College Basketball Betting: Weekly Cheat Sheet
by Trevor Whenham - 01/09/2009
Roller Coaster Week for Boston College
It was the best of times and the worst of times for Boston College this week. On Sunday they had a truly stunning win at North Carolina. They were 23-point underdogs, and even that seemed a bit less than expected in a game pitting the best team in the country against one that didn't have a particularly impressive win to their credit. Tyrese Rice was incredible, though, and Rakim Sanders was almost as good. BC took a lead at halftime and somehow managed to add to it in the second half. Thoroughly unpredictable.
Even less predictable was what happened next. Tommy Amaker led Harvard across the Charles River as 17-point underdogs. Boston College hadn't been favored by more all year. The Eagles should have been flying high and brimming with confidence. Instead, they were indescribably lousy. Harvard won both halves by six for a 12-point win. Rice was lackadaisical, and Sanders was all but useless.
So what do we take from this? Hard to tell. It could be that Boston College is a particularly average team that ran into North Carolina on a bad day. It could be that they hadn't had any particular success this year, so they didn't know how to handle their impressive success. It could be that Harvard is better than expected, but I doubt that one. It could also be, as hard as it may be to comprehend, that North Carolina just isn't nearly as good as we thought they were. The ACC is tougher than we thought it would be, so North Carolina will have more chances to be exposed if that's the case.
Are There Only Two Conferences?
College basketball has no shortage of conferences, but if you just looked at the poll without knowing any better you'd think that there were only two - the Big East and the ACC. Nine of the 16 Big East teams are ranked, and five of the 12 ACC teams are in the poll. That means that two conferences make up 56 percent of the poll. It also means that 56 percent of Big East teams are ranked. I'll admit that I prefer other conferences over those two, but that's ridiculous.
What does that mean for bettors? Opportunity. The conferences aren't as good or as deep as people think they are, and the early days of conference play will help to expose that. Several teams in both conferences seem vulnerable to me - Boston College obviously along with Clemson and Wake Forest in the ACC, and Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Villanova, West Virginia, and Georgetown in the Big East. Being ranked automatically pumps up a team's spread beyond where it should probably be.
Davidson Not Elite
Stephen Curry is a great player and he seems like a great guy, but the indisputable fact is that his team just isn't an elite contender. It seemed hard to believe that they were after the players they lost and considering they don't really have a point guard. The media hype elevated them high in the polls to start the season, and people were throwing all sorts of praise their way. For the third time, though, Davidson showed that they aren't ready for prime time. They lost to Duke this week, and they were clearly outclassed. Earlier, they were blown out badly by Purdue, and they lost to Oklahoma. That's not to say that they are a bad team - they are a prohibitive lock to win the Southern Conference and return to the tournament. They just don't have a supporting cast around Curry that can help him out as much as he needs to be helped against good opponents. Sadly, they are one phenomenal player and a bunch of guys who are at home in the Southern Conference. Not surprisingly, the team has been very public and, as a result, not particularly good against the spread. That should continue.
Arkansas Rises Up
What a week for the Razorbacks. The previously unknown and unheralded Arkansas squad put together two big upsets - Oklahoma and Texas. Both were at home, but that doesn't take away from them in any way. That moves the team to 12-1, and makes them a very legitimate threat in the SEC West. Not bad for a team that lost their top five scorers from last year, and which has an offense won by a freshman point guard.
The SEC isn't overwhelmingly strong, so Arkansas has a chance to make a big move well ahead of schedule in only John Pelphrey's second year with a program in need of significant rebuilding. That being said, those two wins have put the Razorbacks squarely in the public eye, and have unleashed a feeding frenzy in the media. That should pump up the prices, and could provide some value on their opponents. After all, these last two wins were impressive, but before that the team was completely untested.
Pat Knight is Right, and Refreshingly Honest
I watched a bit of Texas Tech at Stanford just after Christmas. I didn't need to watch much of it to get a taste of things - The Cardinal won by 45. The resounding image I took from it was that Texas Tech just wasn't very good. Their ATS record of 2-5-1 would seem to back that up. I was shocked today, though, to hear Pat Knight speak on the radio. That's because he flat out said that exact thing. He said that they were young, immature, and just plain lousy. It was nice to hear a coach come right out and say what we can all see without resorting to coach-speak. I respected most of what his dad stood for, but I'm not sure he would have done that.