College Basketball Betting: Clutch Players Crucial to Gambling Success
by Robert Ferringo - 01/28/2009
Just 15 minutes ago you were Lord of All Creation. You had a huge bet in on an undervalued five-point favorite, playing at home against some scrubby conference rival. And just 15 minutes ago your squad was in cruise control, up 15 with around nine minutes to play and the home crowd going bonkers. The world was your oyster and you were already sizing up how that loot was going to get spent.
But after a frantic 14-2 run by that crappy underdog you're now frozen with terror. It's a three-point game with just over two-and-a-half minutes to play and you are screwed. You are cursing the Gambling Gods and filled with liquor and rage. But just as things are starting to look grim, Mr. Clutch steps up and bangs a huge three-pointer that just drains the will of the opponent and makes it a two-possession game. A few missed threes and heart-stopping free throws later your team wins by eight and you're dancing in the streets.
Thank you Mr. Clutch.
See, those shots generally don't show up on the highlights. But they are just as critical to a team winning or losing a game as a buzzer beater either for the victory or to send a game to overtime. You need clutch players to come through in order to win games this time of year. And more times than not, having the most Jedi-like perimeter player on your side is what brings a bet home.
Below I've compiled a list of the 21 most clutch perimeter players in college basketball. Now, when I think of clutch players I'm not just talking about the best players in the country. Ty Hansbrough and Blake Griffin are surely two of the five best players in the nation. But are they aren't factored into this equation because A) they are post men and B) I would venture to say that they each haven't hit very many crucial three-pointers in their time. Again, I'm not trying to argue their merits. Psycho T especially, as he has proven himself in the clutch time and time again. But in this exercise I'm speaking strictly perimeter players and I'm looking for the guys who have the ball in their hands for those big shots.
Further, a guy doesn't have to be the best player on his team to be the most clutch performer. In fact, about one-third of my list is comprised of guys who don't even lead their team in scoring, and several are definitely not considered the most talented players on their squads. But that doesn't mean that they aren't The Money Men.
Finally, my definition of "clutch" is not simply who makes the most game-winning shots. Not at all. I tried to find the guys who fit all of the clichés, like having "ice water in their veins" or being "unflappable". I'm looking for the true Ninja. And in my opinion that can mean hitting the big shots that set up the final heroics as much as it means canning the walk-off jumper.
For example: an underdog is locked in a two-point game, on the road, with a division rival. There is just over five minutes to play. The home team scores back-to-back buckets to push the lead to six and the crowd is going berserk. The margin for error is rapidly shrinking and this thing is just about to get out of hand. But Mr. Clutch is the guy who calmly comes down to bang a three-pointer or go strong and get a three-point play to get it back to a one-possession game. Now, his team may win or may lose, but those are the critical possessions within the rhythm and flow of a game that ultimately decide who wins and who loses, who covers the spread and who doesn't.
Of course, draining a few game-winners or a couple buckets to send a game to overtime doesn't hurt your stock on this list either!
So now, without further ado, here are the Top 25 most clutch shooters in college basketball:
Honorable Mention: Dominic Tilford, South Alabama; Tyrone Lewis, Niagara; Jimmy Baron, Rhode Island; Jon Scheyer, Duke; A.J. Price, Connecticut
21. A.J. Price, Connecticut - Price has been a three-year starter at the point for the Huskies and he pulls up the rear of this list. Connecticut wins games by physically dominating foes on the interior. But Price is the go-to guy in a close game and has been the money man for this team since he first stepped on the floor.
20. Mike Trimboli, Vermont - This kid might be the best guard you've never heard of. He's averaged at least 14 points per game for four straight years and has carried on the tradition of clutch Vermont point guards. All he needs is a tourney berth to fill out his resume.
19. B.J. Raymond, Xavier - Raymond has never been the best player on his own team but he has always had a knack for knocking down key threes for the constantly underrated Muskateers. He's stepped up in more than his fair share of big spots over the last three years.
18. Sean Ogirri, Wyoming - This may seem like a random, odd choice. Especially considering that, like Raymond, Ogirri isn't even the best player on his own team. But this kid is a ninja, and it's easy to forget that he was an assassin on a Sweet 16 team at Wichita State in 2005. He doesn't score a lot, but when his team needs a crucial bucket he always seems to get the job done.
17. Patrick Mills, St. Mary's - Mills was good as a freshman, but he has really established himself as a game-changer with the Gaels this season. He also gets bonus for his work with the Aussie Olympic team. If San Diego's Brandon Johnson hadn't blown out his knee there would have been three WCC guards on this list.
16. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse - Just ask Kansas about Flynn's clutch ability. Or Rutgers. Or South Florida. Or St. Joe's. Flynn is only in his second year at the helm but is quickly establishing himself as a cool customer late in games for the Orange.
15. Jack McClinton, Miami - This kid is as good as it gets from the perimeter and is a virtual one-man gang for the Hurricanes. This moribund program has made more noise under his watch than in the previous 15 years combined. And when he gets going, watch out.
14. A.D. Vassallo, Virginia Tech - Vassallo has been a silent killer for the Hokies throughout his career and has been the key cog in some fantastic upsets over the Tabacco Road Trio over the past three seasons. There is nowhere on the court that he can't score from.
13. James Harden Arizona State - If I needed a bucket, right now, Harden might be my No. 1 choice. But he simply doesn't have the resume and the big-game experience that some of his contemporaries boast. When this kid gets going he is virtually unstoppable one-on-one.
12. Lee Cummard, BYU - Fading away, with two hands in his face, on the road, in a four-point game; that is when Cummard might be at his best. Spiderman, as he's known, is the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year. And if the Cougars make the Big Dance this year that will be three straight tourney teams that Cummard has been the go-to guy for.
11. Robert Vaden, UAB - Like Ogirri, Vaden applied his trade for another team before transferring. He was an absolute stud at Indiana, and carried the 2005-2006 team into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But due to circumstances outside of his control (injuries and off-court issue for his teammates) it looks like he might not return. But that doesn't diminish this cat's sick skills.
10. Robbie Hummel, Purdue - Hummel just gets it done for the Boilers and has only scratched the surface as a sophomore. Since the minute he stepped on campus he has been the tip of the sword for Purdue. And because the Boilers are involved in so many grinders this kid has had to keep his cool in the clutch night in and night out.
9. Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga - Gonzaga has had a load of skill over the past several seasons but Pargo is clearly the go-to guy in big spots. His scoring and shooting have been way down this season. But as we get deeper into the season the Bulldogs' tournament hopes will rest on his solid shoulders.
8. Wink Adams, UNLV - Like Cummard, Adams is gunning for his third NCAA Tournament berth in the last three years. The difference is that Adams has been the leader on teams that have won at least one game in each of his past two trips to The Dance. A starter since he stepped on campus, his solid, squat frame houses one of the nation's best money players.
7. Darren Collison, UCLA - You don't make three straight Final Fours without being one cool customer and coming through with big shots. Perhaps no player on this list has played in as many big games. And although he has not always been asked to hit The Shot, Collison has displayed his salt time and time again in one of the most decorated careers of any Bruins point guard over the last 30 years.
6. Scottie Reynolds, Villanova - Smooth. That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of Reynolds. His soft jumper just always seems to find its way through the net and Reynolds has been one of the toughest guards in the toughest conference for going on three years now. He can - and does - single-handedly win games for an otherwise pedestrian Cats club.
5. Nic Wise, Arizona - I know, I know: this seems absurd to have Wise among this elite company. He has never been one of the top two players on his team at Arizona. But there is no one that follows U of A hoops that could tell you that they'd rather have anyone else taking big shots for this team. Things have been rocky for the Wildcats over the last several years. But I shudder to think what they would have been like without such a savvy, and underrated leader. This kid picks his spots better than anyone.
4. A.J. Abrams, Texas - Abrams is wrapping up one of the best four-year careers of any guard that Texas has ever had. He has been miscast as a point guard this season out of necessity. But there is not a sweeter stroke west of the Mississippi. He has never been The Guy for the Longhorns. But that never limited his ability to take, and make, crucial shots for Top 10 teams.
3. Ty Rice, Boston College - Underrated because he's played on underachieving teams, Rice is as cool and as savvy as they come. He is one of the nation's most devastating scorers and has been for the past three seasons. He is as steady as they come. And in the last two minutes of a game you know he's going to find a way to close it out for the Eagles.
2. Eric Maynor, VCU - Maynor is as cold-blooded as they come, and his memorable abuse of Duke two years ago ensures that he'll always be remembered come Tourney Time. Maynor is a cobra. He lies quietly in the weeds and then strikes without mercy. Few players in the country have been as good as this kid in the last five minutes of games over the last four years.
1. Stephon Curry, Davidson - When I originally created this list I actually had Wise at No. 1. Then I switched to Maynor. Then I thought about Rice. But in the end, Curry it is. I hate to be obvious, but as I broke it down more and more it became clear: Curry is the best shooter, the best scorer, and the most unstoppable scoring force in the country. I wanted to dock him. Davidson has been involved in so many blowouts over his three seasons. But then again, that's mainly because of Curry and his Pistol Pete-like performances. And in the end, his performance in last year's Big Dance is the stuff of clutch legend.
More info on Robert's college basketball picks? Check out his Insider Page here.