Posts Tagged ‘NCAA Basketball’

wade and tarkanianBy W.G. Ramirez

This April will mark the 28th anniversary of my first published article after high school.

Less than a year after graduating from Clark High School, my exclusive interview with then-UNLV point guard Mark Wade was splashed across the front page of the Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the state’s only African-American newspaper.

That was 1987. Little did I know the next time we’d do another exclusive 1-on-1 interview, it would be under somber circumstances.

But sure enough, less than 30 seconds after texting my ol’ buddy Mark, he replied with one simple word: “Yes.”

The question: “Mark, you available for an interview about Tark?”

Mark Wade 2Just as he was UNLV’s loyal floor general who helped lead the Runnin’ Rebels into the 1987 Final Four, and was an extension of the coaching staff on the court, he was loyal to his former coach on Wednesday, roughly three hours after we were all saddened by the news that Jerry Tarkanian had joined his friend and former North Carolina coach Dean Smith in the afterlife.

Mark, understandably shaken, spoke about a number of things with me, talking about how much Tarkanian meant to not only him, but the program, university and city of Las Vegas. Much of what he said, I knew. The broad strokes, of course I knew. I’ve been here since 1972, and used to watch the Runnin’ Rebels play inside the Las Vegas Convention Center’s famed Rotunda, which resembled a spaceship.

From Sweet Lew Brown, Eddie Owens, Sudden Sam Smith, Robert Smith, Reggie Theus and that high-flying bunch from the 70s, to Wade’s crew that included Armen Gilliam, Freddie Banks, Eldridge Hudson and Gary Graham, I had seen them all. Yep, long before the 1990 National Championship – with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt and George Ackles – we were all bleeding Rebel Red.

Including Mark.

Which is why his phone began blowing up shortly after the 84-year-old legend died at Valley Hospital, just minutes from his home. So many people knew what Tarkanian meant to Mark, who might have been diminutive in size, but who had as big a heart as any other Runnin’ Rebel in the history of the program.

Which is why, to this day, he defends UNLV to the core.

“There was always this misperception that we were this undisciplined, crazy, helter-skelter uncontrollable basketball program,” Wade said. “But as chaotic as it looked, it was unbelievably disciplined basketball. To us, we had a plan and it was directed toward what we were supposed to do. Even on the championship team, they all had roles on the floor en route to winning the championship. Us, that 1987 Final Four team, we had a plan and we knew what we were doing and what we had to do to get as far as we did. We had a plan that was set forth in practice.”

And boy did the Runnin’ Rebels execute it.

They finished 37-2, averaged 92.5 points per game, allowed 75.5 points per contest and lost in the National Semifinal, 97-93, to eventual champion Indiana.

But it was the game before that, against Iowa in the West Regional Final that Mark wanted to talk about. It’s the one game he remembers absolutely everything about, and the one game he believes epitomized the life and soul of Tark the Shark.

“The eternal fight of telling one another we weren’t going to lose that game, that’s what I remember,” Wade said. “We were getting out butt whipped out there, I got my fourth foul and Gary (Graham) came in the game. And no matter how far down we got, we just always had the mentality it was us against the world and we were going to fight ’til the clock said zero.”

Just like Tarkanian. In real life.

“The Iowa game epitomized what Coach Tark was all about; it epitomized what college basketball was all about,” he said.

Wade_MarkWade remembers one intangible being the culprit allowing Iowa to open a 16-point halftime lead on the Runnin’ Rebels. That culprit, in a sense, was Tarkanian, who had Gilliam throwing the ball in each time Iowa scored.

“Our best finisher was taking the ball out of bounds, and that wasn’t working,” Wade said. “So at halftime, rather than him telling us what we were doing wrong, a couple players went to coach and we told him to switch Jarvis Basnight with Gilliam, putting the team’s best scorer into frontcourt, rather than the backcourt.

“And that is what essentially changed the flow of the game.”

UNLV outscored the Hawkeyes 42-23 in the second half and advanced to its second-ever Final Four.

“Coach and I never had any serious battles, what we had was a meeting of the minds on the basketball court,” Wade said. “We found a happy medium and that’s what made me enjoy being a point guard for that team.”

It was that kind of relationship that taught Wade to trust a coach, taught Tarkanian a lot more about the point guard on his team and displayed the type of coach who wasn’t afraid to learn from his players while teaching them how to win.

“He taught his players to fight through practice ’til they had nothing left, and in games, the model was to play ’til the game was over,” Wade said. “In life, his journey was the same as what we stood for on the basketball court. You fight until you have nothing left, to the very end.”

Let’s start with the obvious: Lehigh, Ohio and Norfolk State.

Get this, pending the prices you might have gotten at different sports books a $100 moneyline parlay on those three underdogs would have returned about $80,000. Not bad for a day at the sports book, right? Well, until I hear different from the Gaming Commission, I’m pretty sure no one was bold enough to make that kind of investment.

We can be sure there are some busted brackets out there. I’ve heard so many analysts and read so many blogs that had all three big-name victims – Duke, Missouri and Michigan – in the Final Four or National Championship. I did have Ohio beating Michigan on my bracket, but didn’t have Lehigh and Norfolk State, though I thought Lehigh could cover that number.

According to a ‘tweet’ by Covers.com Sports, one bettor cashed in on Norfolk State at 45-to-1 odds. A $120 investment resulted in a $5,520 payout – a profit of $5,400. The site reported the LVH SuperBook had the Spartan at +4000 to win outright. Second-seeded

Missouri was a 21-point favorite, and many had the Tigers going to the Final Four. Norfolk State brought an end to that with its 86-84 win. The total was anywhere from 144 to 145, and easily went over.

Overall, by my count and grading of the first-round games – including the First Four, and not including the Louisville-Davidson game (which I’ll touch on in a minute – the underdogs are now 18-15-2, with 14 of the 18 underdogs winning outright. I’m not sure what the TV analysts were talking about after Thursday, saying there weren’t a lot of upsets, but perhaps they need to check the point spreads and ignore the seedings. Though the favorites went 7-6-2 on Thursday, four of those six pups won outright. With the Louisville win over

Davidson, the line was 7.5, and moved to 7 early in the day. It closed at 5 or 5.5, and the Cardinals won by seven. The only winners on that game might have been any sharps who middled the game.

Looking at today’s lines, the tightest spread is with Vanderbilt-Wisconsin, which is a pick at most places, though you could possibly find either team laying a point somewhere along the way. The biggest number is on Kentucky, which is laying 10.5 points to sharp-shooting Iowa State.

Not all of Sunday’s lines were available at post time, due to Friday’s late games, but the ones that were out saw the slimmest number on Florida State, which was laying 2 to Cincinnati. The biggest was with Florida spotting Norfolk State two touchdowns (-14).

I’ll update this blog as the other lines come out.

 

 

HOW’D THOSE COACHES DO – Thursday I broke down some value coaches to look at, based on their records in the opening round, let’s check and see how the did.

WINNERS: Kansas State’s outspoken skipper, Frank Martin, is still perfect, now 4-0 both SU and ATS in his four tournament appearances

Matt Painter’s Purdue knocked off St. Mary’s, and now has a 6-1 ATS record.

North Carolina’s Roy Williams is a perfect 14-0 SU and 8-5-1 ATS.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few improved to 10-3 SU in the first round.

LOSERS: Michigan coach John Beilein, who led the Wolverines to a share of the Big10 regular season championship, blew his perfect 5-0 SU and ATS when the Wolverines lost to Ohio.

Cal’s Mike Montgomery was 8-1 SU heading into the event, but saw his Golden Bears, a Sweet 16 choice of mine, get blasted by South Florida.

I warned you to be careful about betting on Duke’s Coach K, who is now 13-2 SU and 7-8 ATS in the first round.

Kansas’ Bill Self is 11-2 SU but a mediocre 7-5 ATS in the round of 64

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is 10-4 SU and 8-6 ATS and

West Virginia’s Bobby Huggins was a bust as a suggested moneyline play, and is now 9-4 SU in the first round of the event with teams he’s taken.

FADE WINNERS AND LOSERS: I told you some of the coaches you may want to think about going against in the first round, based on their ATS trends were Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, Kentucky’s John Calipari and North Carolina State’s Mark Gottfried.

Calhoun was 10-1 SU in this round, and 3-8 at the window, and saw his Huskies lose outright to Iowa State.

Kentucky’s John Calipari had won seven of eight trips to this round – at the helm of Memphis and Kentucky – but his teams had only cashed out three times. Another profitable investment, as the Wildcats won, but did not cover.

Gottfried had only covered the number once in six first-round games, but his Wolfpack got the money in routing San Diego State.

I did suggest a favorite to go against on the moneyline, because its coach couldn’t win. That play was on Temple, as its coach Fran Dunphy went into the game mired in a 1-9 SU and ATS slide in this round. Temple took on South Florida, and got beat down, 58-44.

Also, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall was 1-6 SU in the round of 64, and ended up getting dismissed by VCU. I told you to look for the Rams at +250 on the moneyline.

QUOTE OF THE DAY – “We tried all week, our coaching staff, explaining to them (the Tigers) how good Norfolk is. Because you don’t see them on TV, the guys don’t know their players. You worry they don’t understand that, ‘hey, these guys are pretty darn good and, you get in a tournament on a neutral court, the fans cheer for the underdog, and that’s what happens.’ ” Missouri coach Frank Haith.

I wonder if the Tigers get the point now.

TODAY’S ACTION  – Wow!

Serves me right for going against my St. Louis Billikens I’ve backed all season. Rick Majerus has his team fine tuned, I’ll give it to him. Well, still up on my book, and today I go for my fourth winning day in five nights as I absolutely love what I see with my 600* Underdog Shocker at ChrisJordanSports.

! ! !  UPSET ALERT  ! ! !

On Monday, I scored with the Milwaukee Bucks as a 600* getting it done in New Jersey against the Nets.

On Tuesday, it was a 300* dog winner on Mississippi Valley State, in a game it should have won outright, but did in fact cover.

On Wednesday, it was my 300* dog winner was on Vermont, an outright pup that beat Lamar by 12 points.

$1 bettors are up $760

I put a majority of that bankroll into action tonight!!!

Yep, nothing more profitable than the madness in March, and I’m the best there is when it comes to making money this time of year. Let’s keep things going with this easy Saturday winner, the best underdog on the board.

I’m certainly ready for all of March’s madness, no matter the sport!

Right now at my house, I have my laptop tuned into ESPN3 for the NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, and my big screen TV tuned into TNT for the Montana/Wisconsin clash. I’ve already watched Murray State – one of my Final Four teams in my bracket I posted on at ChrisJordanSports – dispose of Colorado State, and I’m ready for a full day of action.

I do wish oddsmakers would put odds on the Wrestling Finals, would be interesting to see how much action would come in on the event, which is growing in popularity. Oh well, until then, we all know where the abundance of money is coming from this month, and that’s on the hardwood. Hoards of people come to Las Vegas every year, on this particular weekend, just to watch the games in the sports books.

Bally’s and Caesars Palace are always popular places, with their spacious seating. Personally, back in the day when I was part of a large betting group and was insistent on putting in my own bets with my share, I would visit Bally’s Excalibur and the Palms. The last one, admittedly, was because of those cocktail waitresses.

Now I’m cool with flipping through the channels, having the picture-in-picture loaded and relaxing in the comforts of my home on the 8th hole of a beautiful golf course. Weather is nice, bets have been laid since Monday and I’m feeling good about everything right now. Just need winners, and my future bets to hold up.

Not sure how you’re doing your handicapping, but you quite possibly might be looking for an edge, whether it’s with the coaches, the underdogs, specific conferences, colors of uniforms, alma maters – you get the point – there are definitely favorable intangibles to use in the first round of this event.

One of my favorites is handicapping the coaches.

Sort of tells me how much preparation a coach puts into his approach, if a powerhouse team is better suited as a first-half play, cause it’ll rest legs for the Round of 32. Definitely an advantage of looking at coaching records in the opening round (now known as the second round, since there is a First Four with four pigtail games).

Let’s start with some of the profitable guys, beginning with Michigan coach John Beilein, who led the Wolverines to a share of the Big10 regular season championship, is a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS. Also, Kansas State’s outspoken skipper, Frank Martin, is 3-0 both SU and ATS in his three tournament appearances, and Matt Painter has led Purdue to a 5-1 ATS record.

Cal’s Mike Montgomery was 8-1 SU heading into the event, but saw his Golden Bears, a Sweet 16 choice of mine, get blasted by South Florida.

Thinking about the top seeds? Careful, Duke’s Coach K is 13-1 SU, but just 7-7 ATS, mainly cause his Blue Devils are always big favorites as one of the higher seeds. They’re laying a rather low -12 to Lehigh on Friday.

Kansas’ Bill Self is 11-2 SU but a mediocre 7-5 ATS in the round of 64, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is 10-4 SU and 8-6 ATS and North Carolina’s Roy Williams is a perfect 13-0 SU and 7-5-1 ATS.

Looking for a good moneyline play with a coach? How about West Virginia’s Bobby Huggins. His Mountaineers opened up as a 1-1/2 point choice over Gonzaga, but the bettors moved the line to the other side, making the Bulldogs a favorite by the same spread. But Huggins is 9-3 SU in the first round of the event with teams he’s taken; then again, so is Gonzaga’s Mark Few.

Some of the coaches you may want to think about going against in the first round, based on their ATS trends are Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, Kentucky’s John Calipari and North Carolina State’s Mark Gottfried.

Calhoun is 10-1 SU in this round, but likely because his team is laying a huge number, he’s a disappointing 3-8 at the window. Calipari has won seven of eight trips to this round – at the helm of Memphis and Kentucky – yet his teams have only cashed out three times. Gottfried, who has breathed new life into the North Carolina State Wolfpack, has only covered the number once in six first-round games.

Looking for a good favorite to go against, on the moneyline, cause its coach can’t win in this round? Look at Temple. Legendary coach John Cheney has to be disappointed, as current Temple coach Fran Dunphy is 1-9 SU and ATS in this round. The guy simply can’t get ready for the tournament. Dunphy, who has been in place at Temple since 2006, has to prepare for the South Florida team that routed Cal in a pigtail game in Dayton.

Also, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall is 1-6 SU in the round of 64, and tonight it’ll take on VCU, who became last year’s tournament darling with its run to the Final Four. You can get VCU at +250 on the moneyline as of Noon pacific.

Hopefully this will give you an added edge when handicapping the first round, err, second round, of this year’s dance.

QUOTE OF THE DAY – This has to be from Iowa State guar Scott Christopherson, who showed no fear whatsoever when being questioned about playing defending national champion Connecticut today. “I mean, Kemba Walker’s not coming back, is he? Obviously, we know Connecticut is one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball. We know they’re the defending national champs. (But) we feel like we earned our way to be here, too. We respect them, but I don’t think there’s like a fear factor with them at all.”

And why would there be, when Iowa State is seeded 8th, and the Huskies are seeded 9th?

TODAY’S PLAY – Tonight, at ChrisJordanSports, I am going for my fourth-straight winning day, I absolutely love what I see with my 500* Opening Round Dog Shocker of the Year. Three nights ago I scored with the Milwaukee Bucks as a 600* getting it done in New Jersey against the Nets. Two nights ago it was a 300* dog winner on Mississippi Valley State, in a game it should have won outright, but did in fact cover. Last night my 300* dog winner was on Vermont, an outright pup that beat Lamar by 12 points. $1 bettors are up $1,200 the last three days! I put nearly half that bankroll into action tonight!!! Yep, nothing more profitable than the madness in March, and I’m the best there is when it comes to making money this time of year. Let’s keep things going with this easy Thursday-night winner, the best underdog on the board.

BRACKETS – I’m sure you’ve all turned in your brackets, but if you’d like to keep track of the stable of handicappers at ChrisJordanSports, click HERE to follow your favorite analyst.

R.I.P. GENTLEMAN JACK – I close this blog out on a sad note, as I lost a close and personal family friend – Gentleman Jack Newton. One of the most colorful characters from the Las Vegas tables, Gentleman Jack was one of the most feared gamblers ever to walk into a casino. He was one of the original high-stakes gamblers who honed his skill back in the post-depression era and on into the 1970s. He won using conventional ways, such as counting cards not to mention a few unconventional ways revealed in his book ‘Gentleman Jack Newton: Confessions of a Crossroad Gambler.’ Gaming legends – including the likes of Jack Binion, Doyle Brunson and one of his best friends, famed sports bettor, Billy Walters – all respected him, then and now. They’ve all noted that Newton was the best at his trade. Last checked, his book is available at Amazon from sellers listing it for nearly $300 per copy. Course, that would have been insurance on a 20-hand at a blackjack table for Gentleman Jack, who I’m certain has already found a high-stakes table beyond the pearly gates. Rest in Peace Gentleman Jack, while Las Vegas became a little less colorful on Wednesday, Heaven became a bit more classier.