Poker Champ Phil Hellmuth makes 2015 March Madness Betting Picks

phil-hellmuth-march-madnessIt turns out that poker isn’t the only thing that 13-time WSOP champ Phil Hellmuth plays. He’s also into sports betting, specifically March Madness betting, and he discussed some of his picks for the 2015 NCAA Tournament with FOX Sports.

So who does he like to win it all? It’s little surprise that Hellmuth has tabbed Kentucky as his odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis. The poker pro has put $20,000 on undefeated Kentucky (35-0), which carries 6-5 odds of winning the Tournament. As for the rest of his sports-betting bankroll, well, it seems like the “Poker Brat” is putting some cash on his favorite team.

“I have to bet the Badgers,” said Hellmuth, who’s a Wisconsin native. “I’m a big Badger fan, I have been forever. I’ve been to like four Rose Bowls, so I’ll always bet the Badgers…and they’re a deep team. I mean (Frank) Kaminsky is great, but…everybody that knows anything about college basketball knows that basically, it was Kentucky that hit a three on us last year in the Final Four! I was like, ‘Miss the shot and we go on!”

Hellmuth adds that he can see Wisconsin making another deep run in 2015 March Madness since they have the experience and depth to do so. And the 50-year-old says that he has no problem betting on the Badgers, whether they’re at 7-1 or 8.5-1 odds (not so much at 6-1, though).

phil-hellmuth-march-madness-1But beyond his home-state team, who else is Hellmuth looking to put money on? He didn’t give many specifics, but his plan is to start “hedging” bets around the Elite Eight in case Kentucky doesn’t win.

“Some time around the Elite Eight, I’ll start hedging,” he told FOX. “Teams in general will be 3-1 to 4-1 underdogs so I’ll bet $2,000 on that team. I they win that game, if Kentucky wins, I’m still alive, I only lose $2,000. If they lose a game, I get $8,000 of my money back. So I’m gonna try and hedge it up and put myself in a position where I’m gonna win $10,000 the final game no matter what happens – and that’s sweet.”

Judging from Hellmuth’s 2015 March Madness betting strategy, it definitely looks like he’s not only putting a lot of faith in Kentucky, but also whatever team he chooses to lay $2k on in the Elite Eight. But then again, this is a guy who’s won 13 WSOP gold bracelets, so it’s a good bet that he knows what he is doing.

Speaking of which, Hellmuth did add that he got the 8.5-1 odds on Wisconsin that he was looking for through an online sportsbook. So we have to toot our own horn here and say that you can get some of the best NCAA Tournament betting odds at That said, check out our college basketball betting section during March Madness and place some wagers on your different picks each round.

Arizona vs. Ohio State – 2015 March Madness Betting

dangelo-russell-ohio-stateTomorrow evening, freshman sensation D’Angelo Russell and the Ohio State Buckeyes will take on fellow freshman phenom Stanley Johnson and the Arizona Wildcats. This matchup pits two future NBA lottery picks against each other, as well as two of the better teams involved in 2015 March Madness.

Of course, some favor has to be given to Arizona here because they are the No. 2 seed in the West Regional. And on our line at, the Wildcats are 9-point favorites. Here’s a look at the Arizona vs. Ohio State betting line:

So how did both teams arrive at this game? Arizona made it here via a dominating 93-72 victory over No. 15 seed Texas Southern. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’s mostly known for his lock-down defense, led the team in scoring with 23 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Forward Brandon Ashley, who missed the Wildcats’ Elite Eight run last year with a foot injury, chipped in another 14 points.

Ohio State got to the Round of 32 by eking out a 75-72 overtime victory against No. 7 seed Virginia Commonwealth. Russell was again the big story for OSU as he scored 28 points and made some clutch baskets down the stretch. The team’s senior point guard, Shannon Scott, was instrumental in handling the ball while VCU pressed with their “Havoc” defense for 45 straight minutes.

“They pressed for the whole 45 minutes,” Scott told “They weren’t going away from their game scheme. We did a great job of handling that and being able to make plays after the press.”

arizona-stanley-johnsonOhio State might have had an easier time being pressed for 45 minutes than they will in trying to handle Arizona’s size. As we discussed here about Arizona’s 2015 March Madness hopes, they’re one of the biggest and most-athletic teams in the field of 68. Johnson is 6-7, Hollis-Jefferson is 6-7 (w/ 7-foot wingspan), Ashley is 6-9 and Kaleb Tarczewski is 7-feet tall. This could be a problem for the Buckeyes, who have not played well against bigger teams.

In fact, one of the keys to OSU’s success against higher-seeded VCU is that they could go small. 6-4 freshman Jae’Sean Tate played center down the stretch, scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds. That won’t happen against Arizona, and the Buckeyes know this.

So if Ohio State is to pull off a huge upset of a team that some think has the talent to beat undefeated Kentucky, they’ll have to hit the three. Arizona packs their defenders in the lane and mid-range areas, allowing teams to shoot the three without as much contesting. However, OSU is merely an average three-point shooting team, so they’re going to have to get hot.

For the Wildcats, it all comes down to using their size advantage and at least contesting the shots they allow teams to shoot beyond the arc. It’s unlikely that Arizona will allow Ohio State many looks inside. But they also need to use their size and length to make life miserable for the Buckeyes on the perimeter too.

Another interesting element to this matchup is the coaching, which is great on both sides. Thad Matta has gone 2-0 against his best friend and former colleague (at Xavier), Sean Miller, with the most-recent victory coming in the 2013 Sweet 16; LaQuinton Ross nailed a gamer winner to help OSU advance.

But Miller has been pretty stellar coaching his team in the NCAA Tournament. He’s taken Arizona to the Big Dance in four out of his six seasons in the desert, with two of those appearances resulting in Elite Eight trips. Can we expect the same or better in his sixth season at Arizona? OSU won’t lay down, but it’s at least looking like a Sweet Sixteen run could be in the cards for Miller and the Wildcats. However, that still doesn’t mean tomorrow night’s game isn’t worth watching.

2015 March Madness Betting: Who were Biggest Tournament Snubs?

2015-murray-state-snubThe 2015 March Madness field was determined last night, and there are some very deserving teams in the field of 68. Of course, there are also some deserving teams that didn’t get in – a.k.a. the snubs. So who were the biggest 2015 March Madness snubs? Let’s take a closer look at four teams that just missed at-large selections along with some that barely made it into the NCAA Tournament.

Colorado State (27-6, 13-5 MWC): Those into March Madness betting won’t have an opportunity to wager on Colorado State. The Rams weren’t selected despite winning 27 games and netting a No. 28 RPI. Additionally, CSU didn’t really have many bad losses on their resume, showing their competitiveness. However, key things that kept the Rams out of the Tournament field include that they only beat five RPI Top 100 teams, their best non-league victories came against Colorado, Georgia State and UTEP, and they split the Mountain West title with Boise State and San Diego. The final nail in the coffin was Wyoming winning the Mountain West tourney, and there was no way the selection committee was giving four total bids to the MWC.

2015-miami-snubbedMiami (21-12, 10-8 ACC): There were definitely some quality wins on Miami’s resume – most notably a 90-74 domination of Duke in Durham. They also picked up home wins against Illinois and N.C. State along with a road victory over Syracuse. But what the committee likely cringed at were some of the Hurricanes’ ugly losses, highlighted by a 28-point drubbing at the hands of Eastern Kentucky. They also fell to Green By by 13 and lost to bad ACC teams like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Murray State (27-5, 16-0 OVC): Another 27-win team that didn’t make it in, Murray State was hoping that their undefeated mark from late November to early March would have them dancing. It may have been hard to look past their loss to Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference title game, which would have given them an automatic bid. However, what ultimately did the Racers in was just one victory against an RPI Top 100 team (Illinois State), a 27-point beating by Xavier, and early-season losses to Houston and Portland. All in all, too much for an OVC school to overcome.

2015-temple-snubbedTemple (23-10, 13-5 AAC): Largely considered the biggest snub this year, the Owls had plenty of reasons why they should have been dancing. They beat Kansas by 23 points in December, and also beat Cincinnati, Memphis and UConn in American Athletic Conference play. Perhaps it was because of down years for otherwise-conference powers like Memphis and UConn that tainted the ACC this year – thus making Temple’s 13-5 mark in conference play less impressive….or maybe it was a non-conference loss to Saint Joseph’s (13-18). Whatever the case may be, Temple is perhaps the most-deserving team not involved with 2015 March Madness betting.

Teams that inched into the Big Dance

There was great surprise when UCLA made it in as a No. 11 seed, despite a 2-8 road record and just four victories against Top 100 RPI schools. However, they did pick up quality victories over Oregon and Utah along with a close game against No. 2 seed Arizona in the Pac-10 semifinal. “As we tracked UCLA over the last month or so, we felt like they were gaining steam,” said Scott Barnes, the selection committee chairman. “They did have a good strength of schedule. They were playing better against tough competition, especially their last game against Arizona.”

Other at-large bids that snuck into the tourney included Ole Miss, Boise State, BYU and Texas. Ole Miss (20-12) was a particularly interesting selection because they looked doomed after a first-round loss to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament. They also had five really bad losses and seven home losses, but what may have gotten them in were four quality victories.

Could Dayton be the Biggest Surprise of the 2015 NCAA Tournament?

2015-dayton-flyers-tournamentLast year, the 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers were by far one of the biggest-surprise teams in the NCAA tournament after making a run to the Elite Eight. This season, they appeared to easily be headed to another March Madness appearance…only they were barely able to sneak into 2015 March Madness, despite a 25-8 record.

In fact, Dayton, which had seven victories over RPI Top 100 teams, was the last team to receive an at-large bid. Entering Selection Sunday, many thought that the Flyers would at least get a No. 9 seed – they could’ve even grabbed an eight seed without many complaints. Nevertheless, they are once again a No. 11 seed and will face Boise State (25-6) in a play-in game; the winner moves on to face sixth-seeded Providence.

It would be little surprise to see Dayton knock off Boise State in their first game, especially since they play at UD Arena, a place where they haven’t lost in 21 straight games. Assuming they can get by the Broncos, then the Flyers would face Providence in Columbus, Ohio – a very fan-friendly travel destination. From here the road potentially gets a lot tougher, but it’s hard to count out this Dayton team.

2015-dayton-flyers-tournament-1This is especially the case when considering how they persevered despite a number of difficult circumstances. Injuries and suspensions cut the Flyers’ roster down to just six scholarship players, something that would have spelled doom for many teams. And given that UD doesn’t have any players over 6’6″, they’re a little lacking in size. However, Archie Miller did a marvelous job coaching this team and landing them a spot in the Big Dance.

The end result has been tying for second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 13-5 record, a run to the A-10 Tournament Championship game and a perfect 16-0 record at home. But as mentioned before, they were still sweating on Selection Sunday as fewer at-large bids were left.

Considering that if Connecticut had been able to steal the American Athletic Conference’s automatic bid in the league championship game, they would have likely knocked the 25-8 Flyers into the NIT. Luckily, that didn’t happen and a very deserving team is now poised to make another strong run through the tournament.

Where will Dayton end up this season after an Elite-Eight run that ended at the hands of a much-more talented Florida squad? They’re favored at home against Boise State and match up well against Providence in the Round of 64. And considering their large number of quality wins, UD could very well continue marching further.

But first thing’s first – knocking off the Broncos at home. Assuming you’re into 2015 March Madness betting, take a look below at the line on this game:

Dayton -3.5 (-110)

Will Kentucky finish with Perfect Record in 2015? Here’s who can beat them

kentucky-2015If you’re getting ready for 2015 March Madness betting, then chances are that you’ve already given Kentucky an automatic pass to the championship. After all, the Wildcats have been truly dominant this year while posting a 29-0 record and garnering all 65 first-place votes.

Assuming Kentucky can finish the last part of the season strong and make a run through the 2015 NCAA Tournament, they’ll become college basketball’s first undefeated team since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976. So does Bobby Knight have reason to begin sweating his legacy?

If we simply base this off history – where only seven teams have run the table – then no, Knight’s place as coaching the last undefeated team will continue. But then again, the Wildcats are about four-fifths of the way towards tying the ’76 Hoosiers. So who can taint their record before they complete the historical feat? Here’s our odds on which teams have the best chance.

1. Wisconsin: 25-3 record, 8-to-1 odds of winning

frank-kaminsky-wisconsinWhile Wisconsin lost a close game at #14 Maryland, they are still in the hunt for a number one seed come tournament time. Senior 7-footer Frank Kaminsky (17.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) continues to be one of the toughest matchups in the nation with his ability to also hit three’s (39.7%). The Badgers also close out the boards and play strong fundamentally, which will serve them well against any cold-shooting team – even Kentucky. Additionally, they can employ a slow tempo that frustrates more-athletic teams.

2. Arizona: 26-3 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

Led by freshman forward Stanley Johnson (14.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG), Arizona still has a solid shot at a number one seed when the 2015 March Madness field is decided. The positives of this team include that they’re extremely athletic and can actually match up with Kentucky in this regard. However, the downside is that they’re also upset prone and can look very average at times.

3. Gonzaga: 29-1 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

NCAA Basketball: St. Joseph at GonzagaThe huge benefit for Gonzaga is that, like Kentucky, the Bulldogs are destined for a top seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This is of course due to the fact that they play in the weak West Coast Conference. But despite the competition level, the Zags are no doubt worthy of being a national champion. Especially when considering their strong backcourt and big size in the paint. 6’10” junior forward Kyle Wiltjer (14.6 PPG) is part of the size factor, and he can also step out and hit the three (46.5%).

4. Duke: 26-3 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

Jahil Okafor (18.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG) is considered by many to be the best player in the nation, while fellow freshmen Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones have also played really well. Considering all of the talent here, Duke has an opportunity to thwart Kentucky’s title plans. However, they’ll have to overcome a lack of senior leadership to make a strong run through the tournament.

5. Virginia: 27-1 record, 12-to-1 odds of winning

After winning 30 games last season, the Cavaliers are once again making a run at this number in the always-tough ACC. Their lone loss came to Duke, but they’ve beaten everybody else through a combination of balanced scoring and excellent offense. On top of this, they’re also very athletic and are another top team that can match Kentucky in this respect.

2015 March Madness Betting: Top No.2 Seed facing Major Handicap

wisconsin-2015We’re still over two weeks away from when the 2015 NCAA Tournament field will be revealed. But there’s already some concern brewing for whatever team lands the top No. 2 seed.

It all begins with Kentucky, which is easily the best team in the country and most-likely to land the top No. 1 seed overall. This would place them atop the Midwest Regional, which is being held at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena this year.

Assuming everything in college basketball went perfectly, this means that they’d be paired with the weakest No. 2 seed. However, geography threatens to do the opposite because the selection committee considers this factor first above making a fair bracket.

The toughest No. 2 seed is normally sent to the closest region, provided the No. 1 is not in the same conference. Now here’s where the problem begins…

Kentucky is virtually guaranteed a top seed, while Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Villanova, Arizona, Kansas and Virginia have all made a strong case for the other three No. 1 seeds. In the case of Duke, Virginia and Wisconsin, one of them could miss out on a top seed, land the best No. 2 spot, but still be sent to Cleveland along with Kentucky. And the reason, as alluded to before, is because their campuses are all closer to this region than any of the other three cities hosting Final Four regions.

kentucky-number-one-2015What this all means is that we could potentially get a Kentucky-vs-Duke or Kentucky-vs-Wisconsin matchup in a regional final, rather than the Final Four – all because the tournament selection committee puts too much emphasis on geography over creating parity in competition.

An excellent example of this occurred last year, when 34-0 Wichita State got put in the same region as preseason No. 1 Kentucky, Duke, Michigan and Louisville. Essentially, what the committee created amounted to the World Cup’s Group of Death, only with less of a reason to over-value geographical location.

Of course, coach speak presents the idea that to be the best, you need to beat the best. So it shouldn’t theoretically matter what teams one faces on their road to the title. However, it’s simple logic that you’d rather be facing great teams in the Final Four, rather than 1-2 times in your own regional.

The NCAA will stick to its guns on the reasoning for paying so much attention to geography, namely that more fans can make it to games and schools have less travel time. These are sound arguments, however, they don’t hold up as well when considering the difficulty that any team will have in beating Kentucky this season. Furthermore, it seems totally wrong to send a top No. 2 seed into the same region as the powerhouse Wildcats.

As we’ve seen with college football, the NCAA is slow to both consider and accept change. So maybe they’ll consider that more weight on competition parity should take precedent over travel distance…..or maybe they won’t.