Watch little guys making Big Dance

March 11, 2008 6:00 PM
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Feist Facts by Jim Feist | NCAA tournament play is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for sports fans and bettors, with a seemingly endless stream of action and excitement.

Big name schools often end up playing for the title. The last two years Florida took home national championships by beating UCLA and Ohio State. In 2005, Illinois, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State met in the Final Four, and in recent years weíve seen Kansas, Texas, Syracuse, Indiana, Oklahoma, Duke, Arizona, and Maryland.

Big names, all of them, with no surprise schools like Pacific, Winthrop, Ohio or Stony Brook ever sneaking in. Large, high profile schools have big athletic budgets and enough scholarships to attract some of the top basketball talent, which is a key to their success.

However, this doesnít mean smaller, lesser-known schools canít compete with the big boys, especially when you look at one 40-minute game. There are countless examples for sports bettors.

With so many games in March, itís easy to forget the early rounds. How about tiny Holy Cross few years ago? The Crusaders had to face Dwyane Wade and Marquette in the tournament opener and, as a 10-point dog, Holy Cross covered in a close 72-68 game. Holy Cross also played tough against mighty Kansas, with Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Coach Roy Williams.

At first glance, some of the games look like mismatches, but a good handicapper is skilled in the art of careful analysis and patience.

This brings up a good point for serious sports bettors: It is not wise to take big favorites on the moneyline.

The payoff is poor. Successful sports wagering is as much about money management as it is picking winners. Taking a shot with a big dog, who you think might be able to hang in there, is much smarter than wagering $900 to win $100 on a -900 favorite.

Some of the smaller schools happen to have NBA-caliber talent. Other times a small school has a great coach or a collection of talent, which plays tough D and believes enough to upset traditional powers.

Teams are generally motivated to play in the NCAA tournament, but this isnít always the case with the NIT. Some teams that were hoping to get to the Big Dance are disappointed at being selected for the lower-seeded NIT or CBI and arenít always focused for their best effort.

Donít take big favorites on the money-line. Donít simply lay the points on the more famous conference or school without doing your homework.