The NCAA tournament has a grip on this country for a few reasons. I’d like to believe that the main reason is the love of basketball, but I’m afraid that’s just not it.
The culprit is this country’s obsession with gambling. Not just Las Vegas gambling, but office pools, online competitions and the like have permeated our national fabric.
Accountants, housewives and politicians who may not watch a single college basketball game still attempt to fill out a bracket for whichever prize is offered.
Why do they do it?
I believe the answer is a mix between the aforementioned love of gambling and all of our love of being right.
We love to have something happen and to be able to say, “I called that” or “I told you so.”
So how do we get to the position of knowing nothing about these games to being experts?
We let someone else do the work.
The good people in Las Vegas have already done the thinking for us and have established which games will be runaways and which will be barnburners. They do this through the betting line.
Each game is big money and therefore, must be scrutinized so that the casinos don’t take a bath.
The closer the line, the more likely chance the underdog has in winning.
Here’s what Las Vegas tells us about the West Region.
Current Line: Michigan State -20
Opening Line: Michigan State -20
Nothing special here. The top-seeded Spartans are huge favorites and look to continue the trend of No. 1 seeds beating up 16s.
Big Ten champ Michigan State shouldn’t have any issues dispatching of the Blackbirds, who are making their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
Current Line: Memphis -3
Opening Line: Memphis -3
While the three points that Memphis is giving to Rick Majerus’ Billikens seems like a slight at Memphis, it’s just a testament to Saint Louis and its high-powered offense.
Picking between eights and nines is always a toss-up. Depending on your pool’s scoring system, it could be very important.
The Vegas line tells you Memphis should win, but you shouldn’t feel bad for picking Saint Louis.
Current Line: New Mexico -4
Opening Line: New Mexico -4.5
Here’s one of those pesky 5-12 games that always haunts you. New Mexico came on strong to close the season, but with close games against the likes of North Carolina and Kansas, maybe Long Beach State is ready for the upset.
Vegas tells you that you’re leaning in the right direction, as indicated by the line moving down by a half-point, and New Mexico could be in a lot of trouble.
Current Line: Louisville -7.5
Opening Line: Louisville -7
The line is moving in Louisville’s direction, as it should be. The Cardinals charged to the Big East Tournament title, and their style of play should be too much for Davidson.
This game is what you call a trap.
The line is a little low, and it entices people to think that Davidson has a chance, but the betting public doesn’t necessarily agree, which is why the line moved the way it did.
Louisville should win running away.
Current Line: Murray State -4
Opening Line: Murray State -3
Murray State has only lost one game the entire year versus 30 wins, so why are they only four-point favorites?
This is one of those games between teams that the general public knows nothing about. That’s why we need Vegas. Murray State has been ranked throughout the year, but what about Colorado State?
The line tells us that Murray State should win, and the movement says that the betting public agrees.
Current Line: Florida -3.5
Opening Line: Florida -3.5
The Florida Gators' high-powered offense will have their hands full with a tough defensive-minded Virginia team.
According to the line, Florida looks to be the winner, and its guard play is likely the reason, but why the close line?
Florida doesn’t always hit its threes, and when it doesn’t, it becomes very vulnerable. The low line says Florida is in for a fight.
Current Line: Missouri -21.5
Opening Line: Missouri -21.5
No explanation needed here except that the line could be bigger considering Missouri’s talent.
Perhaps Vegas is trying to entice a little Norfolk State money, but the line is likely to move towards Missouri a smidge in the next day or so.
For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here