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Moon Over Madness

 


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The month's full moon has come and gone and that peculiar malady known as March Madness almost is upon us.

Selection Sunday and spring's annual Big Dance are just around the corner, after America's college basketball conferences wipe up some unfinished business of their own.

Most leagues with postseason tourneys begin competition on Thursday.

Las Vegas oddsmaker Ken White says it's “easy" to forecast the NCAA Tournament's top four seeds: Florida, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio State.

"And when I say that, I'm ranking them in order, " he noted.

Ohio State (27-3) currently sits atop the Associated Press’ national hoops poll, but White is sticking with Florida (26-5) to again win it all.

The Gators have dropped three games in the last three weeks to SEC opponents Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee.

"Teams need something to play for, " White theorized.

"Florida already had its division clinched and already had lost a conference game (to the Commodores), so they couldn't play for an undefeated (league) season.

"There wasn't any motivation. "

The Buckeyes, he says, are starting an all-freshman team, while the defending champion and sixth-ranked Gators are laden with experience.

"If they were playing tomorrow, Florida would be a 3 1/2 to 4-point favorite, " White declared.

The managing partner of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies lines to a great majority of Nevada bet shops as well as clients elsewhere, thinks the ACC is is the USA's leading conference, while the SEC is its most underrated.

"The thing is the SEC has some good teams (in the Eastern Division), but The West is weak, " White said.

"The Big 12 is very good this year and the Big 10 is the weakest. "

White believes bettors still can find a few futures values, though he claims the best time to shop was closer to the holidays.

"The best time to buy futures is in December or early January, " he said.

"I've been pushing Georgetown for months, for example, but the number has really sunk. "

The Hoyas, 40/1 in January, are now 8/1.

Texas A&M, another club White has been high on, also is 8/1, down from 25/1.

Two teams the handicapper-turned-oddsmaker considers legitimate sleepers are Pitt and Louisville.

"Pittsburgh has the talent to win it all and right now Louisville is playing as well as anyone, " White said.

"I really like their coach (Rick Pitino). "

The 13th-ranked Panthers (25-6) are holding steady at 18/1, while No. 12 Louisville (22-8), winner of six straight since losing to Georgetown a month ago, has dropped from 100/1 to 25/1.

White also cautions players not to overlook No. 21 Duke (22-9).

The Blue Devils, perennial contenders under Coach Mike Krzyzewski, are having a down year by school standards, but White says they shouldn't be ignored.

The Mirage has Duke at 15/1, half the 30/1 it was a month ago.

"And watch out for Maryland (24-7), " White said.

The Terrapins, national champs in 2002, are ranked 17th.

Nevadans need look no further than their own backyard to find teams capable of making some tournament noise, the oddsmaker adds.

Both state schools are among the country's Top 25, with Nevada (27-3) ranked 10th and UNLV (25-6) 25th.

The Wolfpack has tumbled from 50/1 to 30/1, while the Rebels remain at 100/1.

"UNLV looks like it will get a decent seed now, " White said.

"For a while it looked like they might have to play a top seed or No. 2 in their first game. "

As for the Wolfpack, White couldn't find enough positive things to say about star Nick Fazekas.

"He can do everything, " White said.

"Whoever gets him in the NBA draft will be getting a real steal.

"I thought for a while he might go in the Top 5, but he's been pushed down.

"He'll still go in the first round, though - somewhere between 15th and 25th - and I see him having having a 10-year career averaging 16 to 18 points a game.

"He's a great team player. "

Those seeking more of a sure thing can always turn to nearby UCLA.

The Bruins, who lost to the Gators, are 26-4 and ranked fourth.

They've slipped from 8/1 in futures books to a current 9/2.

"I have UCLA as a second-tier team right now, " White said.

"They should get a No. 2 seed, maybe No. 3. "

White also notes the days of laughing at Winthrop are over.

He says the Eagles, who have made seven tournament appearances in the last nine years, could be this year's version of George Mason, the 2006 “Cinderella team. "

"They're the long shot, " White said.

Winthrop cracked the rankings in 24th this week, but was still 750/1 at the Mirage.

Brian Gabrielle is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Brian_Gabrielle.htm

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