I despise reality television. I’m one of 12 people in this country without a Facebook or Twitter account. I’ve contributed less than $40 to the Starbucks fortune. And up until a few years ago, I had never played fantasy football (and even now, I’m just a part owner of a team—and only one team). In other words, I’ve never been one to fall victim to life’s trendy pleasures … that is, until Charlie Sheen lost his freaking mind.
Sad as it is to admit, I cannot get enough of the Sheen saga—seriously, I purchased a first-class, round-trip ticket for this train wreck and am onboard for the entirety of the wild ride. Problem is, I think my newfound obsession is beginning to affect my work, because all I’ve done lately is lose (which is odd, considering Charlie is “addicted to winning … duh!”).
Despite a 14-11 record over the past two weeks (5-4 last week), I’ve given back $786 (including $287 last week) because I keep missing on the majority of my bigger selections. That’s dropped my bankroll—which was at an all-time high of nearly $7,300 two weeks ago—to $6,479.
Fear not, though, as my ticket aboard the Chaz Sheen Express includes a one-time transfusion of my main man’s tiger blood and Adonis DNA, which I’ll be receiving just in time for the start of next week’s NCAA tournament. In the meantime, let’s gear up for the best three weeks of the sports-betting year by reviewing some recent March Madness history (followed by a few NBA selections to tide us over until the tournament tips off March 15).
Tournament Trends: Coming up with an excuse to get out of work so you can fully enjoy the 32 games that are spread over the first two days of the Big Dance is usually the easy part (one of my favorites: “The wife undercooked the chicken again last night, and I can’t stray more than 5 feet from the toilet”).
The difficult part? Making some actual cash. That’s because the first round of the tournament has been anything but predictable in recent years. Not counting one pick-’em game, favorites are 67-28 straight up but just 48-46-1 against the spread over the past three years. During the same time period, double-digit favorites are 35-4 SU, but only a slightly profitable 21-18 ATS.
Skewing these numbers somewhat was the 2008 tournament, when favorites went 24-7 SU and 21-10 ATS in the opening round, with double-digit favorites posting an 11-1 SU/8-4 ATS mark. So where can a bettor find an edge? Well, for starters, consider backing the 12 teams that comprise the top three seeds. Over the last three years, that group has a combined first-round record of 35-1 SU and 23-14 ATS.
Also, No. 10 seeds have been frisky the last two tournaments, going 6-2 SU and ATS. At the same time, you’d be wise to stay away from the overhyped No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup (No. 5 seeds are 10-6 SU and 7-9 ATS over the past four years).
Looking for an upset special? Try lucky No. 13. Since 2001, a dozen double-digit seeds have won a first-round game, and nine of those were No. 13 seeds (two others were 14 seeds and one was a 15). At least one double-digit seed has advanced past the first round in eight of the last 10 years (the exceptions being in 2004 and 2007).
Bracket Tips: If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend more time studying tournament brackets next week than you did for any final exam in college. And if you’re anything like me, those brackets will be tossed in the trash long before the final spot in the Sweet 16 is determined. So taking bracket advice from me is like taking marital advice from Tiger Woods.
That said, a few interesting notes to ponder:
• Only once (in 2008) have all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four.
• Of the 12 teams that reached the Final Four the last four years, nine have been seeded either No. 1 or No. 2.
• Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1979, the champion has been at least a No. 3 seed all but four times.
• Finally, nine of the last 12 champions have been No. 1 seeds, including the last four in a row.
This Week’s Selections: March 11 – Bulls-Hawks UNDER ($55); 76ers (+4½) vs. Celtics ($44); Trail Blazers (-3½) at Bobcats ($33). March 12 – Hawks (-4) vs. Blazers ($44); Spurs-Rockets OVER ($33). March 13 – Suns (+3) vs. Magic ($55).