NCAA Tourney: “Longs” and “Shorts”

In these days of great market uncertainty, one must carefully construct a hedged investment portfolio that is chalk full of longs and shorts. In that vein, here is the portfolio I have built in advance of this year’s tourney. Mind you, weightings will be altered and new bets will be placed as opportunities arise.

Long: I have been buying Washington Husky stock for a couple weeks and bought more after seeing their tourney placement on Sunday night. Playing North Carolina in Charlotte may not be ideal but Washington has a bunch of athletes that compare favorably to UNC. Ken Pomeroy, who has one of the better predictor tools out there, has the Huskies as the 15th team in the country. That seems like great value for a seven seed and I just don’t see UNC being able to jump with the Huskies or guard their penetration.

Short: People who spend more than eleven minutes filling out their pool if they have anything less than $50 on the line. Further, I can’t sell enough of this barspeak …. “shit, that ruins my [$10] bracket!”

Short: Opening day falling on St. Patrick’s Day. When you put these two things together in NYC, you have a certifiable shit show in the bars. No thank you … I’ll be watching both the early returns and the late games from my couch.

Long Pitt. Isn’t it fucking time already? After years of getting screwed, the NCAA finally took it easy on Pitt and the conditions seem ripe for the Panthers to make it to Houston. Keep in mind that you don’t get paid much when you go long a top seed but I’ll put the money up anyways.

Short: The Twos! UNC, San Diego State, Florida and Notre Dame are about as unimpressive a group of twos as you will find outside of the GOP race for the presidential nomination (Barbour, Newt, Pawlenty and Huntsman.) You think any sevens or tens will have trouble sleeping knowing they have this motley crew waiting for them in the second round?

Short: The whole world is long Belmont so I am going the other way and taking Whiskey in that opener.

Pair trade … long the 12s and short the 13s. I don’t really like any of these 13s to pull off an opening round upset but I can see three of these 12s winning.

…. Long Duke. Hate to say it, but Duke looks three lengths better than any other horse in the Southwest field. A high-ceiling Tennessee team might be trouble and Texas could pose a problem in the regional semi but does anyone like Texas coach Rick Barnes over K in a tight game? And if Duke can get into that regional final, there is nobody on the other side that poses a threat.

….. But I’m short this Kyrie Irving story. Duke haters are concerned that a guy who hasn’t played in three months is suddenly going to appear and make a difference? History is on my side and if there are guys out there willing to buy this story, then I am selling it to them.

Long Purdue. This group has been building towards this moment for three years, losing in the regional semis in both 2009 and 2010. I’m not thrilled that they just suspended a key rotation guy, or that they come into the tourney off a terrible loss. But they play excellent defense, they don’t turn the ball over and they have two guys who can score. Admittedly, this is a low-conviction long but I like this stock to finally break out.

Short Kansas … this too is a low-conviction bet but if Memphis makes a few free throws in 2008, nobody is buying Bill Self as a big-time tourney guy. Bucknell …. Bradley ….. Northern Iowa ….. get ready to add Louisville or Purdue to that list.

I am going to go long Xavier. The Muskets have made it to the last three Sweet Sixteens and if they play Cuse in the second round, Xavier’s Tu Holloway will be the best player on the floor. Xavier doesn’t shoot the three very well and they could have trouble against that Cuse zone but I just like the feel of this one.

Short Kemba Walker and Uconn. I have been short Walker since January 1 and had to give back all my winnings last week as Walker exploded in the Big East Tourney.  But I am re-loading, figuring he has another 10-27 in those legs. UCONN probably would have been better off starting the tourney on Sunday or Monday given their momentum and the bet here is they will cool off in a big way. Truthfully, there is no upset I would rather see in the first round then Bucknell over Jim Calhoun with Walker crapping all over himself.

Long UCSB … I’m not sure what Florida is doing as a two and I love Santa Barbara’s Orlando Johnson, a kid who was raised by wolves. Well, his brothers actually did the parenting after his mom died very early in Orlando’s life but if you want a feel good story, this is it. This is like buying a company and hoping it gets bought. The chances probably aren’t great but if it happens, you made your month.

Short UCLA’s backcourt. Ben Howland plays four guys back there and none of them can shoot or handle the ball. As much as I hope I’m wrong, this won’t escape Tom Izzo.

I’ll short a little Big East. With Nova and Georgetown limping to the finish, it seems that the mighty conference goes in the tourney a little wounded. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the BE lose six or seven teams this weekend.

Short Barkley and Kenny doing the studio show for TNT. The last time Smith cared about CBB was when he was being eliminated by Syracuse in 1987 and I’m not sure Barkley has ever known anything about the college game … even while he was a player. The flip side to this trade is “long Greg Anthony,” a guy who has gotten much better in the studio since his deer in the headlights debut a few years back.

So that is my portfolio. If you weren’t paying close attention, I have Washington, Pitt, Purdue and Duke in my final four. I’ll take Duke over Washington in one semi and Purdue over Pitt in the other. Can’t believe I am saying this but I am going long Duke to repeat for the second time in K’s career.

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