NCAA Tournament Betting: Missouri Overvalued
by Matt Severance - 03/18/2009
Tuesday here on Doc's Sports, I wrote a story about a team I believed was undervalued in the NCAA Tournament - Clemson. Today I will do the opposite and warn you about a team that I think is overvalued. My parameters are these: The school must be a No. 4 seed or better and have a price of +750 or lower to win its region.
So, after pondering teams such as Michigan State, Duke and Syracuse, I'm going to say Missouri is a team to stay away from with your betting dollars. The Tigers are No. 3 out West and +500 to win that region on WagerWeb.
Yes, the Tigers won the Big 12 Tournament, but remember that they avoided the three other best teams in the conference, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. And while the Big 12 tourney was in Oklahoma City, Mizzou's road troubles this year are concerning. The Tigers were unbeaten at home but a little shaky on the road, including dropping their final two away from home during the regular season, both by double digits; Mizzou is 4-5 ATS away from home this season.
The Tigers' frenetic style can be difficult to prepare for. Coach Mike Anderson basically is running Nolan Richardson's "40 Minutes of Hell" as Anderson is a former assistant under Richardson at Arkansas. Anderson plays nine guys more than 10 minutes per game - no one player more than 27.8 minutes - and 11 total in a rotation geared to wear down opponents.
Mizzou had a school-record 359 steals this season and the Tigers thrive off transition, second-chance opportunities and turnovers.
"I think what's hard to realize on film is their ability to make up for mistakes," said Cornell coach Steve Donahue, whose team faces the Tigers in the first round. "They close out on shooters extremely fast. You think you have an open one and then the guy is on top of you, you're shot-faking and then everyone else is guarded again. ... They're not attached to you, but their recovery speed is incredible."
But that pressure defense, if it's broken, can lead to easy buckets for the opposition. And any team with good guard play can potentially break that defense. In addition, the Tigers don't have a lot of interior size if the game is slowed down to a half-court battle.
Mizzou opens with Cornell in Boise on Friday as a 13-point favorite on WagerWeb. There's little doubt that the Tigers will prevail. There might be some jitters, since none of the current players have been in the NCAA Tournament (Mizzou hasn't been in the Big Dance since 2003), but Cornell has never won an NCAA Tournament game, going 0-4.
But it's in Round 2 where Mizzou could be upset. If form holds, the Tigers will see Marquette, which has two terrific guards in Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. If Dominic James weren't hurt, I would actually favor Marquette against Missouri in that matchup, but the Golden Eagles have enough ball-handlers to deal with the press.
Even if Mizzou squeezes past Marquette, Memphis awaits. And the old axiom is that the best way to beat a pressing team is to press them. That's exactly what Memphis does, and those Tigers are probably the best defensive team in the country. Tyreke Evans would eat up that Missouri pressure.
So I see Missouri's run going no further than the Sweet 16, which is still a good start for Anderson, who is clearly bringing the Tigers back to national excellence.
Only BYU has more NCAA Tournament appearances than Missouri among teams that have never reached the Final Four, and that streak will be extended in the Tigers' 22nd appearance.