College Basketball Betting: Weekly Cheat Sheet
by Trevor Whenham - 12/12/2008
A quick hit look at college basketball news and notes from the week that should interest sports bettors:
Oklahoma State - Travis Ford has some rebuilding to do in his first year on the job, and it didn't get any easier this week. Ford booted sophomore center Ibrahima Thomas off the team this week. Thomas was a starter, and the only real center the team had. The team was already struggling thanks to their lack of inside presence, but it will be even worse now that they will be forced to play four guards, and sometimes even five. That's going to be a problem against several Big 12 teams - Texas and Oklahoma will feast on them.
Michigan - I can't possibly write this column without mentioning that my beloved Michigan beat Duke just after I wrote this column last week. I can hope that no one remembers that I spent a good deal of that column talking about how good Duke was looking. Regardless, it was another huge win for a team that needs all they can get. Michigan is now 6-2, but not quite yet ranked. Given their incredibly soft schedule they are almost certain to be 10-2 heading into conference play. That should get them noticed by pollsters. Incidentally, Michigan will get a boost next week when Arizona transfer Laval Lucas-Perry becomes eligible. He transferred last year after just a few games, and still has four years of eligibility remaining. Early reports on the point guard from practice have been overwhelmingly positive.
Minnesota - Tubby Smith is operating way under the radar in Minnesota, but it won't stay that way for long if he keeps doing what he has been doing so far. The Gophers haven't played a particularly tough schedule, but they are sitting at 8-0, and they are improving each time out. The team doesn't have a real star, but there are some intriguing players. Guard Lawrence Westbrook has improved tremendously in his third year. Big man Colton Iverson is very raw, but he has shown dizzying flashes of talent at times. Smith will get a real sense of where his team is next time out - they host Louisville. They'll have 10 days of practice for that one, so Minnesota will have no excuses.
Gonzaga - Gonzaga has been a consistent presence for so long that we've almost become blind to them. That blindness may be blocking something from us - this is a really good team. Perhaps their best yet. They are 7-0, and they haven't made it easy for themselves - their last five opponents have been Oklahoma State, Maryland, Tennessee, Indiana and Washington State. Those last three are all tough, physical teams, and Gonzaga hasn't looked at all bothered as they have beaten all three with ease. I watched most of the game against Washington State. It was close for the first half, but in the second half Gonzaga was brutally effective. They won by 22, and it was only that close thanks to garbage time. As strange as it may sound, there are only three games left on their schedule that are likely to be competitive. The play UConn on Dec. 20, a rematch with Tennessee on Jan. 7, and Memphis on Feb. 7.
Memphis - The Tigers have the strangest schedule out there. After losing to Xavier they had 10 days to get ready for Marist. They blew out the Red Foxes, 100-61. Then they had 12 days off before playing Georgetown on Friday. That gives them time to do student-like things like go to classes and take exams. How bizarre. One thing they clearly didn't do is spend time practicing their free throw shooting. Despite going wild against Marist, they only shot 51.7 percent from the charity stripe. That's brutal, and it will continue to haunt the team until they improve. Here's what I want to know - how can a team be more efficient from three point range than they are from the foul line? It shouldn't be possible, but that's exactly what Memphis did.
Davidson - I feel very unoriginal writing about Stephen Curry every week, but he just keeps giving me reasons to write about him. Yet again he had a heck of a week. He scored 44 in a nice win over North Carolina, and then followed up with 27 to lead the Wildcats past West Virginia. There's really one stat you need to know to understand the year he is having - he scored no points in one game, and he is still averaging 30.8 points per game. Against major conference teams he is averaging 35.
Ranked Team of the Week - Gonzaga. I can't say enough about that Washington State win. A couple of others things that stood out: Josh Heytvelt is an absolute beast. He's been a good player for what seems like about 30 years, but he's advanced so much this year - he's tougher and far more confident. Even more impressive has been the defensive play of the team. The Bulldogs have never played defense like they have this year - it's an almost fanatical commitment, and it has led to an efficiency that will take this team a long way.
Unranked Team of the Week - Of course I have to pick Michigan. I'd be biased in that direction anyway, but they have the best two-win set of any team in the country.
Player of the Week - Since it has been a reasonably quiet week I am going to go off the board this week and pick two players - brothers Chavis and Travis Holmes of VMI. Travis, a senior, leads the country in steals. Junior Chavis is second. Chavis leads the team in points and blocks. Travis is tops in assists. VMI has ridden their incredibly potent offense - tops in the country at 101.9 points per game - to a 7-2 record. They have a good shot at a tournament berth out of the Big South. Winthrop regularly gets the bid from that conference, but at 1-7 they are clearly in a rebuilding phase.