In this edition of his weekly column The Ticket, Adam Kramer talks about one of the greatest college basketball games ever played, the Gonzaga-UCLA Instant Classic; makes his pick for the 2021 NCAA Tournament National Championship game; talks about early baseball betting drama; and gets primed for The Masters week. Use his betting tips to place bets at our sportsbook partners below.
On occasion, your betting ticket takes a back seat. These moments are rare, of course. Having money is better than not having money. But sometimes, the sports are so good that you, somewhat naturally, start to dissociate yourself from your wagers and let the event wash over you.
It takes A LOT for that to be the case. In fact, in the instance of this still-topical discussion, it takes a Final Four game such as Gonzaga-UCLA — a 93-90 OT thriller that ended with a miracle buzzer-beater — to generate such emotions.
I had those emotions. Now, by this time my over wager had long cashed. My Gonzaga -14.5 bet was long dead. And my “Gonzaga (+230) to win the tournament" was strangely not important.
In the back of my mind, I cared. Again, money is better than no money. But as the two teams exchanged blows, I naturally morphed into a gleeful bystander.
This was basketball in its purest form. This was riveting — a game that managed to deliver each minute it was played. Not just the buzzer-beater. Essentially all 40 minutes were brilliant.
I won one bet, lost one bet, and stayed alive in another. But while most games end in some simple math for gamblers, this one is bound to linger. I won’t remember my easy over cash or the fact that I missed the spread badly. I won’t even remember the future wager if Gonzaga is triumphant.
I will, however, remember that game for everything it was and all that it had to offer.
And yes, we have a delightful national championship game as a result. It’s the game we wanted to see, the game we expected to see and the game we deserve to see: Gonzaga vs. Baylor.
Their journeys, despite being 1 seeds, have been very different. But it means little now on the cusp on college basketball’s conclusion.
Bravo, Gonzaga. Bravo, UCLA. Bravo, college basketball.
While it’s in our nature to focus on the outcome of a wager, this was a rare instance where our tickets felt insignificant to the outcome itself.
At the Window: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The Good: A Lovely, Late-Night Comeback by the Seattle Mariners
A little baseball to lead things off, as I jumped back into the swing of the MLB season. If my first bet is any indication, this could be a magical year. I played the Seattle Mariners +1.5 runs (-155) against San Francisco on Thursday night. The Mariners fell behind 5-0 and then 6-1. They scored six runs in the eighth to take the lead, gave up the lead in the ninth, and then won the game in extra innings. I’m going to be honest with you… I feel asleep. What a wonderful gift to wake up to.
The Bad: Michigan (-6.5) against UCLA in the Elite 8
I bet Michigan. Of course, I did. This was one of my favorite team’s in all of college basketball, and I simply never strayed away despite obvious signs that I should. So, I laid the 6.5 points against Michigan in the Elite. The Wolverines responded by losing outright by two. Despite the losses toward the end of the season, I thought Michigan would recover and still make the Final Four. I was wrong. I was stubborn. That goes without saying. Although this wasn’t even my worst bet of the tournament.
The Ugly: Houston (-5) vs. Baylor in the Final Four
This was. I’m not sure much else needs to be said. I bet Houston. In fact, I really liked Houston going up against one-seeded Baylor. The Cougars responded by immediately falling behind. They proceeded to fall even further behind late in the first half. Ultimately, they lost by 19, and at no point in the game, with exception to the first few minutes, were they even close. Big ol’ swing and a miss.
What I’m Watching: Hello, Friends
The Masters: I can’t tell you how excited I am to be headed back to Augusta. The fall version, which was delivered to us late due to COVID in 2020, was fine. But nothing beats having the greatest tournament in golf in early April. I’ve got plenty of thoughts when it comes to betting, which I will share Tuesday in a separate piece. But this event—like the one I mentioned in the opener—is one I am more than thrilled just to watch.
College Basketball’s National Championship: Monday night. I know where I’ll be. My only gripe with this event is that it won’t begin until after 9 PM eastern time. The game itself — Gonzaga-Baylor — is perfection. But as a dad with three kids and long days, let me lament against starting basketball games after 9 PM. I will do my absolute best to stay awake for the entire game, but there are no promises.
UFC Fight Night: A weekend without UFC was, well, far more difficult than it should have been. UFC returns this weekend with an intriguing card, headlined by the main event featuring Marvin Vettori and Kevin Holland which only recently came together. It’ll also be featured on ABC, which is a big deal when you consider just how far the sport has come.
What I’m Betting: Lots of Options
Gonzaga (-4.5) vs. Baylor
Yes, I could just sit on my Gonzaga futures ticket and be done with it. Yes, I could even hedge if I so desired (I do not). No, I feel good about this one. While the sporting world seems destined to overreact to the Final Four games, that will not be me. Gonzaga is the best team in college basketball, and it will prove it once again.
Kevin Holland (+250) vs. Marvin Vettori
A little underdog action in the UFC. If you watched Holland fight not long ago, you saw him talking, laughing and on his back for essentially the whole fight. I’m not sure if he can improve his takedown defense in that amount of time, but I do believe he will be on his feet a lot more and I expect a much better effort. Also, he has a seven-inch reach advantage. Let’s see if he can use it.
Justin Fields (+125) No. 3 Overall Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
It’s time. The draft is this month, and the juices are flowing. With San Francisco trading into the No. 3 spot, the 49ers have made it clear they are drafting a QB. Mac Jones has plenty of buzz at the moment, although I still believe, ultimately, that San Francisco will draft Fields with this pick. He’s a slight favorite at +125, and the right choice in my eyes. Don’t overthink this. That’s advice for bettors and the 49ers.
Done reading about the Gonzaga-UCLA Instant Classic and Adam’s other betting notes from the past week and for the week ahead? Go place a bet at one of our partner sportsbooks: