The Madness (March, 2010)

By Paul Bessire

Tuesday, April 6 at 12:13 AM ET
Tournament recap time. If you purchased our picks for the NCAA Tournament, you already know how much we helped, but here are some our successes for those who may not have been following along. On the whole, our picks for every game were 77.0% accurate straight up and 60.4% against-the-spread. Using our Picks and Play Value Calculator, a normal $20 player would be:

  • +$438 playing all ATS picks
  • +$299 playing all of our top ATS plays
  • +$179 playing the ATS Locks of the Day
  • +$262 playing picks with 70%+ confidence
  • +$454 playing picks with 60%+ confidence

Get the same edge for the NBA Playoffs. Buy Picks for every game.

Monday, April 5 at 11:57 PM ET
Will this forever be remembered as the year (or game) that Butler almost won - not that year that Duke did win? Name it what you will, but it almost seems like there was some force keeping that game close. And of course Hayward's shot had to hit the rim. Congrats to both teams. It wasn't the prettiest game at all, but it was hard-fought and definitely interesting.

Brad Stevens is known for his use of statistics and and in-depth analysis. Maybe he used the Predictalator to help his team compete with Duke. The team played fantastic defense and truly loved frustrating its opponents.

Butler's final three and four of its last five opponents shot at least 13% worse from the free-throw line than their season averages. That's almost unfathomable and extremely lucky. That suggests that this run was a fluke. The Bulldogs only defeated Murray State by two points. The Racers shot 41.7% from the line. Stevens hasn't figured out how to affect a team's free-throw accuracy - has he?

Where were the Plumlees? Duke lacked an athletic presence on the interior. It seems like the Plumlee brothers could have fit that role and broken this game open.

That being said, with his offensive rebounding, Brian Zoubek makes a strong case for tournament "MOP."

Screens were counter-productive for Duke. Zoubek isn't a threat to pick and roll or pick and pop, so they just forced double-teams and traps on Duke's guards.

Officiating was wildly inconsistent. The first 28 minutes, the officials let the kids play, which favored Butler. Then it became a foul fest for about seven minutes. And they let them play for the final five. I'm not sure there were many horrible calls, but the inconsistency really hurt the watchability of this game. Some day, all officiating in every sport will be automated by technology. NO ONE wants bad (or inconsistent) calls.


Does anyone on Butler besides Matt Howard have a position? Fascinating strategy.

Nolan Smith? 5-15... No aggression on the drive. I get that teams shot worse against better defenses, but every team missed more open shots against Butler than they normally would.

I definitely don't like the strategy of missing the free throw in the end. Michigan State did it as well. I'd rather know that the best the opponent can do is tie the game rather than force them to use an extra tenth of a second and have a chance to win.

In every interview or conversation I had in the last two days, I mentioned that I was at least as comfortable with the Under than Duke -7.

Rebounding margin is a pointless statistic (Digger Phelps) - especially when offensive and defensive rebound percentages are easy to find and just as easy to calculate. Rebounding margin has more to do with shots missed than rebounding ability.

Of course you would Jason Heyward...

...and that's why I paid $66 for Albert Pujols.


Sunday, April 4 at 5:33 PM ET
Just finished my fantasy baseball auction league draft, so I have Mat Latos and Asdrubal Cabrera on the mind, but I definitely have some thoughts on the Madness as well.

First of all, that was obviously a brutal ATS loss from Michigan State. Half a point kept us from going 4-0 with our ATS and O/U picks for the Final Four. 75% is generally good, but, especially when the game was so ugly, that was tough. Neither team played well and I don't think the result had anything to do with the location of the game or fan support.

Duke looks pretty good. I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that we are favoring the Blue Devils to win this game. They are hitting lights out and playing extremely well in every facet of the game right now.

That being said, it's not David vs. Goliath. It's not like Butler is Arkansas Pine-Bluff or even George Mason or Villanova against Georgetown. This is a team that entered the season with high hopes, dominated its conference, has won 25 games in a row and probably has just as many guys on it that will be on NBA rosters in five years as Duke does. And where was Duke 30 years ago when Coach K started (at the same age that Brad Stevens is now)? Butler at least has been a consistently respectable team for most of the last decade.

Plus, I don't understand the comparisons to Hoosiers. Remember, Hinkle Fieldhouse was the mystic place where Norman Dale measured the nets. That's where Butler plays every night. And Milan's real-life run to the Indiana state championship in basketball would be equivalent to Oklahoma Baptist of the NAIA or Brad Stevens' leading his alma mater, DePauw of Division III to the Final Four.

This is also a team whose path opened up nicely. After defeating Murray State by just two points, Butler took on three beat up teams in succession. Syracuse and Michigan State had recently lost starters to injury and Kansas State was coming off a high-tempo, double OT game less than 48 hours earlier. I give Brad Stevens a lot of credit for what he has done for this program - especially since it sounds like he does some similar analysis to what we do - but, in retrospect, don't think that this run is all that unlikely.

Sunday, March 28 at 9:20 PM ET
What a tough ending for Baylor (and those of us picking the Bears to cover). Duke hit 48% from three and 79% from the free throw line (and somehow the Blue Devils kept getting to the line). Baylor definitely could have done a better job to clean up the boards and keep from fouling, but there is not a whole that can be done when the opposition is that hot.

Tough loss. I think I'm still reeling a little. Sundays haven't been good to us. Baylor was winning at the under four minute TV timeout and found a way to lose by seven - just like Texas A&M was winning by 11 in the second half against Purdue and lost in OT. Ouch.

Championship odds and picks will be up soon.

Sunday, March 28 at 6:00 PM ET
Tom Izzo is the best coach in college basketball. Brad Stephens may soon be on the list, but in my seven year career of doing this, only two coaches' teams have consistently out-performed their numbers from a wins and losses standpoint: Tom Izzo and Jeff Fisher. Izzo has the added distinction of doing it in March when it really matters.

Watching Baylor, I am reminded of the 2002 Maryland Terrapins. The Bears are a longer, skinnier version of that team. First of all, Quincy Acy is a Chris Wilcox clone. He is always attacking the rim on both ends. Tweety Carter is the smart, pass-first Steve Blake. LaceDarius Dunn is the Juan Dixon-esque scoring threat. And Ekpe Udoh is the Lonny Baxter beast inside. That one is not a perfect fit, but Josh Lomers and Udoh can combine to play Baxter's role. Byron Mouton is not on the Bears, but, with the zone they play, a guy like Anthony Jones provides the defensive disruption that is similar. Like that Maryland team, I think there is a lot of future NBA talent on the floor for Baylor - more so than Duke. Udoh, Dunn, Carter and maybe even Acy may never be stars in the League, but they will likely get some run after this tournament and stage.

Sunday, March 28 at 9:24 AM ET
Huggs! Congrats to West Virginia. In person and in press conferences, I think I have heard Bob Huggins says "We just need to make shots," more 10,000 times. I always thought that was silly because he sets his team up as a defense-first team that then just needs to get lucky on offense to win games. Whether lucky or good, the Moutaineers "made shots" yesterday.

Even with top seeded Duke still around, I don't think anyone thought that Butler, West Virginia, Michigan State, Tennessee, Duke and Baylor would be the last teams remaining with a chance to win it all when the tournament began - let alone when the season began.

For our bracket's sake (not necessarily the ATS or SU pick), Go Bears!

Saturday, March 27 at 8:16 PM ET
Butler. It was a brutal game to watch, but that's clearly Butler's style after the Bulldogs did the same thing against Syracuse. Congrats to Butler. Facing either Michigan State or Tennessee to make the championship game, the Bulldogs have a very good chance to be playing for the title. None of those three teams was originally more than 1.0% likely to make it to championship Monday.

I obviously hope that you are all subscribing to and using our picks to your gain. More importantly, I hope you heed the advice of the Play Value Calculator and Paul's Picks recommendations. Based on our recommendations, a bettor should have wagered four times the percentage of his bankroll on Kansas State in the first game against North Texas - when we had the Wildcats covering 76.4% of the time - than against Butler - when we had KState covering 58.7% of the time. Hopefully, everyone's bankroll is growing considerably, but, as a percentage, it is crucial to review our money management strategy and advice.

This works. Accounting for changes to bankroll and the vig, a player with a $1000 bankroll who has just played our best play each day, would now have a bankroll of $1256. Even if that user paid $99.95 for the full tournament picks package, he is still up 16% in just seven days of tournament action. And that's just the top play each day with a relatively small bankroll in what is our most conservative long-term strategy. Many days have had multiple picks that appear in our 3X Normal Play classification (and those have hit far more often than not).

The temptation is clearly there to load up on our top plays when they have been so successful. And we make no bones about promoting the success of those picks. But 58.7% is 58.7%, just like 76.4% is 76.4% and 62.8% was 62.8% for Texas A&M last week. That is exactly how often you should expect the play to pay off.

That being said, both of our picks tomorrow are stronger than either of our picks today.

Saturday, March 27 at 2:28 PM ET
Did I mention that the Predictalator loves the Baylor Bears? The matchup with Duke will probably be pretty close, but the 18.5 point cover for our Lock of the Day has us feeling great now that our ATS Locks are 6-1 and a guy who typically plays just $20 a game is up $500 on the tournament by following our recommendations. Did I mention how much I don't like Texas A&M (our lone blemish in ATS Locks - up 11 in the second half!)?

Consider Tennessee the most surprising team of the tournament. Yes, the Volunteers got a little lucky to play a weak team from the much worse than advertised Mountain West (though we were never high on any of the conference's teams) and then the ninth-best team from the MAC. But it just beat Ohio State. Ohio State was our favorite to win it all going into this week (at just 21.1%). In the original Bracket Odds, Tennessee had just a 1.3% chance of making the Elite 8 from what we thought was the most difficult region we had ever seen. In fact, in 50,000 simulations of the entire NCAA Tournament before it started, Tennessee and Michigan State met just 117 times.

I guess the biggest question right now is whether the Predictalator would like Baylor even more with Brittney Griner starting inside.

Friday, March 26 at 9:06 AM ET
I hope you all were watching that game. It was one of those text message games, where no matter what time it is, guys' phones start blowing up as friends check in to make sure they are watching it. And no, I am not talking about Kentucky-Cornell - though we did get the margin of that game exactly correct and it was our ATS Lock of the Day so many of our subscribers may have been more interested in that outcome regardless.

Kansas State and Xavier played a much better game in their second go around of the season than they did earlier in the year. This time, on a neutral court with an Elite Eight berth at stake, teams traded ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot to take the game to double OT. My personal favorite would be Denis Clemente's four-point play where he wasn't even looking at the basket as he launched the three after being fouled. Of course, that was in regulation before we knew what would ensue - including a 35-footer from Jordan Crawford. Crawford has the kind of attitude that may take him to the league next year. That would be a shame for those of us who are just now getting to see his game grow on the national stage.

And congrats again to the Predictalator. 80% on ATS Locks thus far and nailing the margin of victory in the UK-Cornell game. Kansas State even came back in double OT to at least Push (the Wildcats covered Wednesday's 4.5 point line if you got in on them early).

Huggs vs. Martin is still alive. Picks for Saturday will be up soon.

Thursday, March 25 at 10:06 PM ET
Congrats Butler (and thanks for the cover). Arinze Onuaku's injury caught up to the Orange about a game earlier than we really thought it would. It's not that Butler had many second chance points or a dominant performance in the paint, but the Bulldogs consistently got into the middle of the zone freely for easy jumpers. And Syracuse failed to exploit mismatches inside, especially with Matt Howard in foul trouble. KState in the Final Four anyone? Will either get that game or Xavier will have its second consecutive rematch - this time of one of the oddest games of the year.

West Virginia clearly could not keep up with Washington's tempo. Neither could Washington. The Predictalator (as well as those who played Washington and/or the Over) will have nightmares of Venoy Overton sprinting cleanly to the hoop - only to pass the ball to the opponent. 45 turnovers. Yuck. Unfortunately, this became the Washington team of the early season that everyone feared would "represent" the Pac-10 in the tournament.

We still don't think it's very likely, but is it too soon to start thinking about a Bob Huggins-Frank Martin national championship game?

Tuesday, March 23 at 3:41 PM ET
The dust has settled on the first week of the tournament and the new Bracket Odds and Picks are up, so we thought we would take a look back at the Predictalator's first round performance:

  • 85% - Percentile your bracket is in on Yahoo if you followed the Predictalated Bracket. Games were so close that, as of Thursday morning, we were actually slightly favoring St. Mary's and Northern Iowa to win. Those who picked up on that would be in the 94th percentile.
  • 81.3% - Straight-up accuracy in the first round (26-6).
  • 80% - The Predictalator predicted five upsets as more likely than not in the first round. Four of those teams won.
  • 79% - That's the Predictalator's straight-up accuracy by going 38-10 in the first two rounds.
  • 75% - The accuracy of our against-the-spread Locks of the Day. Kansas State (twice) and Xavier covered easily, while Texas A&M was picked as a 1.5 point favorite and lost in overtime after being up 11 in the second half.
  • 75% - Also the Predictalator's accuracy in the 12 games in which it favored the worse seed to win outright. There are actually no instances of this in the Sweet 16.
  • 75% - And 75% is also how many of our original Elite Eight are remaining after losses by Kansas and Marquette.
  • 60% - Against-the-spread accuracy of all picks in the first two rounds.
  • 8.7% - The chance the Predictalator gave Northern Iowa to make the Sweet 16.

And, using our Picks and Play Value Calculator, a normal $20 player would be:

  • +$410 by playing all ATS picks individually
  • +$289 by playing all of our top ATS plays (Paul's Picks)
  • +$198 by just playing the ATS Locks of the Day

Sunday, March 21 at 5:18 PM ET
Great day for the picks so far - not as great for the site. We experienced issues with our hosting service that were beyond our control. While we have been told that the issues are fixed and we do not expect these issues to persist or occur in the future, we are already in the process of exploring other options. Thank you for your patience. Hopefully, you were able to get the Syracuse, Michigan State, Ohio State and other picks.

Sunday, March 21 at 10:25 AM ET
I was out and about watching games last night. Everyone was glued to KU-UNI. Congrats to Northern Iowa, which hit its 8.7% chance of making the Sweet 16. We always considered the field pretty open (15.7% as the most likely champion is the lowest I have ever seen), but Kansas was still the best team in the country during the season. Bracket Odds will be updated overnight once the Sweet 16 is set, but it's looking like the path for the Ohio State Buckeyes - the second best team in the nation according our pre-tournament rankings - has been cleared for a title.

The rest of the top of the Big 12 is looking strong with Baylor and Kansas State winning (and covering) yesterday and Texas A&M a favorite against Purdue today. Baylor gets three double-digit seeds in a row to make us feel even better about putting them in the championship game. No excuses for Kansas. There was a chance that the Jayhawks lost and they found it.

Kentucky looked great again, but Wake's not the game to worry about. Whether it's Wisconsin or Cornell, the Wildcats will face a team that does things very differently. That will be the toughest challenge for UK to-date.

And New Mexico and the rest of the Mountain West were very overrated. We thought the A-10 was much better, though those teams have not looked great either. We'll see how Xavier represents against Pitt today with a Sweet 16 bid on the line.

Saturday, March 20 at 3:34 PM ET
Ouch Big East. Going into the tournament, we gave St. Mary's a better chance to make the Sweet 16 - 23.4% - than anyone could realistically have given Mickey McConnell to make a 25-foot bank shot three-pointer with 1:16 left in a tie game.

Though it was the most likely team to advance from its pod, Bracket Odds did not have Villanova in the Sweet 16 more than 50% of the time. We have Xavier over Pitt tomorrow and believe that Missouri faces a tough challenge to West Virginia, so the Big East's fate is essentially in the 'Cuse's hands.

If the Bears win today, Baylor will get three straight double-digit seeds en route to the Elite Eight. This is exactly why we were so high on them.

Friday, March 19 at 11:09 pm ET
"After mail-in rebate." The lawyer who requires AT&T to say that twice in a row is not someone that I would ever want to hangout with (ending a clause in a preposition - one grammar faux pas deserves another). This is apparently the conversation that I am having with myself as this week ends...

The basketball has not been as great today on the court - at least not from both teams at the same time - but it's been good to our ATS picks and our bracket. Even if we get all four of the current games wrong (as of right now, we have a much better chance of getting them all right), someone playing all of our ATS picks would still be guaranteed profit. Plus, our bracket is in the 94th percentile right now on Yahoo and ESPN. The first round has been great for Saturday's picks are up now. Sunday's will go up over night tonight.

In the last round of games, Michigan State looked like the Tom Izzo teams that usually enter the tournament in the first half. Then, in the second half, the Spartans showed the flaws that have many doubting the team's ability to make a deep run. Who would have thought that a physical game in which the refs swallow their whistles would have been of greater benefit to New Mexico State than Michigan State?

I'm not a Duke fan per se, yet Coach K is probably a friend to many bettors. He's always pushing the gas. Starters were still in the game shooting threes up almost 30 points late in the second half. Besides cover -25.5, I'm not sure what that does for a team that seems to lose the first close game it gets into in the dance.

With Georgia Tech's win and Florida State's loss, our pre-tournament predicted upsets finished 4-1 straight up. FSU closed the gap after a big early deficit to Gonzaga. The comeback was impressive given the Seminoles' defensive strengths (and subsequent offensive weaknesses). It still wasn't enough though. We'll see how the "Zags" hold up against another excellent defense in Syracuse (barring an unfathomable comeback by Vermont). My guess is they won't get off to such a hot start.

Friday, March 19 at 5:55pm ET
At this point, having grown up in Wisconsin with season tickets to watch the Badgers (in football, basketball and hockey), I am just happy that the team won. Obviously, it also helps with our bracket as well, especially as we had UW seriously contending with Kentucky for an Elite Eight appearance. That being said, there is no way the Badgers should have played within ten points of Wofford and I am still taken aback by the fact that the game did not even near what was the lowest total line of the day (115.5). Cornell will present a challenge - and probably a pretty boring game for fans.

Missouri-Clemson was essentially the opposite - an exciting, up-and-down game that was won by Mizzou. Missouri will advance to give West Virginia a challenge (see below). The Big East could be in trouble. Five upsets were predicted as more likely than not in our original bracket. We are currently 3-0 in those games with Missouri, Wake and Old Dominion winning. The straight-up picks posted Thursday morning also had Northern Iowa and St. Mary's winning outright.

As I mentioned in a few interviews this week, I almost felt like we were favoring Purdue more than most by giving them a 50.02% chance of winning in our Bracket Odds. While the media was all over Siena, Vegas still liked Purdue by 4.5. We were in between. A furious comeback by the Saints to answer Purdue's 13-0 run in the second half was not quite enough to help us get everything right with that game. Purdue is a hard team to root for. Fortunately, if Texas A&M gets by Utah State (playing now), we shouldn't have to. Expect the Aggies to be big favorites for the Predictalator.

Friday, March 19 at 3:41 pm ET
The Predictalator is on a roll. I understand why Minnesota was a slight favorite (or pick'em depending on where you looked). Books are trying to get action on either side, not necessarily accurately predict the outcome of the game. The Big Ten gets a lot more publicity than the A-10 and Minnesota played a couple high-profile games last week, so books expected people to jump on the more notable team - and, to a good extent, that's what happened. In reality, we had Xavier as a double-digit favorite. The Musketeers won by 11. We'll see what happens with Pitt-Oakland (playing right now), but I am guessing that we are going to love XU again on Sunday.

West Virginia, our second biggest play of the day after Xavier, was a little scarier to begin with. Morgan State didn't look like a good team, but got out to a 10-0 lead to start the game. Those of us playing that game immediately started calculating the new line - that WVU had to win the rest of the game by 28. The notoriously slow-starting Mountaineers woke up and went on a run as if they were playing a high school team, outscoring the Bears 77-40 in the final 35 minutes of the game. I still don't think that West Virginia matches up well against either Clemson or Missouri. I don't know what the line will look like, but I'm guessing we will be predicting a WVU win, but not a cover.

Apparently, Cornell can play. Ok, we knew that. We didn't know that Temple would forget to show up.

Friday, March 19 at 12:39 am ET
Not too much for the late night blog. The New Mexico-Montana game is finishing up now. As we alluded to, New Mexico is a weak three seed.

Thank you Ishmael Smith, though we would have loved that at the end of regulation. Our top four ATS picks went 3-1, which would return a $155 profit to the $20 bettor according to our Play Value Calculator. Kansas was the ATS loss. At -25.5 it was a pick that, while we endorsed, we did not get behind as strongly as the other top picks because of the huge line. Watch for that tomorrow with Duke as well.

Man did Tennessee get a gift with the Georgetown loss.

At the end of a chaotic first day with the most double-digit seed victories in at least 19 years and several OT games that hurt some picks, we are feeling great. Old Dominion and Wake Forest were predicted upsets, while we had UNI and St. Mary's winning in the picks given Thursday morning (We rerun as lines change. Those games were so close that the straight-up pick flipped - kind of like with Siena-Purdue tomorrow).

Here's to another exciting and profitable day on Friday.

Thursday, March 18 at 10:26 pm ET
Kentucky looked fantastic en route to a 29-point blowout over ETSU (covering the 19.5 point line as we expected), but the concern with the Wildcats is not how they look when they are playing cohesively against a bad team. UK's biggest issue will come when it faces a team that doesn't make too many mistakes. It will be interesting to see what Calipari's team to when they have to play in the half-court and could easily get flustered.

Don't sleep on an ultra-efficient Butler team that used a second-half run to destroy a UTEP squad that was a chic pick (though not here) to pull off the 12-5 upset. Now that Vanderbilt is out of the tournament, Butler is in a great position to ease into the Sweet 16. And we'll see tomorrow how Syracuse looks. If the Orange appears shaky, Butler has a good chance at the Elite Eight.

Is 7-9 in the MAC better than 10-8 in the Big East? Probably not, but we have been saying that the Big East is overrated. The Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball. With Georgetown specifically, they Hoyas play a brand of the game that can frustrate teams and is typically effective. But, it's flawed in that it is very difficult for the team to comeback from a significant deficit without becoming too erratic.

Marquette was an Elite Eight participant in our original Predictalated Bracket, yet we were only giving the Golden Eagles a 56% chance to win in the first round. The game was close as we expected - just ended up on the wrong side of the (virtual) coin flip.

Thursday, March 18 at 6:21 pm ET
KState! The Wildcats, which covered -15.5 a ridiculous 76.4% of our 50,000 games played, came through with an expected huge victory over North Texas. Based on our Play Value Calculator, that means that a bettor with a normal play of 20, would have made 180 on our top two plays of the day (101 on KSU -15.5 and 79 on Old Dominion +2.5). I hope we were able to help. Future picks are available in the Shop.

Interesting to note that UTEP-Butler is truly the forgotten game for us. Not only is it the game that most in the East and Midwest miss due to local news (and/or Oprah), but it does not qualify as playable ATS or O/U. When making plays, please always note the confidence. Anything under 52.4% is not considered playable at -110.

Thursday, March 18 at 5:25 pm ET
Very glad to see our top upset of the first round (and one of the better plays of the day at +2.5 covering 70%+) Old Dominion win outright. But what was up with the "Slow Burn" offense of Notre Dame? We had ODU winning either way, and typically by more, so maybe that helped to keep it close, but it was brutal to watch and killed the total. As expected, neither team shot well. Kudos to Notre Dame's D though. The Irish sagged, begging ODU to shoot over the top of them. It's almost like they knew that Old Dominion was the better team and tried all the gimmicks they could to keep it close.

In other games, Villanova-Robert Morris was a fun one. When it's clear the favorite isn't close to covering, I don't mind rooting for the underdog - especially when we don't have Villanova going very far.

Baylor played a close game, yet finished strong (why couldn't Tweety Carter score a bucket as time expired?) and looks like it has a great chance to make the deep run we predicted. The Bears may even end up playing three consecutive double-digit seeds to get to the Elite Eight.

Congrats to Murray State. Siena is obviously our top 13 seed, but we gave Murray State a 40% chance of winning. It came down to a shot that was probably about 40% likely to go in and it did. To this point, that's our only straight up loss of the day.

And the most painful ATS loss goes to BYU-UF. We had BYU as a 1.8 point favorite, which meant we favored Florida to cover +5. Two OTs later, the Cougars woke up and stole one from the bettors.

Enjoy the rest of the Madness!

Sunday, March 14 at 4:40 pm ET

"Gut, research, favorite, sleeper. Gut, research, favorite, sleeper..."

We've all seen the commercial. It doesn't have to be that way. As we enter the madness of March, should be your home for the content you need to turn in the one bracket that will help you earn the respect of your peers (and hopefully some additional reward) in your office pool. Professionally and personally, I've been breaking down sporting events for a long time and generally have the most success this time of year.

To me, the NCAA tournament is the greatest sporting event of the year. Selection Sunday is a personal holiday (despite the fact that it's also the busiest "work day" I have) and little can top the time around 2:00 pm ET on Thursday when the first, first round games are coming to a close and the real drama begins. I even remember growing up, before I had turned ten years old, and sitting in front of the TV at 5:00 pm CT to make sure that I filled out the teams on my bracket (on the back of a giant wallpaper sample) as they were announced. I still have many of those brackets from the last 20 years or so.

This blog, specifically, should be a good way to follow the action and my take on what is going on. During the tournament, the blog will be updated frequently, often times with short notes while games are being played. For the quick(est) hitters, follow us on Twitter.

Besides professing my love (obsession) for this time of year, I wanted to address a couple other items in this blog entry: 1) what to pay attention to when looking at college basketball teams and 2) our new premium content - making, buying and selling picks.

What's important
Let's start by running through a few things that are not important. At this time of the year, "experience" is generally irrelevant. Teams are who they are and that can be found in the numbers. Play on the court this season is far more indicative of upcoming success than how many players a team has who played in the tournament before.

"Guard play" as typically referenced by the pundits is mostly overrated. It is true that point guards are far more important to the college game than they are to the NBA, but there are reasons for that. The college game is perimeter-oriented by nature due to a lack of true centers and other big men and the broad talent levels across teams and conferences yielding the three-point line as the great equalizer. Point guards are also more important to the college game because not every team has a decent one. Turnover rates are higher in college. But that's just the difference between the NBA and college. Within the college game, the cohesion of the team is still more important than excellence at one position. Look at West Virginia, which essentially lacks a point guard. The Moutaineers are build like an NBA team with high-scoring SG/SF and a versatile big. They do fine. And the truth is, that teams with dominant big men (who can stay out of foul trouble) are still in better position to succeed in March than those without.

What is important? Ideally, some metric that looks at strength-of-schedule and pace-adjusted statistics. Some would call VMI's offense the best in the nation because they score the most points a game. However, they have played roughly the 270th toughest schedule (also known as about the 75th easiest), average about five more possessions a game than the next team and finish in the 36th percentile in points-per-possession. So, in fact, VMI actually has an offense that is far worse than average. Wisconsin, on the other hand, scores twenty points a game fewer, yet grades as the third most efficient offense in the nation because the Badgers do not turn the ball over often, shoot relatively well (until the Big Ten Tournament) and have played a very difficult schedule including several excellent defenses.

Obviously not everyone has access to nor the ability to process this information, so I would make two recommendations: 1) use because we do and we do it in a way that is more thorough and more accurate than has ever been done and 2) keep a team's aggregate statistics in context of their conference's level of competition and their own style of play.

Premium content:
Many of you have probably noticed the addition of our premium Picks content, where we are offering in-depth against-the-spread, over/under and straight-up pick information on every NCAA Tournament game. This site is geared toward making sports predictions using the most robust and accurate methodology ever designed. We cater to all fans in general, while our premium content caters to those who have a little more to gain, who like to wager on games and/or play fantasy sports.

With more than 45 years in the sports information industry, our organization is intimately familiar with the business and the competition. We understand the wagerer better than just about everyone. And, more importantly, we understand the fan who becomes one and what is presented to him as he does. So it is extremely important to us provide the most educational, intelligent and beneficial approach to our users. When done right, sports wagering can be a great investment and a lot of fun. We are here to help you do it right.

Our goal is not to oversell you anything or just to sell you "air" because you will buy it - as many professionals in the industry have candidly remarked regarding their work. We realize the need for a product that can help, not hurt. We have the best information and analysis.

One of the top handicappers recently told me that he decided to make his Super Bowl pick because the owner of one of the teams was nice to him ten years ago. Obviously, he did not say that to those who spent quite a bit of money buy his picks and then on their own wagers. He got that game wrong. We gave you the Saints and the Under and told you our exact confidence in both. We got those picks right and benefited our readers (hopefully including you). Now, our Picks not only come with confidence, we translate that into optimal play values for wagers so that our subscribers can best manage their money. It is important to us that we provide the best product and that we make you money.

With respect to legality, everyone makes his/her own choices. Please thoroughly research the ramifications of anything that you do. While we are not a legal authority, any simple internet search on the topic will provide plenty takes on the subject. That being said, it is important to consider why such laws and even a negative perception of the activity may exist. It's not necessarily to protect people from themselves, but to protect the integrity of the games. As I mentioned earlier, when done right (and legally), just like the stock market (and much more productively than the lottery), smart sports wagering can be a great way to invest.

We look forward to helping you as we grow. For now, check out our college basketball content and Picks and keep coming back to the blog and Twitter to follow the Madness.

Please also note our updated Terms of Service and disclaimer below. If you ever have any questions or suggestions please Submit a Support Contact. also has straight-up, against-the-spread and over/under picks for every NBA Playoff game. Picks packages are just $149.95 for every game.