Fair, 79°
Weather sponsored by:

Follow your gut, not logic to survive March Madness


LAS VEGAS – Gamblers already haggard from three days of unexpected finishes in the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament had betting slips clinched in their hands during the final 20 seconds of Saturday night’s North Carolina State-Oakland game.

Most of us had North Carolina State covering the 6½-point spread, which means the Wolfpack had to win by 7. Vegas hates ties, so they put a 1/2-point “hook” on spreads. When D.J. Burns gave N.C. State a 69-60 lead with two foul shots and 16 seconds to go, and most of us started counting our winnings.

Just as quickly, Oakland guard DQ Cole wiped the smiles off our faces by hitting a 27-foot desperation 3-pointer. It was the only shot he made in the entire game.

Not to worry. All the Wolfpack needed was to inbound the ball because the Grizzles would certainly foul. N.C. State only needed to make at least one free throw, and we’re back to a seven- or eight-point lead.

I did mention they had to inbound the ball, didn’t I?

The Wolfpack’s best player, D.J. Burns, threw it out of bounds. Oakland got it, missed a shot, and with three seconds to go, the Grizzles let the clock run out after N.C. State got the rebound for a 69-63 victory.

Just like that, three parlay tickets that would have been worth $1,385 suddenly became food for earthworms. I also found myself needing a new pair of reading glasses and a Band-Aid.

They call it March Madness for a reason.

If things go as planned, sportsbooks hope bets fall evenly between teams because they get 10% of the winnings. In the first four days, they probably racked in lopsided profits because most “serious” handicappers would never have picked Oakland to eliminate Kentucky, which was a 16-point favorite, in the first round, or that Oregon would have blown out South Carolina, Colorado would bounce Florida, Yale would beat SEC champion Auburn and James Madison would humiliate Wisconsin.

There was a buzz ahead of the Alabama-College of Charleston game, especially since Alabama averaged nearly 91 points a game. Logic would tell you the Cougars would slow the tempo since Charleston was already a 9.5-point underdog. The oddsmakers made the under/over number – the combined score – about 30 points more than the average college game, at a whopping 173.5.

I bet under. I was wrong. At 109-96, I missed it by 21.5 points. So much for logic.

You have to rely more on madness, not thought process when you’re relying on college players on the national stage to double your gas and grocery money. I made 15 basketball bets in three days and got three correct. And one was a misprint.

On Day 1, I asked for Iowa State (against South Dakota State) under 135½ points. When I got back to my seat, I noticed the attendant punched Iowa State to win by 16 points. The game had started when I got back to the window.

Two hours later, I cashed the winning ticket because Iowa State won by 17, 82-65. The game went over at 147. I would have lost. I guess it’s better to be stupidly lucky.

I thought I knew college basketball. I know about matchups and trends. Now, I’ll be eating bologna for lunch for the next few months.

I’ll have a year to get ready for the madness next year. In the future, I won’t overthink it. I will go with the team my gut tells me is less likely to lead a steady diet of instant ramen noodles. Logic often fails me; my gut doesn’t.