Final Four wiseguy brackets 

April, 2, 2010

There are lots of ways to calculate success: Happiness is one, fancy cars are another. Or whether you have a putting green or a swimming pool in your backyard or, like John Travolta, garages for your freaking airplanes.

But here at the betting blog, we like numbers. Win-loss records, metrics, stats, records against the spread and the kind of digits that come after this particular symbol: $.

That's why, for the Final Four wiseguy bracket picks -- the ninth in our series that has had real-life pro bettors picking the NCAA tourney games both against the spread and to advance -- I went to the two sharps who have performed best so far: Alan Boston and Sal Selvaggio from, who both were hitting 80 percent on straight picks and better than 75 percent against the spread.

What's interesting to me about all this is how completely different their styles are. Boston is an old-school Vegas wiseguy. He's an Ivy League alumnus who's been living in Nevada for most of his adult life. He's also a pure college basketball fan. He makes his power ratings largely based on how he feels about a team, its returning starters and how its performance fluctuates throughout the season. I can't tell you how many times he's told me that knowledge relies on "knowing a team's flow"; he gets that only by watching as many games as possible, reading about as many teams as possible and loving college hoops as much as he possibly can. He doesn't rely on metrics or stats or even necessarily on players. He plays coaches, situations, styles. His power ratings are drawn up by hand.

Then there's Sal. He's in his late 20s, is a former electrician, still lives in Chicago and has no intention of moving to Vegas. At least until his wife "can't stand the winters anymore," he says. Unlike Boston, he does all his work on computers. He believes in stats such as offensive efficiency, points-per-game differential adjusted for strength of schedule, defensive-rebounding percentages and two-point field goal defense. He puts everything into spreadsheets -- he's given me a lesson or two in Microsoft Excel -- and has a tech guru who works with him. He loves college hoops, too, and follows it just as passionately as Boston, only from an entirely different perspective.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that the two guys who have wound up on top come at handicapping from two entirely different yet effective ways. So here are their thoughts on the Final Four: