Look for Tenn., St. Louis to rise in NCAA basketball

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This is the week before the Madness starts. We’ll take a look at the conference tournaments quickly and sort things out to find a few good plays.

ACC (Greensboro, NC): I will be very interested in this one. I know someone who is sitting on a 100-1 ticket with Miami to win the NCAA tournament. That person would love to see a good showing from the Canes in here, but Duke says no way. UNC really wants a shot at the Blue Devils after getting humiliated at home on Saturday 69-53. We will take our shot with the Heels if they do meet up. And, yes, Virginia there could be a “Santa Clause” for you! The Cavs have had a great season and want to go much further than last year’s first round loss.

Mountain West, (T&M Center, Las Vegas): About the only good thing for UNLV is hosting the tourney for the sixth straight year. Last year the main four, New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV and San Diego State went to the big dance. This year Boise State could make a dent in this tournament as they have finished strong. The Broncos look like a good dog. Just with their five seniors Colorado State may win this.

WAC (Orleans Arena, Las Vegas): New Mexico State is a big player in this tourney, having won three of the last six years. They will need to be at their best to beat Louisiana Tech, who my good friend Syl Friedman predicts will win after finishing second last year. A strong Denver team has never been invited to attend any tournament and really wants some postseason action this year. Texas San Antonio plays well on the road and could be very dangerous. Still, we’ll take Syl’s advice and follow La. Tech all the way to the finals.

PAC 12 (MGM Grand, Las Vegas): The Cardinals are meeting in Rome to select a new Pope and the Cardinal is in Vegas looking for a good spot in the big show. Yes, Stanford will be hard to down and UCLA figures to be one of the main guns. Colorado, the Pac 12 champ last year, will be a tough nut once again. The thought here is to play on the Cardinal early and often. Stanford won the NIT last year but wants a shot at the big dance this year.

MAC (Cleveland, Ohio): Round 1 started Monday with the lower tier schools. The main team most likely is Akron, which made it to the title game the last six years. Toledo could cause a little ruckus with its five returning starters from last year’s team that went 3-0 in this tournament. The Rockets have been a great dog and one tough nut to knock out. Ohio, Western Michigan and Kent will be the main danger to Akron.

Big East (MSG, New York): First round starts Tuesday. Louisville and Georgetown will look to improve their positions in the big show by taking this tournament. Syracuse will be trying for a shot at the Hoyas after scoring a record low 39 against them this past Saturday. Marquette could stir up some early trouble and will be a good bet-on, especially when taking the points. The Irish will need a good showing.

C-USA (Tulsa, Okla.): Again, it’s all about Memphis, which has cruised in this tourney since 2006. The Tigers have gone 15-1 SU over that span and beaten Tulsa 14 of the last 15 times they have met. The Golden Hurricane at home have a shot at Memphis, but we’re not picking them. Tulane has five returning starters and are a good bet in Game 1. Southern Miss and UCF are out to make some noise, but Memphis is the main gun in here.

Big 12 (at Kansas City. Mo.): I am waiting for the time when Kansas plays Baylor. Anyway, the Jayhawks have been in the title game five of the last seven years. Young and dangerous Oklahoma State can make the free throws and will be very tough. Oklahoma will have upset on its mind and we will be betting that does happen. Kansas State and Iowa State are the main danger to the top two – Kansas and Okie St.

SEC (Nashville, Tenn.): A great tournament with some real good bets. One is Florida, if able to meet Kentucky. The Gators are the team to beat with Missouri the main danger. After watching Tennessee beat Missouri this past Saturday, they could cause a stir. The Vols finished the season 8-1 SU and ATS. John Calipari always has his teams ready in tournament play plus the Wildcats are off a big win over Florida. They could reach the finals if Florida isn’t in their bracket.

Big Ten (Chicago): This big tournament starts Thursday. Indiana wants me and the cash. Michigan wants another shot at the Hoosiers after missing four of five free throws in the last minute in losing by 1. IU will be a tough out, but Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State can do it. Wisconsin has the defense, but not the fire power. The Big Ten has the top three defensive teams in the nation, plus Tom Izzo at Michigan State ready for a title defense. We will be betting UNDER.

Atlantic 10 (Brooklyn, N.Y.): The A-10 tourney moves over to the Barclays Center. Don’t forget these start at 9 a.m. PT, so get to your favorite book early! I won’t meet you in St. Louis, Louie, but we will see the Billikens in the final and at the Big Dance. Saint Louis has been on a roll since losing its HC back in December and dedicating the season to him. We will be rooting for them, Their main foes will be Temple, VCU and, of course, the Butler Bears.

Big West (Anaheim, Calif.): No Tark, but Long Beach will try and make it to the title game for the fourth straight year. It won’t be easy as Pacific will have a big say. Hawaii, the boys from over the ocean, will be coming to play. UC Irvine and Cal Poly are the other main players in what looks to be a wide open affair.

Have a good time. We will be all over the Big Dance in next week’s article.

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

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