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North Carolina wins WhistleMania--Tar Heel fans and Gino rejoice

By Staff
VSiN.com

meeks
Kennedy Meeks and the Tar Heels celebrate their championship victory over Gonzaga.
© USA Today Sports Images

It may not have been pretty. The refs may have been auditioning for their own CBS procedural (“CSI: Replay Review,” “Criminal Minds: Stealing the Limelight.”) But when the final buzzer sounded, North Carolina stood atop the college basketball world as 2017 National Champions.

North Carolina survives “Whistlemania” to win NCAA Championship
That was one ugly basketball game. There were 22 fouls called on both North Carolina and Gonzaga. Gonzaga was just 12 of 40 on two-point shots. Carolina was a putrid 4 of 27 on three-point shots and added 11 missed free throws. Let’s take a look at the key stats that ultimately proved to be the difference-makers.

North Carolina (-1) 71, Gonzaga 65
Two-Point Shooting: North Carolina 48%, Gonzaga 30%
Turnovers: North Carolina 4, Gonzaga 14

VSiN CityGlad we emphasized those key elements the past several days. Even though North Carolina could barely find the rim from long range, they managed to make 10 more two-point shots (22-12) while rarely turning the ball over at all. As expected, Gonzaga didn’t try to force turnovers while daring Carolina to charge the basket. Once it was clear that the refs were going to call it fairly close, that put the Tar Heels in position to survive a wrestling match. They had more athletes who could attack. They had more depth when foul trouble became an issue. 

Ultimately, an officiating crew that frustrated much of the viewing nation ended up calling 22 fouls on each team, which led to 26 free throw attempts by each team. Tough to call that biased. It did cut WAY down on shining moments.

Hot High Roller “Gino” visited Brent Musburger after betting $420K to win $350K at South Point
The man who cleaned up with the North Carolina Tar Heels through the 2017 NCAA Tournament sat down with Brent Musburger Monday afternoon on “My Guys in the Desert.” Just hours after risking $420,000 to win $350,000, “Gino” talked to Brent about his prior big money nailbiter victories over Kentucky (by two points) and Oregon (by one point).

The interview aired live just after 4:35 p.m. Las Vegas time. If you missed it, be sure to check the replays and move your cursor to the final half hour.

Gino, called “Mr. Tar Heel” by Brent during the day, and “Mr. Moneyline 2.0” by Gill Alexander moments after those big bets were made at the South Point, grew up in Colorado the son of a bookie. He now splits his time between Colorado and Missouri.

How inspired was Gino to bet on the Heels in the Sweet 16? He said he drove 24 hours straight…through snow…through rain…through 60 mile-per-hour winds just to get to Las Vegas. Then he stayed up an additional 24 straight hours placing his action at the South Point and other sportsbooks in Las Vegas. 

Though Gino has made his presence felt here in the Big Dance, he says his favorite sport to bet is pro football. You can bet he’ll be back in town making big bets again this fall. Monday night’s huge championship win with the Tar Heels sent his cumulative profit well over the $500,000 mark.

VSiN’s Mitch Moss wins “Closest to the Pin” in our prediction sampling
Yesterday afternoon our staff posted championship game predictions gathered from Las Vegas sports media. In honor of this week’s Masters, let’s call it a “closest to the pin” victory for VSiN weekend host Mitch Moss (check out Mitch with Pauly Howard this weekend on SiriusXM on “Follow the Money.”)

Moss predicted North Carolina 71-67. That was just a bucket off the actual final score of 71-65! Seven of the 15 pundits queried picked the Tar Heels to win. Only Moss anticipated a low scoring game, with the other NC backers anticipating total points scored at 149 or more. 

Veteran Las Vegas writer Dave Tuley (currently of ESPN Chalk) got closest amongst the eight Gonzaga backers. His guess of 73-71 was only off by 8 points. Our own Brent Musburger nailed North Carolina’s 71 total as well, but was 10 high on the Zags with his pick of 75-71.  

(Speaking of the Masters, current futures prices for a few notables are Dustin Johnson 6-1, Jordan Spieth 7-1, Rory McIlroy 8-1, and defending champion Danny Willett 75-1. More on the Masters tomorrow.)

Fundamental MLB analytics start with ballpark effects
We’ll be devoting a lot of space here in VSiN City this spring and summer to statistical analysis of Major League Baseball. That will involve working in tandem with Gill Alexander and the topics he discusses on “A Numbers Game” every day at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. here in Las Vegas). 

Gill emphasized to the staff last week that a key fundamental for baseball analysis is understanding the impact of ballpark effects on statistics and perceptions. So, we begin today with a look at the final “park effects” numbers from the 2016 season, as tabulated by ESPN’s Stats and Information department. 

Best Hitters’ Parks in 2016
1.368 Colorado
1.225 Arizona
1.207 Cleveland
1.199 Boston
1.171 Kansas City
1.156 Toronto
1.156 Texas
1.059 Atlanta

A neutral park would grade out at 1.00. Hitter’s parks increase scoring, so those marks are all above 1.0. The easiest way to turn those numbers into words is to think of the first two numbers after the decimal point as percentages. Last season, the ballpark in Colorado increased scoring almost 37% as compared to what happened in Colorado’s road games. Arizona’s park increased scoring 22.5%. Cleveland’s park increased scoring 21%, Boston 20%, and so on. 

Even though a baseball season is long, occasionally a fluke campaign will create illusions. If you use two-year marks for those extremes we just mentioned, the numbers move to 40% for Colorado (up a little!), 23% for Cleveland (true again), 16% for Boston (less extreme), and 14% for Arizona (still a good hitters’ park, but less extreme).

If you’re just casually following the sport, the hitters in those parks probably aren’t as good as you were thinking, but the pitchers are MUCH better than you had been thinking. 

We’ll get into more specific ways to handicap with this information as the season progresses.  

Let’s move to last year’s best pitchers’ parks. You’re in for a big surprise!

Best Pitchers’ Parks in 2016
.808 Houston
.812 LA Dodgers
.829 Oakland
.834 Florida
.840 Philadelphia
.874 Chicago Cubs
.889 Tampa Bay

Here you have to subtract 1 from the posted number to get the percentage impact. Houston’s park, despite its reputation for being a bandbox, actually reduced scoring 19% last year! You might recall Pete Rose telling Brent Musburger a few weeks ago that pitchers hate to pitch there. The math suggests pitchers LOVE to pitch there! Yes, it is a bandbox. But, the awkward shadows that are created by the stadium’s design help make visibility difficult for hitters. You have to hit the ball before you can drive it over even a short fence. (If you go to a two-year calculation, it’s still a 13% reduction at that site. And if you’re still rubbing your eyes, there were 1,285 runs scored in Astros’ home games the past two seasons, 1,487 runs scored in their road games). 

Those seven stadiums all saw at least a 10% reduction in scoring when compared to road games involving the host team. 

You’ll notice that San Diego didn’t make the list. They made some adjustments to dimensions there that may have helped counteract the heavy marine layer and other influences that historically helped pitchers. A larger sample size is needed to confirm that development.  

Keep those listings handy as you handicap here in 2017. If you’d like to study more intently on the fly, ESPN does keep it’s park effects page updated regularly. 

Chalk (and steam) on the basepaths Monday in MLB
After an opening Sunday that saw home underdogs win all three games, favorites (the “chalk” in Vegas betting parlance) came back in full force Monday. 

Winning favorites on the afternoon and early evening slate (in Nevada rotation order) were Washington, the NY Mets, Colorado, the LA Dodgers, Houston, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Boston. A good day for many projected staff aces. The only early underdogs to cash tickets were Philadelphia and Minnesota (against the closing price).

There were several “steamers” on the first full day of Major League action. Games that steamed noticeably from the opening line to the closer.

The NY Mets opened at -155 and closed near -180 (won 6-0)
Colorado opened at 109 and closed near -122 (won 7-5)
Houston opened at -125 and closed near -155 (won 3-0)
Baltimore opened at even money and closed near -130 (won 3-2 in 11 innings)
Cleveland opened at 115 and closed at -115 (won 8-5)

Influential money isn’t usually THAT good in baseball. But that was a 5-0 market sweep with a combined 27-12 win on the scoreboard.

NBA: Big week ahead in East
A lot of drama brewing in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as Boston and Cleveland gear up for their Wednesday night battle amidst the fight for the #1 seed.

Top Four East Seeds
1…Boston
2…Cleveland (0.5 games back)
3…Toronto (3 games back)
4…Washington (4 games back)

This Week:
Boston: vs. Cleveland Wednesday, at Atlanta Thursday, at Charlotte Saturday.
Cleveland: vs. Orlando Tuesday, at Boston Wednesday, vs. Atlanta Friday, at Atlanta Sunday
Toronto: at Indiana Tuesday, at Detroit Wednesday, vs. Miami Friday, at New York Sunday
Washington: vs. Charlotte Tuesday, at New York Thursday, vs. Miami Saturday

Sure, that Cavs/Celtics game is the only one this week involving any of the top four teams meeting each other. But, you surely noticed on the other Eastern playoff contenders who show up on those schedules!

Filling out the 8 spots
5…Milwaukee (10 behind Boston)
6…Atlanta (11 back)
7…Chicago (12 back)
8 (tie)…Miami (13 back)
8 (tie)…Indiana (13 back)
10…Charlotte (14 back, 1 out of playoff spot)
11…Detroit (15 back, 2 out of playoff spot)

That means Boston has three games against opponents who are likely to show up with some intensity. Same is true for Cleveland with three of their four outings. Toronto will have at least two, and maybe three because it’s hard to tell for sure how motivated Detroit is to crash the playoffs given their recent slump. Washington plays a couple of contenders too. 

The NBA season ends a week from Wednesday. A large part of where teams are going to finish up in the Eastern brackets could be determined just in these next few days.

Here’s a quick update of our estimated market Power Ratings for the East. Remember to adjust daily for injuries, and for back-to-backs that crop up.  

East Power Ratings: Cleveland 84, Boston 83, Washington 83, Miami 82, Toronto 81, Charlotte 81, Milwaukee 81, Indiana 79, Chicago 79, Atlanta 78, Detroit 77, New York 75, Orlando 74, Philadelphia 73, Brooklyn 73. (Home court advantage is usually worth about 3 points in the NBA)

NBA: Less wild in the West, but some work to be done
The top few spots are locked in already barring some huge surprises. There’s still some work to be done from the middle of the seedings on down.

1…Golden State
2…San Antonio (3.5 games back)
3…Houston (11 back)
4…Utah (16 back)
5…LA Clippers (16.5 back, a half-game out of home court in the first round)
6…Oklahoma City (19.5 back)
7…Memphis (21 back)
8…Portland (24.5 back)
9…Denver (26.5 back, two games out of the playoffs)

Right now, the most important battles are for home court advantage in the #4 vs. #5 battle, and then making the playoffs down at the bottom. 

This Week
Utah: vs. Portland Tuesday, vs. Minnesota Friday, at Portland Saturday
LA Clippers: vs. Dallas Wednesday, at San Antonio Saturday 
Portland: at Utah Tuesday, vs. Minnesota Thursday, vs. Utah Saturday
Denver: at New Orleans Tuesday, at Houston Wednesday, vs. New Orleans Friday, vs. Oklahoma City Sunday

Those two games involving Utah and Portland loom very large over proceedings. The Clippers and Nuggets are both hoping for some help. 

West Power Ratings: Golden State 90, San Antonio 87, Houston 86, LA Clippers 85, Utah 83, Memphis 81, Oklahoma City 81, Denver 81, Portland 81, New Orleans 80, Minnesota 79, Dallas 78, Sacramento 72, LA Lakers 72, Phoenix 71.

Thanks for visiting VSiN City as we transition from college hoops to a torrid April shower of major sports events. See you again tomorrow for more on the Masters, the NBA Playoff chase, and this busy first week of Major League Baseball action.

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