Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels Offer Appealing NCAA Tournament Odds

College basketball fans across New York are excused if they are down on the state of NCAA basketball as it relates to the Empire State as February winds down and March Madness draws closer.

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Syracuse is 16-10 as Jim Boeheim coaches the Orange for the 47th consecutive season. St. Johns is 16-11 and 8th in the Big East. Columbia is 6-20, dead last in the Ivy League and without a win since New Year’s Eve. The only New York native in the discussion for the Wooden Award is Markquis Nowell of Kansas State, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Harlem who is tied for 2nd in the nation in assists at 7.8 per game.

Is The Wooden Award a Fait Accompli For Zach Edey?

But Nowell’s Wooden Award odds are +20000 at FanDuel Sportsbook, and the sportsbooks are listing 7-foot-4 Purdue center Zach Edey as a -3000 favorite to earn the honor that goes to the top college basketball player in the country. Edey is widely considered a lock even though he is slotted to go No. 60 in the latest Mock Draft from Bleacher Report’s Zach Wasserman and No. 56 in Tankathon’s 2023 NBA Mock Draft.

Nobody should ever touch anything with -3000 odds (you would need to wager $3000 to win $100), but that does not mean there are no decent gambling opportunities for New Yorkers who want to back a team from the Empire State.

There will be 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament when it begins, and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee will share its top four teams in each region at 12:30 p.m. ET today on CBS. It is a mortal lock that the three most overachieving New York teams will not be among them. They are:

  • Iona. At 19-7, Rick Pitino’s team is in first place in the MAAC with a seven-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s road game at St. Peter’s. If they can run the table and finish 24-7, an at-large berth seems likely, especially given the pedigree of the head coach.
  • Fordham. At 21-5 with wins in eight of their last nine games, coach Keith Urgo’s Rams will likely need to win the Atlantic 10’s conference tournament when it is held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn from March 7-12. They play on the road today against league leader Virginia Commonwealth.
  • Colgate. At 20-8, they are first in the Patriot League with 14 wins in their last 15 games. The conference tournament games are played at the home arena of the higher-seeded team, which bodes well for the school in Hamilton, N.Y., an hour’s drive southeast of Syracuse.

Once the 68-team NCAA tournament field is set, sports gamblers go nuts. In Las Vegas, folks flock to the casino sportsbooks on the opening weekend of the tournament and wager wildly. You can do that if you want, because your wagering strategy is your wagering strategy, but for the more conservative bettors there are opportunities from the comfort of your domicile.

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Can Money Be Won On These Overachieving New York Teams?

PointsBet Sportsbook lists odds on NCAA champion, which we can predict with 99.99 percent certainty will not be one of the above mentioned teams. The Houston Cougars are the current +650 favorites, and No. 1 Alabama is the +900 third-choice. The defending champion Kansas Jayhawks are +1200.

But PointsBet also lists odds on reaching the Final Four, and that is where there are opportunities.

Kentucky, which is 17-9 but has gone 1-4 against ranked teams under John Calipari, is +1600 because, well, because it is Kentucky. Oregon, 15-12 and tied for 5th in the Pac-12, is +2800. Villanova, 13-13 and seventh in the Big East, is +5000 — the same odds as St. John’s.

But what about the good teams from New York? FanDuel Sportsbook has Iona and Colgate at +15000 to make the Final Four. DraftKings Sportsbook has no New York teams listed in its Final Four props, but BetMGM has Iona at +100000 to win the title while Caesars has them at +50000, along with Colgate at +150000 and Fordham at +500000. BetRivers has Iona at +40000 and Colgate at +60000.

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Who Is This Year’s Cinderella Story?

Every year, there is a small conference or mid-major conference team that captures the nation’s imagination during March Madness. Last year, it was 15th seeded Saint Peter’s making the final 16. In 2021, it was the 11th-seeded UCLA Bruins making the Final Four. In 2020, it was 12th-seeded Liberty University, and in 2019 it was 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago making the Final Four.

There is one team nearly every year, so why not a New York team doing the exact same thing that Saint Peters did last year when New Yorkers could gamble on Saint Peters but New Jersey residents could not (NJ’s state gambling lw prohibits very little, but one thing is wagering on teams based in the Garden State.

If we had to pick one team most likely to surprise everyone, it would be Pitino’s Iona Gaels. Pitino has coached the Knicks, Kentucky, Louisville and the Greek National team, and he is flying way under the radar with this year’s team from North Avenue in New Rochelle.

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If you think Julius Randle of the Knicks is flyer-worthy at 100-1 for MVP of the NBA All-Star game, you gotta think the same thing about Pitino’s team despite their 0-14 record in past NCAA tournament appearances. As any Chicago Cubs fan will tell you, nothing associated with longtime losing streaks lasts forever.

 

 

 

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