Sweet Sixteen Betting: Overvalued and Undervalued
by Matt Severance - 03/26/2009
I'm here today to eat a little crow. Last week on Doc's, I wrote a story detailing which NCAA Tournament team I thought was overvalued to win its region and another story predicting which team was undervalued and worth a long-shot bet.
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Yep, I chose Missouri as the overvalued club (then +500 on WagerWeb to win the West) and Clemson as the undervalued (+1400 to win the South).
Maybe I mixed up my Tigers? Of course Mizzou is still alive and Clemson took a first-round exit yet again. In fairness, I believe Clemson would have beaten Michigan if not or the ejection of the Tigers' best three-point shooter, Terrence Ogelsby.
But there's no crying in basketball, and I'm giving myself a Sweet 16 do-over. The parameters I will use in this round will be this: the overvalued team must be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and the undervalued cannot be. I know that's not saying much for undervalued, but in a bracket with 14 of the top 16 seeds still remaining, it's difficult to find good value!
With that said, I choose Gonzaga as undervalued - the fourth-seeded Zags are +600 on WagerWeb to win the South Region.
These Zags have the experience of beating North Carolina. In that 82-74 victory in the November 2006 NIT tip-off tournament were several players who will be on the floor Friday night in Memphis. Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt outplayed Tyler Hansbrough that night, and guards Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin both scored in double figures.
Other current Tar Heels who played in that game include Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Deon Thompson and Bobby Frasor.
This year's Gonzaga club also can nearly match UNC's scoring depth, with six players averaging at least nine points; they won't mind running with the Heels. And the Zags, who are eight-point dogs Friday, have one of the best defensive field-goal percentages in the nation.
In addition, the Heels' Lawson still is dealing with that toe injury, although he will play. But one false step and UNC's leader could be on the bench. Should Gonzaga pull off the upset and reach its first Elite Eight since 1999, there is no reason it can't beat the Syracuse/Oklahoma winner. The Zags have won 20 of their past 21 games, with the only loss coming to Memphis. They are worth a long-shot bet at that price.
As for overrated, at least by price, I'd have to say Louisville at -170 to win the Midwest. (Obviously I believe that North Carolina, at -175 to win the South, is a tad overvalued too, but I want to visit another region and do think the Heels at 100 percent efficiency are nearly unbeatable.)
The Cardinals have been arguably the hottest team outside of Memphis, having won 12 games in a row, including the Big East regular season and tournament titles. And they are the current biggest favorites on WagerWeb for games in the Sweet 16 as nine-point favorites against Arizona.
But Siena showed some things against UL that should give the other Midwest teams, Arizona, Kansas and Michigan State, hope. A team that can pressure the pressing Cards can succeed, and Siena forced 17 turnovers. In addition, the Saints turned the ball over only five times against the UL defense in the first 33 minutes in taking the lead deep into the second half. Then Siena fell victim to the pressure, however, turning it over four times in the final seven minutes.
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The Cardinals will see two excellent point guards in the next two games. Arizona's Nic Wise is playing his best ball of the season, totaling 50 points in the two wins without missing a free throw. Should Louisville handle Zona, Michigan State has point guard Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten Player of the Year, and Kansas has a good one too in Sherron Collins. One of those two would await Sunday.
Also know that UL has not covered in the first two rounds of the tournament, which could be a warning sign. I'm not saying to bet against the Cardinals, but -170 is not worth the risk with those potential matchups.