March Madness

Players to watch in the opening round of the NCAA tournament


Players to watch in the opening round of the NCAA tournament

The Sacramento Kings are headed for their 12th straight NBA draft lottery. As of Tuesday morning, they are among seven teams with 21 wins or less this season. They are in the running for one of the top three overall picks in what should be a quality draft.

With the college season winding down, there is still time to see most of the potential top 10 in action. A projected top-five pick, Luka Doncic, will return to play with Real Madrid soon, but the rest of the tier one and tier two picks are in action this week as part of the NCAA tournament’s field of 64.

Freshman point guard Trae Young opens up the action Thursday morning at 9 a.m. PT when his No. 10 seed Oklahoma Sooners match up against No. 7 Rhode Island. Young doesn't play a position of need for Sacramento, but he’s a high-scoring point guard that will draw plenty of interest around the league.

No. 2 seed Duke hits the national stage for a 11:30 a.m. PT tip against No. 15 seed Iona on Thursday. They boast a trio of potential first rounders, including two top-10 projected picks in Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. If the Kings go after the best player available, both of these freshman bigs are expected to go in the top 10. Duke’s senior shooting guard Grayson Allen has risen back into the late first round.

As we head into the afternoon session on Thursday, No. 6 seed Miami faces off with 11th seed Loyola at 12:10 p.m. PST. Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV, a freshman shooting guard, is expected to go in the back half of the lottery and sophomore shooting guard Bruce Brown is a late first-rounder as well.

No. 1 seed Villanova tips off at 3:50 p.m. PT Thursday afternoon against the winner of the play-in game between LIU Brooklyn and Radford. Junior small forward Mikal Bridges has turned himself into a lottery pick with his three-and-D play, and junior shooting guard Jalen Brunson is considered a late first or early second-round pick.

Kentucky always has a lottery contender or two. This year it’s a pair of freshmen in combo-guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and small forward Kevin Knox. If the Kings slide down the draft board, Knox might draw some interest. Kentucky, a five seed, tips off at 4:10 p.m. PT on Thursday against 12th-seeded Davidson.

No. 9 seed Alabama plays Thursday at 6:20 pm P.T. against No. 8 seed Virginia Tech. The Tide’s Collin Sexton is a freshman point that should go between No. 5-10 in the lottery. The Kings appear set at the point, but he’s a talented 19-year-old with plenty of upside.

In one of the primetime games on Thursday evening, No. 4 seed Arizona faces off against No. 13 seed Buffalo at 6:40 p.m. PT. Arizona freshman center Deandre Ayton looks like a star in the making and is likely the top overall pick in this season’s draft.  

Texas A&M sophomore big man Robert Williams opens up the action Friday morning at 9:10 am PST against No. 10 seed Providence. After returning to A&M for a second season, Williams is projected at the back end of the lottery or the mid-teens.

At 1:30 p.m. PT on Friday, No. 10 seed Texas faces off with No. 7 seed Nevada. Shot blocking freshman, Mohamed Bamba, is a potential top-10 pick. If the Kings are looking for a defensive centerpiece, he is an attractive option.  

Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. is moving up the draft board quickly. He’s likely a top-five pick in this year’s draft. His sophomore teammate Miles Bridges is an intriguing prospect that can play either forward position and plays with a physicality the Kings are looking for. Jackson and Bridges' No. 3 seed Michigan State team will play at 4:10 p.m. PT Friday vs. No. 14 seed Bucknell.

No. 8 seed Missouri faces off with No. 9 seed Florida State at 6:50 p.m. PT on Friday evening. Freshman Michael Porter Jr. has missed all but two games this season for Missouri, but it sounds like he’s healthy enough to play and he’s looking to show scouts that he’s worthy of a top-five selection.

Plenty of these players will survive the first round of the tournament and go on to play a second game over the weekend.

Place your March Madness money on Vacated


Place your March Madness money on Vacated

You have all been told at one point in your lives that something is an absolutely sure thing, a guaranteed-to-happen event. A mortal lock.
Well, this is mine, and I share it with you because I am a better person than you all think I am. Not by a lot, I grant you, but by this much.
The winner of the 2018 NCAA national championship in men’s basketball will be Vacated. With a capital-V, the way the NCAA likes to spell it.
Va. Cay. Ted. Book it now. Your children’s college educations shall be assured.
This comes in the wake of the Yahoo story by veteran reporters and noted offal disturbers Pat Forde and Pete Thamel that at least 20 Division I schools, including traditional megapowers like Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, Alabama, South Carolina, Wichita State, Utah and Xavier, are listed as schools of interest in a federal probe of college basketball that includes payments to players from agents and their representatives.
Now before you explain to me that kids are the victims here, let me just say that the kids are the victims here. That's not the issue. We all know that the morals and ethics of high-money college sports would cause Arnold Rothstein to rise from the grave, throw up, and then return to Hell.
This is just about what the result of this investigation, and the NCAA’s predictably sluggardly response, will be. This is about how you should bet March Madness for your own fun and profit.
And that is to push it all in on Vacated. Maybe as a money line futures bet, in fact.
You see, the title won’t be given to Vacated right away. You will see actual players doing actual basketball things, and an actual team with an actual name on the front (probably Nike, though Adidas and UnderArmour could factor as well) will celebrate the victory as a statement about the goodness of the deity and the essential rightness of life.
But eventually, Vacated, which last won the championship in 2013 while disguised as Louisville, will come up from behind and snatch the trophy away, so whatever else you do, DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR TICKET THINKING YOU HAVE LOST. Vacated is a bit like the Warriors, your poor adolescent choices and death – slow starters, even for years sometimes, but furious closers at the wire.
And that, boys, girls and undecideds, is when you cash, proud in the knowledge that you took the longer and more nuanced view – that college sports is actually like this all the time, and every now and then someone gets up the gumption to call the industry out on it.
This doesn’t last forever, either. Interest wanes, satchels of money are exchanged, winks and nods are traded and the business returns to being the business.
But this right here is an opportunity to get some of yours back. You can't clean up college basketball, and you don't have to all – but this is your chance to clean up ON college basketball.
So bet Vacated with the confidence that comes with knowing that mortal locks aren’t typically this mortal, or lock-ish. Your children, thoughtless money-sponge ingrates that they are most of the time, will thank you for it. Probably when you're not around to hear it.