Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gentleman, Start Your Engines

Those who read the Madness of March know it is about my experiences in Las Vegas during the first four days of the NCAA basketball tournament. This year those days begin today at about 12:15.  I am not in Las Vegas this time around--though right now I miss the energy that I know permeates the sports books on the strip. Let me set the stage for you.

It is only about 7 a.m. in Las Vegas. Nevertheless people have been reserving seats in sports books for two hours or more.  At these seats or in nearby coffee shops clusters of bettors are poring over betting sheets considering where to place their bets.

At the front of the room there is a line of bettors waiting to place their money based on what amounts to a flip of the coin.  For example, the first game of the weekend happens to involve my school, Northeastern University. We are a 12 1/2 point underdog in our game with Notre Dame. If a bettor wagers on Notre Dame the fighting Irish will have to beat us by at least thirteen points.  And the bettors on line at the Bellagio and Ballys and Venetian right now are considering the chances of Notre Dame doing just that.  And will Kentucky beat Hampton by 33, (Yes) Can Wofford get within 8 of Arizona (Yes).  Will Stephen F. Austin get within 7 of Utah (No).

In Las Vegas despite the hour, it is buzzing and people now two hours and five minutes before tip off are nervously waiting for the games to begin. I relay in the Madness of March how I was sitting at a Las Vegas sports bar at about 9 am Pacific time. People were already imbibing.  When the games finally were about to begin one fellow--A Notre Dame supporter--rubbed his hands together and said to the others assembled at the bar: "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines."

People here at work in Boston are wearing red and black.  There are at least two viewing places at the University that have been set up for our 12:15 game.  Unfortunately, I am in a meeting from 12 until 130. I will be plotzing not being able to watch.

Several schools with whom I have affiliations are in this year's tournament.  The University of Albany, my alma mater, plays on Friday in Columbus as does the University of Buffalo where I went to graduate school.  Then there is us, Northeastern, playing today, and Wofford University where I have been and know the athletic director.  I've also worked with Manhattan College, but they sadly were eliminated in a play in game on Tuesday. And there is Harvard right across the river from where I sit. Harvard is in the tournament because of a bizarre set of circumstances in the last weeks of the Ivy League season.  They actually lost to Yale in what was considered a must-win game, but miraculously got an opportunity to play them again the following week and prevailed.

When I have done interviews--though I do not do many--about the book I am nearly always asked who I like. I am asked this, despite the fact that the book makes the case that (a) I am not a betting expert and (b) there can be no experts when you bet against the spread.  Despite this I regularly get this inquiry.

So, who do I like today

Wofford plus 7 1/2 against Arkansas
North Carolina -11 at Harvard
Baylor -9 at Georgia State (though the coach's son at Georgia State can shoot the three. Watch him get 20 plus today)
Lafayette + 23 over Villanova
Eastern Washington + 7 1/2 over Georgetown


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