The NCAA Basketball season concluded with four teams from the Big Ten ranked among the top eight teams in the country.
The Pac 12, had two teams in the AP top 25, Colorado at 22 and USC at 23.
Then the tournament began and the highly regarded Big Ten lost eight of their nine participants before the field was reduced to the 32 teams still alive when the Sweet 16 tipped off. Meanwhile, the Pac 12, which began the tournament with UCLA eliminating the first of the Big Ten schools to fall, Michigan State, in the play-in game, represented one of the four Pac 12 conference teams to advance to the Sweet 16.
Any wonder why Brent Musburger coined the term “March Madness”?
In the Sweet 16 round, the only Pac 12 team to lose was ousted by a fellow Pac 12 squad when USC downed Oregon. Three Pac 12 teams were participants in the Elite 8, and tonight two of them are in action. While Oregon State lost last night to the Houston Cougars, USC battles top ranked Gonzaga in a contest set to begin at 4:15 p.m. Pacific Time and the later game tonight has UCLA up against top seed Michigan.
Oregon State did not go quietly into the night. They only made the field of 64 based on earning an automatic bid by winning the Pac 12 Conference Tournament, but the 12th seed Beavers upset Tennessee and Oklahoma State in first round action and surprised Loyola of Chicago in the Sweet 16. Last night, they trailed by 17 points at halftime against the second seed Cougars, then put on a furious second half rally that had them tie the game late only to fall at the end, 67-61. The six point loss was good enough to pick up a point spread win … Houston was favored by eight points.
Tonight, with the two remaining Pac 12 squads underdogs to a pair of number one seeds, Gonzaga and Michigan, there are two questions to be answered. First, is the Pac 12 going to have any team or teams earn a date in the Final Four, and second, even in defeat, are they good enough to win the money against the point spread?
The books are still in search of a point spread high enough to trip up Gonzaga. They haven’t found one yet. The Bulldogs have won all three first half bets and final spread results in lopsided wins over Norfolk State, Oklahoma and Creighton. The opening line on tonight’s game had the Bulldogs favored by nine points, a number that has been trimmed a half point while a slight majority of public bets are backing the favorite.
This is handicappers doing their work, looking for value in the line and advising their followers to take the points against the best team in the land. Sometimes, and I think tonight is one of those nights, you don’t need to do all the work as a handicapper, but rather just let the best team in the tournament do the heavy lifting.
While we expect Gonzaga to roll on towards their highly expected perfect season, the Michigan and UCLA matchup appears much more competitive. While the number one seed Wolverines are likely to advance, we are not willing to lay the 6½ points necessary to back them … nor vested in them not covering the line.