Steamboat Springs For those thinking about betting on the heavy underdog Monmouth Hawks to upset the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament today, the school's head coach has a few words of advice.
"I would tell everybody that's doing the office pool, I would say whoever wins the Duke-Monmouth game is going to win the tournament," Hawks coach Dave Calloway said by phone from his hotel room in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday.
Monmouth, hailing from West Long Branch, N.J., plays No. 1-ranked Duke (29-4) at the Greensboro Coliseum in an East Regional game at 5:40 tonight.
The Hawks, seeded 16th in the East Region, are the Northeast Conference champions. The Blue Devils are the Atlantic Coast Conference champions.
With the tournament starting today, there isn't much time left to make adjustments to those office pools.
According to Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing, office pools are legal in town if the gamblers know each other.
"In order to gamble, you must have a social relationship with the other person," Fiebing said.
"So, two strangers playing poker in public would be a violation whereas two friends playing poker in public would not be a violation," he said.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski could not be reached for comment about the Monmouth game. Take a look at the office pools around town and you'll see plenty with "Duke" written in the National Champion spot. Many college hoops fans
are picking Mike Krzyzewski's team to win it all. Unlike Coach Calloway, Krzyzewski could not be reached for comment.
Kelly Meek, who coaches the Steamboat Sailors boys basketball team, is gunning to win a jackpot worth about $40 in a pool of eight players.
"I guess I'm leaning kind of to Duke," Meek said. "But, they're the kind of team that they shoot so many (three-pointers) that if they get a decent lead and they keep missing, someone could upset them."
J.J. Johnson, general manager of Mazzola's Italian Restaurant and Lounge downtown, also was leaning toward picking Duke this week.
The NCAA Finals will be April 2 in Minneapolis.
In Johnson's pool, there is about $300 in the jackpot. At least 30 players have chipped in $10 each and the prize will be winner-take-all, Johnson said.
Although Johnson was leaning toward Duke, he wasn't certain who his No. 1 pick would be until, most likely, early today.
"I always like to root for the underdog," Johnson said. "I've heard some people are picking Charlotte. They have the longest winning streak (in the country) and they just beat Cincinnati to win their conference.
"And Iowa State's been improving steadily over the years, which is my father's alma mater," he said.
Sixty-four teams are competing in the NCAA tourney. Sixteen games will be played today and another 16 first-round games will be played Friday.
At The Industrial Company in Steamboat Springs there's a hefty pot waiting for the employee who comes out on top in the office pool. About 100 employees have turned in $10 each, which brings the jackpot to $1,000.
The first-place winner will receive 70 percent of the purse and the runner-up will get 20 percent. The third-place finisher will lay claim to the remaining 10 percent, said Gail Good, TIC field accounting manager.
In the TIC pool, first-round games are worth one point and second-round games are worth two. That pattern continues until the final game, which is when a player is awarded 10 points for naming the national champion.
Calloway, whose Monmouth squad is 21-9, says anyone playing office pools should keep in mind that upsets occur frequently during NCAA tourneys.
"There are always upsets in the early rounds," Calloway said. "But usually the lower-seeded team, if they win the (first) game, they usually go on to win one or two.
"It's tough to go all the way," Calloway said. "But, like I said, the winner of the Monmouth-Duke game is going to go all the way."
There may be a few upsets during the playoffs, but the NCAA tourney wouldn't be known as "March Madness" if there were no surprise victories.
And for all the prognosticators who may think they know what they are talking about, here is one final hint: Kentucky over North Carolina by three for the national championship.