LITTLE ROCK — The first step in profitable stock market strategy — buy low — also applies when trying to back the winner of the NCAA Tournament.
Along those lines, Syracuse is the value early this week at 7.5-to-1 and Florida is undervalued at 5-1. A week ago, unbeaten Syracuse and Florida were the 6-1 favorites to hoist the trophy in April, according to Bovada.lv.
A two-game losing streak is no reason to bail on Syracuse. The same gritty and talented bunch that reached 25-0 is quite capable of winning six tournament games in a row.
The loss to Boston College is one of those things that happens on occasion — a team stays hot for 40 minutes — and the more skilled team can’t buy a bucket.
Boston College made 11-of-22 3s against Syracuse’s heralded 2-3 zone and Syracuse shot a season-low 32.3 percent from the field. The result, Boston College 62, Syracuse 59. That same week, Boston College made 4-of-20 3s and lost to Miami by 27. So goes college basketball.
On Saturday night, Syracuse missed 25 shots in the first half and still only trailed 60-58 when C.J. Fair drove the baseline and was called for a charge with less than 11 seconds to play. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was teched twice in seconds and Duke’s winning margin was six.
Boeheim did not cost Syracuse the game; he cost Syracuse a chance to win the game. Even if the call goes the other way and Fair completes a three-point play, Duke would have had time to score.
Either one of those teams can win it all. The same holds true for Kansas, Michigan State, Arizona, and Florida.
If Georgia wins at home tonight against Missouri or beats Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday, Bulldogs coach Mark Fox should be proclaimed SEC Coach of the Year immediately. Even if the Bulldogs lose twice, he’s the leading candidate.
Picked to finish 11th in the SEC, Georgia is two games up on the seven teams tied for fourth. When Arkansas lost in overtime at Georgia in mid-January, I figured the Razorbacks had missed an opportunity to pick up a road win against a team that was going to be mid-pack at best. All I knew about Georgia was that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope left last year and was the No. 8 pick in the NBA draft.
Looking at the stats, I still can’t figure how Georgia is 9-5.
Speculating about the final five games of SEC play, a formula offered in Saturday’s column projected results of all eight teams involved in the chase for third. The theory about winning at home, beating Mississippi State and South Carolina no matter the site, and losing to Florida or Kentucky held true in six of the seven games.
Vanderbilt winning at Auburn was the exception. If the formula is good again this week, Georgia will be 10-5, LSU, Tennessee, and Ole Miss, each 8-7, and Arkansas, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, each 7-8, headed into the weekend.
Unless Arkansas wins at Kentucky, the only way the Razorbacks can get to the NCAA Tournament is to win its last three SEC games and reach the finals of the SEC Tournament. In Atlanta, that would mean beating Kentucky or Florida in the semifinals.
Out of the blue, Levi Randolph came through for Alabama against Missouri and Anthlon Bell did the same for Arkansas vs. Mississippi State.
Randolph, who had attempted 16 shots in his four previous games and who had not scored in double figures since January, was 11-of-15 on his way to 33 points.
Bell, who did not play in two of Arkansas’ last four games and was 2-of-16 in February, took 15 shots and made eight. Once, I made every putt I looked at. Only once.
(Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org)