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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Madness

The smell of processed turkey is in the air and Tim Floyd has his eye on this kid. This can only mean one thing: college hoops season is upon us.

The recreational bettor loves placing early season wagers on the holy grail of sports betting: the NCAA tournament. Last year's favorites, UNC, offered little value to futures players opening at 3-1 to win it all. Despite a minor mid-season conference hiccup, the odds on the Tar Heels never increased beyond 3.5-1 all season.

Younger squads opening with good odds (Wake Forest 50-1, Connecticut 20-1, Pittsburgh 25-1) all took turns as the regular season #1 but couldn't hold the throne for longer than two weeks. When the smoke settled in late March, the most intriguing Final Four team was undoubtedly Villanova (opened at 75-1). Carolina blue made quick work of the Wildcats and Tom Izzo's Spartans (20-1 preseason), cruising to lopsided double digit victories in both games.

So what can we learn from last season handicapping this season's futures?

Recent history suggests the #1 seed is king. Since 2000, a #1 seed has cut down the nets 7 out of the last 10 years. The exceptions were one #2 seed (UConn in '04) and two #3 seeds (Melo's Syracuse in '03 and Florida in '06). The last three national champions have been #1 seeds (UNC, '08 Kansas, '07 Florida).

This tells us the cinderellas and dark horses make occasional deep tourney runs but can't be trusted to win it all. There might be value in capping individual matchups during the tourney, but that's about it.

This leaves us with one major problem: how can we predict who's going to be the #1 seeds at the end of the season? This isn't the perfect formula, but I think their are three key ingredients: non conference SOS (strength of schedule), conference prestige, and star power.

Let's put some early favorites up to the formula test.

Kansas (Preseason poll ranking #1, SOS #48, Conference Ranking #3)
Odds to win 3-1 (Live College basketball odds)
At 3-1, it's impossible to make an argument for any team in today's climate of college hoops. This team has all the goods to make to Indianapolis: a strong anchor in the post (Cole Aldrich) and a senior playmaker to they can feed the ball to in crunch time (Sherron Collins). They have the experience, a tough SOS, and a seasoned tournament head coach. Still, the likelihood of this squad to to hoist the John Wooden trophy compared to last year's 3-1 UNC squad are significantly smaller. Stay away unless you can find better odds.
Pick value (1-10) - 4

Michigan State (Preseason poll ranking #2, SOS #29, Conference Ranking #2)
Odds to win 10-1
10-1 is about right. The team is led by an explosive backcourt (Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers) that can spark a ten-point run in the blink of an eye. It's tourney tested and it's head coach (Tom Izzo) is arguably the best postseason coach this decade. The main concern is the frontcourt is undersized and young. While sophomores Draymond Green and Delvin Roe stepped up big during State's runner-up tourney finish last season, they are still very raw offensively (3.3 and 5.6 ppg last season, respectively). This team lives and dies by it's guard play and guard oriented teams traditionally struggle to bring home the bread in the tournament. Still, it's hard not to believe Izzo won't find a way to make it work come march.
Pick value - 7

Kentucky (Preseason poll ranking #5, SOS #94, Conference Ranking #6
Odds to win 6-1
Hands down the most controversial pick out there. Three of Ronald Mcdonald's very own diaper dandies are expected to start (PG John Wall, SG Eric Bledsoe, and C Demarcus Cousins). The virtuoso recruiter (John Calipari) switched horses in midstream, dodging an impending NCAA investigation to come to UK. None of this can answer the real question nagging wildcat backers: is this team really a contender?

There's no question Calipari can develop freshmen talent (see Dajuan Wagner, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans). He does such a good job with first-year players they keep leaving him for the NBA after one go-around. But final four runs require more than just young legs: you need balance, depth, and team chemistry. There's simply no way to tell if these team will develop these key ingredients. If Jodie Meeks had decided to stick around for his senior season, I could give this pick the thumbs up.
Pick value- 3

Duke (Preseason poll #12, SOS #119, Conference Ranking #1)
Odds 11-1
The Dukies have fallen on hard times, failing to advance to the elite eight for the fifth straight season. The ACC finally has some competition as the premier conference this season with strong, balanced arguments coming from both the Big Ten and Pac-10.
Still, counting out the Blue Devils is a mistake. There are engraved adages in sports betting: don't bet against Tiger, Peyton, Belichick/Brady. Coach K absolutely deserves to be in this conversation. SF Kyle Singler is the go-to-guy again this season with the usual lights out 3-point shooting cast led by senior PG Jon Scheyer. This is an experienced and hungry team you can expect to rack up wins early before being tested in conference play. I wouldn't be surprised if they wrestle away the ACC title from the Tar Heels this season and secure the ACC's annual guaranteed #1 seed.
Pick value - 5

Teams worth taking a look (35-1 Washington, 35-1 California , 20-1 Purdue, 20-1 Tennessee, 15-1 Louisville)

Thanks, but no thanks (65-1 Michigan, 18-1 West Virginia, 12-1 Villanova, 8-1 UNC)

The "I feel like gambling" picks (55-1 Maryland, 50-1 Wake Forest, 50-1 Butler, 65-1 Clemson)

For all the best NCAA Basketball Picks check out Cooper's Sports Picks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Duke takes on the Buckeyes

Buckeyes take on Dukes in 2K Sports Classic

Columbus, OH (Sports Network) - The 2K Sports Classic continues in Columbus this evening, as the 16th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes host the James Madison Dukes at Value City Arena.

This will be the season-opener for the Dukes, who are coming off an impressive 21-win campaign, marking the most wins in one season for a JMU squad since the 1992-93 season. With four starters back in the mix, coach Matt Brady will be looking for similar results in his second season at the helm.

As for the Buckeyes, they opened their new campaign on Monday with a convincing, 100-60 decision over Alcorn State. It was the fifth straight season-opening victory for Ohio State under the tutelage of coach Thad Matta. Ohio State posted 22 wins a year ago, but the season ended in heartbreaking fashion, as the Buckeyes were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the first round with a double-overtime loss to Siena.

With respect to the all-time series between the two schools, the Dukes hold a 1-0 edge over Ohio State. The victory came in the first round of the NCAA Tournament back in 1982, as JMU defeated the Buckeyes, 55-48.

There was plenty to be happy about heading into the season for JMU, as the team was expected to return four starters to the mix. The best of the bunch being sophomore Julius Wells, who was tabbed CAA Rookie of the Year after averaging 11.6 ppg and 5.5 rpg last year. Wells stands at 6-5 and should be even tougher this season with a year of experience under his belt. Fellow sophomore Andrey Semenov, who played sparingly last season will likely join Wells in the paint, while senior Dazzmond Thornton will serve as the veteran of the frontcourt. Semenov posted 8.2 ppg and 4.1 rpg in a reserve role, and Thornton progressed as last year moved along, and could be primed for an even bigger improvement this season. All is not rosy however with JMU's personnel, as talented guard Devon Moore (10.7 ppg and 3.7 rpg as a freshman), will miss the entire season after suffering a knee injury. Senior Pierre Curtis, who led the team with 99 assists a year ago, will need to step up in Moore's absence as a scorer, after posting 9.3 ppg a year ago.

College basketball Picks

The Buckeyes opened their new campaign in grand fashion, as the team dominated Alcorn State, 100-60. Ohio State shot 53.4 percent from the field and connected on an impressive 14-of-33 attempts from behind the arc. Jon Diebler, who shot 41.6 percent from behind the arc last season and averaged 11.2 ppg, led the way in the win over Alcorn State with 22 points and continued his sharp shooting, knocking down 6-of-9 three-point attempts. William Buford added 19 points, but the best player on the floor was Evan Turner, who collected a triple-double with 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. This looks like Turner's team once again, as the guard led the squad last season with 17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 131 assists and 58 steals. As for Buford, he posted 11.3 ppg a season ago, and when teamed with Turner and Diebler this is clearly one of the best guard trios in the nation. Expect all three players to once again play a vital role in the team's success this evening and throughout the season.


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