Go with Chippewas as NCAA conference tourneys begin

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It all hits the fan this week as the rest of the conferences play to see if they can get a spot in the NCAA tournament, which would mean big money for their schools. It all is about the $$$ now as we head to the Big Dance.

The Mid-American Conference started their tournament on Monday and this looks to be a little wide open. The Central Michigan Chippewas (I like that name) and their big guard Chris Fowler try and win this, but they will need to contend with Kent, Toledo and Bobby Hurley’s crew from Buffalo.

Last year Western Michigan won this MAC tourney but even with four starters returning from that 23 win team they just may not be good enough this time around. That said, we will be looking to back them if getting points.

On Tuesday we have the ACC starting their tournament in Greensboro, N.C. This looks like a four horse race between Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia. Lots of revenge could happen here especially with Virginia if the Cavaliers get to meet Louisville again. We will see. The problem with Virginia is they just don’t score a lot of points so, if getting double digits, we will be taking the points against them.

One team we will be keeping an eye on is NC State who has really done well in this tournament. The Tar Heels, who I have bad-rapped in this column, now have a shot at big redemption and they have dedicated this tournament to Dean Smith. It will come down to who, if anyone, can beat Duke. The Blue Devils have gotten to the title game 12 of the last 17 years.

On Wednesday the you-know-what really hits the fan. In action are the ACC, Conference USA, the Big 12 and Pac 12 – the latter right here in Las Vegas at the MGM Arena. Also, the Mountain West begins at the Thomas & Mack so don’t tell me you’ve got nothing to do. Wednesday will also have the Big Ten, Atlantic Ten, Big East and SEC underway. That’s a big tip off as we head to the Madness.

Let’s take a short look at some of these tournaments.

Big 12

Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma are all capable of taking this thing. Underachieving Texas with tons of talent and their backs against the wall may need a few wins just to get an invite. The Longhorns were at one time a top 20 team but injuries took their toll. Still, they could be sneaky. Well coached Kansas will be hard to beat, especially if they get to the title game. The Jayhawks are 9-1 in their last 10 Big 12 title games. Baylor got to the title game last year losing to Iowa State and would love to hook up with the Cyclones again. If so, it will be all Bears for us.

Pac 12

The Wildcats have dropped four straight Championship games. They do want to go back again and probably will but Oregon has come on strong and looks very dangerous along with Utah and UCLA. The Bruins defeated Zona last year in the title game so Arizona would love a shot at them. In this league’s title game, the dog has gone 7-1 ATS the last eight years.

Big Ten

Wisconsin made the Final Four last year and will be one tough nut to crack in this year’s addition. The Badgers look to win this and get a 1 seed in the Big Dance but it won’t be an easy task. The league is loaded with 20 win teams. Maryland has come alive and if the Buckeyes get another shot at Wisky, they will be motivated after getting demolished by them at home this past Sunday, 72-48. What was that all about? We can never give a 10 count to Michigan State and Tom Izzo. There could be six teams from this conference getting bids.

Big East

There is some serious talent with Villanova heading the show and looks to be heading to the Sweet Sixteen and a shot to get to the Final Four with a good draw. Butler got knocked out of this tournament in the opening round last year and the Bulldogs will not let that happen again. They have gone 8-2 ATS in this tourney. G-Town is another who got knocked out in the first round last year figure to go further this time around. The tourney is being played at Madison Square Garden so we must give the “Johnnies” a shot to win a game and or get a cover or two. St. John’s will have a little home court advantage but when it comes down to it as they say in horse racing beat Nova to cash.

SEC

It seems everyone’s choice to take it is Kentucky. The Wildcats and their NBA looking team with John Calipari calling the shots just need to get through this tournament to go undefeated, which is a rare feat in today’s big conferences. These are not the days of UCLA and John Wooden. There will be only one way for Kentucky to lose – a perfect game by someone and a bad one by Kentucky. I doubt that will happen as Kentucky moves to the Big Dance undefeated. In fact the SEC looks a lot like the Big Cap which ran at Santa Anita this past Saturday.

It was Shared Belief against 12 other runners but everyone was running for second money. That is what they will be looking at facing the Wildcats.

If you are a bettor and a fan there is no better place to be than here in Vegas this time of year. You can not only can bet legally but watch the games at T&M, MGM and the Orleans Arena. Get out, make a bet and take in a game.

If you lose remember to bet a pony. You just maybe walking around lucky and not even know it.

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].

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