College Basketball Betting: Weekly Cheat Sheet
by Trevor Whenham - 12/05/2008
North Carolina is No Joke
If anyone had any lingering doubt about the Tar Heels, and I will admit that I did, they shouldn't after this week. The started the week by beating North Carolina - Asheville by 68 points, but they only get minimal respect for that given the opponent. Far more impressive was what they did to Michigan State in the Big Ten - ACC Challenge. The game was at Ford Field in Detroit - Michigan State's backyard and the site of this year's Final Four. The Spartans were a popular preseason pick as an upstart with Final Four potential. You'd never guess based on this game. The Tar Heels came out firing, and they never looked back. They were up by 14 at the half, and moved the gap to 35 by games end. The domination was total and stunning.
As soon as the game ended two already existing thoughts rose to the forefront in the media - they seem like as close to a lock as there can be to return to Detroit in March, and an undefeated season is a real possibility. If college basketball has taught us anything it's that that latter thought is premature - even in an ACC that has some holes this year. One thing we can be almost certain of, though, is that they won't lose one out of conference - there isn't a team left on that schedule that will even be able to make it interesting.
A final note - the team is just 4-2 ATS, but they are 4-0 ATS against their four best opponents - Kentucky, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Michigan State. This is clearly a team that can rise to the occasion. Not that that's a surprise with Roy Williams at the helm. That seems to make a loss less likely.
Duke May Be Back
Duke hasn't been the Duke we have grown to love (or hate, in my case) in recent years. The Devils had fallen a step or two behind their in-state rivals in recent years. They are probably still a bit behind, but they have shown with their play so far that the gap is closing rapidly. Duke and UNC play twice in the last month of the season. Needless to say, those will be games to watch.
Duke is 8-0, but the first seven games were essentially foregone conclusions. Where things really got interesting was in their Big Ten - ACC Challenge game. They were playing Purdue, the favorites to win the Big Ten thanks to their deep, talented young roster. The game was in West Lafayette, but Purdue gained no advantage from that. Duke took the lead early and never looked back, winning by 16 as two-point underdogs. The next interesting test for Duke is a trip to Xavier on Dec. 20.
Besides learning that the fight for ACC supremacy may not be over before it starts, this result and the UNC one taught us something else - the Big Ten could be in trouble. It was bad luck that their two best teams drew the two best in the ACC, but the fact that neither of the Big Ten teams were able to leverage their crowd advantage into making the games competitive is not a good thing.
Chinks in UCLA's Armor?
Before the season the Pac-10 was given to UCLA, as a trip to Detroit seemed like a good bet. Neither is out of the question yet, but there appear to be some problems. They have had two losses already. The first, against Michigan, is hard to understand. The second, at Texas, is more acceptable, but still a bit of a problem - a truly elite team would have stepped up to the challenge better than the Bruins did. The bigger concern, though, is where they stand statistically. They are struggling to score, but that was to be expected. Of more concern, though, is their abysmal free throw shooting, and they are way, way worse defensively than we have come to expect. They are ranked 183rd in field goal percentage, 250th in rebounds per game, and 272th in three-point percentage. Just a hunch, but Ben Howland probably isn't too excited about that. Another concern is that super frosh Jrue Holiday has been fine, but not yet the star he is expected, and needed, to be. The good news, though, is that the December schedule is ridiculously soft, so they have some time to get things right.
Tight Games Thursday
A couple of highly respected teams barely squeaked by with wins against unranked teams on Thursday night. Oklahoma was playing USC at home, so they should have been able to win by more than one point. The more disturbing part of the game, though, was that star Blake Griffin had to leave the game after a major cheap shot. He returned and spurred his team on to the win, but there had to be a couple of terrifying minutes for Oklahoma coaches and fans.
The far more concerning result was UConn's four point win over Buffalo. The Huskies didn't take the lead for good until halfway through the second half, and they were never able to put away the pesky Bulls. The Huskies looked lethargic and disinterested for much of the game. That's partly understandable given the quality of the opponent, or lack of. Still, it's a concern given that UConn wasted their opportunities last year by putting out an insufficient effort. The one clear outcome of the game was just how far Hasheem Thabeet has come. He had 21 points and 18 boards, and almost single-handedly won the game for his team. He is like an entirely different player this year than he was last year, one who is realizing some of his obvious potential. He's a poster boy for why players should stay in school.
Player of the Week
Hard not to go for Hasheem Thabeet. It wasn't against a big opponent, but he put his team on his back.
Ranked Team of the Week
This could get to be a regular occurrence - for the second week in a row it's North Carolina. They were ruthless.
Unranked Team of the Week
It could be NC Asheville - they were blown out twice this week, but they get serious credit for scheduling UNC and Tennessee back-to-back. That's not enough for them to surpass Western Kentucky, though. The Hilltoppers beat Louisville, and they didn't make it look like a fluke at all. They were more intense and determined, and they game planned a way to marginalize Louisville's strength.