Pints and Picks Special Edition: It’s Tourneytime in Vegas

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During college football season each week DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and what to drink while doing it. Here, a very special PNP—Viva Las Tournament—starring Kyle Magin as “That Guy’ barely standing like a Clown Bop Bag next to the Wheel of Fortune at 4:14 a.m. with a fistfull of balled up ATM receipts/betting slips taking pulls off a guitar-shaped Piña Colada (gluten-free).

Ladies and Gentleman, the man who’s currently somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert where the drugs are beginning to take hold…Kyle Magin:

kyleIVAJ,

I’ve got the adult version of senioritis this week, and as I start this post Monday night I know the next two days before heading off to Vegas are going to be agonizing. I want nothing more than to not be at the old 9-5 and instead be poolside hoping like hell that the beer and brat crowd from the I-94 corridor will put their damn shirts on.

That said, we’ve got business to attend to with THE OPENING ROUND OF THE 2015 NCAA TOURNAMENT.

I want to first catch our readers up on five things that happened in college basketball this season in case they’re just tuning in after paying attention to their families, careers and waistlines following the end of football.

  1. Gonzaga looks great again. The Bulldogs (32-2) went 6-2 against tournament teams this year and freshman Domantas Sabonis (mini-Arvydas) hits 70 percent of the shots he takes and the team leads the nation in field goal percentage at 52 percent. It’s a typical, efficient Mark Few offense. They’re poised to be Few’s first team in six years to get to the second weekend.
  1. This year’s one-and-done crowd is special. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is an absolute monster. The 6’11” freshman center hits 67 percent of his shots and scores nearly 18 points per game. He averages just shy of a double-double in one of the two best conferences in basketball and buys his guards all sorts of space by drawing double teams. Ohio State’s DeAngelo Russell had a special, special regular season. On top of being a standout scorer, he does all the right things on defense, throws 5.6 dimes per game and grabs more than 5 rebounds. Then he absolutely went off during the Buckeyes’ Big Ten tournament run, scoring 21 points per game.
  1. Chicago kids are playing great college basketball right now, just not in Illinois. Kentucky freshman guard Tyler Ulis and Okafor wrecked their respective leagues this season. A scan of the bracket will reveal there are no Illinois teams in the field. Land of Lincoln coaches like the Illini’s John Groce have watched a succession of Windy City recruits amble out of state for greener pastures elsewhere. Until those teams can break back into the city, you won’t see them in the Big Dance.
  1. The Wildcats might be a little bit overrated. Look, both Kentucky and Arizona played pretty impressive out-of-conference schedules. It’s their conferences that leave more than a bit to be desired. The SEC is total dogshit. Outside of Arkansas, Kentucky hasn’t played a quality game in 90 days. Arizona’s two games against Utah are analogous, the rest of the league produced some charity bids who won’t see weekend No. 2. Their two losses to UNLV and Oregon State are downright ugly. It’s going to be interesting to see how both respond when they see real quality competition again.
  1. Notre Dame’s Mike Brey hung a banner. The Irish won last weekend’s ACC tournament championship. It’s the first time in 15 years–Brey’s entire tenure–that ND hung anything in the Joyce Center rafters. It’s also stoked some hopes in South Bend that the Irish may reach the tournament’s second weekend for the first time in 12 years. Between Pat Connaughton and a raft of wings like Jerian Grant, ND has the horses to run to the Sweet 16.

Alright AJ, before we get to the picks, did you want to say anything else about your love of the NIT?

ajIVKM,

Greetings. It’s great to see you here between kick-offs. You know it’s good timing for you to check in when I start comparing college basketball’s postseason to STDs, so thank you, in advance, for saving me from myself.

In case you’ve haven’t been monitoring this site’s analytics, old PNPs usually get about 2-3 reads per day. One you can guarantee is me getting nostalgic for the not-too-distant past, and the other two are Patton Oswalt-in-real-life sympathetic creatures listening to Dan Patrick in afghan-and-moth-covered basements somewhere in in the Akron suburbs.

Thank goodness for the fringe.

On to basketball: I kind of feel like the Tournament how most feel about the Oscars. Everyone goes along waiting for the next Grown Ups sequel or wondering if JRR Tolkien has another book in him/would take a meeting with JJ Abrams, and all of a sudden—wham!—there’s like 10 movies nominated nobody has ever heard of/seen and all there is to know is that big old manatee Weinstein is behind it and that Cumberbatch guy looks pretty sly and has a fun last name that sounds like the fake belt sash thingy you got to match your date’s dress for prom.

Then all of a sudden, like three weeks later, everyone’s doing their best Ebert all over the face of Richard Linklater who “achingly tells American epics like a French auteur; hard to articulate and at once, nascent” and Birdman, “is a Jazz ensemble of a movie. It’s warm, prickly even to the touch. But beneath its shimmering veneer lies the depth of belonging, of humanity.”

We’re Americans in the early 21st Century, and that means we have the right to be overnight experts on pretty much everything. Some call it elitism, I just say it’s galvanizing.

Here you and I stand, at the precipice of zeros and ones, trying to divine something from the incalculable Plasticine of the NCAA regular season where it seems Kentucky, based on a flawless first act, should be the go to and at 2:1 have the heftiest pre-tourney odds expectations in a decade.

As you rightfully hinted, don’t take the bait.

I’m going with four picks based on one thing: Coaching. Spoiler alert: Should we do an Elite 8/Final Four follow-up, Izzo, Calipari and Coach K may not get the nod as legacy picks. For now, a little flavor from the suit on the bench and how it taints my opening round 5-12 upsets:

  • 12 Buffalo over 5 W VA: No brainer here as Bobby Hurley has had his Bulls overachieving in the stretch; he also has a surprising presence underneath that WVA won’t answer.
  • 12 Wyoming over 5 N. Iowa: Not the hottest pick at the book, but Larry Shyatt has quietly done some nice work in cowboy land. He directly descends from Billy Donovan’s mid-’00 glory days at Florida.

And my sexiest of all sexy first-round picks.

  • 12 Wofford over 5 Arkansas: First off, Arkansas is there by conference association/default only. Second, coach Mike Young has been skulking around the Southern Conference for more than a quarter century (head coach for 13) manning, get ready for it…the terrible Terriers. That takes cojones. He schedules up and he beats down (toughest non-conference schedule in the nation). Look for those terriers to nip their way into the Sweet 16.

OK KM, did I mention I’m insanely jealous of your upcoming 48 hours and in my next installment below will lead off with why it’s a good idea for you to spend at least a morning at the Caesar’s sports book–and not feel emasculated by it.

kyleIVAJ,

Ahhh, the 5-12 upset. As much a staple of March Madness as ‘this thing makes what?’ takes and ‘there’s hungry nights‘ takes.

PNP feels good to get back to, like O’Shea’s on the strip: you know there’s a lot more to the world than this but it’s fun and comfortable.

I’ve been focusing like a laser on the Thursday’s matchups, so let me take you through the day in an attempt to keep your money at the book for 12 straight hours. (All times PST. Dad, add three.)

9:15 a.m.

Notre Dame -12.5 vs. Northeastern

These two teams are both just godawful rebounders. The saving grace for both the Irish (29-5, 14-4 ACC) and the Huskies (23-11, 12-6 CAA) is that they’re efficient in their shot selection, being second and 12th in field goal percentage nationally. Northeastern’s home league, the Colonial, was young and weak this year. The Irish just rolled up UNC and Duke in Carolina on consecutive nights with a 9 point average margin of victory. Throw in the fact that there are a ton of ND fans in a three-hour radius of Pittsburgh and this thing gets to barn-burner status early in the second half.

11:10 a.m.

Arizona vs. Texas Southern +23.5

Outside of my Michigan State Spartans, Mike Davis’s Texas Southern Tigers (22-12, 16-2 SWAC) lost to every single tournament team they played this year. But, when you figure the team started with 15 of their first 16 on the road, mostly against power conference teams, Davis beat the living hell of these guys and they’re the tougher for it. The Tigers can get out and run with a high-scoring offense like Arizona’s (31-3, 16-2 PAC 12), averaging close to 80 a game over their current 11 game win-streak. The Wildcats should definitely advance to Saturday, but I have a feeling Davis’s squad isn’t going to make it that comfortable.

1:40 p.m.

Ohio State vs. VCU +4

What to make of Shaka Smart’s Rams (26-9, 12-6 A10) and their matchup with the aforementioned Russell and the Buckeyes (23-10, 11-7)? VCU unleashed that trademarked havoc defensively in their league tournament, but outside of a 93-73 total pwning of Davidson in the semifinals, they didn’t look dominant on the other side of the rock. The trick with OSU is you really only need to make your deal with the devil and allow Russell to get his to shut out the rest of the off-brand clowns Columbus tried to pass off as a basketball team this season. I think VCU decides to get dirty with the Buckeyes and take this down to the wire.

4:20 p.m.

North Carolina -10.5 vs. Harvard

“Them apples” taste like having your ass handed to you because you scored 27 points the last time you played a tournament-bound team this season. The entire game. I’d take the Heels by anything south of 28 should this line fluctuate.

6:57 p.m.

Georgetown vs. Eastern Washington +7.5

Someone hate hates Georgetown (21-10 12-6 Big East). Portland probably has a Hoya alumni network consisting of three dudes and they’re going to need to all cancel on their beer and poutine pairing dinner to attend this abject disaster of a 4-13. “Hey Georgetown, great season, here’s your four seed, a trip across three time zones, an opponent in Eastern Washington (26-8, 14-4 Big Sky) that is the third-highest scoring team in the country and only lost once in the Pacific Northwest this season.” Seriously, I wonder if Hoya coach John Thompson II picked someone on the selection committee last in a shirt n’ skins game.

There you have it, AJ, sunup to sundown on day 1. You had something to say about the palace of the man who crossed the Rubicon?

ajIVYou know what KM, I thought football is where it all went down for you, but you got this basketball shit covered.

Like, I was gonna do some first-rounder picks but as you saw from my tap dance up top I look like Gregory Hines to your Baryshnikov, which isn’t bad, mind you, it’s just…a bit inferior.

Since this is a column (to me) as much about what you’re going to consume while you’re betting as the betting itself (sidenote: KM is currently boarding the Ryanair flight from RNO-LAS, flying in the vape section of course, to enjoy all that man’s wrath and greed and facility and frivolity has wrought.) Did I mention I was jealous? So so very jealous. Jealous to the point that I’m hoping the Virtual Reality world that was revealed to us in Disclosure will come to be before tomorrow afternoon.

Like how could I reenact my swim through the Treasure Island moat of ’98 or what was I doing waking up in a Circus Circus broom closet and why was there a tapped keg of Busch Light next to me?

If I could be anyone in the next day or two, I’d be my teen crush Maureen Flannigan (Evie from Out of this World) who could stop time by touching her index fingers together because she was sired by an alien and raised by Annette from Saturday Night Fever. (Side note: If you look at the screen credits here, she used her powers mostly to un-spill paint, but I would use it to pause time and visit the following locations on El Strip.)

In other words, here’s where I’d go:

  • You got it KM: Start at aforementioned Caesar’s sports book. The only place that pours Lagunitas (free!) and they keep it coming if you throw a fiver in the video poker. It’s adjacent to the Forum Food Court which is full of options: Tiger Noodle House has a great secret shitter (just tuck back behind the kitchen, follow the hot servers on their way outside for a e-cig break), DiFara Pizza always has chicks out front giving out free pizza samples—key—and Smashburger will actually give you that nice 10 a.m. primer you need for when you sidle up next to a bunch of JV coaches from Irvine who decide to start ordering up the Cazadores while one of the big screens is still showing Kathie and Hoda in the Fourth Hour (drink every time KL says ‘Hoda’). Great place to get a good jump start and, unlike the MGM, the line to lay 24 on Zona won’t stretch all the way out to the Rainforest Cafe.
  • Around noon when things start getting serious, head over to Mandalay Bay. Best book on the strip by far and a few good beer joints including Rí Rá Irish Pub which has more legit taps than the Dublin airport. When it’s time to jump to the light, head for (get ready for it—all caps) DAYLIGHT Beach Club where it’s absolutely going to be going off just like Spring Break 2002 when Nelly came from Nellyville and made everyone think about talking about taking their clothes off. 3 p.m. basecoat burger number two to keep it going should happen at Mandalay’s Burger Bar, which has 100 bottles of beer to choose from, none of them have a bike with big tires on it or a sun with a frilly mohawk on the label.
  • Evening games, it’s time to get serious: Westgate (née the Vegas Hilton) is a little off strip but that’s where the gamers game and the bros stay away. Sock tans, Dockers hemmed just above the knee, belt buckle brushing the navel and that kind of carpety smell that Vegas post-1995 had almost totally replaced with tough-to-smudge-and-cut surfaces. It’s like walking into a home with a kitchen that hasn’t yet been torn out and replaced with stainless and Ikea, sometimes the 30-year-old shit was just built to last. Westgate, indeed, is.

Also KM, and this is from experience, Vegas has become a victim of its own marketing. My last few trips I’ve felt more like my time is beyond controlled to the point where I’m just kind of given one of those Men-in-Black face shots at the end and told “Yeah, you had a pretty good time, nothing too crazy. Pretty good.” You have to go off piste to find something a little less savory than what most are searching for. (hint: it usually lives in broom closets.) I hope you and your Michigan crew do follow suit and get a little weird.

Speaking of, if I’m you KM, I throw the keys to the PTCRZR on the book’s cultured marble and ask for it all on UCLA+3 against SMU. I love Larry Brown’s ABA-inspired sartorial statements as much as the next guy, but the Bruins take by double digits…and now you’ve got some bankroll to play with so you can at least buy your way out of having to Fireball.

kyleIVAJ,

You know how to do Vegas. The Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay is a don’t miss for yours truly every time I’m in Sin City. The meat is phenomenal, the beer selection is on par with any hipster-run gastropub…but the booze milkshakes are where it’s at. Every time I end up there, it’s at dusk after a long day of drinking, so I necessarily need to continue that behavior while also imbibing something to re-coat my throat and stomach. Enter the bazillion dollar booze milkshake. Nothing simultaneously tells your body to shut down while activating every mischievous corner of your brain like the booze shake.

Vodka/Red Bull guy is missing out on the soothing part of sending your body into the booze/sugar spin cycle.

ANYWAY…Here’s what I’m looking at for Friday:

St. John’s vs. San Diego St. -3

The Red Storm (21-11, 10-8 Big East) have struggled all year against tournament teams and come into the Big Dance on a two-game slide with losses to Providence and Villanova. Steve Fisher’s Aztecs (26-8, 14-4 MW) aren’t as strong as usual, but they had enough in the tank to bounce a very good Colorado State team in the Mountain West tournament (and, ultimately, into the NIT). Fisher’s teams play slow, methodical offensive and lock-you-up defense.

Indiana +5.5 vs Wichita State

Um, Tom Crean and his Hoosiers (20-13, 9-9 Big Ten) need this game, desperately. Crean is almost guaranteed to be on the hot seat next season because he’s lousy at x’s and o’s, suffered mass defections to the NBA and his kids have disciplinary problems. The Shockers (28-4, 17-1 MVC) get boned by the Missouri Valley Conference–to secure primetime TV rights, the league wraps up its conference tournament a week before everyone else. 13 days off isn’t what you want going into a tournament that demands rhythm and cohesion. Look for the Hoosiers to keep it close or win.

Gonzaga -18 vs. North Dakota State

The Bulldogs get to play in front of a home crowd at Seattle’s Key Arena. I understand the Fargo Knights of Columbus chapter will be hosting a combination fish fry/watch party down at the hall.

AJ, that’s all I got man. See you on the other side.

ajIVKM,

You got your boarding pass and your big dreams and I got my spot on the couch…and I’m already spent.

Almost.

Speaking of Friday, the eighth-seeded Oregon Ducks take on the ninth-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys in what’s going to amount to the highest-scoring West Region matchup of the weekend (take the over).

The spread opened with Ducks -1 and I say Phil Knight takes T. Boone by nine. The Cowboys went upside down in the Big 12 (8-10) and while the Pac-12 is only sending four teams dancing at least a pair (UCLA and Arizona) will be there in the round of 16.

The Ducks’ only late-season stumble was a hangover Pac 12 championship game in, you guessed it, Vegas, where they decided to hit the Sex and the City slots in the second half and let Arizona mop it up 80-52.

Before that, they’d gone 7-7 against the spread to end the season. The Boys, meantime went one for six against the spread to limp into the postseason and doesn’t have an answer for the mighty guard Joseph Young.

The PNP Recap—NCAA Tournament first-round action:

ajIVThursday:

UCLA+3 vs. SMU

Wofford over Arkansas – moneyline

Friday:

Oregon -1 vs. Oklahoma State

Buffalo over W VA – moneyline

Wyoming over N. Iowa – moneyline

kyleIVThursday:

Notre Dame -12.5 vs. Northeastern

Arizona vs. Texas Southern +23.5

Ohio State vs. VCU +4

North Carolina -10.5 vs. Harvard

Georgetown vs. Eastern Washington +7.5

Friday:

St. John’s vs. San Diego St. -3

Indiana +5.5 vs Wichita State

Gonzaga -18 vs. North Dakota State

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  1. […] A home game during March Madness will be some sort of bro-tastic Nirvana, the equivalent of Going Clear for anyone in a backwards hat and khaki shorts. Neighboring California has embraced hockey to a fantastic degree with all three teams drawing more than 98 percent of capacity this year. Californians are easy to find on NHL rosters and that of nearly every feeder league. Vegas has a lot of similarities with California in terms of population makeup and is a rabid, frothing sports town without a big club to hang their hats on. […]