Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gambling 2K8: Part 40 (College Hoops Preview)

No Vickers tonight, but I did wager on the following basketball teams to cut down the nets in March:

$5 Arizona (75/1) - Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill will be first-rounders in the '09 draft, and if I'm not mistaken, at least one - and maybe all - of the hot shot freshmen weren't allowed to transfer out of the program. Factor in the shaky coaching situation and this could end up being one of those cute March Madness stories that develop every now and again.

$5 Davidson (40/1) - Guilty. What can I say...I love watching the guy play.

$20 Florida (22/1) - Nick Calathes is one of the few guys in college basketball I see as a potential All Star at the next level. Call me crazy, but I'm a fan of 6'6 point guards with A+ shooting and passing skills. If more than one of Florida's freshmen are ready for the big stage, this team could be dangerous.

$15 Georgetown (25/1) - DaJuan Summers might be one of the ten best players in the game come mid-season. Plus, John Thompson III's system is bulletproof.

$15 Gonzaga (30/1) - I can't speak to North Carolina's freshmen, but in terms of returning players, Gonzaga's rotation is every bit as talented as that of the Tar Heels - and I'll glady argue that with anyone who wants to feel stupid. So, from that standpoint, getting the Zags at 30/1 is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, this nucleus has never put it together and just seem soft.

$15 Kansas (25/1) - My favorite (and maybe the best) PG in the country, Sherron Collins, finally gets to run the show on his own, and Cole Aldrich is one of the few big men in the country who is actually fun to watch. If I could actually bet on such a thing, I would place a healthy amount of American dollars on Aldrich's stock rising higher than any player on the planet over the next five months. Did you watch the Kansas-North Carolina Final Four game last year? Aldrich didn't just hold his own against Tyler Hansbrough, or play him to a stalemate...he embarrassed him (8 pts, 7 reb, 4 blocks in 16 minutes). His length, athleticism, non-stop energy and shot-blocking prowess make him quite the prospect. And when you consider he only played a combined 24 minutes in the other five tourney games (with ten coming in a first-round blowout), and that he only was on the court against UNC because of foul trouble, it's shocking how well he played on the biggest stage. Anyway, the equation: Aldrich + Collins + hopeful emergence of a freshman or two = not a bad 25/1 shot.

$5 Kentucky (35/1) - Hoping Patty Patterson is fully recovered + hoping Jodie Meeks finally realizes potential + hoping for a miracle + I'm still on the Billy Gillespie bandwagon = you never know.

$5 Marquette (60/1) - If Dominic James somehow developed a decent jumper over the summer (highly unlikely), Marquette probably has the best all-around three-guard lineup in the nation, with James, Wes Matthews and stopper Jerel McNeal. Remember, guards win championships. If James is still a crappy shooter, however, Marquette has no chance.

$5 Oklahoma (35/1) - I'm not buying the "Blake Griffin 1st overall in '09 draft" hype just yet (although his size/athleticism combo is scary for a 19-20-year-old)...but let's say I'm wrong, and the scouts are right. Now the Sooners have the best player in the country (or at least the guy with the best upside), plus all the other top-notch talent fat-faced Jason Capel has accumulated in his short time in Norman. Not a terrible bet.

$20 Purdue (20/1) - Robbie Hummel just seems like the kind of player who will play in the Final Four before his career is over...and now seems like as good a time as any. Fact: Purdue is loaded - in as much as a team competing in the diluted talent pool of college basketball can actually be loaded. The Boilers have three really good guards, the Big Ten's best player in Hummel and a pencil-thin, 6'10 combo forward named JaJuan Johnson with all the ability in the world.

$20 Texas (20/1) - Rick Barnes will never win a title, so this is a waste of twenty dollars. But Damion James, AJ Abrams (as long as Barnes doesn't experiment with the Eddie House clone at point) and the supporting cast are plenty talented enough to make a run at it.

That is all for now. I'd give my sleeper picks and Final Four predictions, but I'd wind up boring myself. I look around the country and have a difficult time buying into North Carolina, UConn, Louisville or whoever. Am I missing something? What separates those three from the pack? And is there a single non-freshman (not counting Stephen Curry) who is undeniably great? I just don't see it.

Don't get me wrong, I still love college basketball, but not they way I did when I was 17. Sure, some of that has to do with maturity (or whatever), and the current state of the UC program hasn't helped (I watch every Cats game, but I'm out of the "examining the RPI every day" business), but the reality is this: The NBA has become a great night-in/night-out product over the past five seasons and it's hard for me to justify watching regular season college ball over NBA games unless (a.) the Bearcats are playing, which takes precedent over everything in my life, including breathing and blinking, (b.) it's an important game, like Memphis-Tennessee last year, (c.) Stephen Curry is playing, (d.) a Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley emerge, where I have to drop what I'm doing and analyze every step they take, (e.) I can't find the remote or (f.) Vickers gave me no choice.

That's it, that's the list. Otherwise I'm watching a relatively meaningless Grizzlies-Raptors game.
-Brad Spieser (