets at Augusta on April 11.

As for the odds that his wife will be there kissing him after he sinks his final putt on No. 18, I’m not betting on that!

Matt Jacob is a former local sports writer who has been in the sports handicapping business for more than four years. For his weekly column, Vegas Seven has granted Matt a “$7,000” bankroll. If he blows it all, we’ll fire him and replace him with a monkey.

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