Slump doesn’t faze handicapper

Like a sharpshooter who believes he’ll make every shot he takes, even while mired in a slump, professional sports handicapper Paul Stone kept firing away with wagers in the NCAA Tournament, hopeful things eventually would turn around for him after a poor start.

Fortunately for Stone, who lost $1,210 on the first weekend of the tournament, he bounced back with some winners and carved out a $40 profit heading into Saturday’s national semifinals.

Stone’s profits reached $640 after he won $600 on Memphis, which cruised past UCLA to advance to tonight’s national title tilt against Kansas.

"I never lost my confidence, and I think that’s critical, that you maintain your confidence and are able to continue to handicap games without the added burden of feeling like you’ve lost your touch, so to speak," said Stone, who added he "started feeling some pressure" when his early picks published in the Review-Journal didn’t pan out.

"There are a lot of naysayers out there who would love to see someone (fail) in such a spotlight, so you do feel added pressure," he said. "It was a lot more than what I anticipated, because nobody wants to be embarrassed in the public eye.

"You just rely on the approach you’ve been successful with and wait for the results to start falling your way."

Stone, who has won on four of the last five days of tournament play, will try to ride his hot hand tonight with another play on Memphis, a 11/2-point favorite over the Jayhawks.

Stone, who is 22-20-2 against the spread, put $550 on the Tigers, ensuring himself of a winning record and bankroll in the tournament.

"Memphis just seems to have the walk and the talk of a national champion. They seem to be playing with a great deal of confidence and are certainly playing their best basketball at the most critical time of the year," Stone said. "I believe if Memphis and Kansas both play at the same level they have the last few weeks, the Tigers come out victorious."

Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose is averaging 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in five NCAA Tournament games, and Stone said his development "has made an awfully good Memphis team a great one."

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