Dayton: Busting Brackets and Bettors with Sweet Sixteen Appearance

dayton-flyers-basketballWhen the 2014 NCAA Tournament field was finalized, few people paid much attention to Dayton, a ho-hum 11th seed with no discernible star players. Most March Madness bettors and fans filling out brackets didn’t think that the Flyers would even stand a chance against their in-state rivals Ohio State – let alone their second-round matchup against Syracuse.

But after surviving a last-second shot for the second time in a row, Dayton is now the first Cinderella team in the Sweet Sixteen. And we’ll be quite honest, we totally missed the boat on Dayton in our notable Cinderella picks. Sure, this was a quality team that came into the tournament with a 23-10 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the fairly tough Atlantic 10 Conference (tied for fifth). But if somebody were going to emerge as a postseason favorite, you’d expect it to be Saint Louis (26-6) or VCU (26-8) – both teams that are already done.

The truth is that Dayton now carries the banner for the A-10, and they may represent the Cinderellas’ last hope if 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin doesn’t knock off UCLA later today. So just what is it that has helped the Flyers succeed where other longshots have failed?

For starters, this squad is used to dealing with close, high-pressure games – an excellent quality to have during March Madness. They battled in 10 games during the regular season/A-10 Tournament that were decided by 5 points or less. So it should be little surprise that their first two victories in the NCAA Tournament have been decided by a collective three points.

dayton-flyers-basketball-1The first win over Ohio State was especially dramatic, with Vee Sanford beating Aaron Craft off the dribble for a go-ahead basket with 3.8 seconds left. This gave Craft just enough time to storm down the court for a game-winning rebuttal, however, his shot rattled out. Few could’ve predicted that the Buckeyes, a team with so much tournament success over the past few years, would be toppled by their lesser-known neighbors to the southwest.

Most expected this nice little run to end when Dayton matched up with a more-vaunted opponent in Syracuse. The Orange started the season by running out to a 25-0 record and achieving the nation’s number-one ranking, before stumbling and losing five out of their last seven games prior to March Madness. But with two mid-major opponents out in front of them in Western Michigan and Dayton, it looked like Syracuse could salvage a once-promising season and still make the Sweet Sixteen.

Perhaps they underestimated Dayton’s swarming team defense, which forced the Orange into plenty of bad shots yesterday. To be fair, Syracuse also shot themselves in the foot, shooting under 40% from the field, which was a common theme in all six of their losses down the season stretch. Their two stars, CJ Fair and freshman Tyler Ennis, were held to a combined 11-of-35 (31.4%) from the field.

Another telling stat is that the Orange missed all 10 of their three-point attempts. None of these missed attempts hurt more than Ennis’ last-second three, which clanged off the back of the iron, ending Syracuse’s season with a whimper.

dayton-flyers-basketball-2Contrast this to Dayton, who made several clutch three-pointers down the stretch, connecting on 7-of-16 shots (43.8%) from behind the arc. Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert was especially instrumental in this department as he made three-of-eight shots from downtown. Dyshawn Pierre also came up big by leading a balanced scoring effort with 14 points.

Now, the Flyers wait to see who they’ll play next week as 10th-seeded Stanford and 2nd-seeded Kansas face off. Both of these teams are very good, but you can bet that Dayton would pick the 22-12 Cardinals as opponents, rather than Kansas’ trio of freshman stars – Andrew Wiggins (17.4PPG, 5.9RPG), Joel Embid (11.2PPG, 8.1RPG) and Wayne Seldon Jr. (9.9PPG, 2.7RPG). Embid is currently out with a stress fracture in his back, but could return to action next week. If he can’t go, Kansas still has another tough post player in sophomore Perry Ellis (13.6PPG, 6.6RPG) to contend with.

Assuming Stanford can pull off the upset, Dayton would have to play a very experienced team, lead by junior guard Chasson Randle (18.9PPG, 3.5RPG). He’s teamed up with senior postman Dwight Powell (13.9PPG, 6.8RPG), junior swingman Anthony Brown (12.0PPG, 5.0RPG) and senior forward Josh Huestis (11.3PPG, 8.2RPG).

Regardless of whom Dayton plays, you can bet that they’ll bring the same fire they had in the first two rounds. This squad is extremely balanced, as you can see from their leading scorers, Sibert (12.4PPG), Devin Oliver (11.9PPG), Pierre (11.2PPG) and Vee (9.9PPG). They also shoot the three very well at a 37.6% clip and feature a pretty experienced starting lineup. So whether it’s Kansas or Stanford that wins today, they also have something to fear in regard to their Sweet 16 opponent.

Five 2014 NCAA Tournament Cinderellas that could earn you Big Money

mike-moser-oregonThe 2014 NCAA Tournament field is set, meaning it’s officially time for one of the most exciting sports betting opportunities to begin. What’s especially fun about wagering on the NCAA Tournament is all of the Cinderella teams. Some of these underdogs are capable of huge upsets, which means big money to those who guess right on the moneyline and point spreads. This being said, let’s check out five Cinderella teams (7 seeds or lower) that could make deep runs and earn you some major cash with March Madness betting.

1. Oregon Ducks (23-9 record, 7 seed in West) – Few teams have been more up and down than Oregon this season. They started the year 13-0, achieving a top-10 ranking in the process. However, they hit a major downswing after losing eight out of their next 11 games in Pac-10 play. Then, they became one of the hottest teams in the nation after winning seven out of their last eight contests to not only make the tournament, but also grab a fairly good seed. Over the last few weeks, Oregon has done a great job at harassing teams defensively, cutting down on turnovers and converting good looks. Led by UNLV transfer Mike Moser (15.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG), this balanced team should definitely do some damage this month.

taylor-braun-north-dakota-state2. North Dakota State Bison (26-5 record, 12 seed in West) – We like North Dakota State to be this year’s Florida Gulf Coast. Sure, they won’t be emulating Dunk City (please ignore the picture) nor will they be as exciting as FGCU in last year’s Big Dance. However, the Bison do all of the fundamental things right such as take care of the ball and find the open man. Add in the fact that they have one of the more experienced teams in this year’s tournament and NDSU is poised to surprise some bracketologists. They also feature a solid one-two punch in 6’7″ guard Taylor Braun and post-man Marshall Bjorklund. The Bison’s potential Cinderella run begins with a physical Oklahoma team in the first round.

3. NC State Wolfpack (21-13 record, 12 seed in Midwest) – Few people expected the Woflpack to be dancing, especially with top 25-ranked SMU still alive for an at-large bid. Nevertheless, it’s NC State sneaking into the tournament and SMU relegated to the NIT. So why are we high on a 12 seed who luckboxed their way through the selection committee? A good place to start is with whom NC State plays. They face off against reeling Xavier in the play-in round, a team that’s lost three of their last four. Provided they win, the Wolfpack will go up against a fairly soft 5 seed in St. Louis. Besides who they play, NC State boasts the scoring talents of TJ Warren (24.8 PPG), who’s capable of winning games by himself. Provided Warren has an off-night, he can count on Anthony Barber and Ralston Turner to back him up.

jordan-mcrae-tennessee4. Tennessee Volunteers (21-12 record, 11 seed in Midwest) – Like NC State, Tennessee was sort of an iffy decision because they beat just three teams in the RPI top 50. But while they may not have slayed too many Goliath’s, the Vols earn respect because they’re really good on both sides of the ball. Tennessee managed to rank in the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, plus they’re one of the top rebounding teams in the country. And as many fans/bettors know, controlling the glass and playing good defense creates a great recipe for winning. In addition to their team attributes, Tennessee also has a future NBA’er in Jordan McRae. A 6’6″ senior guard who can do it all, McRae averages 18.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG and 37.1% three-point shooting.

5. Providence Friars (23-11 record, 11 seed in East) – It’s almost hard to believe that Providence hasn’t been to the tournament in 20 years. But after a fantastic run through the Big East tourney, including a finals game where they held Doug McDermott and 14th-ranked Creighton to just 17 first-half points, the Friars are dancing. Most expect their dance to end early against a high-profile North Carolina team. But we think that they’re a team that’s capable of upsetting anybody in the tourney because they’re not afraid to take chances. When they played Creighton, for example, coach Ed Cooley used a zone defense against one of the best-shooting teams in the nation. One more reason to like Providence’s chances of winning a game or more is Bryce Cotton, their incredible senior guard, who averages 21.4 PPG, 5.8 APG and 1.0 SPG.

5 Teams that could crash the 2014 NCAA Tournament

teams-crash-ncaa-tournamentLooking to get a head start on researching your 2014 NCAA Tournament bracelet? Are you searching for some pre-Selection Sunday advice before engaging in any NCAA Tournament betting? If either case applies to you, then it’ll definitely help to identify potential sleepers and study them before the 68-team field is finalized. That said, here are some intriguing teams that could sneak into the tournament and win a few games.

1. Marquette Golden Eagles (17-13 overall, 9-8 Big East) – This Marquette team is definitely a scrappy group, having played in five overtime games since mid-January. Their recent double-overtime game against Providence, which resulted in an 81-80 loss, is perfect evidence of this. The Golden Eagles have played plenty of good teams this year and are battled tested for sure. 6’9″, 290-pound Davante Gardner has powered Marquette to some nice wins, while Deonte Burton and Jake Thomas shoot well enough to take the pressure off Gardner inside. If this team can grab a few more wins and make the Big Dance, they’ll definitely give most higher seeds a tough contest.

2. Illinois Fighting Illini (17-13 overall, 6-11 Big 10) – After starting the season 13-2, Illinois played terribly in January and early February. They dropped eight straight games and 10 out of 11 games, before finally getting back on track with three straight wins over Minnesota, Nebraska and Michigan State. Unfortunately, they got blown out against 12th-ranked Michigan, but that doesn’t change the fact that they could be a very dangerous team if they make the NCAA Tournament field. Their defense is much improved over the past two weeks and freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill look like stars in the making.

 teams-crash-ncaa-tournament-13. N.C. State Wolfpack (18-12 overall, 8-9 ACC) – Four losses in their last six games have dropped N.C. State right in the middle of a crowded ACC. However, we simply can’t write the Wolfpack off as a fading team because they do too many things well. They don’t turn the ball over much and they never give up on the glass. Plus, 6’8″ forward T.J. Warren (24.2 PPG) is one of the best scorers in all of college basketball, so when he gets hot, the Wolfpack are capable of beating anybody (see his 41-point game against Pittsburgh). However, if N.C. State is to make it into the tournament, their defense needs to tighten up a little bit.

4. Utah Utes (20-9 overall, 9-8 Pac-12) – After winning six out of their last eight games, the Utes may be cruising towards an at-large bid. This club is especially good at home where they’ve gone 18-2. Unfortunately, Utah won’t be at home if they make the tournament. But there’s still plenty of reason to believe that they can outperform their woeful 2-7 road record. This is a well-rounded team with Delon Wright (16.2 PPG) and Jordan Loveridge (15.4 PPG) doing the scoring, and Dallin Bachynski, Jeremy Olsen and Renan Lenz providing solid rebounding and interior defense.

5. West Virginia (16-14 overall, 8-9 Big-12) – Few people expected West Virginia to be competitive in 2014, with the large amount of youth on their roster. However, these young players have learned in a hurry, as evidenced by sophomore shooting guard Eron Harris’ 17.4 PPG. He’s joined in the back court with Juwan Staten, who’s also having an outstanding year with 18.2 PPG. With such good guard play, West Virginia could definitely make a run at the Big-12 conference tournament title and find themselves in the Big Dance.

Odds on winning Warren Buffett’s $1 Billion in the NCAA Bracket Challenge

warren-buffett-ncaa-tournamentBillionaire investor Warren Buffett just made March Madness a little madder by putting up $1 billion of his own money against anybody picking the perfect bracket. This deal arose when Quicken Loans paid Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to insure a $1 billion prize for anybody who can correctly guess all 63 games in the 2014 NCAA tournament. In return, Quicken will be getting email addresses and personal information from the 10 million people who fill out a bracket.

As anybody who’s filled out a bracket knows, it’s insanely difficult to pick enough games to win your 8 or 10-man office pool – let alone pick every Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown-type upset. Even still, it’s definitely worth entering this bracket contest, given that the winner will be in line for their choice of 40 annual installments of $25 million, or a $500 million lump sum.

Jay Farner, Quicken’s president and chief marketing officer, discussed the goal behind the contest by telling the LA Times the following:

We’ve seen a lot of contests offering $1 million for putting together a good bracket, which got us thinking, ‘What is the perfect bracket worth?’ We decided $1 billion seems right for such an impressive feat. It is our mission to create amazing experiences for our clients. This contest, with the possibility of creating a billionaire, definitely fits that bill.

The amount of money that Buffet and his company are being paid to insure this contest hasn’t been disclosed. But if he’s willing to back up a $1 billion prize to the winner, the odds of winning must be pretty low, right? In fact, let’s take a look and see what exactly one’s chances are of taking down this massive payout.

A Billion versus Quintillions

warren-buffett-ncaa-tournament-1Warren Buffet didn’t get to become the world’s fourth-richest person ($53.5b) by being an idiot. And his company certainly did the math before backing up the $1 billion prize that Quicken Loans is offering. DePaul University math professor Jeff Bergen also did some calculations and put his results on YouTube (see below).

To arrive at your odds of picking the perfect 2014 NCAA tournament bracket, you’d have to multiply 2 by itself 63 times. After doing this, Bergen showed that one’s odds of winning aren’t even in the billions or trillions, they’re in the quintillions! When Bergen took 2 squared by 63, he arrived at the following odds of filling out the perfect March Madness bracket:

1 in 9,223,302,036,854,775,808

Looking at this number, which goes over nine quintillion, it’s plain to see that anybody who knows little about basketball has virtually no chance to win the $1 billion prize. But what about somebody who’s well-versed in college basketball such as a huge fan or sports bettor? According to Bergen’s calculations, a knowledgeable NCAA tournament fan would improve their odds of filling out a flawless bracket to 1 in 128,000,000,000.

But even given these odds, Bergen shows that if all 314 million people in the United States filled out a bracket, there’d be less than a 0.25% chance of somebody winning. Considering the odds, it’s no wonder why the math professor said, “I would say Mr. Buffett’s money is safe.”