March Madness 2014 Final Four – Can Kentucky Make History?

Can Kentucky's John Calipari repeat his 2011-12 success?

Can Kentucky’s John Calipari repeat his 2011-12 success?

 

No one will ever have it all figured out.  No one wants to.

 

Aaron Craft lay flat on his back on the hardwood and let the madness wash over him. Dayton had just upset Craft’s Ohio State Buckeyes in the first game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, bursting millions of brackets as Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage pulled up outside college basketball’s Big Dance.  Dayton’s run to the Elite Eight was the standout story of this year’s March Madness for the neutral, as they also toppled the much-fancied Syracuse and fellow giant killers, Stanford, before finally being stopped by No. 1 Florida.  The other major upsets came from Stanford and Mercer, who beat Kansas and Duke, respectively, and saw to it that the top three players in this year’s heralded freshmen class (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker) would be watching the business end of the tournament from their couches.  This is how Mercer’s Kevin Canevari felt about that.

 

The Final Four is where it gets serious.  Cinderella had her fun, but was escorted out after one too many Jägerbombs.  The true heavyweights remain: Florida, UConn, Wisconsin and Kentucky.  Pay attention to the seedings no more; though UConn is a No. 7 and Kentucky a No. 8, both are power programs which have produced champions in the past four years, while No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Wisconsin have been consistent all season – there are no underdogs.  Still, of the 11 million brackets filled out for ESPN’s Tournament challenge, just 612 predicted that these would be the last four teams left despite the fact that Kentucky was the preseason No. 1 and Florida was the midseason No. 1.

 

March Madness Final Four Betting Odds:

Florida +110

Kentucky +250

Wisconsin +275

Connecticut +800

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The favourites before the tournament coming off a 30-game winning streak, Florida is the team to beat.  Here’s where it gets interesting though: two of the other Final Four teams, Wisconsin and UConn, are the only teams to have beaten Florida this season, while Kentucky came within a point in their last matchup with the Gators.  Florida’s record this season is a result of the nation’s best defense, toughness and consistency, all owing to the maturity of the squad.  Before the season, maturity was not a word often associated with point guard Scottie Wilbekin, and his story is definitely worth a read.  Florida would certainly not be here without him.  Wilbekin is one of four seniors in the starting lineup and no Gator is expected to be selected in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft – are Florida the anti-Kentucky?

 

Last season was tough for UConn; their long-time Hall of Fame coach, Jim Calhoun, retired before the season, star players from the previous season, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, had left for the NBA and they were banned from the NCAA Tournament for not meeting academic standards.  This year, the Huskies are back with a vengeance that few expected, thanks to coach Kevin Ollie and star player Shabazz Napier.  UConn are also in the NCAA Women’s Final Four, but if they are to have any chance of double success, the Huskies need to hope Napier is on form.  Connecticut are far from a one-man team, and boast a balanced, scoring support behind their point guard, but it is clear that they will go as far as Napier, the tournament’s leading scorer (23.3 ppg) takes them.

 

How to describe the 2013/14 Wisconsin Badgers?  “White guys.”  Frank Kaminsky’s words, not mine.  But the Badgers’ star center’s response to the question of how their last opponents would describe the team tells you all you need to know.  Wisconsin are likeable; a feel-good story.  Kaminsky doesn’t take himself too seriously, even if NBA scouts have started to, and low-key coach Bo Ryan has finally led his Badgers to the Final Four after coming close countless times over the last decade.  Though Kaminsky has emerged as a force in recent games, Wisconsin’s success has been built on a slow, efficient offensive style, rather than star play.  They have already beaten Florida and Kentucky this season, and a tough schedule culminated in that victory over the Wildcats in the last round.  Having last won the tournament in 1941, Wisconsin has far and away the longest drought of any of the remaining teams.

 

Coming into the season with one of the most heralded recruiting classes ever and ranked No. 1 in the nation, many believed that John Calipari’s Kentucky would repeat the success of his 2011/12 championship-winning team.  Individual talent was never an issue, but the team often looked like less than the sum of its parts, with the Harrison twins in particular struggling in the backcourt.  After a huge loss to Florida on March 10, Calipari concluded that a change was in order, and tweaked his tactics to give the players more freedom at the expense of set plays.  The results speak for themselves; Kentucky’s last three games have seen them dispose of last year’s finalists, Louisville and Michigan, and the previously undefeated Wichita State.  Julius Randle has cemented his place amongst the top players in this year’s draft and is certainly the man to watch, but both Andrew and Aaron Harrison have stepped up their play in the last two weeks and Marcus Lee has emerged from nowhere to replace the injured Willie Cauley-Stein.  Kentucky has gained momentum and cohesion to go with their star power and will be very difficult to stop.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Back Kentucky -1.5 against Wisconsin, at -110 with Intertops.eu

 

Cathal avatar CATHAL LOUGHRAN (cathalloughran) is a student and writer from Ireland, based in London.  He  writes about college basketball and the NBA for Betting Instinct

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Kentucky Could Yet Take Down Florida Favorites in US College Basketball Final Four Showdown this Weekend

Final Four odds

Underdog bettors are cautiously optimistic about Kentucky’s chances of beating the favored Florida Gators in the NCAA Final Four basketball championship this weekend

American college basketball is down to the Final Four this weekend and by Monday there will be a new NCAA champion. A lot of people seem convinced that Florida will take the title but a couple of worthy opponents may have something to say about that. Online sportsbooks like AllYouBet.ag seem to think the Florida Gators will beat UConn on Saturday and then take the national title. No brainer.

However, in the second of two Final Four matchups on Saturday All You Bet bookmakers currently give the Kentucky Wildcats a slim 1.5–point advantage over Wisconsin.  Kentucky came within two points of upsetting Florida just two weeks ago in a game that looked like it could go either way. The Gators likely aren’t keen on facing them in the title match.

“The Kentucky-Wisconsin game will be very close. Florida could be playing either the Wildcats or the Badgers on Monday,” said All You Bet’s bookmaker. “Should the Badgers upset the odds and go all the way this year, plenty of All You Bet customers will be celebrating as we saw substantial action on the underdog as the tournament got underway.”

Final Four Game Odds

Florida -300

Connecticut +250

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Kentucky -130

Wisconsin +110

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All You Bet’s current lines see the Gators as 6.5-point favorites to avenge their defeat by UConn earlier this season and stop the Huskies’ impressive tournament run.

Odds to Win NCAA Men’s Basketball Outright

Florida +110

Kentucky +250

Wisconsin +275

Connecticut +800

 

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The Gamblogger gambling blogGAMBLOGGER (gamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during Super Bowl and March Madness.

The Only Teams to Have Beaten Florida This Season are also in the NCAAB Final Four

NCAA Final Four

Florida is the NCAAB favorite of this weekend’s Final Four but underdog Wisconsin could surprise everyone

The Florida Gators may have been a favorites since March Madness betting began a couple of weeks ago with some worth opponents this weekend during the Final Four it would be premature to crack the champagne just yet. Although they see some possibility of an underdog upset, Intertops Sportsbook oddsmakers do expect Florida to win on Saturday and for the Gators to ultimately get past their three worthy opponents to take the Championship title on Monday.

At the moment  the Gators are a six-point favorite to avenge their defeat to UConn and stop the Huskies’ memorable run that has seen them eliminate the Number 2, 3 and 4 seeds in the East Region.

Intertops Sportsbook favors the Florida Gators (+110) to win the NCAA Championship on Monday over Kentucky (+250), Wisconsin (+275) and Connecticut (+800).

“Florida started the tournament as the favorite and is the only number one seed to make the Final Four,” observed an Intertops sportsbook bookmaker.  “After winning all four games so far — by double digits — the Gators will be the team to beat in Arlington.  But things are not as clear cut as they might seem at first glance. It could well be that exactly the three teams that stand the most chance of thwarting Florida’s dreams are also traveling to Texas: Wisconsin and Connecticut are the only teams to have beaten them this season and the Kentucky Wildcats came within two points of doing so just three weeks ago.”

“For Connecticut coming in as a decided underdog, having already played Florida and beaten them should give them not only some confidence but also some idea of how to play the Gators,” said Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis.

Intertops will also be taking live wagers during the games that begin at 6:05 pm and 8:45 pm ET Saturday.

 

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The Gamblogger gambling blogGAMBLOGGER (gamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during Super Bowl and March Madness.

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers: Crunch Time in the NBA brings more questions than answers.

The fitness of Dwyane Wade could be crucial in determining top spot in the East

The fitness of Dwyane Wade could be crucial in determining top spot in the East

It’s the time of year in the NBA again – there are as many NBA GMs watching March Madness and scouting  and salivating as there are sweating over Playoff position. It’s been a season ridden with injury, tanking and teams running hot and cold but here we are, the final stretch as some tantalising West match-ups are taking shape and everyone is cursing the fact that the Suns and the T-Wolves aren’t Eastern conference teams. In spite of many of the lesser teams trying to out-suck each other, some fascinating storylines have emerged and many will be on show on March 26th with a great set of games, led by one in particular…

 

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers Betting Odds:

Heat win +125

Pacers win -145

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

These are two teams who are coasting. People may not like this phrase but it’s the truth. As of time of writing the Pacers are 5-5 last 10 and the Heat are 4-6. The Heat remain 3 games behind the Pacers and it seems reasonable to say this game is a must win if the Heat want to grab the top seed.

Both teams have question marks over their heads – we’ll start with the reigning champs. The first problem is their starting 5. Mr Reliable Shane Battier hasn’t been all that reliable, shooting 33% from 3 and struggling on defence on occasion. Those are two pretty big problems for a 3 and D specialist. Coach Spoelstra has responded by declaring Greg  Oden will start at centre for the team from now on. It’s an interesting move – Oden won’t play any more than 10minutes even if he is starting but he remains an interesting X-Factor.

 

Perhaps the bigger impact on the Heat is how it affects LeBron. Last year, the self-proclaimed King played most of his minutes as a power forward in spite of being listed as a small forward. This was feasible because Battier could guard quicker players, one of the most under-rated defenders in the league and the master of taking the charge. With Battier struggling, it will be interesting to see if his minutes are cut and if so, what do the Heat do with LeBron?

One situation to watch is Dwyane Wade. LeBron is incredible, he’s possibly the second best basketball player ever depending on who you ask. He will not win the title without Wade, even with the massively under-rated Chris Bosh. Wade has looked very nice when he has played but concern is still growing. Will he be able to handle such intensive series over such short spells?

 

The Heat certainly have issues but in happier news, Ray Allen appears to be leaving his slump. It was a big concern for the Heat. Two of their major issues are the trouble with great offensive rebounding teams and the lack of shooters and with Battier cold, Allen’s 35% from deep was a major concern. However, since the ASG, Allen has found his touch, shooting a much more impressive 41%. A man of RayRay’s talents has to be in that ballpark as he was last year.

There’s a tendency to ignore the Heat struggling because we know how good they are, but there are one or two little doubts creeping in. The push for a Threepeat will be brutal. The minutes will take their toll (are they already?). There’s a reason only an Mikan led Lakers in a diluted league, Russell’s Celtics, MJ’s Bulls (twice) and the Shaq and Kobe Lakers are the only teams to do it – it’s really hard. But this is a team capable of it, and in spite of the questions, if it was my money to put on the Champions this year, it’d be on this Heat team or the Spurs.

 

The Pacers, meanwhile, came out crushing every team in their path. They’ve been excellent this year, but much like the Heat there are nagging questions. The problem for the Pacers is that they don’t have the last two titles to fall back on as an excuse.

This Pacers team is built on defense. In most positions they have an above average defender, they have toughness and they have a centre allowing a shade over 41% at the rim. They lead the league in Defensive Rating, which means the concerns come on the other side of the court.

 

The general rule of thumb for contenders is that the team should be in the top 8 or 9 in both Offense and Defence. Three teams fall in these parameters – the Spurs, the Thunder and the Clippers. Notable by their absence are the Heat and the Pacers. The difference is, as previously mentioned, we know that the Heat can turn on their defence when it matters (their offense leads the league). The Pacers’ offense is a bigger question.

Paul George has been tremendous this year, improving on both sides of the ball. Earlier in the season, he was playing great basketball – making 48% from the field and 41% from deep. He put up 28PPG in October. However, since the All Star Game, George is shooting under 42% from the field and in March, he has made under 30% of his 3s. His PPG have fallen to a hair over 20.

 

The Pacers made their move on trade deadline trying to acquire another scorer but Evan Turner has thus far failed to pan out. Seen as a Jamal Crawford / Nick Young offensive spark, he has averaged under 9 points (not awful given the minutes he plays but more concerning when his usage rate is taken into account). The Pacers don’t need to be the Clippers and score 110 a night, they are a far superior defensive team but their offense needs to be better than it is. They rolled past two good teams in the Hawks and Knicks last year and held the Heat below 95 points per game in their series. But their offence let them down again against the Heat. Having a go-to scorer is essential and that is where my doubts lie. Make no mistake about it, this Pacers team will not be easy to beat. They will give the Heat a hell of a series should they meet but the smart money goes with the Heat.

 

Wednesday’s match-up will be easier to call when the health of Wade is known. For now, smart money goes to a tight spread. These games rarely have more than 3-8 points between them due to the defence played and I can see Coach Spoelstra experimenting with his line-ups as usual in the regular season before rotations tighten. My tip would be Pacers with the aforementioned tight spread.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Pacers -2.5 is -110 with AllYouBet.ag

 

 DIARMAID HILL (@dhillmu7) is a basketball and football fan who plays both even worse than he writes about  them. He supports the LA Clippers and Manchester United and yes, he’s heard every joke about both. Follow  him on Twitter @DiarmaidHill

The Best of March Madness

Many a great basketball career has started at college, and few are greater than former UNC alum Michael Jordan

Many a great basketball career has started at college, and few are greater than former UNC alum Michael Jordan

As March Madness enters its second week, Jamie Cutteridge explains what all the fuss is about by looking at five of the greatest moments in the history of the NCAA tournament.

 

If you’ve been on the internet, near the internet, next door to the internet or in the same postcode as the internet in the last week, you’ve probably heard of March Madness. The NCAA tournament is a joyous treat in the often dull month of March. The 64 best teams in college basketball play a straight knockout tournament over three weeks as the future stars of the NBA take on (and often lose to) players who will never see anything like this attention again. Underdogs, drama and wall-to-wall sport. Utterly perfect. As we near the final stages, Betting Instinct brings you five of the best moments in March Madness history to get you pumped for this week’s action.

 

NCAA Championship Betting Odds:

Florida +350

Louisville +450

Michigan State +450

Arizona +550

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

1982: Jordan wins it late at the start of his journey to greatness.

Picking a best Michael Jordan is impossible. The Flu game, ‘The shot’ against Cleveland in 1989, his final shot to beat Utah in 98, the threes and the shrug against Portland in 1992. He’s the greatest basketball player of all time, and possibly the biggest sporting icon since Adam beat Eve at an egg and spoon race. In his freshman year in college, he scored the winning basket with his team down by one point to beat Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown. Just sit back and enjoy some classic MJ.

 

 

 

1983: NC State shock America

In one of the biggest shocks in American sporting history, unfancied North Carolina State, led by legendary coach ‘Jimmy V’ upset massive favourites Houston to take the title. The Houston team contained future NBA hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, but couldn’t get it done as Lorenzo Charles dunked Dereck Whittenburg’s air-ball to win the game as time as time expired to send his coach into a state of delirium.

 

 

 

1985: Villanova ruin Ewing’s big day. Again

Patrick Ewing’s lack of success is so notable he’s got a theory named after him. After losing out to Jordan in ’82, Ewing and Georgetown  did win the title in 1984, and seemed destined to repeat in 1985 as the heavy pre-tournament favourites reached the big dance to play eight-seeded Villanova. However no-one counted on the Wildcats shooting a quite frankly ludicrous  78.6% to beat Ewing in his college swansong.

 

 

1992: THE SHOT

They call it the shot. They should call it the pass. The eventual champions and number one seeds Duke met Kentucky in an unforgettable regional final that was settled in overtime. Kentucky scored with 2.1 seconds to go to take a one point lead and it looked like the top seeds were on the way out. But then Grant Hill made an unreal pass, Christian Laettner got the ball and… oh just watch it.

 

 

 

 

1993: The Timeout

The 1993 Michigan Wolverines were the greatest college team of all time. ‘The Fab Five’ as they were known contained Jimmy King,  Ray Jackson, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. They took on fellow number one seeds North Carolina in 1993’s title game and trailed by two as Chris Webber brought the ball up court with fifteen second remaining. Webber got trapped in the corner and called a timeout, except Michigan didn’t have any left. A technical foul was called, NC got two free throws and the ball, and won the title.  A horrendous blunder that has overshadowed the rest of Webber’s brilliant career.

 

 

 

That’s just a taste of the drama and magic that March Madness involves. The fun continues from Thursday through to Sunday this week as the sweet sixteen are whittled down the final four. My tips to make the final have been Florida and Louisiana from the start, and they’re still going strong, just. But if you’re looking for value, don’t sleep on eleventh seeded Tennessee in the Midwest region. But no matter who plays, don’t miss out on some magical March madness.

 

Betting Instinct Tip: Tennessee to win the Midwest region is +550 with Intertops.eu

 

Jamie avatar JAMIE CUTTERIDGE (jamiecutteridge) is a journalist for a real magazine, but spends an inordinate  amount of time writing about NFL. He’s the editor-in-chief of anygivensundaynight.co.uk and its associated  twitter feed @UKNFL

March Madness — What’s Up with the Underdog Betting?!

Underdog bets have March Madness bookies scratching their heads

No surprise the Gators are getting a lot of betting action as US college basketball betting heats up. At +450 Florida is a clear favorite. But bookmakers say they’ve also seen unusual interest in a couple of March Madness underdog bets this year. Let’s face it, Wisconsin (+2500) and Villanova (+2000) are hardly contendors for the American college basketball title, yet a lot of players have been betting on them. Go figger.

Wisconsin was defeated last weekend by Nebraska so their popularity with bettors could change. But Villanova scored over 60 points in all but one of its 31 games in the regular season so who knows?! One thing we know about March Madness is: anything’s possible.

“Wichita State (+1000) and the Michigan Spartans (+2000) are two teams that players seem to like as well,” said an AllYouBet bookmaker.  “Syracuse Orange (+1400) has also seen some action, although the team has struggled recently.”

The Final Four tournament will culminate when the men’s college basketball title is decided April 7th at AT&T Stadium, North Texas.

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March Madness Free Bet

March Madness Sportsbook Bonus Offers

$100 BONUS —  Claim a 50% bonus, up to $100 (Use coupon code MADNESS14 when you  deposit at AllYouBet.ag).

$100 FREE BET — Wagers $1000 or more on NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball

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Attractive odds on both NCAA and NBA are posted under the “Basketball” tab in AllYouBet.ag sportsbook

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The Gamblogger gambling blogGAMBLOGGER (gamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during Super Bowl and March Madness.

Pacers and Heat battle to stay out of the NBA Bull-fight

Phil Jackson's return to Madison Square Garden can help the Knicks end the Pacers' winning run

Phil Jackson’s return to Madison Square Garden can help the Knicks end the Pacers’ winning run

Getting this close to the postseason means the main story is not just how much of a stench the Philadelphia 76ers have been throwing up in trying to get the first draft pick and more about the races that are still yet to fully play out across the NBA ahead of the playoffs next month.

One of the most intriguing narratives that is still playing out over in the Eastern Conference involves the race to see which of the conference’s two leading lights can take top spot and thus miss out on a conference semi final meeting with the gritty defence of the Chicago Bulls led by Joakim Noah. It means a straight out fight between the Indiana Pacers and reigning champion Miami Heat that has all the hallmarks of one that will go down to the wire.

2014 NBA Eastern Conference – To Win Outright

Miami Heat -111

Indiana Pacers +110

Brooklyn Nets +1600

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

For those readers in the UK not completely enamoured to the sport, the Heat have been tearing it up ever since LeBron James arrived in South Beach 2010 with three trips to the NBA finals and two of those ending in championships. The Pacers, on the other hand, have been threatening to break out for a number of years and after making the conference finals against the Heat last time out, have been riding the Paul George and Lance Stephenson bus to the top in 2014.

The Heat are a couple of games back on the Pacers in the race for the top spot and have arguably the easier assignment on Wednesday night when they head into Beantown to face the ailing Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were hit hard by the departure of 90 per cent of the zimmer-frame wielding championship calibre side of season’s past and franchise corner-stone Rajon Rondo has been out for much of the season. His return hasn’t seen a marked improvement in the side’s fortunes and the team is currently in the midst of a five game skid that won’t be remedied by having to face LeBron, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade…and the returning-to-Boston Ray Allen.

Indiana faces a far tougher trip to a New York Knicks ball club that has multiple championship winning Phil Jackson as its new el jefe. The Pacers are in the middle of a four game win streak but do not be fooled by this statistic. When two of the four games are against the 21-game losing streak clad 76ers it can in no way be considered a winning run. That’s even before you account for the fact the other two games were against the Celtics and Detroit Pistons who, when you combine their wins, don’t even reach the 50 that Indiana already has.

The New York Knicks, meanwhile, have been on a run of their own ever since Jackson’s name started began being banded around inside the confines of Madison Square Garden. The Knicks run has again been punctuated by the obligatory win against the 76ers as well as some equally simple assignments against the Utah Jazz, Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks. The difference here is that the team is only four games behind Atlanta for the eighth playoff place in the East and is playing some good ball compared to the dross regularly trotted out by the Celtics.

In almost all sports the arrival of a new head honcho gives that momentary bump to the team and Jackson’s bump will see them past the Pacers and eventually into the NBA Playoffs, and will make them a solid pick this Wednesday night.

Betting Instinct Tip – back the Knicks to beat the Pacers at +110 with Intertops.eu

b134431a32f9f238467cd75e1b0b3454JAMIE HINKS (jamiehinks) is an experienced content writer who has focused on the gambling industry and technology, and has an obsession with football and all US sports. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Even Barack Obama has a go during March Madness as predicting a perfect bracket becomes an American pastime

Is there anyone in the United States who doesn't fill in a March Madness bracker?

Is there anyone in the United States who doesn’t fill in a March Madness bracket?

68 teams.  63 games.  21 days.  Millions of fans.  No second chances.

What happens when something predictably unpredictable becomes so unpredictable that we don’t even know what to expect when expecting the unexpected?  Madness.

The NCAA tournament is one of those rare occasions on which human beings embrace madness.  Every year millions of brackets are filled out in what has become a national pastime in the States, with people entering into online competitions and office pools alike in the hope of predicting the tournament correctly.  Even Barack Obama has a go.  But, clever though he may be, the odds don’t look good: there is about a one in 147.57 quintillion (18 zeroes) chance of picking the perfect bracket.  Why do people subject themselves to such an exercise in futility?  If they needed an incentive beyond the fun, the office pot, or an innate desire to defy the odds (a rare motivation, I’ll admit), Warren Buffett has provided one.  For those unfamiliar with Mr. Buffett, he recently became the world’s second-richest man, and is thus able to promise a $1 billion prize to anyone who can pick the winner of all 63 games.  I wouldn’t bet on it.

This isn’t the NBA Playoffs, no matter how much casual basketball fans love that comparison.  Yes, the stakes are high and the best players are on display, but what separates March from April, May and June is that every game is Game 7.  The atmosphere doesn’t reach fever pitch, it starts there.  Because every team has a chance.  Bracket busting teams of the past, like Butler in 2010 AND 2011, typified the unpredictability of the tournament with their ‘Cinderella stories’.  Except this year, there are so many teams whose feet might fit the proverbial glass slipper that so-called ‘bracketologists’ will have a harder time choosing than Prince Charming.  There seems to be an abundance of ‘giant killers’, but few, if any, giants to kill.  Obviously there are the big-name programs and stalwart coaches who are present year in, year out, but none has set itself apart.

If the NBA’s new Commissioner gets his way, and the league’s age limit is raised from 19 to 20, March Madness 2014 could be the last of its kind.  This year NBA scouts have been giddy with excitement about possibly the most heralded freshman class in recent memory.  The likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid, and Andrew Gordon have not disappointed thus far, but they don’t have much more time to prove themselves.  Because of the increasingly popular ‘one and done’ trend, highly-touted prospects have tended to spend just one year in college before declaring for the NBA draft.  These players and their teams get one shot at the title, in contrast to those mid-major programs comprised of upperclassmen that have been together for years.  It will be interesting to see whether this class of freshmen really is as good as advertised; does any of these players has what it takes to shoulder the weight of a long run in March?  Keep in mind that the team ranked No. 1 in the country, Florida, has just that many freshmen on its roster.

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Betting Odds

Florida 5.50
Louisville 7.00
Arizona 8.00
Michigan State 9.00
Kansas 10.00

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

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At the time of writing it’s still championship week, so, if you haven’t already grasped how fickle the nature of this tournament is, here is my disclaimer: while I’ve begun by mentioning the two teams I’m most interested to watch, the unpredictability of March Madness could mean their hopes are up in smoke within a day or two of this preview going live.

Oklahoma State have flirted with being both overrated and underrated since the season began, but the consistent fact of the matter is they will go as far as Marcus Smart takes them.  When he is dialled in, this team can be very difficult to beat, as Kansas found in the second half of their game earlier in the month.  Admittedly I have a fetish for 6’4, 220lb guards (see Wade, Dwyane), but Smart has shown he can pretty much do it all.  Against Texas Tech in the First Round of the Big 12, Smart stuffed the stat sheet and, more importantly, showed the character that has been questioned since the last time the teams met.  If Smart stays focused and gets some help from his teammates, OK State may still justify some of the hype.

After watching UCLA edge out the much-fancied No. 4 Arizona, I don’t see why the Bruins couldn’t make some noise at the Big Dance (especially now that Ben Howland is gone).  They have some intriguing pieces in Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine, but the star of the show in LA this year has been Kyle Anderson.  The 6’8 point-forward was given the keys to the team by new coach, Steve Alford, and has responded with per-game averages not far off a triple-double.  He hasn’t gotten the hype his play has deserved, but a few wins in the coming weeks would change that.  Watch this space.

The fun of the tournament is finding your own teams to follow, so grab a bracket or six and share in the madness.

Betting Instinct Tip – UCLA face Tulsa in their opener, and UCLA -9 is -115 with AllYouBet.ag 

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Intertops Sportsbook $25,000 March Madness Bracket ContestIntertops Sportsbook will pay out $25,000 for a perfect bracket — 63 correct picks. If no player manages to select a perfect bracket, the prize money will be divided equally amongst the 25 players with the highest number of correct picks. Entry deadline is March 20th, 2014.

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Cathal avatarCATHAL LOUGHRAN (cathalloughran) is a student and writer from Ireland, based in London.  He writes about college basketball and the NBA for Betting Instinct

NBA All-star weekend: Time for a midseason recap

Kevin Durant had one of the best months in living memory in January

Kevin Durant had one of the best months in living memory in January

The NBA All-star weekend is the beginning of the end of the NBA season. By the time you read this the stars of the association will have decamped to New Orleans for a weekend of dunks, three pointers, and dunks AND three pointers. With a weekend away from the main action, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the season thus far, and look ahead to the rest of the season.

NBA Championship Outright Winner Betting Odds

Miami Heat +210

Indiana Pacers +250

Oklahoma City Thunder +375

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

We’re about 50 games into every team’s season and the gulf between the Eastern and Western Conferences is bigger than it has been in a long, long time. The Eastern conference is simple – there are two good teams and they’re heading towards an inevitable, almighty showdown in the conference finals. It’s unsurprising that one of those teams is the two-time defending champions Miami Heat, led by all-world LeBron James (who hit a last-second dagger on Wednesday night to beat the Warriors in spectacular fashion – well worth a visit to NBA.com) and ably assisted by a ‘getting-older-by-the-second’ Dwyane Wade and Chris ‘Photobomb’ Bosh, who’s having his best season in a few years. The Heat have taken their foot off the gas at times in the last couple of months, but they’ve won eight of their last ten, and have a ten game lead over Toronto in third.

The surprise package in the East are the Indiana Pacers. It’s no shock to see them up there – they gave us a taste of what was to come in their seven-game loss to the Heat in last season’s playoffs, but the way they took those performances into this season caught a few people off guard. Paul George has elevated his game to put himself in the upper echelons of NBA stars and has earned a place as an All-star starter, while Roy Hibbert remains a fearsome rim protector and Lance Stephenson has developed into the biggest x-factor in the league. The Pacers look set to be number one seed in the East and have lost just three games at home this season. If they secure the first seed, it will be tough for even the Heat to get past that test and into their fourth straight finals.

Betting Instinct Tip – The Pacers are +100 at allyoubet.ag to win the Eastern Conference.

As for the Western Conference, well, it’s a mess. Out in front are the Oklahoma City Thunder, spearheaded by man of the moment Kevin Durant. The Slim Reaper had one of the all-time great months in January, scoring a heap of points in an incredibly economic way, more than making up for the continued injury problems faced by Durant’s partner-in-OKC Russell ‘Hipster’ Westbrook. The supporting cast around Durant has continued to grow this year – Serge Ibaka might be the best third wheel in the league, while Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson and Stevan Adams are exciting young pieces coming into their own. Their win over Miami in January showed they could go small-ball and match the Heat- that could be crucial come the playoffs.

Betting Instinct Tip OKC are +375 to win the NBA title at Intertops.eu

The rest of the West is wide open. The Spurs will be there or thereabouts, neither Houston nor Golden State have quite clicked this term while Portland are fading after a fast start. The two teams worth keeping an eye on are recovering from huge injury losses to get back to winning ways. The LA Clippers lost point guard Chris Paul for the last six weeks, but Blake Griffin hugely stepped up in his absence, ensuring they remain in the hunt for the top four seed. If Doc Rivers can get the team playoff ready, Paul’s nous, and Griffin’s form could be terrifying. The other side to keep an eye are the Memphis Grizzlies. Marc Gasol missed a lot of time, but their interior of Gasol and Zac Randolph will cause just about any side problems. They could still emerge from the West as contenders.

Betting Instinct Tip – LA Clippers are +600 to win the Western Conference, while Memphis are +2500, both at allyoubet.ag

Jamie avatarJAMIE CUTTERIDGE (jamiecutteridge) is a journalist for a real magazine, but spends an inordinate amount of time writing about NFL. He’s the editor-in-chief of anygivensundaynight.co.uk and its associated twitter feed @UKNFL