Today’s Selections I

Beginning with an imaginary budget of $1,000.00, I will (imaginarily) wager on the outcome of selected college basketball games through the end of the NCAA tournament. A “unit” is $100.00. My game analysis is intended for the recreational benefit only of readers, and is not intended to stimulate gambling. Regular players should not increase their bets based on my recommendation. Non-gamblers should stay that way.

Season Recap. With Memphis’ unforgettable collapse against Kansas, we finish the season at -$30.00, with a 5-2 record on two unit plays. All in all, a big fat wash, which is not very satisfying. Like most disgruntled bettors, I suffered a disproportionate share of bad beats, culminated by Monday’s sordid affair. We’ll be back with our college basketball selections and forecast of teams to watch in the first week of November. In the meantime, we will watch closely the defection of college stars to the pros. You can expect the elite teams in the Pac-10 to be decimated. Stanford has already suffered the departure of the Lopez boys (as well as their coach, to LSU); UCLA is likely to lose Collison, Westbrook, and Love; OJ Mayo will leave USC; and Arizona bids adieu to Beyless and Buddinger. The unsettling truth is that just when these teams begin to hit their stride, they break up. If a team is built around superstars, it has a short shelf life. The wiser course is to build around talented but developing players who will stay the course. We look for the Big East to remain relatively intact during the off-season. If Alexander returns, West Virginia will be loaded. Pitt probably returns its best players, Sam Young and DuJuan Blair;though the 24-year-old Young could move on. Even Georgetown, which loses Hibbert, Ewing. and Wallace, retains a core of young talent to surround star freshmen recruit Greg Monroe. Louisville and Marquette will be back. We will be interested in what Jamal Gordon does at Mississippi State. If he returns, the Bulldogs could be a national power. And don’t forget Davidson. More to come on college basketball, baseball, pro football and other sports in the main blog, when and as the muse beckons.

Monday April 7

Beginning Balance $1190.00

National Championship Game

Memphis (38-1) -2 over Kansas (36-3). We’re late comers to the Memphis bandwagon, but I’m not getting off now. Rose and Douglas-Roberts are an overwhelming backcourt duo who made a mockery of Collison and Westbrook. The Tigers’ front court should more than hold its own with Kansas’ brutes. The Memphis team we’ve seen throughout this tournament is better than the Jayhawks. Two units. L

Saturday April 5

Beginning Balance $1100.00

Memphis (37-1) -1.5 over UCLA (35-3). We got this one early, at 1.5; but the value holds at 2. We don’t see the Tigers being rattled by the swarming UCLA “D”; and if you can hold on to your possessions against the Bruins, you can beat them, particularly if you have immense athleticism and two off-the-charts guards in Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. This is Memphis’ time, and year. Two units. W

North Carolina (36-2) -3 over Kansas (35-3). The difference here is Tyler Hansbrough. We can’t see him allowing the Tarheels to lose. As good as they are, the Jayhawks lack a leader of Hansbrough’s ilk. Roy Williams turns my stomach with his cornball hypocrisy; but there’s no denying the integrity of his roster. One unit. L

Tuesday April 1

Beginning Balance $1,000.00

We’re all the way back, right where we started. Beginning Balance $1,000.00. Ten weeks of handicapping, and I’m
marching in place. So what else is new?

Read the handwriting on the wall kiddies. Memphis is devastating. A very good Texas team never had a chance. As much as we like UCLA, it’s hard to see them keeping pace with the ultra-talented Tigers, who not only play good defense but are careful with the ball (averaging less than ten turnovers during the tournament). Grab them now early, at -1.5, because this line will swell.

Davidson gave Kansas a heartfelt scare. The Wildcats’ surge has been one of the great NCAA runs. As the owner of a 40-1 shot on Davidson, I wish it had gone on. But for an abnormally low hit rate by Curry, it would have.

UMass (24-10) +4.5 over Florida (24-11). UMass has three New York born front court senior starters (Forbes, Brower, and Milligan). The game is at the Garden. These guys average 6’8″. That kind of size with that kind of motivation spells coverage, if not victory, over the young Gators. One unit. W

Sunday March 30

Beginning Balance $700.00

Davidson (29-6) +9.5 over Kansas (34-3). Might be thinking with heart rather than head, but Davidson played several of the big boys in December and held tough, and they’ve just beaten the best of the Big East and Big Ten. Robinson will be Curry’s stiffest test, but here’s hoping the dream continues. One unit. W

Memphis (36-1) -3.5 over Texas (31-6). Tigers run nine deep while Longhorns rely heavily on starting five. Rose will neutralize Texas’ strength at guard. It’s time to acknowledge that Memphis is real deal. Two units. W

Saturday March 299

Beginning Balance $610.00

Texas victory went as predicted. Should have hopped on overpowering Memphis, but got caught up in hype about seasoned Spartans. Experience is no substitute for a 40″ vertical leap.

Xavier (30-6) +6 over UCLA (34-3). Uclans tendency to play it close could bite them against veteran Musketeers, who feature six interchangeable parts each averaging double figures. Love will not have his way in the post against brutish Duncan and pesky Lavender is quick enough to bother Collison. Senior guard Burrell may have edge against Westbrook. Seldom-used front court sub Keefe had a career game against Western Kentucky; but if he reverts to form, Xavier front court may actually edge UCLA’s, particularly if Shipp remains comatose. Bruins’ harassing defense will not unnerve poised Ohioans. One unit. L

North Carolina (35-2) – 5.5 over Louisville (27-8). Cardinal got away with 20 turnovers against Tennessee, but ‘Heels won’t be as forgiving. Their press will unnerve ‘Ville’s shaky point guards, and it’s unlikely Cards can match Carolina firepower.Two units. W

Friday March 28

Beginning Balance $410.00

Thank you Carolina, for saving the Dar from the sub-prime lenders.

Texas (30-6) -1.5 over Stanford (28-7). Stanford’s pre-conference schedule was weak, including a loss at Siena and a one-point victory over Texas Tech. They’ve beaten no top 50 team out of the Pac-10. Texas holds wins over Tennessee, UCLA, and Kansas. We’ve been on the Lopez boys all year, and they’re great, but Texas’ guard supremacy will outweigh Cardinal’s advantage up front. Two units. W

Thursday March 27

Beginning Balance $210.00

I’m right on the brink of needing a capital infusion. I never should have messed with the NIT. Tonight we risk our entire stash on the Tarheels.

North Carolina (34-2) -7.5 over Washington State (26-5). The conclusion is inescapable that the ‘Heels will run over the slow-footed Cougars, who normally play a steady, mistake-free game. But they haven’t seen this kind of firepower in the Pac-10, even from UCLA and Stanford who beat them collectively five times. Cougs get very little from their bench. Two units. W

Monday March 24

Beginning Balance $320.00

This is getting demoralizing. Georgetown, the most disciplined of teams, is up 17 in the second half and loses. This was my first 2 unit loss of the season after three wins, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. There’s not much time left to get even. But I’m not so desperate that I’ll wager on the CBI. I’ve got some principles left. However, the NIT is a different story.

UAB (23-10) +8 over Virginia Tech (20-13). UAB gave Memphis fits in their first game, and posted 12-4 in Conference USA play. That’s enough for me to take the eight against a Hokie squad that would rather be elsewhere. One unit. L

Sunday March 23

Beginning Balance $440.00

Georgetown (28-5) -4.5 over Davidson (27-6). Don’t think for a moment that Stephon Curry will run wild over Hoyas as he did over ‘Zags. More likely, he’ll shoot under 40% and total 18-22 points, a far cry from the 40 he racked up Friday. Hoyas stifling defense allows no quarter. Davidson, with no starter over 6’8″ will have its hands full with Hibbert. This one may be easy. Two units. L

Mississippi State (23-10) +9.5 over Memphis (34-1) ). This is a hunch play, but Bulldogs’ quartet of bruisers (Gordon, Rhodes, Varnado, and Hansbrough) will not be intimidated by Memphis athleticism. Stewart provides 3 point capability. We’ve thought for a while that Bulldogs were class of SEC, and now is time to prove it. One unit. W

Saturday March 22

Beginning Balance $450.00

Miss. State will not back down to Memphis. Clemson played mindlessly with a lead.

Marquette (25-9) +3 over Stanford (27-7). The feeling here is that Marquette’s slashers are too much for Stanford’s guards and may put one or more of the Lopez boys in foul trouble. One unit. W

Pitt (27-9) -2 over Michigan State (26-8). This game should be played in the ring rather than on the court. Both teams are extremely physical. It will be a war. Blair must stay out of foul trouble for the Panthers, and Spartans must find a way to contain Sam Young, who will be the best athlete on the floor. Pitt has better end game. One unit. L

Friday March 21

Beginning balance $460.00

Mississippi State (22-10) -2 over Oregon (18-13). Ducks do everything but win. Bulldogs are powerful, with shot blocker Varnado and 6’5″, 225 lb Jamont Gordon directing traffic. Ben Hansbrough and Charles Rhodes complete a formidable foursome. Oregon over reliant on 3. One unit. W

Clemson (24-9) -6 over Villanova (20-12). Tiger duo of Booker and Mays should decimate average ‘Nova front line. Shut down Reynolds, and shut down the ‘Cats. One unit. L

Thursday March 20

Beginning Balance $470.00

West Virginia (24-10) -2 over Arizona (19-14). Arizona has failed to live up to expectations all season. Why should today be any different? West Virginia getting better with geometric improvement of Alexander. One unit.

USC (20-11) -3 over Kansas State (21-11). USC is used to tournament success while K. State is making its debut in this arena with everything riding on freshman Beasley. Taj Gibson could be the hero for the Trojans. One unit. L

Tuesday March 18 and Wednesday March 19

Beginning Balance $480.00

Tonite and tomorrow we’ll dabble in the NIT and the new CBI, as we wait for the Big Dance to ensue. Both plays are straight power rating gambles, with each dog actually scoring higher than its foe in the RPI index.

Richmond (16-14) +11 over Virginia (15-15). One unit. W

Charlotte (20-13) +8.5 over Nebraska (19-12). One unit. L

Sunday March 16

Beginning Balance $480.00

When Bohannon, an 89% foul shooter, missed two with seven seconds left to cost the Badgers, and me, a cover, I knew I was in for a bad day. I’ve fired the consultant who gave me BYU. Clemson too strong inside for Duke, which lacks a strong front court player and could be the weakest two seed. With Collison leading the attack, UCLA is ultra-tough at crunch time.

No selections.

Saturday March 15

Beginning Balance $700.00

Some measure of redemption achieved with 3-0 record on night sched. We’ll carryover the Kentucky bet from last night, and supplement the offerings as the day goes on.

Wisconsin (27-4) -3 over Michigan State (25-7). Badgers throttled Spartans 57-42 in first encounter. They’re not fancy, but they’ve got a great propensity to win. That’s enough. One unit. L

Duke (27-4) -4.5 over Clemson (23-8). Duke has been under the radar this season, relying more on the jump shot than they’d like. Clemson has a couple of bruisers who will pound the Blue Devils inside. But Duke is still Duke, and at these prices, I’m buying. One unit. L

Stanford (26-6) +3.5 over UCLA (30-3). If revenge ever mattered, this is the time for it. Stanford’s lost two close ones to the Bruins, including last week’s robbery at Pauley. Luc Ricard is out for UCLA, and that’ll weaken them up front where the Lopez brothers are a load. One unit. W

Georgetown-Pitt over 124.5
See comments to yesterday’s game with WVU. Pitt will force the tempo. One unit. W

Brigham Young (27-6) +1 over UNLV (25-7). Yes, we’re picking straight into a home court advantage; but my sources tell me BYU is the better squad, and they’ve won 15 of last 16. One unit. L

Friday March 14

Beginning Balance $620.00

0-5 is no way to begin the post-season; but there’s a long way to go. I told you about WVU’s Joe Alexander (How rare is a 6’8″ white guy who can jump thru the roof), but I didn’t expect him to bite UConn for 34. It’s the largest Big East tournament scoring total in twelve years. Today, we’ll try to get on the board early with a rare totals play coupled with the big dog.

1. Michigan (10-21) + 13.5 over Wisconsin (26-4). 2. Over 118. Wolverines kept it close at Madison 64-61 in February. They’ve improved sufficiently over the season to register at least 52 points against Badgers. If so, we have at least a push. One unit each. L, L

Kentucky (18-11) -3.5 over Georgia (14-16). Despite surprising play of SEC tailenders so far, this seems like a slight number for the Wildcats, even without Patterson. One unit. No bet

Pittsburgh (24-9) +2.5 over Marquette (24-8). It’s Panthers’ time of year. They’ve made Big East finals six of the past seven years. Marquette is nice; but Pitt plays incredible defense and enjoys mismatch with DuJuan Blair. One unit. W

Georgetown/West Virginia over 121.5 Despite Georgetown’s stifling defense and long possessions, this game features plenty of great shooters and clutch performers. Emergence of Alexander as a major scoring threat is a boost. One unit. W

Stanford (25-6) -2 over Washington State (24-7). We’re going against double revenge because we think the Lopez boys are unstoppable. Cougars’ big men are ordinary. Cardinal wing players are good enough to keep up with Low, Weaver, and Rochestie. W

Beginning Balance $950.00

LSU (13-17) – 2 over South Carolina (13-17). These teams are moving in different directions. Bengals won four of last five in conference, including road rout of Gamecocks. Odom out at end of year. One unit L

UConn (24-7) -2.5 over West Virginia (23-9). Mounties have no big-body answer to 7’3″ Thabeet. Plus, he’s backed by rugged front-liners Adrien and Robinson. Alexander and Ruoff can’t do it by themselves. One unit. L

USC (20-10) -4.5 over Arizona State (19-11). Trojans on a roll with everybody contributing. Arizona State’s best days are behind them. One unit. L

Wednesday March 12

Syracuse (19-12) -2 over Villanova (19-11). Winner of this game makes the NCAA’s. Teams exchanged victories on each other’s court, but ‘Cuse is on the uptick. Emergence of Onuaku at center gives Orange strong inner core to complement stellar wing play of Flynn, Greene, and Harris. Villanova’s nice, but can’t keep pace with relentless Orange attack. One unit. L

West Virginia (22-9) -8.5 over Providence (15-15),. Mountaineers have two great players – Ruoff and Alexander- to none for Providence. Welsh a lame duck coach at Providence, while Huggins has his crew inspired. WVU crushed Friars twice during regular season. We see no reason for change in outcome at neutral setting. One unit. L

Tuesday March 11

Beginning Balance $1170.00

Like Ron Burgundy, I owe my success to San Diego. Riding a six of seven surge, Dar will take the night off to rest up for the beginning of major conference tournament play tomorrow.

Monday March 10

Beginning Balance $1070.00

Say so long to those seedy motels in Tijuana. The Dar is comfortably housed in a 5-star hotel north of the Mendoza line, finishing in the plus column for the regular season. A network of subscribers says, “Thank you, Dar.” Let’s pad our profits during the post-season, as follows:

San Diego (20-13) +7.5 over Gonzaga (25-6). Sure, the Toreros are exhausted from their double OT win in the late game; and sure, Gonzaga is coming on with the return to form of Heytvelt. But Diego has played the ‘Zags twice already, they’re at home, and that’s a lot of points. One unit. W

Sunday March 9

Beginning Balance $870.00

Overtime loss by Vandy kept Dar from 4-0 sweeper. Last four Commodore contests have gone to final seconds. Syracuse could be a monster in Big East tournament, which is exactly how I’d describe their center Onuaku. Washington State could suffer early ouster to Oregon in Pac-10 tournament. Return of Lawson helps ‘Heels immeasurably

Drake (27-4) -2 over Illinois State (24-8). ‘Cakers hold two narrow regular season wins over Ill State, which mitigates aqainst easy win, but they’ve answered every bell so far on way to dream season. One unit. W

San Diego (19-13) +5 over Saint Mary’s (25-5). Toreros beat Gaels on this floor by eight in regular season, and were 11-3 in conference. See no reason why they can’t keep it close in this WCC semi-final. Assuming ‘Cakers have covered, this first foray into the WCC will determine plus or minus for the regular season. One unit. W

Saturday March 8

Beginning Balance $680.00

Stanford loss left me speechless; but Bruins have cemented their status as the team to beat, in my view. They are battle hardened after two straight final fours, and play the best defense.

Syracuse (18-12) -1.5 over Marquette (22-7). Despite shaky status, ‘Cuse’s young players are rapidly improving. Win here could activitate Orangemen NCAA hopes; and home crowd will be out for blood after debacle last Sat. v. Pitt. One unit. W

Vanderbilt (25-5) +1.5 over Alabama (15-15) Can’t imagine that Vandy will allow dream season to be besmirched by a loss to lowly Crimson. Shan Foster on a roll. One unit. L

Washington (16-14) +9.5 over Washington State (22-7). Huskies have been playing better lately with wins over UCLA and Oregon and a narrow loss at Stanford. They should keep this rivalry tilt close especially since Cougars like to play in the 50’s. One unit. W

North Carolina (28-2) +1.5 over Duke (26-3). It’s hard to believe that Duke can knock Tarheels off twice this season. Revenge plus Hansborough equals victory. One unit. W

Thursday March 5

Beginning Balance $910.00

Vandy buzzer win over Miss. State was so exciting I almost forgot I lost the cover. Baylor disappointing. May be too late for ‘Cuse. Kentucky scrapping its way up the ladder.

Clemson (21-7) -2 over Georgia Tech (12-16). There are two sides to evaluating Clemson. Gosh, they looked good coming back against Maryland. God, how could they fall behind by 20 to Maryland? Techsters have thrown in towel, losers of six of last seven. One unit. L

Connecticut (23-6) -4.5 over Providence (14-14). Revenge is the difference here as Huskies exact a toll for Friars’ 77-65 romp in Storrs in January. Six weeks will never seem so long ago. One unit. L

Stanford (24-3) +8.5 over UCLA (26-3).
This is the game of the week. UCLA is our early pick to win it all, but Stanford has the best front-court tandem in recent history with the Lopez boys. Plus, they have revenge working. We’re not sure Cardinal wing players can match athleticism of Shipp, Collison, and Westbrook; but if Stanford can control the pace, they will cover. One unit. L

Michigan State (23-6) -2.5 over Illinois (12-17). Influx from ultra-quick freshmen Lucas and Ellen
has energized staid Spartan offense. They went from 42 vs. Wisconsin to 103 in blowout of Indiana. Something’s going on, and it bodes poorly for Illini. One unit. W

Wednesday March 4

Beginning Balance $930.00

Vanderbilt (24-5) -3.5 over Mississippi State (20-8). Combination of revenge, great home court advantage, and senior night (including farewell of the great Shan Foster) should prove too much for worthy Bulldogs. Vandy pushing for 3 or 4 seed. One unit. L

Baylor (20-8)-1 over Texas A&M (21-8). Baylor defeated Aggies in marathon 5-OT affair in January. Ordinarily, would go with revenge in this scenario, but Bears need it, and A&M has shown little of late. One unit. L

Kentucky (16-11) +3 over South Carolina (13-15). Even without Patterson, Wildcats have more talent and motivation than hapless ‘Cocks. One unit. W

Syracuse (17-12)-2.5 over Seton Hall (17-12).Orangemen must be fuming after pathetic giveaway
against Pitt Saturday. ‘Cuse has big talent edge, and must win out to have any chance at NCAA’s. One unit W

Tuesday March 4

No selections.

Monday March 3

Beginning Balance $830.00

Can’t anybody hold a lead, for God’s sake? My trifecta of losers who blew major late game advantages included Syracuse, Wash State and Maryland. The most unforgivable was Maryland, which led by 20 and lost. The Terps’ late game composure was pitiful. Vasquez should be locked up with a year’s supply of Clearasil. Out of disgust for the sides, I’m going to try my hand at a total tonite only.

West Virginia (20-9) and Pittsburgh (21-8) over 135. Figure the Mountaineers to fire it up early and often. Pitt will try to keep pace. Check out WVU’s emerging star Joe Alexander. One unit. W

Sunday March 2

Beginning Balance $950.00

Late game collapses by Syracuse and Wash State cost Dar a four-game sweep. ‘Cuse forfeited 11 pt lead with less than four minutes left by going to delay game. Wash State was overcome by Lopez Bros., who are decidedly the best pair of twins to ever play. Do not try to score inside against these guys. Stanford-UCLA game Thursday is big.

Indiana (24-4) + 5 over Michigan State (22-6). As previously noted on these pages, Spartans have slipped a notch from prior years. They’ve maintained their home court victory streak this year, but have not played the conference leaders at Breslin Center. Indiana crushed them two weeks ago, and talent edge should keep Hoosiers close this time. One unit. L

LSU (11-16) -4 over Georgia (12-14). Ordinarily we do not like laying wood with losing team, but LSU with new coach Butch Pierre is playing better and Georgia is hapless. One unit. W

Maryland (18-11) +1 over Clemson (20-7). There will be a certain irony in the Terps, whom I have besmirched, taking me back to positivity. But after much deliberation, I have determined that there is nothing special about Clemson, and the Terps need this one badly. Home court a big plus here. One unit. L

Saturday March 1

Beginning Balance $970.00

The long climb back to statehood is almost complete aided by a two-unit romp with Wash State and a backdoor cover with the Irish. Harangody hit his first three 3’s of the season in succession late to further Dame’s effort. The Cougars, one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the country, left no doubt. Now, for the breakthrough to positivity.

UConn (22-6) -3.5 over West Virginia (20-8). Huskies in scramble for top spot in Big East, and will get dose of outside shooting from former leading scorer Dyson, back from suspension. Mountaineers are a little too dependent on 3-ball accuracy to flourish away from home One unit. W

Syracuse (17-11) -2.5 over Pitt (22-9). Orangemen absolutely need this game to make NCAA’s. Pitt has slight cushion. ‘Cuse’s five starters average 75 pts/game. Bench is thin, but feel they have too much explosion for Pitt to keep up One unit. L

Washington State (22-6) +5 over Stanford (23-4) Cougars looked great against Cal Thurs, and have revenge motive. No slap at Cardinal, but Cougs should keep it close or win. Weaver will be best player on court not named Lopez. One unit. L

Washington (15-14) + 4 over California (15-11) Huskies just missed at Stanford Thurs. and also have revenge working. They run seven deep and are experienced. Bears not very talented and sinking fast. One unit. W

Thursday February 28

Beginning Balance $670.00

Vandy win over Tennessee was stirring. Missed injury report on Bradley. Tasty Cakers finally run stale.

Notre Dame (21-5) +8 over Louisville (22-6). Both teams are hot, but Irish have big advantage at the stripe. And who’s going to stop Harangody? One unit. W

Washington State (21-6) -2 over California (15-10). Cougars have great road record, and are out for revenge. Bears just not in their class. Two units. W

Tuesday February 26

Beginning Balance $790.00

Bradley (17-12) -1 over Southern Illinois (16-12). Resurgent Braves should prevail at home against Salukis, who have struggled on road. One unit. L

Drake (24-3) over Missouri State (14-15). We’re not jumping off the Tasty Cakers bandwagon until they give us a reason. One unit. L

Vanderbilt (23-4) +1.5 over Tennessee (25-2). All the mental lies with homestanding Commodores who have defeated the last three number one’s they’ve faced at Memorial Gymnasium. One unit. W

Monday February 25

Beginning Balance $690.00

Another one-point loss to add to the portfolio, but ‘Ville was the better team. Pitt now in danger of missing NCAA’s.

Marquette (20-6) -1.5 over Villanova (17-9). Villanova has surprised me lately, particularly in win over UConn; but their mini-run ends here against Marquette’s quartet of slashers: James, Hayward, McNeal, and Matthews. One unit.W

Sunday February 24

Beginning Balance $700.00

UConn had its chances, but missed rebound off foul shot cost coverage.

Pittsburgh (19-7) + 1 over Louisville (21-6). ‘Ville is extremely worthy, and is 5-2 on the road in the Big East. We just feel that Panthers are due to put one together. Fields is healthy, and Pitt needs this one desperately to cement NCAA bid. One unit. L

Wisconsin (22-4) -1 over Ohio State (17-9). Badgers have uncanny knack to “just win, baby.” In a similar spot, as short road fave, they’ve covered against Minnesota and Illinois. Also, they beat Indiana at Bloomington. We like them until further notice. One unit. W

Saturday February 23

Beginning Balance $720.00

Last-second losses at Minnesota and USC hasten Dar’s downward spiral. Ducks blew 16 pt first half lead. Michigan was tied with three minutes left. We need a break.

UConn (21-5) +1.5 over Villanova (16-9). UConn dominant up front and Price should neutralize Reynolds. Wildcats surprised us against WVU, but do not see repeat against surging Huskies, who are hitting their late season stride. One unit.

Cincinnati (13-12) +14 over Georgetown (21-4). Hoyas are struggling to score in half-court set, often running 30-35 seconds off shot clock before firing. Bearcats on 3-game conference streak (8-5 overall) and boast wins over Louisville, Pitt, WVU, and Villanova. They are not an easy out, and should keep this one within the margin. One unit. L

Kentucky (14-10) -1 over Arkansas (18-7). Wildcats still in must-win mode while Hogs have probably punched ticket to tourney. Kentucky undefeated at home in SEC including win over Tennessee. One unit. W

Baylor (17-8) -1 over Kansas State (18-7). Baylor’s season on line after losses in six of last seven. K. State not a great road squad. Baylor balance prevails over Beasley and Walker. One unit. W

Thursday February 21

Beginning Balance $840.00

Hard to explain WVU collapse against ‘Nova. Some teams, including evidently Miss. State, are unrecognizable on the road. Now that we are far along in conference play, we see teams meeting for the second time. When two virtually equal teams meet in a rematch, and the favored team has lost on its home floor in game 1, we like the underdog on the road in game 2 in a revenge spot. See UM, Virginia, and Oregon below.

Michigan (8-17) + 8 over Minnesota (15-9). Wolves have won three in a row in conference and are developing stars in Harris and Sims. Beilien starting to take effect. One unit. L

Virginia (12-12) +6.5 over Ga. Tech (11-13). Cavaliers are playing better, but have little to show for it. Tech won OT nail-biter in Charlottesville. One unit. Game canceled.

Oregon (15-10) +4.5 over USC (15-9). Oregon is a veteran team with balanced scoring, unlike Mayo-led Trojans, who will be missing point guard Hackett. One unit. L

Notre Dame (19-5) -4.5 over Pitt (19-6). Pitt was awful against Marquette, and is 4-4 in last 8. That won’t cut it against Irish, who are tough at home and feature unstoppable Harangody. One unit. W

Wednesday February 20

Beginning Balance $960.00

White’s return at full strength undermined Purdue play. Kentucky a fortunate push. Baylor is third straight prior-loss-at- home revenge play to cash in. Tonight we go with three road warriors.

West Virginia (18-7) -1 over Villanova (15-9) Mountaineers can come at you in many different ways. Ruoff and Alexander are exceptional. Great ball movement and 3-point shooting. We see them as a dark-horse team in post-season play. Villanova overly dependent on Reynolds, but has few options. This one could be easy. One unit. L

Wisconsin (21-4) -1.5 over Illinois (15-9). Wisconsin just wins, Illini just loses. Illinois a bit stronger lately (see tough loss to Indiana, road win over Minnesota), but loss at Penn State highlights their consistency. And that’s a bad quality against methodical and relentless Badgers. One unit. W

Mississippi State(17-7) P over Mississippi (17-7). These squads sport the same record, but they’re moving in different directions. Ole Miss started out 13-0, but faltered with the start of conference play. Miss State has two pro prospects, Jamont Gordon and 6’11” shot blocker Jarvis Vardado, who’s registered 114 swatbacks this season. They may be 2nd best team in SEC, a prospect which wil be tested 3/8 at Vandy. One unit. L

Tuesday February 19

Beginning Balance $970.00

Syracuse blew cover in last few seconds after trailing by four inside a minute and a half. Orangemen badly outrebounded, and unable to hit the 3-ball, which does not bode well for post-season. Greene played horribly. Louisville is solid, particularly Terrence Williams, and goes 8 deep.

Baylor (17-7) +6 over Oklahoma (17-8) Baylor has revenge plus substantial points working in its favor. Since 5 OT affair at College Station, Bears have floundered on road. Sooners not overpowering and favor grind it out game. One unit W

Purdue (21-5) + 5 over Indiana (21-4). Among Purdue’s top six, four are freshmen and two sophs. Freshmen Moore and Hummel are getting better each game. We like Indiana, but injury to White will diminish them, and letdown inevitable after emotional win Saturday over Mich. State. One unit. L

Kentucky (13-10) -6 over Georgia (12-11) Kentucky has won each of its SEC home games by six or more, and Georgia has lost each of its SEC road encounters by six or more. Despite revenge element, we like ‘Cats to continue to improve. One unit. T

Monday February 18

Beginning Balance $980.00

South of the Mendoza line the air is heavy and the service is not so good. I yearn to get back to the states. Virginia’s only two ACC wins this year are against the College. Where is Jared Dudley when you need him?

Syracuse (17-9) + 9.5 over Louisville (20-6) . Erratic Orangemen had it going against Georgetown after stinking up the joint at South Florida. Harris is emerging as big-timer to compliment great rookies Greene and Flynn. Big men chipping in. ‘Ville very tough, but Syracuse can punch ticket to NCAA’s with win in this spot. We’ll settle for cover. One unit. L

Xavier (21-4) +2 over Rhode Island (20-5). Rams 11-0 this year at home, but haven’t faced likes of Musketeers, who boast six players in doubles, three four-year starters, and hold wins over Indiana and Kansas State. Xavier likely no worse than 3 seed in tourney, and unlikely to stumble here. One unit. W

Sunday February 17

Beginning Balance $1090.00

At long last, a winning day. But it should have been better. Wolfpack were tied with 3:00 left, and Arizona had victory within grasp.

Boston College (13-10) -4 over Virginia (11-12). Home court plus revenge should be enough for BC to hold serve with relatively benign spread. One unit. L

Saturday February 16

Beginning Balance $1010.00.

From $900.00 up to $10.00 ahead (1-9) in the space of four days. Enough to buy lunch… but hold the fries. It doesn’t seem right, but I can’t say that I’m shocked. This is a tough business. See my comments of last Sunday. But surrender is not an option. I push forward.

Kentucky (12-10) -2 over LSU (9-14). There is good value here since Wildcats are off pummeling at Vanderbilt, and LSU played Tennessee tough at this venue. Kentucky has Bradley back, and can’t afford a loss to this SEC tailender. One unit. W

Drake (22-2) – 1.5 over N. Iowa (15-10) Tasty Cakers lost their first in conference at SIU Wednesday. I can’t see two in a row against the likes of middling Bulldogs. One unit. W

N.C. State (15-9) +6 over Clemson (18-6)
We think Clemson lacks sufficient poise to cover this spot on road against competitive Wolfpack. One unit. L

Arizona (16-8) -1.5 over Stanford (20-4). Cardinal extremely wobbly down stretch against Arizona State. Bad foul shooting and few options outside Brothers Lopez. Arizona has triple threat with Bayless, Buddinger, and Hill.
One unit. L

Indiana (20-4) -4 over Michigan State (20-4). Sampson situation ready to explode and so should Hoosiers who have lots of pent-up emotion after horrible loss to Wisconsin. Spartans cannot match Indy offense and will bear brunt in possible blow-out. One unit. W

Friday February 15

Beginning Balance $1120.00

Stanford blew a 13 pt lead with less than six minutes to clinch another losing night. The Cardinal’s twin towers are formidable, but they lack an athletic wing player. Arizona State’s Hardin is one of the three or four best freshmen in the country.

Pittsburgh (19-5) +5 over Marquette (17-6).I like both of these teams and their coaches, but how can you not take five in what should be a close game? One unit. L

Thursday February 14

Beginning Balance $1340.00

Dar’s 0-4 debacle eroded profits by 46%. But we’re $340 in the black, and we’re going to get it back step by step, beginning tonite.

Georgia Tech (11-11) + 8.5 over Clemson (17-6). GT has hung tough with Indiana, UNC, Kansas, and UConn. That’s all we’re asking tonite. One unit. L

Stanford (20-3) – 3.5 over Arizona State (15-7) The Cardinal has won seven straight over better teams than A. State, which played its first good game in weeks vs. ‘Zona. Lopez twins are dominant. One unit. L

Wednesday February 13

Beginning Balance $1780.00

So much for Minny. And so much for the Tarheels if they’re going to struggle against the likes of Virginia. Thankfully, Purdue held serve.

Indiana (20-3) -4 over Wisconsin (19-4). Hoosiers host Badgers, Mich. State, and Purdue in succession. Furor over Sampson could cut either way. We like firepower of Gordon and White, plus home court, over staid Wiscy offense. One unit. L

Syracuse(16-10) -4.5 over South Florida (10-14). Bulls have lost last four home games by average of sixteen. Syracuse is exploding with young and improving talent. One unit.L

Kansas State (17-5) -2 over Texas Tech (12-10). Early returns are not good for young Knight. Talented K. State not likely to be sidetracked by ragged Techsters. One unit. L

Baylor (17-5) + 1 over Oklahoma State (11-12). Baylor plays well on road, gets good guard play, and uses two 7-footers. They’re tourney-bound and should handle an indifferent Cowboy squad. One unit. L

Tuesday February 12

Beginning Balance $1900.00

Georgetown showing disturbing inability to score the ball for long stretches. Villanova’s a one-man show with Reynolds. Bad game with ridiculous foul call with .1 second left as the decider.

Purdue (19-5) -1 over Michigan State (20-3) The Baby Boilers are atop the Big Ten at 10-1, their only loss coming at East Lansing. Spartans have fared poorly on road with shockers at Iowa and Penn State. They’ll soon face away games at Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois. It could be they’re overrated. One unit. W

Minnesota (15-7) -4.5 over Illinois (10-14). Ascending Minny should roll over despondent Illini. One unit. L

North Carolina (22-2) -7 over Virginia (10-14). We’re normally averse to laying huge chunks on the road in conference; but if Clemson can beat Cavs by 30 at Charlottesville, how can you pass on the Tarheels at this price? One unit. L

Monday February 11

Beginning Balance $1800.00

Ohio State never in it despite close score. D.J. White a monster for Hoosiers, who look strong. Pac-10 emerges as toughest conference top to bottom with tail-enders Arizona State and Washington humbling Arizona and UCLA, respectively.

Villanova (18-8) + 12 over Georgetown (19-4). Hoyas are outstanding, but like to work clock and are suspect with double-digit spread. Villanova is well-coached, has a great point guard, and has won six straight in D.C. One unit. W

Sunday February 10

Beginning Balance $1910.00

Three and one yesterday. My confidence is beginning to soar, but we all know that’s exactly when danger lurks. Stay humble. The A-10 takes center stage today. This conference may place four teams in the tourney. St. Joe’s is tempting plus 10, but The Dar will make his sole play of the day in the Big Ten.

Ohio State (16-7) -2.5 over Indiana (19-3). Buckeyes are very tough when home-standing. Indiana was lucky to survive at Illinois Thursday, and may be wearing down. One unit. L

Saturday February 9

Beginning Balance $1720.00

The beat goes on, as The Dar appears to be hitting his late-season stride. UCLA was steady in its coverage, but Indiana made its backers sweat. Any one of three charity attempts by Illinois’ Pruit would have sealed victory for Illini, first in regulation and then in the first overtime.

Texas A&M (19-4) -1 over Missouri (13-10). Having recovered from three-game losing streak three weeks ago, Aggies are ready to reclaim their status as one of nation’s top teams. A suffocating defense plus scoring balance proves too much for erratic Tigers still lacking top scorer (Hannah). One unit. W

Iowa (11-13) +9 over Minnesota (14-7). Middle of the pack Gophers do not warrant big spread against an opponent which hangs tough. Possible straight-up upset. One unit. L

Purdue (18-5) +10 over Wisconsin (19-3). This is one of only two games on calendar pitting top 25 teams. Despite 8-game winning streak and 9-1 Big Ten record, Boilermakers get no love. Wisconsin extremely tough at home, but their deliberate style makes big spread coverage problematic. One unit. W

Houston (17-4) P over Tulane (15-7). Cougars played Memphis tough in losing effort and have legitimate shot at at-large bid. Tulane improving, but can’t match opponent’s talent. One unit. W

Thursday February 7

Beginning Balance $1520.00.

Oklahoma the only blemish on a 4-1 outing. Tonite Dar goes with the chalk in two road skirmishes.

Indiana (18-3) -1 over Illinois (10-13). Illini’s only victories in the Big Ten have come against hapless Michigan and Northwestern. Hoosiers trying to keep pace with Michigan State and Wisconsin for conference lead. One unit. W

UCLA (20-2) -2 over Washington State (17-4). UCLA removed Wash State from undefeated ranks three weeks ago. Cougars fresh off home losses to California and Stanford. You’d think revenge plus bounce-back would take Cougars over the top. But Bruins are just too good. One unit. W

Wednesday February 6

Beginning balance $1230.00

Heytvelt’s failure to return to form is hurting ‘Zags, and is primary reason they fell short in OT Monday to St. Mary’s. Pargo, ‘tho, was outstanding. Gaels feature Australian freshman point guard Patty Mills (former teammate of Vanderbilt’s Ogilvy) but are otherwise unexceptional.

Oklahoma (15-6) -2 over Texas (17-4). We saw Texas get mangled by big A & M front line. Sooners capable of doing same let by burly Griffin bros. One unit. L

Maryland (14-8) -1.5 over Boston College (12-8). Momentum plus revenge spell continuation of Terp win streak. One unit. W

Vanderbilt (18-4) + 3.5 over Georgia (11-8). We’ll go back to the well one more time with ‘Dores against this average opponent. One unit. W

Kentucky (10-9) -2 over Auburn (12-8). We’ll stick with the improving Wildcats until further notice. One unit. W

Iowa (11-12) +7.5 over Wisconsin (18-3). Hawkeyes capable of hanging with Badgers. Beware of late game pullaway, ‘tho. One unit. W

Monday February 4>

Beginning Balance $1340.00

Wisconsin’s runaway win made double dip investment look prescient. Wolfpack foulline ineptitude stole defeat from the jaws of victory against mediocre Wake.

Gonzaga (17-5) +3 over St. Mary’s (18-3). Upstart Gaels have been looking for years to unseat Gonzaga at top of West Coast conference. They beat Santa Clara by 30, which Bulldogs struggled to beat in double OT last week. And they’re rated (21) over unrated ‘Zags. Nevertheless, we like Pargo and overall depth of Gonzaga. One unit. L

Sunday February 3

Beginning Balance $1250.00

As Dar further distances himself from the Mendoza line, his confidence is increasing. UConn showed plenty against Pitt yesterday. ‘Tho unrated, they are likely to challenge Georgetown for the Big East title, and will be a factor nationally, with or without suspended Dyson. Tennessee also showing signs, and may threaten Memphis’ undefeated run when they meet 2/23/08. Before that, however, looms big game with Arkansas 2/13. Kentucky still ascending. It was about time for Marquette on road.

North Çarolina State (13-7) – 4 over Wake Forest (13-6). We were unimpressed with Wake two weeks ago at Maryland, and they are missing key starter L.L. Williams. Wolfpack slightly better, and home court takes this one over top. One unit. L

Wisconsin (17-3) -1 over Minnesota (13-6). The Gophers are improving under Tubby Smith, but Badgers are wiser and stronger and relentless. With clamp-down defense and great end-game, Wiscy should not have a problem. Two units. W

Saturday February 2

Beginning Balance $1180.00

I’ve underrated Stanford which has beaten everybody. Arizona rolls over Trojans in anticipation of major test at UCLA today.

Syracuse (15-7) + 4 over Villanova (13-6). Short-staffed Orangemen have more talent among their eligible six than ‘Nova has on entire roster. Wildcats fading of late and too dependent on Reynolds. Plus, ‘Cuse has revenge motive. One unit. W

Cincinnati (10-11) +2 over Marquette (15-4). Golden Eagles a different team on road this year, unable to hit from 3-point land. Cincinnati has shown surprising strengh; and until further notice, we’ll ride the hot home squad with a couple. One unit. L

Kentucky (9-9) +2 over Georgia (11-7). After slow start, Wildcats cannot relax to ensure tourney berth. Meeks has returned, and we’re hopeful Crawford can play. Georgia is undistinguished. One unit. W

Pittsburgh (17-4) +4 over UConn (15-5). Huskies are rapidly improving, and shot blockers will make life difficult for Blair inside. But Panthers are battle-tough, and boast difference maker in Sam Young, particularly with suspended Dyson still on the shelf. One unit. L

Purdue (16-5) + 5 over Illinois (10-12). We don’t understand what Illini has done to warrant such favoritism over Purdue bunch which has won six in a row and is the surprise of the Big Ten. Maybe it’s a trap, but if so, we’re trapped. One unit. W

Tennessee (18-2) +1 over Mississippi State (14-6). Bulldogs streaked to top of SEC West with 5-0 start, but trouncing at Arkansas was comeuppance. Miss State is coming, but Vols are already there. One unit. W

Arizona (15-6) +9 over UCLA (19-2). It’s no slap at the Uclans, who are great, to think that the talented Wildcats can play them tough. Bayless and Buddinger can put up 45 by themselves. One unit. L

Thursday January 31

Beginning Balance $1190.00

Cincinnati (14 pt dog) blow-out win at West Va. was a shocker. Vanderbilt in free fall. Should not have gone against Dar favorite Pitt.

Washington (11-8) + 2 over Stanford (16-3). The hunch here is that Brockman, a veritable moose, will be able to neutralize the Lopez brothers. One unit. L
Arizona (14-8) + 3.5 over USC (13-8). I love both of these teams, but if Arizona is what I think it is, ‘Cats should prevail over a talented Trojan quintet which may be too reliant on OJ Mayo. One unit. W

Wednesday January 30

Beginning Balance $1210.00

It required divine intervention but Wolverines covered at the buzzer. Duke pulled away in the late stages as expected.

Cincinnatti plus 14 over West Virginia. Bearcats have played very tough of late with home victories over Louisville, Villanova and Syracuse. Mountaineers are good but spread is lofty. One unit. W

Vanderbilt plus 7.5 over Mississippi. We like the Commodores to bounce back after humbling defeats at Tennessee and Florida. Rebels looked woeful Saturday against Miss. State. One unit. L

Villanova plus 7.5 over Pittsburgh. Panthers struggle to score with depleted crew.
‘Cats keep it close. One unit. L

UMass plus 5.5 over Duquesne. Minutemen, with two 20 point producers, might win this one outright. One unit. W

Sunday January 27

Beginning Balance $1010.00.

Chop. Chop. Chop. That’s the sound of the Dar splitting games. And it was a fortunate split at that. Gonzaga and A&M were shaky winners, and Baylor and UMiss were never in it.

Michigan (5-14) + 16 over Michigan State (17-2). Wolverines are terrible, but at some point must show improvement with new coach Beilein. Spartans sometimes have difficulty scoring. One unit. W

Duke (16-1) – 5 over Maryland (12-7). We do not believe Terps effort over Carolina is sustainable. Today they revert to form while Duke remains Duke. One unit.

Saturday January 26

Beginning Balance $1030.00

Outmanned Dayton overpowered (-$110.00). Washington’s Brockman too strong for slender Sun Devils (+100.00).

Gonzaga +12.5 over Memphis We’ve been waiting all year for ‘Zags to heal, and they’re now at full strength. There’s no discounting overall talent of Memphis, but spread is too much against quality team with something to prove. One unit. W

Texas A & M (15-4) -1.5 over Oklahoma State (10-8) Three straight losses by A&M plus talent gap provide coverage. One unit. W

Baylor (16-2) – 4.5 over Oklahoma (13-5). Bears will continue their storybook season with home win over Sooners lacking best player, Blake Griffin. One unit. L

Mississippi (15-2) + 6 over Mississippi State (13-5) . We’ll take the points in what looks to be a fierce rivalry game between quality opponents. Rebels hung tough on the road against Tennessee. One unit. L

Thursday January 24

Beginning Balance $1040.00

Nobody said getting over the Mendoza line would be easy. 2-unit play UMass, which scored 16 in the first half, scored 61 in the second half and managed to make it close. Baylor took five overtimes to outlast A & M 116-111. The score at end of regulation was 64-64.

Dayton (14-2) plus 11.5 over Xavier (15-4) Flyers are actually the higher-rated team, and had won 13 in a row prior to loss at UMass. But injuries to starters Wright and Little account for this lofty spread. I’m always a sucker for a trap. One unit. L
Washington (11-7) plus 5 over Arizona State (14-3). A. State may be missing freshman sensation Harden. We were disappointed by their second-half fade-out against Stanford. Veteran Huskies (i.e. Brockman) may be able to bulk up Sun Devils inside. One unit. W

Wednesday January 22

Beginning balance $740.00

2-0 get well message on Sunday takes some of the sting from Saturday’s bloodbath. Huskies had no trouble with Marquette, and San Diego under was never in doubt.

UMass (13-4) plus 7 over St. Joseph’s (10-5) Minutemen are well-kept secret with road wins at Syracuse, BC, and Dayton. They’ve got two 20-point scorers in Forbes and Harris. And there’s revenge working. Hawks won at UMass Jan 9th. Two units. W
Baylor (15-2) plus 9 over Texas A&M (15-3) I loved A&M early in the year but consecutive losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State (on 35% shooting) have dimmed their luster. Baylor is an emerging program with all five starters in double figures. One unit. W

Sunday January 19

Beginning Balance $540.00

1-5 performance yesterday has Dar scurrying to find sub-prime lender for capital infusion. Kentucky OT loss as 7.5 dog was capper on very Bad Day at Black Rock. Other losses were not even close. Dar owes Maryland buddies an apology but they won’t get one. In search of lost confidence and credibility, we march on.

Connectitut ( 11-5) -2 over Marquette (13-3). Shot-rejecting Huskies gave Georgetown a scare last week, and then were snowed under at home by flurry of 3-balls by Providence. Marquette shaky on the road. Huskies get first big win of the year. One unit.W

San Diego-New England under 47.5. Hobbled Chargers unlikely to move ball in frigid weather. One unit. W

Saturday January 18

Beginning Balance $990.00

Vanderbilt lingered briefly under the number inside five minutes, but Vols were too strong (-110); ‘Cats eked out coverage in game which could have gone either way (+100).

Georgia Tech (7-8) -4.5 over Virginia Tech (11-6) Yellowjackets have taken Indiana, Kansas, and North Carolina to the brink before losing. Hokies have earned consecutive one-point squeakers over Maryland and Virginia. Feel tables will turn.One unit. W

North Carolina (18-0) -19 over Maryland (11-7) Ordinarily reluctant to lay big number against normally tough conference foe but Maryland’s recent play leads me to think no spread is too big against Carolina point machine. This one could get ugly early. One unit. L

Texas A&M (15-2) -1.5 over Kansas State (11-4). Favor Aggies’ defense and experience over star power of Kansas State (Beasley and Walker). One unit. L

Boston College (12-4) +5.5 over Virginia (11-5) Find little in Cavaliers’ resume to warrant sizable spot over BC squad which defeated ranked Miami and is perennially tough on the road. One unit. L

Kentucky (7-8) + 7.5 over Florida (15-3) Both squads are on the upswing. We like freshman center Patrick Patterson and seasoned guards Bradley and Crawford to keep Wildcats under the number against predominantly freshmen defending champs. One unit.
Arizona State (14-2) +8 over Stanford (14-3) Sun Devils have great freshman Harden. Slow pace of Cardinal, featuring 7′ Lopez brothers, makes this spot an overlay.
One unit. L

Thursday January 16

Beginning Balance $1000.00

Arizona +5.5 over Stanford We’ve previously set forth our feeling about Arizona. It’s a team on the rise getting a healthy number against a slow Stanford team. The Cardinal has reconstructed its program with 7′ Twin Towers Brooke and Robin Lopez (sounds like they play for the girls team). It’s a kick to see coach Trent Johnson substitute the identical behemoths for offense (Brooke) and defense (Robin) late in the game. But speed and athleticism wins out here over inside power. One unit. W

Vanderbilt + 10.5 over Tennessee Vanderbilt has displayed a disturbing tendency to fall behind big against lesser opponents. That won’t happen here because the Volunters are by no means a lesser opponent. In fact, they’re first in one leading RPI index. This is the night’s biggest game featuring in-state rivals both in the top 20 for the first time in forty years. We like the high-scoring Commodores to keep it within the spread. One unit. L