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March Madness is staring us in the eye. It’s the next huge (and I mean huge) event in Las Vegas and in most offices in the United States.

Don’t tell anyone or they may want to tax your office pools.

Conference tournaments start Tuesday, March 4 – just three weeks away, and then the madness begins March 18 with those two games that will send the winners on to face the top seeds as they will be dismissed quickly.

There are going to be some really great contests around the town so stay tuned to GamingToday as we will keep everyone up to date.

There are still two undefeated teams left – Syracuse, which will be a No. 1 seed, and Wichita State from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers will want a top seed if they finish undefeated and probably will get it provided they stay perfect. With their soft schedule they have a big shot to be unbeaten.

Syracuse will have a very hard time staying undefeated and their perfect season could come to an end this Wednesday in Pittsburgh facing a Panthers team that had them beat at the Carrier Dome back on Jan. 18. But they blew the lead with just two minutes left in the game.

The Panthers will be a small favorite and have gone 5-0 SU and ATS in their last five meetings at home over the Orange. We will be betting on Pittsburgh in this game, -3 points or less.

Baseball time: The pitchers are getting their arms ready and the catchers are jogging into shape as we get set for spring training. This week we will finish evaluating the West.

The Dodgers and the Diamondbacks will be the first two teams to go to spring training as they will be heading to down under and play a series in Australia. How nice is that! 

To me, that is almost as good as when the Cubs held their spring training at Santa Catalina Island just 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.

The main reason the Cubbies got to Santa Catalina was their owner William Wrigley Jr., the gum king, purchased the Island in 1919 for $3 million and he took his Cubs there to train for the regular season. Their wives loved it.

In this division the Dodgers, based on payroll and talent, are the favorites but all five teams have the talent to win, and these five can finish in any order and there may be value in a future bet with a few.

NL West

1. Dodgers –  with superstar and multimillion dollar man Clayton Kershaw, will be the odds-on favorite to win the pennant. In fact, if they don’t win it this year they will be considered a failure based upon all the money they have spent.

Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, one of the best bullpens in the National League and a lineup loaded with talent. A solid infield, good catching and the boys in blue look to have it all, but those nasty injuries can happen.

2. Diamondbacks – If there is a challenge to the Dodgers the D-backs will be leading the charge. Led by slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and a strong rotation that is not flashy or filled with big money pitchers, they are solid and will give the Diamondbacks a chance in every game.

Arizona added another big home run bat in Mark Trumbo from the Angels and closer Addison Reed from the White Sox. Miguel Montero is a budding star as a catcher. We will be making a future bet on the D-backs at a price to win the pennant.

3. Giants – You can never count San Francisco out, led by Buster Posey, Pablo “the Panda” Sandoval and Hunter Pence.

A rotation led by Matt Cain, Madison Bumgardner, Tim Lincecum and the newly acquired Tim Hudson will make the G-men very competitive, especially as an underdog.

4. Rockies – Colorado has done some things to upgrade their club but they will rely on their stars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. They hope Justin Morneau still has a couple good years left. The light air in Denver may help his home run swing.

5. Padres – Chase Headley may be the best baseball player west of the Mississippi and no one on the East Coast has heard of him. Joining Headley we have young Everth Cabrera, Yonder Alonzo and a group of young players who could jump right up. San Diego made a number of moves to upgrade its lineup and pitching staff. Another good underdog to watch.

Etc.: Times have changed a lot since my younger days back in the 60’s when we would catch the train and go to Forbes Field for some Pirates games. Most of the players were named Bob, Bill or Dick, with some nicknames like Smokey and Ducky. We did have a guy named Roberto and he was a good one.

Note: After we cover all the divisions we will go into some betting strategies for the season.

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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