Kvitova – Venus – US Open Tuesday Night

On Tuesday night, Venus Williams will be facing Petra Kvitova in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 US Open. Both of these women have experienced incredible resurgences and this match is made for prime time.

“Aunt” Venus Wiliams, is 37 years old, a 7-time major champ and all-time great. She’s also the 2nd best tennis player in her family. Since Summer of 2016, Venus has been to 3 Major Semifinals (including 2 Finals this year). She hadn’t been to a Semifinal in a major since 2010 before last year’s Wimbledon. She had been written off as ‘done’ countless times, and her resurgence (similar to Fed and Rafa) has been downright awesome.

Petra Kvitova, the 27-year old 2x Major Champion (2011, 2014 Wimbledons) had been out for more than 6 months after a hand injury caused by a home invader. An unthinkable event, and it’s remarkable that she has been able to come back from that stronger than ever. She struggled in this year’s Wimbledon, having lost to American Madison Brengle in the 2nd Round, but during the US Open, her form has been impeccable. She is the only WTA player in this year’s US Open who has not dropped a set.

Predictive Analysis: CappedSports has the “fair line” for this match at -142 as of this writing. With juice included, according to BetOnline.ag, Kvitova is -155. So if you bet $155, you get an $100 return. The implied probabilites assigned to those odds are 60.8%. Without proper context, you would think for a resurgent all-time great to be a 3/2 Underdog would represent good value.

HOWEVER, it isn’t in this case. Kvitova’s form has been near flawless, and she has faced great competition in this tournament. The average ranking of the players that she has played in this tournament is 31.5 (and as mentioned, she hasn’t dropped a set! Including a match vs. Wimbledon champ Muguruza).Venus has played well too, but she hasn’t had the form of Kvitova. She has dropped 2 sets in this tournament, including her 1R matchup with 163rd Ranked Viktoria Kuzmova.

Furthermore, Venus is 1-5 against Kvitova, 1-4 on Hard surface. Venus’s agility may present a problem for Petra tonight, but it won’t be enough to overcome her.

Prediction: Kvitova wins, and her 60% implied probabilities present very good value compared to the likelihood of her winning. TAKE KVITOVA -155 and don’t look back. I hate to go against an American in a tournament where so many Americans are killing. But sorry, Aunt Venus, better luck in the ’18 Aussie.


2017 Gonzaga: Fighting Fews Phoenix Bound?

Gonzaga is good.

Gonzaga is really good.

Gonzaga is better than they have ever been, and that is a great compliment; they have been nothing but great in Mark Few’s tenure as head coach.

But to many, the 2017 Gonzaga Bulldogs are frauds: overhyped and overrated due to their impressive record facilitated by their cupcake schedule. To others, they are underhyped and underrated, a truly great team and an undervalued sleeper Championship pick.

So what is this year’s Gonzaga team? A mid-major team with no shot of winning the title, and not battle-tested or good enough to even get to Phoenix? Or truly one of the best teams in the nation and deserving of serious consideration as a National Championship contender?

Let’s first contextualize the Gonzaga program. Mark Few’s Gonzaga Basketball team has been the best ‘Mid-Major’ program of the last 20 years. He is the Leader among ALL Active Coaches with an 81.6% Career Winning Percentage and has gone to the NCAA Tournament in each of his 18 years. But as we all know, he has never been to a Final Four. If the committee isn’t sniffing glue on Selection Sunday, this will be the 2nd Time that Gonzaga will have had the #1-seed. The only other time was in 2013, when they lost in the 2nd Round to the miracle Wichita St. team (underranked as an 8 seed) that made the Final Four that year.

Few reportedly could have left for bigger jobs at Arizona, Oregon, UCLA or USC, but didn’t. He stayed at Gonzaga, a school with a 5,041 Undergraduate student population and 2 NCAA Tournament Appearances under its belt before Few’s hire as Head Coach. Considering that Gonzaga University is in Spokane, Washington –a city otherwise most noteworthy as the Birthplace of Father’s Day – Few has done a helluva job scouting International talent and, more significantly , getting guys to play there. Local legend and noted Diabetic Pornstache McGee stayed in Spokane to play for Few. So did future NBA players Robert Sacre, Kelly Olynyk, Roany Turiaf, Domantas Sabonis and others. Mark Few absolutely deserves the multitude of National Coach of the Year Awards he has been getting this year.

We know the Gonzaga program is Dan Stevens beastly, but is this Gonzaga squad good compared to the others? An emphatic Yes. At 32-1, this year’s squad is the best that Mark Few has had to date, on paper and in practice. The Zags average 84.6 PPG, 8th in the Nation and allow 61.2 PPG, 7th in the Nation. Did you guess that they have the #1 point differential in the nation? Good job, buddy, you’re right. Gonzaga’s average scoring margin per game is best in the nation, a full 4.1 points ahead of #2, Wichita State. John Stockton and his short shorts would be proud. Moreover, The Zags have the necessary components to make a deep NCAA run. They’re super athletic, have depth (7 of their guys average more than 7.5 PPG, 5 are at 10.0 PPG or more) and length (7 of their guys are 6’8 or taller) and can obviously both score in bunches and defend floor-slappingly well.

The contrarians among you are probably saying, “Ok, that’s cool, guy, but does a team that has a 10 RPI, 100 SOS, and is in the West Coast Conference, the 9th Best Conference in terms of RPI really deserve of a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament? You said it yourself: Few has had 20-win teams and Tournament appearances the last 18 years, but no Final Fours. He’s a great regular season coach, but no proof that he knows what it takes in March to get his team to April.” So, can the Zags get Mark Few to his First Final Four and moreover Gonzaga’s 1st National Championship?

Ok, let’s get this out of the way: this special Zags team deserves to be a #1 Seed. Yes, their SOS is 100, but they have gone 6-0 against top-50 RPI teams. Included in which were wins against Arizona (Pac-12 Conference Tournament champ), Iowa State (Big 12 Conference Tourney champ), and Florida, teams all likely to have 4-seeds or better in the bracket. Their only blemish was the surprise loss to BYU, a likely NIT Team with a 65 RPI. That was a bad loss for sure, but other possible #1 Seeds North Carolina and Kansas lost to 76 RPI Indiana. It’s really a dumb, unfair, and biased opinion to think this Zags team doesn’t deserve to be on the topline. You would be asking of them something that only 19 teams have done in the last 79 seasons, go undefeated leading up to the NCAA tournament. Luckily for Gonzaga, this year’s Selection Committee is not as big-Conference-heavy like in years past. Only 5 of the 10 committee members are from top-6 RPI Conferences, so I suspect the Zags will get a #1 seed. If they’re in the bracket as a #2 seed, Howard Dean look-alike and NCAA Selection Committee Chair Mark Hollis must be crazier than this masturbatory piece from the NCAA calling him “The Wizard of Awes”. He wants to be the next President of the NCAA so bad, Bob Knight threatened to kill him because he thought “The Wizard” was Zombie Miles Brand or something. If the Zags aren’t on the top line maybe we should let the Sweater loose (JK LOL).

SOOOO, what chance do the Zags have at getting to the Final Four and winning the title? Let’s begin using their top scoring margin differential as a template. What if any correlation is there between being the top scoring differential team and making the Final Four/National Championship?

Season Diff. Leader +/- Amount How Far?
2016-17 Gonzaga +23.4 ?
2015-16 Michigan St +15.7 1st Round
2014-15 Kentucky +20.1 Final Four
2013-14 Louisville +19.9 Sweet 16
2012-13 Florida +17.0 Elite 8
2011-12 Kentucky +17.0 National Champs
2010-11 Belmont +17.5 1st Round
2009-10 Kansas +17.4 2nd Round
2008-09 UNC +17.1 National Champs
2007-08 Kansas +18.7 National Champs
2006-07 Florida +17.2 National Champs
2005-06 Texas +14.9 Elite 8
2004-05 UNC +17.8 National Champs
2003-04 Gonzaga +15.6 2nd Round
2002-03 Pittsburgh +15.7 Sweet 16
2001-02 Duke +19.7 Sweet 16
2000-01 Duke +20.2 National Champs
1999-00 Stanford +18.5 2nd Round
1998-99 Duke +24.7 National Runner-Up
1997-98 Duke +21.1 Elite 8
All Data Retrieved by Wrong Lines from Teamrankings.com and Wikipedia.org

First, what a +/- total for the ’17 Zags. Only 1 other team in last 20 years has had that big of a margin. I remember the Trajan Langden and Elton Brand 1998-99 Duke team well, they beat my alma mater in the 2nd round that year by 41, and Coach K still bitched about his team’s effort!

Second, there is a quite strong correlation between top +/- teams and winning the National Title. 6 of these 19 teams prior to the Zags won the title. That’s a 32% rate at which the top differential team has gone home as Champs. 8 of 19 or 42% have gotten to the Final Four at least. And apart from 2011 Belmont, each of these teams had high expectations going into the tournament due to their dominance.

This is as good of a measure of any to see not only how good a team is, but also how they play night in and night out. At times vastly superior teams play inferior competition who would not require MAX effort to get beaten, and the Zags didn’t fall into the trap of complacency this year. I really don’t feel like they will just be “happy to be there” until they get to the Final Four. They also have their winningest player of all-time on this roster, Przemik Karnowski, AKA The Mountain. Just as ain’ters gonna ain’t, winners gonna win and the Mountain is a winner through and through.

The Zags have been darling to those who have backed them this year. According to VegasInsider, they went 21-7-1 against the spread, even though they have been favored by double digits in 22 of those 29 games where there was an available line. Although the line will of course be dependent upon who they play, the Zags will be favored between 27 and 30 points in the opening round according to us @Wronglines. As far as Futures, according to BetOnline, the Zags are a 9/1 favorite to win the Title, or have a 10% chance to win according to implied probabilities.

Once the bracket is released, you’ll have a chance to take them to win the West Regional/make the Final Four. Most projected brackets have Arizona as the 2-seed in the West, and due to the lower than deserved opinion of the Zags, and Zona’s recent Pac-12 Conference win, the Wildcats will likely be the more popular pick to win the West Regional. This will probably put Gonzaga at something like 3/2 or 2/1 chances to get to Phoenix (40% & 33.3% per implied probabilities). Despite Few’s March struggles, if Gonzaga is less than a 1/1 Favorite to win the West Regional, take them. This is a nice value play considering the likelihood of it happening.

Gonzaga will certainly have to get through some tough squads to make it to Phoenix, and will be facing constant questions about Few’s regular season aptitude and March ineptness. But they have the tools to get there, are aware of the gravity of this postseason for Few’s legacy, and as their ATS performance and point differential show you, they are up for the challenge and won’t beat themselves. I don’t typically get into Title futures at this point, but take a ¼ U flier on the Zags to win the Title at +900 ($25 yields $225). On paper, they are one of the best 5 teams in the nation, but the implied probabilities state they only have an equal chance as the other top-10 teams in the field. This screams UNDERVALUE as a National Title contender.

The Zags kept the pedal to the medal all year, have heard all the discussions about their weaknesses as a smaller Conference school, and they will be motivated to prove the haters wrong. I am very likely going to take them to win the West Region when the bracket comes out. Few’s Bulldogs are ample enough to make the Final Four, and are about 15-18% likely to win the title, according to us @Wronglines. Those who state that Gonzaga has no business being a 1, have little to no chance of making the Final Four, and have absolutely no shot at the National Title need run a check on themselves. (AND FOLLOW @WRONGLINES & OUR CAPPEDIN PAGE TO GET SOME KNOWLEDGE!)

Keep following this blog, our Twitter @Wronglines, and our CappedIn Page for more predictions and proven sound analysis. More content coming soon!

American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview

The American Athletic Conference Tournament begins Thursday March 9th in Hartford, Connecticut. The Championship game will be at 3:15 PM Eastern time on Selection Sunday, March 12th and be aired on ESPN.

Last year the AAC was a 4-bid league: Temple, Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Tulsa all participated in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Had SMU not been banned, they would have likely been a tourney team last year, too (although there is an argument to be made that maybe Tulsa would not have made it had SMU been eligible). Barring a miracle in the AAC tournament (and by miracle, I mean any of these would need to win the AAC tournament – they each have a 0% chance of getting at-large bids) Temple, UConn, and TU all miss the tourney this year.

As of Friday March 3rd, ESPN’s Bracketology, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, and USA Today all have consensus that AAC is going to be a 2-bid league, with Cincinnati and SMU being locks to make the tournament. Knowledgable observers of the conference this year would agree, and Houston and UCF are deservedly on the bubble in solid territory to make the NIT. Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s Bracketology has Houston in the group of the “Next Four Out”, meaning the Cougars, are 5-8 slots away from getting an at-large bid in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Even though Kelvin Sampson’s Houston team has a 51 RPI compared to UCF’s 77, I personally view UCF as an even if not slightly better squad than Houston right now. After all, they do have TACKO FALL WHO IS 7’6 AND LOOKS LIKE A COMBINATION OF STEVE URKEL AND GHEORGE MURESAN , and have won 5 in a row including a defensive struggle over Cincinnati. If either UCF or Houston expects to get in the tourney this year though, they’ll need to help themselves, ALOT.

The AAC has released very nice “Road to Hartford” 1-sheeter projecting the AAC Tournament schedule as if the season ended today. There are multiple possibilities for seeding in the lower rungs of the conference, but most significantly, Houston will keep the 3-seed (and 1st Round Bye/guarantee to play the 6 or 11 seed in the QFs instead of 5-seed) if they beat ECU on Sunday. (ViewBook: @Wronglines projects they will be around an 11.5 pt favorite on Sunday and may provide a good opportunity as they have something to play for, are at home, and are the vastly superior squad.)

Question 1: Is there any scenario in which anyone other than SMU or Cincinnati gets an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament? I say no. We can immediately rule UCF out, as they are not viewed at all as a bubble team. With Houston as one of Lunardi’s Next Four Out, lets shift the conversation to them. The best case scenario for their at-large chances is them killing ECU Sunday (probable in my view), UConn or whomever they get in the QFs (less likely), to beating 2-seeded Cincinnati in the Semis (even less likely), and then losing ‘impressively’ to SMU in the Conference Finals (least likely, Houston’s Ls to SMU averaged 14.5). I grade that as happening in the 8-12% range. Even if that does happen I don’t see Houston making the tournament as an at-large team. There’s sure to be a shake-up with a bubble team becoming an “in” team, and surprise winners of conference tournaments that kick someone down. The AAC isn’t viewed as as good as a conference as it has the past few years (this year conference RPI .521, last year was .527), Houston’s non-conference Ws (URI & Vermont) are not impressive enough to have the Selection Committee consider them an at-large team.

So since AAC teams not named Cincinnati and SMU won’t get in without a Conference tourney win, that begs Question 2: Can either Houston or UCF (or maybe notoriously sneaky hosting team UConn) get hot enough to win the AAC tourney and turn the league into a 3-bid conference? It’s certainly possible. As mentioned, UCF did beat Cincinnati, and Fall is a matchup problem for anyone. Houston has gone 0-4 against Cincinnati and SMU, whom they will presumably have to run through to steal the AAC Championship. Houston does have an excellent 39.4% 3pt Shooting Percentage (2nd best in AAC to SMU), however, can score in bunches, and have a great defense. As they say, it’s hard to beat a team 3x in a season and anything can happen any given day, so we can’t 100% rule out a potential upset in the AAC Tournament. But I don’t see it happening, I like Cincinnati to win the AAC Tournament. Mick Cronin’s Bearcats are motivated to play their hardest, and have the talent to get far in the NCAA Tournament. And considering Cronin’s recent comments on the flaws of the NCAA Selection Committee’s Seeding and Geographical Placement of teams, I feel his squad will work very hard to put themselves in the best possible position in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s our American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview, check out the WordPress soon for further Previews. Always check out @WrongLines and WrongLines’ CappedIn Page for super sound predictive consultations.