Time to start sizing up NCAA March Madness

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The next two big events in the city to me will be March Madness and the Kentucky Derby. Each week I will be covering those two as I hone my college hoops handicapping.

Of course, I will keep up with all the Derby preps and the 3YO that I am watching. This week, though, we examine some of the college basketball conferences and teams that could reach the Sweet 16, not to mention the gold at the end of the rainbow – The Final Four.

Atlantic 10: Should be wide open with home loving St. Louis, Temple, Massachusetts, La Salle and Xavier all bunched together. This Wednesday, St. Louis should get an easy win at home over Richmond. Lay the wood.

ACC: Appears to be a two horse race between Duke and North Carolina, but Florida State has the kind of team that could jump up and bite you. On Wednesday, UNC will have its hands full at Miami, which is 11-2 SU at home. The Canes look like a good take if able to get a few baskets. Duke will get the home win over NC State on Thursday.

Big 12: Turning into a real dogfight with Okie State, Missouri, Baylor and Kansas battling it out ‘til the end. On Wednesday I look for Missouri to blow out Okie State in a TV game (6 PM on ESPN 2).

Big East: Syracuse looks to be the cream, having gone a perfect 19-0 at home and 12-1 in the conference. Rick Pitino and Louisville look to be peaking at the right time and could be a sleeper when the Big Show arrives in March. Cincinnati, sitting in fifth place, should have an easy time with Providence on Wednesday. We had the Bearcats last Wednesday.

Big Ten: Ohio State took it in the chin last Saturday suffering its first home loss at the hands of second place Michigan State, whose swarming defense got the job done. The Spartans could bounce off that big effort this Thursday playing another defensive minded team in fourth place Wisconsin. We will take the points. The Buckeyes hit the road angry this Tuesday at Minnesota.

Mountain West: Our UNLV Rebels could be undefeated if they played all home games. San Diego State is the other team in the mix. The Rebels hit the road this Tuesday but should get the win at TCU.

Pac 12: I seriously doubt you will see any of these teams make the Final Four or even the Sweet 16. This Thursday Washington State looks to have a good dog shot at home over Arizona.

SEC East: Kentucky, the best in the land, owns the conference with a perfect 11-0 record and is 18-0 in Lexington. The Wildcats showed their grit last Saturday with the win at Vandy. Second place Florida plays good at home, but is just average on the road. It will take a huge effort from someone or a bad effort by Kentucky to keep them from the Final Four.

SEC West: It could be anyone, but there is a good game this Wednesday with Arkansas at Tennessee. The Razorbacks will be a very good dog play here.

Derby watch

The first Kentucky Derby pool was this weekend and as usual the bettors made “All Others” the big favorite at 3-2. The morning line favorite, Algorithms, went from 8-1 to 12-1. The second choice on the morning line, Union Rags, took some action at 10-1 and closed at 7-1.

El Padrino, who was 20-1 on the ML, also took some action and closed at 16-1. Sabercat (no relation) is the colt I am very interested in, and I’m holding a 100-1 ticket from Johnny Avello’s Wynn book. Sabercat has since gone down to a morning line 30-1 and last weekend closed at 34-1.

Sabercat is trained by Steve Asmussen, who had Nehro – one of the horses I liked in last year’s Kentucky Derby. If Sabercat gets to the Derby, I hope to be making a visit to the winner’s circle with Steve. Do you here me Mr. Asmussen?

Sabercat will likely start next in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, March 10 and I will be there. He won his last race (the rich Delta Jackpot) very impressively, which will give him enough graded earnings to make the big race on the first Saturday in May.

Sabercat is the son of Bluegrass Cat, a runner-up in the Derby. If you go back far enough you can find some major stamina blood from Tom Rolfe.

There will be two Derby seminars again at Palace Station race book. The first is Friday, April 13 followed by another on Thursday, May 3. Both are at 6 p.m.


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