Ranking the tournament's top bets 

March, 14, 2011

It's over and yet, it's only just beginning. Because as the regular season ends, the betting season begins. At least it does for the squares who, in mid-January, wouldn't know Old Dominion University from Old Bay Seasoning. Those are the folks you can count on to pencil in Nova as an automatic first-round win in their brackets because that's the school they've heard of. (An aside, I covered the last time Old Dominion played Nova in the NCAA tournament, back in 1995, as a cub reporter for Sports Illustrated. Nova was a top seed and lost in triple OT. Afterward, I remember Kerry Kittles, who had been an All-American as a junior, whispering through tears to a coach that he would be back the next season. This is how long ago this was: No one else was in the locker room. I was the only reporter who heard it. I had some big news -- but I worked for a weekly mag before the Internet mattered. I had nowhere to put it. That could have been my big break!)

I know a lot of wiseguys who will sit out the NCAA tournament. Unlike the Super Bowl, in which props provide plenty of opportunities for loose numbers, the NCAA tourney has fewer outs. And the lines posted are tighter than at any point during the season. I called column regular Alan Boston at 9 a.m. Monday morning and he was still sleeping. He's usually up at five or six during the season. I said, "What are you doing?" He answered, "I'm sleeping, the season is over."

But, I wanted to send out my and Sal Selvaggio's final sweat barometer of the season that ranked all 68 NCAA tourney teams. If not for the permanent record, then for the tools it can add to your box. For example, I like to know that one of the teams I've been hearing a lot about, Indiana State, is 20th in the SB. While the team it's taking on in the first round of the tourney, Syracuse, is 47th.

Squares will just move the Cuse along without a second thought. And you probably should, too. But that doesn't mean the Orange will automatically cover. Here's the rest of the list.

Records and RPI are through Sunday's games.