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College Basketball Fade or Follow: Bubble Teams
by Robert Ferringo - 02/26/2009

Desperation and insecurity are two of the most vile and hideous human emotions. And when combined, they make otherwise sane and rational beings do chaotic, unexplainable, and disastrous things.

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The NCAA Tournament selection will take place in just under three weeks and there are literally dozens of college basketball teams that are feeling both desperate and insecure. These bubble teams will be involved in some of the most watched, most wagered on, and most volatile games remaining on the regular season schedule this season. And knowing how to wager on, against or to avoid altogether these fringe tournament teams is critical to gambling success this time of year. And betting on bubble teams can be more art than science.

There is a thin line between motivation and desperation, but the differences are remarkable. Generally, media bobbleheads wait until after the final buzzer before ascribing which label to a team's actions. But I don't have the luxury of hindsight when I make my college basketball picks each day so it's critical that I can predict how certain teams are going to respond to the pressure of a stretch run.

Now, I'm always a fan of fading teams in "must-win" situations, regardless of sport. Besides the postseason, which can go either way, teams that are in "must-win" situations generally aren't very good or very reliable because, as the old idea goes, if they were they wouldn't be in a "must-win" game. Below are 10 teams, in no particular order, that I feel are NCAA Tournament bubble teams. I'm going to discuss their chances and then make a final verdict as to whether these are teams to "play on", "fade", or "stay away" over the last few weeks of the year.

1) Georgetown - The bottom line is that the Hoyas are not very good. They simply lost too much talent from the past two seasons and they are not getting any leadership from the upperclassmen. They are just 2-9 straight up and 2-12-1 against the spread over the past couple months and as far as I am concerned they aren't even close to a bubble team.

Verdict: Fade.

2) Virginia Tech - The Hokies seemed like they locked up a tournament berth a month ago with wins over Wake Forest and Miami to cap a five-game winning streak. They were then up big on Clemson but let that game get away from them. Since then they are just 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS and are clearly in dire straits. That said, they played without Jeff Allen in the Virginia game - which was really their only blowout - and they have three losses by four points or less. This team still has talent and Seth Greenburg is one of the best in the business. (Ed. Note: This was written before Wednesday's Clemson-Va. Tech game.)

Verdict: Play on.

3) Miami - Miami was a tournament team a year ago but now they are clearly on the outside looking in. They are clearly playing much better basketball over the last two weeks and they look poised for a late push. They are on a nice 4-1 ATS rush after a lot of people (including me) had written them off. They beat Wake Forest and had close losses to Duke and North Carolina, but that's not enough. The problem with this team is that their guards not named "McClinton" stink. That makes it tough to win on the road. But they have three games left against teams they are significantly better than - at Virginia and at Georgia Tech, at home against N.C. State. As long as the numbers aren't drifting over six or eight (Miami will be favored in all three) then they are a team to keep an eye on.

Verdict: Play on.

4) Minnesota - The Gophers wouldn't even be in this conversation if they didn't have a bizarre win over Louisville on their slate. They did absolutely nothing in the nonconference portion of the schedule and have been underwhelming in Big Ten play. They are just 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games (but 4-6 SU) and then end with a trip to Illinois followed by home games against equally desperate Wisconsin and Michigan.

Verdict: Fade.

5) Wisconsin - A six-game losing streak (in which they went 0-5-1 ATS) in the middle of the year was answered with a five-game winning streak (4-1 ATS). Basically, the Badgers are all over the place and the bottom line is that they are just not a very good team. But, like Georgetown, they are still living of their reputation from the past few seasons. They host tricky Michigan on Sunday and then have a virtual playoff game at Minnesota before closing up against hapless Indiana. I don't think there will be much value on this team in any of the games.

Verdict: Stay away.

6) UNLV - The Rebels are going to be an incredibly difficult case for the selection committee. They have wins over Louisville and Arizona and they swept BYU. But they also have losses to TCU, Colorado State and Wyoming. This team has one of the most impressive nonconference resumes of any team from the Mountain West. But they have dumped four of six road games and just haven't been very good outside the Thomas and Mack. They also understand that they host the conference tournament so they might be willing to let the regular season games slide knowing they have a backup. This team plays up and down to the level of competition, making them a dicey bet. (Ed. Note: This was written before the UNLV-Utah game Wednesday night.)

Verdict: Fade.

7) San Diego State - The Aztecs pass the Eyeball Test when you are looking for an NCAA Tournament team, but they don't have the resume. They played teams like Arizona State, Arizona and St. Mary's tough early in the year without (or with a hobbled) Lorrenzo Wade, but they didn't win any of those games. They also blew a golden opportunity against BYU on Tuesday in a game that might have sunk their chances. However, they are at reeling TCU and have Colorado State and UNLV at home. Then this team needs to get Billy White back in order to make a MWC tourney run. I think they have it in them but they need to start playing better. Fast.

Verdict: Play on.

8) USC - USC has lost four of five games and are in a bit of a free fall. Those losses have come by an average of 11 points apiece and they are in a 2-5 ATS slide. They have road games against two teams with revenge (Cal and Stanford) and then they host Oregon and Oregon State in a pair of games that the Trojans will likely be heavy favorites in. This team is certainly better than they have played and their defense can keep them in some games. But all in all I don't think that the numbers will give this team much value.

Verdict: Stay away.

9) Florida - I have to give a lot of credit to one of the Doc's Sports handicappers that has absolutely pegged this Gators team. His analysis is that they have reverted back to the pre-dynasty Florida teams that were selfish on offense and didn't play any defense. The Gators are a team that, without a doubt, has the talent to be an NCAA Tournament team. And their win over Washington is looking better and better each day. They are just 5-5 SU in their last 10 and four of the five wins came over the worst teams in the conference. But three of the five losses have come by three points or less and a fourth was by six points. They get Tennessee and Kentucky at home and have a tricky game at Mississippi State. They certainly could take two of three, but they'll likely be between -2 and +2 in all of them so there's not much wiggle room there.

After reading this NCAA basketball piece head over to our basketball betting Lines page. When it comes to betting college basketball our NCAA basketball handicappers feature is a must for any NCAA basketball fan. Our March Madness history page is also must read when studding college basketball. Is there and NCAA basketball betting or handicapping topic you would like to see covered? Email service@docsports.com with your recommendations.

Verdict: Stay away.

10) Temple - The Owls are looking for their second straight NCAA Tournament berth but will need a strong push through the final four games of the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament to reach that point. They have nice wins over Penn State and Tennessee - two teams they are competing with for a spot - and they are 12-3 SU since the first of the year. They have four games left, including a very winnable road game at George Washington that should be a blowout. Other than that they get streaky LaSalle and St. Joseph's at home and have a road game at Dayton.

Verdict: Play on.

More info on Robert's College Basketball picks? Check out his Insider Page here here.