NCAA Deep Sleepers

NCAA Deep Sleepers
By David A Lane of

This is such a great time of year for sports viewing and wagering on various events. NHL hockey is nearing the playoffs, the Masters golf tournament is right around the corner, the NBA is reaching the stretch run, and with the NCAA Tournament starting this week, basketball is finally nearing its well hyped dramatic conclusion – a field of the 65 best teams if you include the added play in game. The college hoops schedule is complete and so are the conference tourneys – a nice prelude to the tension and drama of the NCAA tournament, and to a lesser extent the NITs. This signals the beginning of what many would say is by far one of the best times to wager on college basketball for a number of reasons. Besides that, this season has proved to be very much like the college football season before it in that theres a lot of parity amongst the schools and no team seems to stay on top for long – the type of climate where one should know about sleeper teams because some could easily roll deep into the tournament. The earlier you ride these teams the better – while they still present good value to the bettor.

One of the reasons this time of year is great for the gambler is that there are enough statistics available for researching anything a handicapper would deem necessary. Both non-conference and conference play alike are very important in determining whats what, as any college hoops aficionado would know. Now with the conference tourneys over, we have somewhat of an idea of which teams might fare well in a neutral setting like the Big Dance will be.

One plus about wagering this time of year is that not only do the numbers become more consistent but so do the players as they have settled into their various roles, for the most part. Though its very easy for us to overlook the fact that many of these guys are freshman and last year they were still making arrangements for their prom, the fact remains. However, by this time of year as in football, there are no rookies. Players that are playing have gained crucial experience by now and that equates to more confident play on the court. Now is the time to step up and really prove their metal while playing for the national championship.

Coaches have also adapted their styles to the kids on their rosters by this time of year. Realizing plusses and minuses, making adjustments where they are needed and learning which buttons to press and when become second nature as the teams have evolved enough that theyve earned some trust at this point. The NCAAs are as great a time for the coaches to receive attention as it is for their kids these days.

Another great reason tis the season: there are so many events available, at least in the early rounds, that bookies cant be on top of all the teams and all the games, and, with money usually coming in on the favorites finding a streaky underdog usually pays. NBA lines are usually fairly representative of their teams because the players have been there awhile so the numbers are consistent enough. Pretty much, the same is true of the NHL. There are so many players, so many teams, and so many games in college hoops that it takes quite a bit of effort to know it well. To top that off, some players are there four years, some only one year. Because of this movement in the sport comes the inevitable churning of teams within its ranks struggling to regain form year in and year out, repeat past success, and to live up to the inevitable hype associated with some programs.

These teams are my picks for sleepers in the NCAA Tournament meaning they probably wont go all the way, but that theyll surprise by going deeper than people give them credit for:

1. UNLV Running Rebels (23-7,17-11-2 overall ATS – Opening Round game vs.
Kent State Golden Flashes 3-20-08 2:55 PM Eastern, current line UNLV +2

Tough Tough to call them a sleeper when they made it to the Sweet Sixteen last year and although they lost four starters coming into this season, here they are again back in the tourney. Perhaps Im being a bit of a homer but you have to admire how much effort and team work Coach Lon Kruger receives from his kids and he surely should be up for Coach of the Year honors. However, this group is thin on experience and theyre in a tough bracket possibly having to face Kansas in the second round so theyre going to have to learn quickly to advance this time.

2. St Marys Gaels (25-5, 15-12-1 ATS- Opening Round game vs. Miami Hurricanes 3-21-08 12:30 pm eastern, current line- Gaels + 1) Though they couldnt win at San Diego to get past the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament, theyve had some serious time to rest and get healthy. With wins over other tournament teams Gonzaga, Oregon, San Diego, and Drake, one has to say theyve beaten some decent teams. Theyve played well all season behind a very balanced attack. Freshman guard Patrick Mills (14.5ppg and 3.4 ast) and junior forward Diamon Simpson (13.6 PPG and 9.5 REB) lead coach Randy Bennetts squad as they show that theyve saved their best for last.

3. Davidson Wildcats (26-6, 19-11 ATS – opening round game vs. Gonzaga 3-21-08 12:25 PM Eastern, current line Davidson – 2) The wildcats proved once again that theyre the class of the conference by winning their fourth Southern Conference championship since 2002. Second year starting guard Stephen Curry (25.1 PPG and 4.8 REB), only has gotten better in his sophomore season, his second as a starter. Together with point guard Jason Richards (12.6 PPG and 8 AST) they make one of the best and most lethal yet underrated backcourts in college basketball. A win over tournament team Winthrop and some very close losses to North Carolina (lost by 4), Duke (lost by 6), and UCLA (up by 18 before losing 12 but was in it the whole way) along with a perfect record in their own conference (20-0) says to me that theyre ready for prime time.

4. Drake Bulldogs (25-4, 20-7-1 ATS – opening round game vs. Western KY 3-21-08 12:30 PM Eastern, current line Drake -4) The Missouri Valley Conference winner has been resting up since March 9 after blowing up Illinois State in the conference final winning by a 30 point margin that perhaps ousted them from the NCAA as well. Guards Adam Emmenecker (16 PPG and 6 AST) and Klayton Korver (10 PPG and 4 REB) team with forward Jonathon Cox (20 PPG and 7 REB) to lead this school that used to be a basketball powerhouse a long time ago back to the tournament, its first trip since 1971. Perhaps one of the smarter teams – nine players average above 3.0 GPAs – theyve enjoyed quite an amazing season already. Rookie Coach Keno Davis, another great candidate for Coach of the Year, starts two walk-ons, one of which is Emmenecker, who has simply led the team while winning league and tournament MVP honors yet still finds enough time to maintain a stellar 3.97 GPA. A late season win at tournament team Butlers home court and conference title indicates what should be a given – playing smart basketball leads to victories. Being in a decent bracket should benefit their Cinderella run as well.