How to Bet March Madness on a Budget

As the country slowly re-opens while more states have legalized sports betting, here are tips for betting March Madness on a budget.

Click here to watch the haymakers strategy for more low risk high reward fun.

If you are struggling with gambling addiction, you are note alone. Please seek help. Click here to visit a national helpline or seek other safe avenues. Good luck to everyone out there!

Here is my entire 2021 March Madness bracket filled out on March 15, 2021.

People line up ahead of sports book opening during March Madness Author Matty D’s March Madness 2021 Picks


When it comes to college basketball experts, I am the 15 seed. I play with an independent league of opinionated amateurs on Facebook and Twitter, but I am also the budget bettor that no sports book “wants to see” in its bracket. There’s no major sponsor or platform here.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s roll into my official picks for March Madness 2021!

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball West Region

When it comes to this West Region, I agree with CBS’s Gary Parrish. There is no imagination coming from the committee when you have the possibility of rematches between Gonzaga and either/all of Kansas, Iowa, and/or Virginia. And that’s why I think only one of those rematches will happen: the most important one. This is also why I think Iowa is the first sexy futures bet at 16-1 as of March 16th. A rematch is always tricky for any victor. And in the December showdown between Iowa and Gonzaga, the Hawkeyes were simply blown out. Although Iowas has since lost Jack Nunge, the cliche is true when you can say they are “battle tested” by a historically great Big 10. I mean, to put the greatness of the Big 10 into context, this COVID-19 shortened season still cost the jobs of Indiana coach Archie Miller and 8 year head man at Minnesota, Richie Pitino. But I digress. Iowa can legitimately beat Gonzaga, I would comofortably have them covering any 2-3 possession line, but I have to go with Jalen Suggs and Gonzaga to advance.

READ ALSO:  Injuries to Consider or Sons of NBA Players Dancing

Everyone is picking against Creighton, and they clearly had a rough start to the month of March. But maybe they’ll be the team that goes in like a lamb and out like a lion. Its win against a popular UConn team showed us what telnet they have. I am also taking Ohio because Jason Preston is someone I cannot root against. As ESPN documented in the game telecasts, he lost his mother as a 16-year-old to cancer. And he plays like the moniker says, “life is short.” His imagination passing the ball and risk taking could capture the nation’s imagination. That’s the emotional side of my brain on that pick. The logical side of my brain also says that UVA is having a rough patch with COVID-19 scares and may not even play the game as the 4 seed there.

The West Region can include a Sweet 16 of two Pac-12 teams

Oregon and USC will represent the PAC-12 well in this region. Each had disappointing losses in the conference tournament, but should not be the judge of how talented each team is.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball East Region

I watched Colorado and Texas all season. They’re too talented to come up short in this tournament. And I also watched Saint Bonaventure shred VCU in the A-10 Championship game. That game was not as close as the score would lead you to believe. I have major upsets happening in this region, because you’re not truly picking a March Madness bracket without the madness part. I will have 9 seed advance to the Elite 8 and 3 seed Texas represent the region in the Final Four.

The triangles that you see on my bracket are the underdogs who I like to cover the point spread along the way.

Skip all the clicking steps. HERE’S THE PRINTABLE BRACKET.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball South Region

When you look at the history of the bracket, the cumulative total when you add up all the seed number is the Final Four is normally almost always 10 or more. And so this is where I am picking the hometown team Purdue Boilermakers to represent the South region as the highest seed to enter the Final Four and get my cumulative seed count up to 10 exactly. Everyone and their mom expects UNC’s size and muscle to give Baylor a run for their money. But I am looking a step ahead and saying that Purdue’s size will actually give Baylor trouble, paired with the Boilermakers outstanding freshmen class. Players like Jaden Ivey just haven’t gotten enough publicity this season. I expect this team to be March Madness-ready after, again, the rigors of the Big 10 Conference have prepared them.

I also like 6 seeds to show up in the Sweet 16 this year and won’t be surprised if one of them break into the Final Four. A 6 seed hasn’t made the Final Four since 1991-1992 with the Fab Five.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Midwest Region

The committee did Illinois no favors in its draw. If we are looking for a 1 seed to have a difficult time, I think this would be the region for it. And who better to spoil the party than Cinderella herself, Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean? I would love to see a field of 32 matchup between Cam Krutwig and Kofi Cockburn. It would harken back to my childhood and watching giants tussle in the WWE (formerly WWF). Here are 8 other field of 32 player matchups I am hoping to see.

If Illinois avoids a field of 32 upset from a scrappy Georgia Tech or Ramblers bunch, they have #1 overall NBA pick Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State to look forward (potentially).

Texas wins the National Tittle among a Final 4 of Houston, Purdue and Gonzaga.

A team often overlooked is Houston because it plays in the American Athletic Conference (which got weaker with UConn’s exit). I also think the college basketball powers to be aren’t trying to promote Kelvin Sampson, a once-disgraced coach for NCAA infractions. However, with the shooting stroke of Quentin Grimes, return of Fabian White, and a great balance among other upper/underclassmen in the rotation, I think this team is destined for the Final Four. They return really the entire nucleus from a canceled 2019-2020 season with exception of Caleb Mills.

2021 NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments: Schedules, COVID-19 Updates

The 2021 NCAA Conference Tournament schedule is coming together for some regions. In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, decision-makers in college athletics are wrestling with the logistics of in-person events. That includes college basketball conferences across the nation, which are deciding how to crown its champions. One year ago the college basketball season was paused and then canceled altogether, literally as conference championship games were occurring live on television. This article provides major updates from the power 5 conferences and more for 2021’s evolving game-plan.

DEVELOPING NEWS: NCAA to allow 25% capacity for NCAA Tournament. Read more.

The ACC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Returns to Tar Heel State

The ACC Conference will go down in sports history as one of those conferences that had the unpleasant experience of literally pausing play on its basketball tournament as COVID-19 stopped the 2019-2020 NCAA season. It was also one of the major conferences to make early concessions for its 2021 tournament. The ACC announced in November that it would be coming home in a way, relocated its championship tournament to Greensboro. In recent years, the conference had played in perhaps sexier destinations such as New York City and Washington, DC. However, repositioning its conference tournament in the Carolinas obviously puts it closer to a majority of its teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Duke located in the Carolinas).

Big 10 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

In an era where the size of events is so often in question, the Big 10 Conference is making a statement on its tournament website: “all 14 teams will advance to the tournament.”

Currently, the Big 10 Conference is predicted to have 10 teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And so giving the other four teams an opportunity to compete for a bid brings back the true intrigue of March Madness.

According to its conference tournament website, the “Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held in Chicago for the 11th time and was last held at the United Center at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.”

Big 10: “All 14 Teams Will Advance”

Click here to read full details from the source.

The Big 10 Men’s College Basketball Championship game will be held on Sunday, March 14th. The conference hinted at it being aired on CBS Sports.

Big 12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

According to the Kansas City Star, the Big 12 will hold its tournament on March 10-13 at T-Mobile Center. As of February 1st, the conference had not decided on whether to hold the event without fans or at 25% capacity. The T-Mobile Center has a website ready to sell tickets, but the landing page currently has a “TBA” designation on the ticket sessions.

Still-frame Photo Courtesy ESPN Networks/YouTube

The Big 12 Conference had fans in attendance for its football championship on December 19 2020, although the state health and safety guidelines in Texas may differ from Missouri’s.

The newly named T-Mobile Center in Kansas City is set to host its first conference tournament.

Big East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

As of February 1st, the Big East hadn’t updated any news on whether the Big East Tournament will take place (with or without fans) at its normal home of Madison Square Garden.

On MSG’s event calendar, a concert for late March is listed as canceled.
However, you Justin Bieber fans will be excited that his concert is on!

The last men’s basketball action published on The Big East’s “master schedule” is on Saturday, March 6, 2021 with a flurry of marquee match-ups. In the event there is no tournament, you would assume Providence would have to beat Villanova and Seton Hall would have to defeat St. John’s to even have a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid.

In early February, the Big East “master schedule” showed its last action happening in early March.

Pac-12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

The Pac-12 may have been the most cautious major conference in terms of letting fans attend games this season. This winter they extended the prohibition of fans in attendance across the board. A footnote in the policy states that there is some discretion based on local and state regulations.

The Pac-12 has not yet made an announcement about whether players will compete in person this March for a conference champion. If recent tradition continued, the Pac-12 would be playing its conference tournament in Las Vegas between March 10-13. The Bay Area News Group/East Bay Times is reporting that conference Athletic Director Larry Scott showed no signs of cancelling that version of the event during a recent meeting.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 recently announced in January that Larry Scott will serve out his contract and move on June 2021. Read the full statement here.

Click here to read the full report by the East Bay Times.

With projections showing that the PAC-12 has five teams in great position to make the NCAA Tournament with at-large bids, there is an argument to make for canceling the tournament. This is because the sixth best team in the conference currently, Arizona, is ineligible for postseason play because of violations. This almost makes the decision of punting on a conference tournament as “easy” (relative terms here) as it may ever be for a power 5 conference.

SEC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

On January 20, 2021, the SEC Conference posted an article on its official site announcing the in-person conference tournament schedule for mid-March. It takes place in Nashville, Tennessee.

In late January, the Southeastern Conference announced its in-person conference tournament

Much to Kentucky Head Coach John Calapari’s shagrin, the SEC championship game itself will take place on Selection Sunday (March 14th)!

Read more “Championship Week” updates from non-power 5 conferences below…

The American East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament tweaks its format

The American East announced it will host its conference tournament over two weeks and in regional pods. The American East Men’s College Basketball Championship game will take place as it traditionally does, on the Saturday morning before Selection Sunday.

The American Athletic Conference 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

According to the most trusted source of news on the Internet, Wikipedia, the tournament will be played at the Dickie’s Arena in Texas. Read more.

The Atlantic 10 Tournament 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

The Atlantic 10 took a unique approach to managing its conference tournament during COVID-19. Two rival schools will co-host the event. In early January, the conference announced it is pulling out of the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn amidst pandemic concerns. Two weeks later it announced that the event will be co-hosted by two schools in the city of Richmond.

Click here to read the official announcement from the A-10 Men’s Basketball Conference.

CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reports that the Atlantic 10 will play to a limited crowd.

Conference USA Champions “Pod Integrity” in its plans to crown a Champion

The Conference USA plans to host its conference tournament at “The Star in Frisco,” which is a massive training facility for the Dallas Cowboys. According to the venue’s website, tickets will be on sale. A COVID-19 protocol fact sheet is included on its website. The protocol calls for pods of tickets where groups of people who know each other are admitted. It stresses “pod integrity,” meaning that tickets aren’t relayed to unknown parties.

The Star in Frisco posts a throrough COVID-19 protocol list to protect fans and participants

Conference USA plans on having 12 teams participate for the men’s basketball tournament March 10-13, meaning that the last place team from the two divisions would not qualify for the playoff.

Mountain West Conference Championship set to peak with matinee matchup

The Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament will continue its recent tradition of battling in Las Vegas and playing its championship game on a late Saturday afternoon. This game is normally shown on Network TV, with Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan calling the game in recent years on CBS. All 11 seeds are slated to play each other in person over four days (March 10th-March 13th). This sets the table for Utah State to have a chance to 3-peat as the Mountain West Conference Championship on Saturday.

Western Athletic Conference Championship Also Returns to Vegas

The WAC returns to the Orleans Arena, but didn’t have much info about tickets in late February.

Mid-season Suspect Spreads Saturday

The College Basketball Eye Test blog went 65-53 against the spread in the 2018-2019 NCAA Basketball Season.  Click here to see that season’s thread on Twitter.

The picks are made by me, Matty D, an avid college basketball fan with no ties to a specific team.  I challenge my first-hand observations about teams by trying to beat the spread.  Whether those picks are simply tweeted for pride, or cashed in at a sports book, it’s all in good fun.  Below are my picks for an important mid-season Saturday.

Ohio State -1 at Penn State:
Early in the season, I loved the Buckeyes at 55-to-1 to win it all.  Coach Chris Holtman is a proven coach and he has a well constructed roster.  However, his decisions and that roster are at a breaking point right now.  After reaching a #1 overall ranking earlier this season, Ohio State has lost 4 of its first five Big 10 games.  Sandwiched in that losing streak was the absence of hustle player forward Kyle Young (appendix surgery).  Holtmann suspended two players in recent days for conduct detrimental to the team.  (Updated status for 11 a.m. EST Saturday:  I think today’s game against a much improved Penn State program can quite literally be a playoff seeding game that dictates whether a team will be slated as a 3/4 seed or a 6-10 seed come March.  A 6 seed hasn’t reached the Final Four since the Fab Five in 1992.  You don’t want to slip into that 6-10 seed lottery.  I don’t think Ohio State is the #1 overall team as it was ranked earlier this season.  But I also don’t believe they’re a 6-10 seed.  They’ll respond today with whichever players are ready for battle and stop the bleeding.

Seton Hall -5 at St. John’s
Seton Hall is on a serious rise right now.  With star scoring guard Myles Powell missing much of December with multiple injuries, the rest of the roster responded.  They beat then top 10 ranked Maryland with a skeleton crew.  Now Seton Hall is at full strength and brings in two waves of 7-plus-footers at center.  Most of their roster is constructed of tristate guys, so playing in front of a feverish New York City fan base shouldn’t phase them.  Although St. John’s has perhaps overachieved this season in taking on coach Mike Anderson’s 40 minutes of hell mantra, I’m taking Myles Powell and his now proven supporting cast minus the five points at St. John’s.

Screen Shot 2020-01-18 at 10.04.05 AM


Read more about Seton Hall’s resurgence from SHU 

Clemson +7 at NC State
How is Clemson getting 7 points on the heels of its dramatic and sound victory over #1 ranked Duke this week?  That’s the definition of a suspect spread!  I won’t be scared by it.  These are both effectively bubble teams in a bizzarely down year for the ACC.  In reality, I don’t think either team will make the tournament.  But, while each does think it has a shot, I am predicted a close game here.  Clemson is now playing with house money in the national playoff picture, so I would hammer the +7 with a little fade on the money line today.

Each year, I also publish a top 5 best future values for the season.  Here are the teams I predicted would be good values in the first week of November:

Read more about the author.  

March Madness game times and locations Thursday

Here are the teams, times and locations for Thursday’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

All times Eastern Standard. 

(10) Oklahoma vs. (7) Rhode Island
12:15 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(14) Wright State vs. (3) Tennessee
12:40 p.m. in Dallas, TX

(13) UNCG vs. (4) Gonzaga
1:30 p.m. in Boise, ID

(16) Penn vs. (1) Kansas
2 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(15) Iona vs. (2) Duke
2:45 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(11) Loyola-Chicago vs. (6) Miami (Fla.)
3:10 p.m. in Dallas, TX

(12) South Dakota State vs. (5) Ohio State
4 p.m. in Boise, ID

(9) NC State vs. (8) Seton Hall
4:30 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(16) LIU-Brooklyn/Radford vs. (1) Villanova
6:50 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(12) Davidson vs. (5) Kentucky
7:10 p.m. in Boise, ID

(11) San Diego State vs. (6) Houston
7:20 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(14) Stephen F. Austin vs. (3) Texas Tech
7:27 p.m. in Dallas, TX

(9) Alabama vs. (8) Virginia Tech
9:20 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(13) Buffalo vs. (4) Arizona
9:40 p.m. in Boise, ID

(14) Montana vs. (3) Michigan
9:50 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(11) St. Bonaventure/UCLA vs. (6) Florida
9:57 p.m. in Dallas, TX


Best Hair in March Madness

Vote for your choice of best hair in college basketball below in the comments.

Here’s the field of 16…

16.  Garrett Collins – UNCG Spartans
Forward Garrett Collins gets the party started (and happy belated) with our Sweet 16 list.

15.  Caleb Wood – Pennsylvania Quakers
Caleb Wood looks like one of the 3 Musketeers on the guard as the Quakers march into tournament territory.

14.  Bobby Morehead – Montana Grizz
The headband game needed to be represented in this bracket.

13.  Terrell Miller – Murray State Racers
Terrell Miller makes the NBA’s Nene look thin-haired.

12.  Jaylen Barford – Arkansas Razorbacks
Jaylen Barford’s distinguished grey gives “senior night” a new connotation.

11.  Rob Gray – Houston Cougars
Replacing Kyle Guy this year as an ambassador of team man bun.

10.  Trae Young – Oklahoma Sooners
Some chicks dig the “just woke up” look.

9.  Dylan Osetkowski – Texas Longhorns
You should see this modeled in corn rows.   Osetkowski broke it out earlier this season.

8.  Collin Sexton – Alabama Tide
This freshman has entered the college game and surpassed his own teammates – like Dazon Ingram and John Petty – with the voluminousness.

7.  Jalen Fisher – TCU Hornfrogs
Jalen Fisher brings color, curls, and style to the bracket – a Cinderella story in the making.

6.  Nate Watson – Providence Friar’s
Nate Watson rocks the sherbet colored frosted tips, as do some teammates.

5.  Cartier Diara – K-State Wildcats
You can define this one.

4.  Lonnie Walker – Miami Hurricane
Anyone comfortable with the nickname pineapple head belongs on this list.


3.  Vincent Edwards – Purdue Boilermakers
Edwards reminds us of Rufio from Hook but has drawn other comparisons on Twitter.

2.  Jacob Evans – Cincinnati Bearcats
Coaches nationwide are looking for versatile players this time of year.  Evans has displayed his range this season, showcasing earlier this season the short dreads, and now sporting something more reminiscent of the 1990s New York Knicks front court.

  1.  Donte DiVincenzo – Villanova Wildcats
    Nicknamed “The Big Ragu” by Gus Johnson, his hairdo matches the theme.







The Real Champions Classic

Each year, ESPN’s Champions Classic is promoted as the real tip-off to the college basketball season.  It always features a rotation of match-ups among these powerhouses:  Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke.

There are also reports that the Champions Classic may literally kick-off the NCAA season next year, with no games tipping off before it.  This year, it featured a sloppy matchup of Kansas versus Kentucky (Jayhawks win 65-61) and a Duke victory over Michigan State that left the viewer asking, “was this really a matchup of number 1 and number 2?”

However, tonight when Florida plays Duke and Michigan State plays North Carolina, it will feel like the Champions Classic that would have been if the planners had the ability to pair the nation’s best four teams.

Kansas’s roster is thinner than recent years. Kentucky’s is even more immature than recent years.  Meanwhile, top 10 ranked teams like (2) Arizona is struggling (losing three consecutive games) and (6) Wichita State is without its primary scoring wing, Markis McDuffie.  Swapping-in defending champion UNC with an incumbent veteran roster of Gators would be the ideal substitute for a Champions Classic.

Luckily, for college basketball fans, they’ll get that final four after a full slate of football Sunday.  It’s the semifinals of the PK80 Invitational!

(1) Duke versus (7) Florida
TIP OFF 10:30 EST 

Let’s start with Florida.  The gators are returning an experienced team, highlighted by its gritty backcourt of KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza.  Add-in Russian-born guard Egor Koulechov, Kevarrius Hayes, and a load of talented underclassmen, and you have a national contender.  The Florida Gators already accomplished a great resume-builder during this tournament.  They beat the defacto hometown team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (games in Portland).  Meanwhile, Duke had an impressive win itself.  They came storming back in the final stanzas against a Texas Longhorns team that looked like it could bring Havoc to teams down the line.  It’s Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s youngest starting roster since 1982-83.  The Blue Devils start senior Grayson Allen with 4 freshmen, headlined by forward Marvin Bagley III.

(4) Michigan State versus (9) North Carolina

UNC is somehow overlooked at number 9.  Yes, they have lost Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley to the NBA draft.  However, they return importance piece of last year’s championship team.  They include Joel Berry II, Luke Maye, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson.  Michigan State has the next coming of Vince Carter in Miles Bridges, along with a huge cast of sophomores who can grow into something special.



Tip Off Marathon Schedule, Predictions

Tennessee at Georgia Tech
7 p.m.
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Kevin Punter, Tennessee Guard
Line: Georgia Tech -4 Tennessee +240 Prediction: Georgia Tech 73 Tennessee 58

If you had trouble finding highlights for Tennessee’s bare escape of UNC Ashville, you are not alone.  Click here to see them, courtesy Knoxville news channel WVLT.  Rick Barnes has an undersized squad in his first year with the Vols while Brian Gregory has five upperclassmen in his starting lineup.  This game could become a track meet.

7:30 p.m.
Virginia at George Washington
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Isaiah Wilkins, Virginia Forward
Line: Virginia -7, George Washington +195 prediction: Virginia 58 George Washington 53

With Justin Anderson now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, expect Isaiah Wilkins to fill the role and introduce himself to a national primetime audience.  The stepson of Dominique Wilkins showed flashes last season coming off the bench.  Look for George Washington to make a game of it, however.  Point guard Joe McDonald runs a solid offense and forward Patricio Garino will give Virginia a taste of its own medicine in terms of lockdown defense.  (Click here for a preseason preview with George Washington student beat writer, Josh Solomon).

9 p.m.
Kennesaw State at LSU
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Tim Quarterman, LSU Guard
Line: N/A prediction:  LSU 73 Kennesaw State 56

This will effectively be a continuation of the NBA Draft showcase for LSU super freshman Ben Simmons.   But Yonel Brown just dropped 34 for Kennesaw State in its opener loss to Alabama and LSU didn’t exactly blow out McNeese State, either.  Caution:  LSU point guard Keith Horsnby is still sidelined with an injury.

9:30 p.m.
San Diego State at Utah
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Malik Pope, San Diego St. Forward
Line: Utah -2 1/2, San Diego State +195 prediction:  San Diego State 68 Utah 66

If there is anything San Diego State traditionally does well, it is double-team the post.  And while Jacob Poetl is being crowned as the next Bill Walton in some circles, the freshman will have to contest with the rim protection of seniors Skylar Spencer and Angelo Chol.  This is a classic role reversal according to last year’s eye test.  San Diego State should be ranked 16th in the nation with its returning talent of Winston Shepard, Malik Pope and Trey Kell on offense.  Utah should be the team with something to prove now that it is without Delon Wright (now a member of the Toronto Raptors).

11:30 p.m.
Baylor at Oregon
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Rico Gathers, Baylor Forward
Line: PICK EM prediction:  Baylor 85 Oregon 82

Baylor looked very impressive in its win against in-state irritant, Stephen F. Austin in its season opener.  Ishmail Wainright was especially steady, scoring 8 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists.  Look for this to be a high-scoring, tight matchup throughout.  It may even make the marathon even more marathonish with an overtime session.  Oregon’s carved a steady reputation as a team that plays no defense, and its additions this offseason don’t seem to solve that.  Oregon does, however, bring in an electric scorer in freshman Tyler Dorsey from Los Angeles.  He dropped 20 in the Ducks opener on 5-6 shooting in 27 minutes of play.


1:45 a.m.
BYU at Long Beach State
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Kyle Davis, BYU Forward
Line: BYU -6 Long Beach State +220 prediction: BYU 61 LBST 52

BYU returns a backcourt of experience while Long Beach State loses precious veterans such as Mike Caffey.  Pay close attention also to Utah State transfer for the Cougars, Kyle Davis.  He scored 17 in his debut at BYU.

4 a.m.
Nevada at Hawaii
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: D.J. Fenner, Nevada Forward
Line: Hawaii -12 1/2 prediction: Hawaii 70 Nevada 52

This may be the game to sleep on, literally.  Hawaii plays a fun brand of basketball, but it oftentimes looks like that last game you play at the YMCA before they shut the lights out on you.  The Rainbows rarely find a shot they don’t like.  Hawaii’s backcourt is Isaac Fleming and Roderick Bobbit, whose generous listing each at 6 foot 3 inches is a creation of the sports information department.  D.J. Fenner is a well-rounded forward returning from a team that went 9-22 last season.

6 a.m.
Green Bay at East Tennessee State
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Jordan Fouse, Green Bay Forward
Line: Green Bay -2 1/2 East Tennessee State -108 prediction: Green Bay 64 ETST 53

Now that Keifer Sykes has moved on to the NBA Developmental League, this is Carrington Love’s Phoenix ball club.  Love is a senior and returns a similar skill set which includes command of the offense and an ability to score when tested.  East Tennessee State has scheduled an ambitious pre-conference schedule, which includes Villanova, this Green Bay team, Tennessee and Georgia Tech.  We’ll see if they live up to the competition.


8 a.m.
Stephen F. Austin at Northern Iowa
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin Guard
Line: Northern Iowa -4 Stephen F. Austin +130 prediction: UNI 65 Stephen F. Austin 55

Stephen F. Austin’s run as a tournament darling seemed to be cooling off as it struggled mightily against Baylor days ago.  Northern Iowa lost national player of the year candidate Seth Tuttle, but still maintains its identity as a gritty defensive bunch with shooters on the perimeter.  UNI struggled against Colorado State, but the eye test tells you that the Rams were an athletic and aggressive team.

10 a.m.
Valparaiso at Rhode Island
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Vashil Fernandez
Line: PICK EM prediction: Valpo 59 Rhode Island 55

This could be the most evenly-matched game of ESPN’s Tip Off Marathon.  After falling short of a tournament berth last season, both of these teams have shown signs of hunger in the early going.    Valpo held sharp-shooting Iona to 29% shooting in its last game and Rhode Island rolled past American in its opener.  The one major buzzkill is that Rhode Island lost its star forward, EC Matthews, for the season with a torn ACL.  If you’re working at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, set a DVR for this one.  One of these teams will be in the NCAA Tournament, if not both, and this could be a defacto playoff game to prove who.

1 p.m.
Alabama at Dayton
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot:  Scoochie Smith, Dayton Guard
Line: Alabama +15, Dayton +400 prediction: Dayton 61 Alabama 58

In the rapidly changing environment of college basketball, this is perhaps the game showcasing the most turnover.  Dayton is far removed from its Elite 8 appearance and not much is known yet about how Avery Johnson’s role will change the tide.  For Dayton, the first game’s win would indicate that coach Archie Miller’s bunch can still spread you out and knock ’em down.  Freshman Ryan Mikesell hit five three-pointers in his debut and the Flyers shot 51% against (okay) Southeast Missouri State.

3 p.m.
Colorado at Auburn
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Cinmeon Bowers, Auburn Forward
Line: Colorado -4 prediction: Auburn 67 Colorado 55

You know coach Bruce Pearl will have his hometown Tigers hyped for this national showcase.  Colorado looked beatable in the post against Iowa State, despite the growing draft stock of center Josh Scott.  Cinmeon Bowers looks hungry for some points down low.

5 p.m.
Oklahoma at Memphis
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma Guard
Line: Oklahoma -4, Memphis +140 prediction: Oklahoma 72 Memphis 51

For Oklahoma, Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins are a top 5 backcourt nationally.  For Memphis, the loss via transfer of forward Austin Nichols is a role that needs replacing.  Keep a close eye on how brothers, freshmen, and top 50 recruits K.J. and Dedric Lawson do as far as filling that void.  (Read more about the Lawsons, courtesy CBS Sports Gary Parrish’s 2013 article).

5 p.m.
DePaul at Penn State
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot: Billy Garrett, DePaul Guard
Line: Penn State -7 1/2 prediction: Penn State 64 DePaul 63

DePaul was impressive in a second half comeback against Western Michigan.  However, Penn State showed a balance in scoring it hasn’t seen in years in its rout of VMI.  Although not giant, the roster for the Nittany Lions could pose size issues for a smaller DePaul squad.

7:30 p.m.
Kentucky vs. Duke
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot:  Marcus Lee, Kentucky Forward
Line: Kentucky -4 1/2, Duke +180 prediction: Kentucky 70 Duke 60

Two words:  Skal Labissiere.

9 p.m.
Georgetown at Maryland
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot:  DeVonte Smith-Riviera, Georgetown Guard
Line: Georgetown +5 prediction: Maryland 69 Georgetown 61

Wow, Radford beat Georgetown in the first game of the season.  I apologize for questioning the AP for not placing the Hoyas into the preseason top 25.  It would appear they still need to work off some of the prosciutto and polenta poundage gained in their offseason trip to Italy.  Meanwhile,  Maryland senior forward Jake Layman gained 25 pounds of the welcomed type: muscle.  Melo Tremble and this Terrapins bunch has a ranking, 3rd, that feels very worthy at this point.

10 p.m.
Kansas vs. Michigan State
Daily Fantasy Roster Spot:  Frank Mason III, Kansas Guard
Line: Kansas -8 1/2 prediction: Michigan State 66 Kansas 59

Kansas is ranked 4th in the nation and Michigan State 13th, yet Kansas is an 8 1/2 point underdog.  That’s yet more proof that Las Vegas should be replacing the Associated Press in ranking these teams.  Anyway, Kansas is very much figuring things out during the highly publicized wait for the eligibility of freshman Cheick Diallo.  While this means newly found playing time for post players Hunter Mickelson and Landen Lucas, the Michigan State equivalent is veterans Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling.  And while you can’t see Diallo in action, enjoy Jayhawk freshman Calton Bragg Jr., who has had a terrific preseason.





10 One-on-One Matchups We Could Talk about 10 Years from now

It’s March Madness!!!

Here are some one-on-one matchups from the Thursday/Friday games we could be talking about for years to come…

1.  Fred Van Vleet vs. Yogi Ferrell
Teams: 7 Wichita State vs. 10 Indiana
The Great Quarterback Matchup 
Video exists of Yogi Ferrell reflecting on a 2012 summer league matchup against “that little point guard.”  That little point guard is Fred Van Vleet and he’s guided his Wichita State Shockers to a better seed in the NCAA Tournament than Yogi Ferrell’s.  These guys are both in my top five of college basketball’s best point guards.  Each are very similar in this way:  they’re intent on orchestrating an offense but will burn a team that disrespects them in a defensive scheme.  Each is small, by NBA standards, but huge on campus and in the huddle.  Yogi Ferrell has greatly improved his three-point shooting over his Indiana career.  Van Vleet’s three point numbers have declined, but that’s not the priority of his game.  His point production ticked up a free throw this season.  His assists per game remained above 5.  The outcome of this matchup will come down to what happens on the perimeter.  I’ll be closely watching how these competitors exchange jabs to start.

2.  Justin Moss vs. Devin Williams
Teams: 12 Buffalo vs. 5 West Virginia
The Heavyweights 
Much will be made (and already is) about the front court matchups in this contest.  But the most anticipated 5-12 matchup of 2015 could come down to the post.  I mean, how can you converse about a game between the Mountaineers and the Bulls without some beef?  Moss is weighing in at 240 lbs., Williams 255 lbs.  Big 12 opponents describe Williams as the toughest guy to grab a rebound against (I listen to a lot of Kansas City sports talk radio).  Moss averages 9.3 rebounds per game.  Watch closely who finishes at the rim, and who commits the most fouls at the rim.

Georgetown Guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera one of many in college basketball sending thoughts to Briante Weber after his season-ending injury.

3.  Tyler Harvey vs. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
Teams: 14 Eastern Washington vs. 3 Georgetown
Prom Night
In high school, these guys were voted most likely to drop 30 points in an NCAA tournament game.  (If only yearbooks had meaningful popularity contests like this).  Harvey single-handedly led his Eagles to a victory late against Montana in its championship game.  Smith-Rivera has apparently dyed his hair orangish-red, to match the NBA-Jam like fire he can ignite with.  These shooting guard’s average (Harvey 22, Smith-Rivera 16) doesn’t tell the story of how many points they can drop potentially.

4.  Sir’Dominic Pointer vs. J.J. O’Brien
Teams:  9 St. John’s vs. 8 San Diego State
The Stat-line Stuffers
Every winning team claims to have a “glue guy.”  Sir Dom and J.J. qualify, in fact, they’d probably tell Elmer (to his face) that he’s a chump.  For San Diego State, J.J. O’Brien was the guy who came over from the opposite block to double-team Joel Embiid as the Aztecs dominated a game at Allen Fieldhouse against KU.  Pointer’s creativity in transition and defensive prowess at the rim gave the Red Storm a real shot at beating Duke on Coach K’s 1K moment.  I can’t say it’s a true one-on-one matchup, because these guys maybe assigned to guard everyone else.  Check the box score afterwards though and give me a shout.

5.  D’Angelo Russell vs. Terry Larrier
Teams:  10 Ohio State vs. 7 VCU
The Fresh Prince
These are freshmen are two of America’s highest rated guards coming out of high school  Russell has obviously lived up to his hype, averaging 19.3 points per game.  He’s also expected to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.  But don’t overlook Larrier.  He’s the highest rated recruit ever to play for Shaka Smart’s Rams.  His workload, like his teammates, has been added to after the season-ending injury to Briante Weber.  Larrier is 6’8″ with long arms, a slender build and great body control when going up for a shot.  This could be a game that you might check the box score years later and yell, “DAMN!  Russell and Larrier were in that game as freshmen?!”

6.  Larry Nance Jr. vs. Seth Tuttle
Teams:  13 Wyoming vs. 4 Northern Iowa
Big Men on Campus
In a different life, Tuttle would have been a great point-center on Georgetown’s offense.  He’s a true center who can receive the ball at the top of the key, peruse his options, then bang away at a defender to get a hoop if need be.  His court vision is incredible.  These two versatile centers will go at it.  Both can run the break.  Each can start and finish a play.  Nance Jr. has really come on since a knee injury that cost him a previous season and a more recent battle with mononucleosis.  Each of these teams would be a surprise to make an Elite 8, but I can see this being a catapult game.  After a hard-fought contest, the winner can be propelled with a huge wave of momentum.  Each school is not a traditional power, or even a frequent guest of this prestigious tournament.  They’re truly big men on campus.

7.  R.J. Hunter vs. Taurean Prince
Teams 14 Georgia State vs. 3 Baylor
The String Beans
Both these guys are lanky, skinny, still developing, skilled scorers.  Hunter more so than his counterpart junior, Prince.  R.J. Hunter’s scoring his dropped slightly in his junior campaign, yet he still averages nearly 20.  Prince averages 14 but has been coming on stronger as of late.  Each of these guys are about 6’7″ and don’t seek-out physical contact.  That’s especially the case with R.J. Hunter.  The best comparison for him is a combination of Reggie Miller and Steph Curry.  Hunter is great in catch-and-shoot situations off of ball screens.  Prince’s strength is more on getting rebound and turning it into a fast-break.  I’m sure NBA scouts are interested in how these guys perform against each other.  I can imagine a road for Prince similar to Tyrus Thomas of LSU a few years ago.  He wasn’t in the discussion as an NBA First Rounder before the tournament.  However, once scouts see his length and athleticism, they’ll try and figure out a position for him later.

8.  Kevon Looney vs. Markus Kennedy
Teams 11 UCLA vs. 6 SMU
Linguine and Lasagna 
Looney is linguine to Kennedy’s lasagna.  Looney’s length goes on for days.  His wingspan allows him to scoop up any rebound on the plate.  He averages almost 10 rebounds a game (yes, a double double is the norm for this freshman).  Kennedy is like Lasagna.  As a junior he’s more complex, there are more layers to his game and, yes, he brings the beef at 245 lbs.  I’d imagine these guys would be paired up against one another at the power and/or small forward spot for durations of this game.  For SMU to win, I’d like to see Kennedy stay out of foul trouble and use that massive frame to box out guys like Looney.  Kennedy has only fouled out of one game this season, but spent the first quarter of it on the sidelines and also registered multiple games in foul trouble (4 personals, to be exact).  I would not be surprised to see the X Factor for who will win this matchup come down to who is more successful in the midrange game:  linguine or lasagna?

9.  Bronson Koenig vs. Warren Gillis
Teams: Wisconsin vs. Coastal Carolina
Marky Mark vs. Warren G.
Coastal Carolina maybe the best 16 seed I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Warren Gillis and the Chanticleers have been here before.  Bronson Koenig is a sophomore and has only recently had the meteoric rise to tour so many shows in the absence of point guard Traevon Jackson.  If Coastal Carolina is competitive, Warren G. will have to drop a few beats and make Koenig dance on defense.

10.  Roosevelt Jones vs. Myles Turner
Teams: Butler vs. Texas
Bulldog vs. Young pup
Jones is a thick Junior with a Mark West type of compass on the basketball court.  He uses his “center of gravity” to get where he wants to go.  He’s the bulldog on the block used to eating what he likes when he wants.  Myles Turner is the new puppy on the street.  We’ve all already seen his photo on our Facebook pages.  Though Jones may play a position shorter than Turner, the freshman will inevitably challenge a lot of Jones’s activity at the rim.

Kemba Walker’s step-back against Kawaii Leonard’s San Diego State squad in 2011.  UNC’s Ademola Okulaja was on Harold “The Show” Arceneaux late, yet Weber State’s Cinderella story of 1999 would not be denied.  Jacob Pullen and Shelvin Mack traded blows in a 2010 classic brawl between the Butler Bulldogs and Kansas State Wildcats.  Who is your choice for a memorable matchup in this tournament?  Tweet me @CBBEyeTest or leave a comment on the blog.

I’m in Vegas to fully indulge:

It’s an annual tradition of about ten years.

Lucky 7 Picks to Start 2014

Let’s get right into it.  Cincinnati will cover 7 points in Memphis.  The Bearcats beat an SMU team that randomly got a vote for the AP top 25 previoiusly.  They also proved seven points could take an opponent an entire quarter to accomplish (during an abysmal offensive showcase against former Big East foe Pittsburgh recently).

This is also when I expect Michigan State to flex its muscle.  They will cover 1 1/2 points in Indiana Saturday then serve Ohio State its first loss of the season Wednesday night.  This is what I expect of a national champion, which is what I believe Tom Izzo’s club to be.  Did you know that every player Izzo has ever coached for four years has played in the Final Four?  Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are the two seniors of note who in jeopardy of seeing that streak end.  However, both are playing like leaders and have a great supporting cast including, fittingly, Indiana’s former Mr. Basketball Gary Harris.

SLATE respect the line created by MDP

Speaking of Ohio State, there are some wacky inflated lines heading into Saturday, January 4th’s matchups.  The Buckeyes are giving an improved Nebraska program 17 points.  Meanwhile, Arizona is giving Washington 18 points.  Take both underdogs in those scenarios.  Lorenzo Romar is a great coach with the Washington Huskies and they’ll be competitive in Tuscon.

Another line that I think is over-inflated is the Xavier-Butler matchup.  The line is 6 points favoring Xavier.  But Butler just took #8th ranked Villanova to overtime before losing.  In fact, two of the Bulldogs three loses this season were in overtime.  They’ve lost by combined seven points total all season.  This is a historic matchup with Xavier up 31-17 lifetime.  Butler is 8-3 on the season against the spread, according to  If you need one more reason to trust Butler +6, they lost last year’s matchup to Xavier by a slim 5 points.

Ouch.  Colorado State is 1-7 against the spread this season.  I like the law of large averages to work in their favor this weekend.  They face a good New Mexico team, but are getting a comfortable 12 point cushion.  Take the Rams Saturday.

Last, but not least, take St. John’s against Georgetown.  The Hoyas most recent notable game was a spanking at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence (the home of  I wouldn’t be surprised if JT3’s team responds with a winning effort, but Jakarr Sampson somehow fell from the LeBron James  athlete tree in Akron, Ohio.  I like he and the Johnny’s to keep it close and cash in on a 6 point cushion.

Matt’s ATS is 10-7 on the season.  Look for the amount of predictions to really ramp up as the start of 2014 means March will be here before we know it!