Updated on 09/17/2011 2:17PM

March Madness: Saturday's NCAA plays

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"Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then."

"Even the losers get lucky sometime."

Put whatever label on it that you want, but it's a beautiful thing when a plan comes together. When going over the point spreads each of the past two weeks, I really felt that with all the parity in college basketball that oddsmakers were making the lines too short. On each Thursday of the NCAA tournament, I wrote: "We could be starting to see a case where there is actually more value now on the favorites because of this overadjustment in the market."

In the opening round, it didn't quite work out as favorites and dogs went 8-8 against the spread (though I did manage a 4-2 mark with my bankroll plays). However, this past Thursday, I went with three favorites and one underdog and swept the card.

I only used Oklahoma St. -2 over Pittsburgh and St. Joseph's -2 1/2 over Wake Forest as bankroll plays because they both seemed to be clearly the better team and only asked to lay about a basket. Oklahoma St. battled Pitt head to head before finally pulling away to a 63-51 in a game many felt was worthy of a regional final. Likewise, St. Joseph's fought tooth-and-nail before prevailing 84-80, with the Demon Deacons missing a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have given them the backdoor cover.

As it turned out, my non-bankroll selections were even easier winners as Connecticut went wire-to-wire vs. Vanderbilt in a convincing 73-53 rout while Alabama was mostly in control of its 80-71 win over Syracuse.

The 3-1 record for favorites lowered the edge for underdogs to 28-24 (one game, North Carolina-Texas in the second round, closed at pick-em). The over/under went 2-2 with under still holding a slight 28-25 advantage.

Originally, I thought I would only use one of the regional finals as a bankroll play each day, but I appear to have a good handle on these two regions, so I'll try to strike while the iron is hot.


7:05 p.m. EST at East Rutherford, N.J.

When this matchup became imminent, I came to the conclusion that I would be willing to lay up to 3 points with Oklahoma St. The Cowboys are a No. 2 seed while St. Joseph's is a No. 1, so some people will be confused by them being the favorite, but everyone but the selections committee knew that Big 12 champ Oklahoma St. deserved a No. 1 seed and the Cowboys are playing better than anyone in my opinion. They have been further flattered in the postseason as the Big 12 is 8-1 straight up and 9-0 against the spread in the NCAA tournament with Texas and Kansas both playing Friday night.

Oklahoma St. can do it all on offense and defense. They have the guards to contest shots on the perimeter - which will be key against St. Joe's talented backcourt - and the big men to control the boards inside. That's the Achilles' Heel for St. Joe's, and they won't be getting many second shots. If their shots aren't falling, this could be a repeat of the Hawks' 87-67 loss to Xavier in the A-10 conference tourney because the Cowboys love to push the ball up the floor and get baskets in transition. OSU's rebounding edge could be evident on the offensive end, too.

This Oklahoma St. has totally bought into coach Eddie Sutton's system, and that really seems to help in crunch time. The Cowboys have were challenged by Eastern Washington in the tourney opener before finally pulling away, and the same thing happened vs. Pittsburgh.

St. Joe's has the talent to hang with the Cowboys - again, if they're shooting out the lights - but in the end OSU's balance and depth should send them to the Final Four.

PLAY: Oklahoma St. for 1 unit.


4:40 p.m. EST at Phoenix, Ariz.

I think we're looking at a sweep for the No. 2 seeds. If Oklahoma St. isn't the hottest team in the country, then that distinction probably goes to UConn.

The Huskies cruised to their third easy victory Thursday as Vanderbilt was no match. There's no shame in that as most teams are helpless vs. UConn when Emeka Okafor is on his game, but the Huskies have also shown they are more than a one-man team. Ben Gordon chalked up another impressive performance with a team-high 20 points as four Huskies were in double figures.

I didn't use Alabama as a bankroll play Thursday, but this is what I wrote: "I won't be betting this game, but will be cheering for whatever team wins to do it very impressively so I won't have to lay too many points with UConn in the regional final because I think the Huskies rout either of these teams as they both have trouble against big men like Okafor."

Bama's convincing victory seemed to do the trick as I was hoping to lay single digits, and that's the case here (though barely with the spread at 9). But a closer look at the Tide's win over Syracuse shows that they should play right into UConn's hands. In the first half, Syracuse really took it to Alabama on the inside (something Okafor & Co. should repeat) and were only saved by an uncharacteristic hot night from 3-point range. The Tide can't be expected to repeat that performance.

Alabama then went inside vs. Syracuse in the second half to help pull away, but that will be more difficult against UConn's interior defense and if they have to rely on the outside shot the Tide could be in for a long night. Alabama was able to rally in its upset to beat Stanford, but UConn has shown it knows how to build a big lead and hold onto it.

PLAY: Connecticut for 1 unit.

Bankroll record on Thursday: 2-0 for a profit of 2 units.

Bankroll through Thursday's games: 14-8 (63.6 percent) for a net profit of 5.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

Non-bankroll record on Thursday: 2-0.

Record on non-bankroll plays through Thursday: 14-16-1.

Record on all tournament games: 28-24-1.

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