I can see it now.
The 2019 edition of March Madness is taking place. Thousands of college basketball fans are crammed into state-of-the-art sports books at the resort’s soon-to-be nine casino properties.
Tiny Jacksonville University, my daughter Ashley’s alma mater, is about to become the first No. 16 seed in NCAA men’s basketball tournament history to beat a No. 1 seed. The Dolphins upset mighty Kansas, producing loud cheers — and even some tears — from the bettors who put down $50 at 5000-1 odds on the game.
I’m holding out hope that the U.S. Supreme Court soon rules to legalize sports betting nationwide, thus allowing Atlantic City casinos to reap the benefits that previously have been reserved for Nevada.
Until then, I’m stuck filling out yet another bracket in hopes of winning some prizes. My chances are pretty slim. According to the American Gaming Association, 24 million adults participated on basketball pools in the past year.
I’ve been doing it for decades without success. I usually do my research, study algorithms and follow trends. I always pick a few 12, 13 and 14 seeds to earn first-round upsets and tend to stick with higher-ranked teams the rest of the way. And yet I’ve never won so much as a Wawa gift card.
I usually do OK in the first round, and then my bracket falls apart and has more holes than my Mountaineer Health Club T-shirt I bought in 1979 during my days at Appalachian State.
So this year, I’m taking a different approach. I’m going with my gut, which is in dire need of reducing before the Escape the Cape Triathlon in June, and even some advice from nonexperts in hopes of finally ending my slump.
Let’s start with the Midwest region, where I’m picking Arizona State to win its play-in game against Syracuse on Wednesday, then beat No. 6 seed TCU. The Sun Devils are among my picks for several reasons. First of all, our son, Kyle, is an ASU grad. Also, coach Bobby Hurley is a Jersey boy, the son of legendary St. Anthony’s coach Bob Hurley.
I’m very tempted to take Penn to beat top-seeded Kansas in the first round. I grew up in an era when Big Five basketball was must-see TV. Every week featured a game from the Palestra on Channel 17 with guys like Corky Calhoun (Penn), Ken Durrett (La Salle), Matt Guokas (St. Joseph’s), Ollie Johnson (Temple) and Howard Porter (Villanova).
Staying in the Midwest, I’m favoring Seton Hall over North Carolina State because it’s a New Jersey school, and Middle Township High School girls basketball coach John Leahy played for the Pirates.
In the South region, I’m picking No. 12 Davidson and No. 13 Buffalo to beat Kentucky and Arizona, respectively. Davidson gets the nod because it used to be in the Southern Conference with Appalachian State. Buffalo is my choice because Arizona is Arizona State’s arch-rival. I could never pick the Wildcats to win anything.
As we say in Tempe, “No pity for the kitty.”
In the West, I’m predicting No. 12 South Dakota State over No. 5 Ohio State because the team is nicknamed the Jackrabbits. That’s as good a reason as any. No. 10 Providence is my choice over No. 7 Texas A&M because I remember watching Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes lead the Friars to the Final Four in 1973.
In the East, 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin is a Stone Cold lock to beat third-seed Texas Tech. Also, any college that shares a name with “The Six Million Dollar Man” gets my vote.
At the end of the day, I’m taking Villanova to beat Virginia in the championship game, which should make Wildcats alums Dave Coskey, Matt Dicken and Matt Szczur very happy.
If my unusual strategy works, I’ll stick with it again next year.
Hopefully, I’ll get to use it in Atlantic City.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.