David can slay Goliath during NCAA's March Madness

Mar 17, 2009 4:05 PM
Feist Facts by Jim Feist |

It’s that time of year: Basketball games night and day, day and night. After a few hours of sleep, we wake up the next day and go through it all over again.

Florida of the SEC took home back-to-back national titles by beating UCLA and Ohio State in 2006 and ’07. Last year it was Kansas winning another title. In 2005, Illinois, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State met in the Final Four.

Large, high profile schools attract some of the top basketball talent, but smaller, lesser-known schools find ways to compete.

Two years ago Duke got upset in the first round by VCU, 79-77. That same weekend UNLV upset Georgia Tech and Wisconsin.

Three years ago George Mason out of the Colonial Athletic Association made it to the Final Four by knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn. The Patriots were 5, 6 and 8 point dogs in those games.

Four years ago in the first round alone, Wisconsin-Milwaukee upset Alabama 83-73, UConn squeaked by Central Florida 77-71 as a 19-point favorite, Bucknell stunned Kansas 64-63, and Vermont took Syracuse to overtime and won 60-57.

A few years ago, Holy Cross had to face Dwyane Wade and Marquette in the tourney opener and as a 10-point dog, won 72-68. The Crusaders also gave mighty Kansas, with Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Coach Roy Williams, a battle.

Every year one or two little known teams make memorable runs. That said, it is not wise to take big favorites on the money-line. The payoff is poor, and successful sports wagering is as much about money management as picking winners.

One of the most memorable upsets came in the 1985 NCAA Finals when Villanova, a +10 dog, upset mighty Georgetown, 66-64. The Wildcats hit 22-of-28 field goals, a sizzling 78 percent.

Miami of Ohio made a memorable run in 1999 with future NBA talent Wally Szczerbiak. Miami went 24-8 SU/17-14 ATS that season and upset Washington in the NCAA tournament, 59-58 as a +2 dog, beat Utah 66-58 as a +8 dog before falling to Kentucky as a +10 dog.

You never know: schools like Cornell, Cleveland State, Xavier or Northern Iowa just might be showcasing future NBA talent this month.

Sometimes there are look-ahead spots, where a high-seeded team might be looking past an opponent it might not take seriously. That’s what appeared to happen when Kansas faced Holy Cross. Kansas needed a second half push to top the Crusaders 70-59 as a 29-point favorite.

Don’t take big favorites on the money-line and don’t simply lay the points on the more famous conference or school without doing your homework. Tourney time is loaded with surprises.