College Basketball Betting: Teams That Could Disappoint
by Trevor Whenham - 11/18/2008
Now that the college basketball season is finally and mercifully underway, it's time for us to determine expectations for how teams will perform. That will help us spot value early in the season, and will give us a sign when teams are doing significantly better or worse than they should be. As I have been doing that there have been several top 25 teams that have given me real concerns when it comes to their ability to meet the expectations that are set for them. Here are four:
Marquette - The Golden Eagles are sitting at No. 15 in the AP poll. It's not that surprising - they have a roster packed with older players, including three senior guards at the core of the team, and they made a run to the second round of the tournament last year. Hopes are high, but I don't share the optimism. There are two reasons. First, they are dealing with a new coach. Buzz Williams took over after Tom Crean left for Indiana. He's taking a step up in class from his last job at New Orleans. He does have one year as an assistant with the program, but he'll still have to set a new tone after taking over from a long-serving and highly respected coach like Crean. That will take some time and will inevitably involve some growing pains.
This could especially be a problem because this is an older roster. Williams didn't recruit the players, and they have had lots of time to get used to the way Crean does things. If things don't go well right away then there could be problems. More significant than that, though, is their conference. The Big East is ridiculously deep. Louisville and Connecticut are truly elite, five more teams are ranked, and two others are close to being in the poll. Conference play is going to be absolutely brutal, and not every team that is supposed to do well is going to be able to - there just aren't enough wins to be had. Marquette is a good candidate in my mind to do worse than expected under those conditions.
Georgetown - I could say the exact same thing about Georgetown and the Big East that I said about Marquette (Villanova, too, for that matter). They are a solid team, but they are going to lose to the better teams in the conference, and that is going to hurt. This team comes into the year with four key graduations and two players transferring out. On one hand that could be seen as a good thing - the team grossly underachieved in the tournament last year. It was a No. 2 seed, though, and they lost key players. There is good young talent coming aboard to replace them, but the Princeton offense is not one that gets picked up quickly. I don't expect this team to be bad by any means, but I don't think they would be in the polls right now if their name wasn't Georgetown, and I expect struggles along the way.
Tennessee - Bruce Pearl is a heck of a character, but he's also a very good coach who deserves the respect and recognition that he gets. He's not a miracle worker, though. He has talent, and he's going to do fine in time with this new cast of players, but the entire makeup and character of this team has changed this year, and it's going to take some time for both Pearl and the team to get used to that and adjust accordingly. The biggest issue I see with the team is the three pointer. Shooting from the depths of the court is key to the success of Pearl's offense, but the two shooters who fueled that element - Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith - are gone. There isn't an obvious player or players to step up and fill that gap. There is also the problem that the team needs players to step their game up significantly and immediately if the team wants to do as well as people think it can. Freshman Scotty Hopson is a stud, but he has to step into a starting and starring role immediately. Tyler Smith has to be the star of this team, but he'll have to be more consistent to fulfill that role. He doesn't seem like a rock of confidence, so if he struggles early then there could be troubles.
Davidson - Let me say up front that, now that Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley are in the pros, there isn't a college player I like watching more than Stephen Curry. He is spectacular, and I expect another big season from him. The problem with Davidson, though, is that expectations are so high given their success last year that they will be very hard pressed to live up to them. The team will regularly be on TV and the public will be all over them. The team is destined for some struggles, though. Point guard Jason Richards helped Curry do what he did last year, but now he is gone. Curry will have to play the point at least part time, and that isn't his strength. Davidson won't be able to sneak up on anyone this year, and they are likely to be less invincible than people think they are. Don't worry, though - they are a virtual lock to take their conference's tournament bid, so we will get to see them again in March.