College Basketball Betting: Weekly Cheat Sheet
by Trevor Whenham - 02/20/2009
Pittsburgh had never beaten a No. 1 team in program history, but that changed on Monday night when the Panthers beat UConn by eight on the road. The unquestioned star of the proceedings was DeJuan Blair. Pitt's sophomore forward had 22 points and added 23 boards, and was generally the defining force in a very tough, physical game. The Huskies certainly don't need excuses when they lose to the No. 4 team in the country, but they certainly had them - Jerome Dyson's offensive presence is still sorely missed, and center Hasheem Thabeet was virtually invisible. With the win, a No. 1 seed in the tournament is Pitt's to lose. If they are lucky, though, they'll avoid the No. 1 ranking in the polls - UConn became the fifth No. 1 to lose since January.
Everyone knew that Davidson didn't have much going on beyond Stephen Curry this year, but the extent to which that is true was stunningly proven this week. Curry was out with an ankle problem as his Wildcats faced The Citadel. The military school isn't bad, but Davidson should have had no trouble beating them. They certainly shouldn't lose to them by 18 points at home. The problem wasn't particularly hard to decode - Davidson fell 32 points below their season average, and Curry averages 29 points per game. The Wildcats are supposed to have their star back in the lineup for their Bracket Buster game against Butler on Saturday. For their sake they had better hope so.
Help On The Way For UNC
With Marcus Ginyard injured and Will Graves suspended, North Carolina has some issues with depth. There may be some unexpected help on the way. Freshman Tyler Zeller broke his wrist against Kentucky in November and was expected to miss the rest of the season. He has returned to practice well ahead of schedule, though, and played eight minutes against NC State on Wednesday. He wasn't particularly effective, but that's to be expected. He's raw, but he had a very good game in the first game of the season, and should be able to develop into a serviceable bench player by tournament time.
Duke Slows The Bleeding
I suspect that Duke has never in their history been happier to beat an uninspiring team like St. John's than they were on Thursday. They needed something to regain a foothold on momentum after losing two in a row and four of six. Duke hasn't covered the spread in five games. None of the losses have come against terrible teams, but they haven't come in flattering style, either. Duke's weaknesses have been exposed to some degree, and there's a bit of a blueprint now for beating the Blue Devils.
Missouri Cruising Along
Oklahoma and Kansas get all the attention in the Big 12, but Missouri is quietly putting together an impressive season. They are up to 11th in the AP poll, and are a lock for the tournament. They've won nine of their last 10 games, and are unbeaten at home. They haven't played a particularly challenging season, but their current five-game winning streak since a rough loss at Kansas State has silenced some critics - they've beaten Baylor, Texas and Kansas. The Tigers were nowhere to be seen in preseason polls, but it is becoming harder to ignore them now. The next challenge will be deciding if their record is over-inflated, or if this is a legitimate tournament team. I'm generally skeptical, but that's getting harder to be.
One Lousy Conference
How bad is the SEC? Really bad - LSU is their best team, yet they would be hard-pressed to be considered a lock for an at-large bid at this point. The only thing that saves them is their conference - if they were in any other major conference then they wouldn't have anywhere near the numbers they would need to earn a bid. Beyond that, things are bleak. Tennessee has some big non-conference wins, but they have struggled in the SEC and are underachieving for their talent level. Florida has beaten a lot of bad teams, and was awful in a loss to Georgia last week. Kentucky is reeling without the injured Patrick Patterson. South Carolina hasn't proven they can beat anyone legitimate. I don't know who will win the tournament, but I can say with absolute certainty that it won't be an SEC squad.
Right Down To The Wire
With teams like George Mason and VCU, the Colonial Athletic Association has produced some good tournament memories in the last few years. This year, the excitement is most likely to come from the conference in the race to the tournament. They are almost certain to be a one-bid conference. VCU currently leads the conference, but five teams are within two games behind them, and James Madison is within another game. With teams that evenly matched, their conference tournament is destined to be a classic.