It is wall-to-wall college basketball in this week's discussion with Doc's Sports expert handicapper Raphael Esparza in advance of one the most thrilling times of the year for sports bettors. The 68-team field for the 2017 NCAA Tournament has been set and we will get his take on some of the hottest trending topics surrounding this season's Big Dance.
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Raphael worked his way to the top of the industry as one of the best sports handicappers in the nation as he worked his way through the ranks in the Las Vegas sportsbook industry to become the Director of the Race and Sports Book for MGM Grand's Aria. The former Vegas Sports Informer retired from the sportsbook industry in 2013. However, he continues to split his time between Las Vegas and the Big Easy in New Orleans running a successful and diverse sports investment service. The following is this week's Q&A with one of Doc's most interesting handicappers.
Doc's Sports: The Duke Blue Devils moved their way to the top of the list with most of the Las Vegas sportsbooks as the favorite to win the 2017 NCAA Tournament based on their success in last week's run to the ACC Tournament title. Would Duke be your top choice to win it all?
RE: Ever since Connecticut made that famous run to a national title a few years back with Kemba Walker after getting hot in its conference tournament, a run like Duke's last week gets bettors excited. The Blue Devils are also a fan favorite with bettors in Las Vegas, so I am not all that surprised to see them favored. What makes things interesting is that they have the depth and balance to back it up with an actual title run.
Doc's Sports: We have been closely following the Big Three in the Pac-12 all season long. Given their current spots in the actual NCAA Tournament bracket, which team do you have going the furthest ; Oregon out of the Midwest, Arizona out of the West or UCLA out of the South?
RE: I would be concerned with Oregon given the injury to Chris Boucher, and I do not have Arizona getting past Gonzaga in the West. That leaves UCLA as the most likely Final Four team of the bunch. I am not sold on North Carolina or Kentucky coming out of the South. So why not the Bruins?
Doc's Sports: We also talked about soft lines last week given the added volume of action on the Oddsmakers' plate this time of the year. Does this mean there could be quite a bit of value in some of the betting lines when it comes to this week's NIT games ?
RE: I would also add the CBI, CIT and the women's NCAA Tournament to this list. How much motivation can a team like Syracuse have as a 13-point favorite against UNC Greensboro in Tuesday night's opening round of games in the NIT? Belmont is a really good team and yet it is a seven-point underdog against the SEC's Georgia Bulldogs, who could easily be another major program struggling to get motivated as a NIT team.
Doc's Sports : Given the high number of matchups in the first week of the NCAA Tournament, do you have any general handicapping tips to keep top of mind when it comes to betting on the games?
RE: The first thing is to pace yourself, especially if you are in Las Vegas this week. Instead of betting four or five games on Thursday, hold things back and only make a play on your top one or two high-unit picks. It's a long week of basketball, and you do not want to blow your whole bankroll right out of the gate.
Doc's Sports: We all know that college basketball takes center stage this week for most sports bettors. However, given the overall diversity of your betting radar, is there anything else on the board that we should be aware of as a great opportunity to cash a ticket?
RE : I am always interested in everything else going on outside the mainstream betting events. The two events at the top of my list this Saturday is the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn as part of the Kentucky Derby Trail and the pay per view fight on HBO between Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs in the middleweight division. Triple G is a heavy favorite, but Jacobs still has the ability to keeping things interesting for the duration of this fight.
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