Best bets in the 2012 NCAA tourney 

March, 13, 2012

Other than a regular-season NFL Sunday, there is nothing in sports more interesting to handicap than the NCAA tournament. It has everything. Volume. Drama. High stakes. Legacies on the line.

The gambling options are endless. Everyone and their 6-year-old cousin are in an office bracket pool. My mother was riding her alma mater Cornell to the Final Four when it made its run to the Sweet 16 two years ago. When I looked at her bracket before the tournament and explained to her that a No. 12 seed was not going to be cutting down nets, she responded, "Number 12 in the country is pretty great."

These are the people you're competing against. And, of course, she ended up picking up significant points with Cornell.

Picking a team to go all the way and getting a juicy price is always tempting. Some people join fantasy styles pools where they pick players and tally up stats.

I've become partial to the survivor pools where you pick one team per day and can't repeat. (Free advice to those of you in one of these: If you make it to the Elite Eight stage, you should pick against the team you picked in the Sweet 16, otherwise you are very likely to be mathematically eliminated before the end of the tournament.)

But the purest way of gambling, of course, remains betting on the individual games themselves. What makes the NCAA tournament so fascinating is the randomness of the matchups. Conference games can get monotonous by the end of the season, especially the postseason tournaments, which are typically a letdown. Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke all lost last week. Shows you how important those games were.

In any event, we put together a special NCAA Sweat Barometer of the 68 teams in the Big Dance. Remember that the home/road ATS numbers typically will not add up to the overall ATS numbers because all the teams have played several neutral site games. Special thanks to Sal Selvaggio of for graciously providing us with the data all season.

First-round matchups between teams with very disparate sweat barometer numbers include Lehigh (9.14) versus Duke (-1.98) and Iowa State (4.48) against UConn (-2.83). An interesting point to note is that 52 of the 68 teams in the tournament have positive SB numbers.

I like North Carolina over Kentucky in the final. As for a sleeper, don't look past UNLV … this is a Vegas time of year, as we all know.

Enjoy the madness.

Jeff Gold

ESPN Contributor