College Basketball Betting: Weekly Cheat Sheet
by Trevor Whenham - 01/16/2009
Minnesota For Real
We know that Tubby Smith was going to get the Golden Gophers turned around sooner or later. It might now be time to accept that that turnaround is here sooner than most people would have thought possible. At halftime on Thursday in Wisconsin the Gophers were down by 11, and looking listless. They didn't find their stride until late in the second half, but find it they did. They tied it up in regulation, and won by four in overtime. The comeback, against a decent team in a tough building, is a clear sign of how tough and determined the Gophers are, and how much they have bought into Smith's message. The win moves them to 4-1 in the Big Ten, and 16-1 overall. They are ranked 17th in the AP poll, and are likely to move up further if and when they beat Northwestern on Sunday. They have been kind to bettors as well, with a 8-3-1 ATS mark, and they have covered their last four games. The Big Ten is better than people think, and the Gophers have a good chance of doing some damage in the conference and beyond.
There is a slight potential for concern, though. They have a big win over Louisville to their credit, but beyond that the only solid wins are over the second-tier teams in the Big Ten - Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. They also weren't much of a match against Michigan State. This team hasn't been significantly tested often, so there is the chance that they aren't as good as their record indicates, and that they might not hold up under the pressure of the Big Ten schedule. If they were to falter down the road then there could be real problems - their record isn't going to lift them if they need a boost getting into the tournament.
Louisville Ready To Flex Their Muscles?
The Cardinals had a rough start to the year, and proved yet again that Rick Pitino should absolutely not schedule early season neutral site games. They have certainly found their stride lately, though. They are 3-0 in the Big East, and they have a chance to climb back into the center of national relevance with a defining win at home against Pittsburgh on Saturday. What has been striking about the Cardinals in Big East play is their improved defense. The team has always been solid without the ball, but the focus and intensity has definitely been ramped up. Pitino isn't afraid to send a message, either. Edgar Sosa came through big in the win over Kentucky and is consistently one of the most clutch players on the team, but he found himself on the bench late in the game as Louisville ultimately beat Notre Dame in overtime. Taking minutes in his place were Andre McGhee and Preston Knowles, two of the most defensive-minded players on the team. Earl Clark has stepped his game up, freshman Samardo Samuels has lived up to the hype, and another freshman, Terrence Jennings, has earned significantly more playoff time recently because of his defensive focus.
The game against Pittsburgh isn't a must win for Louisville, but it is a very good test for both teams, and it will give us a good sense of whether the Cardinals are as good as people thought they were coming into the season. My bet is that they will.
Checking In With USC
Last year, the story at USC was all about O.J. Mayo. He had reasonable success last year, and has gone on to tear up the NBA this season. In his wake, Mayo left another freshman who some say is about as talented as Mayo, but who doesn't come with nearly the baggage and attention that Mayo did - DeMar DeRozan. The 6'7" forward is averaging 12.6 points and 5.2 boards a game this year. His game has really picked up recently - he has exceeded his scoring average in six of his last seven games, and had a career-high 22 in a big win over Arizona State last time out. That puts DeRozan about eight points per game behind Mayo, but there are some obvious differences - Mayo played on a better team, the offense moved largely through him, and Mayo was more of a pure scorer than DeRozan is. DeRozan hasn't led the team to a lot of betting success (7-7 ATS), though they are 11-5, and have a decent shot at making the tournament in the weak Pac-10 if they can step their game up just a bit. Their win over Arizona State was a good sign that they have the potential to do it.
As an aside, the Lil' Romeo experiment is working even worse than it seemed like it might. Percy Miller has played a grand total of four games and 10 minutes, and he has two points. I hope that the added publicity was worth the total waste of a scholarship.