College Basketball Handicapping: Leveraging Coaching Tendencies
by Christopher G. Shepard - 12/23/2009
In college basketball players come and go, but the one thing that remains constant for successful programs are the head coaches. For the gambler it can feel like once you get to know a team's grit (and their cheerleaders) the players are gone soon enough and the cheerleaders have packed on 20 pounds, but it is the head coaches who give each team their personality.
But don't get in my craw if I ignore Coach K, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, or Rick Pitino, and other marquee coaches; they're analyzed ad nausea on winter weekends. For the purposes of this article I am looking at a handful of less familiar head coaches.
Fran McCaffery, Siena - Last year Siena was 38-23-1 in all games under coach Fran McCaffery, including 21-8 against the spread on the road, 20-8 ATS as an underdog (17-6 ATS as a road dog) and a perfect 7-0 ATS as a dog of 11 points or more. So why is this interesting? McCaffery's Saints rarely foul. If McCaffery has put an emphasis on defense it would seem he has done the opposite in regard to free throw shooting. In their losses this year the Saints have been abysmal from the foul line and played porous defense. Despite these deficiencies the 'under' was on a 3-0-1 run until the Northern Iowa game last week. The Saints covered as 7.5-point 'dogs, but pushed on the total, which brought the Saints to 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games.
Today the Saints host rival Rider (these games are traditionally high-scoring affairs). McCaffery's team's tendency is not to foul, to miss free throws and to play 60 minutes of defense this tilt should go 'under' the posted total.
Joe Scott, University of Denver - begins his third season at DU and is slowly improving the men's program. 'Slow' being the operative word as this year DU is 2-5-1 ATS while the 'over' has cashed four of the last six games. Interestingly enough under Scott the Pioneers were 3-0 against teams who made the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Scott is known for bringing the Air Force Falcons to their first NCAA Tournament since 1962 in 2004. He is known as a motivator of men and for getting the most out of little talent. Scott's teams are comprised of fighters who clearly do not know the word quit and he always puts his teams in a position to win.
Mike Jarvis, FAU - the contentious ex-head coach of St. John's landed at FAU where the potential for on-court drama is always high. Consider last year's behavior after an errant out of bounds call when a ref gave Louisiana-Monroe the ball, FAU head coachJarvis was immediately hit with a technical for vocal objection. Jarvis was hit with three subsequent technical fouls. ULM went on to make seven of eight free throws and win the game. When this happened the Owls were 4-16 and 0-8 in the Sun Belt Conference. Jarvis' reputation precedes him and that is something to watch out for when betting on or against Jarvis coached teams. Jarvis is a powder keg and his temper can cost backers money.
Bobby Gonzalez, Seton Hall - is in his fourth year at the rudder for the Pirates. "Crazy" Gonzalez is a fierce competitor and a relentless recruiter. And while he's known as much for his antics on and off the court, he's also had his contract renewed through 2014-15. His teams in the past have been an extension of him. Gonzalez brings a fiery personality on the bench and during the press conference. Due to disparaging comments he made last year after the Rutgers game he was the first coach in the Big East to be suspended for the first game the following season. Despite this outburst Gonzalez errs on the side of caution and is one of the best loved coaches in the City back from his Jasper's and Five Star Camp days. This year Seton Hall is set to fly under the national radar. And while the Pirates are 2-2 ATS (they missed covering their last game against Temple by the hook) this year, the 'under' is 3-0. Oh yeah, the Pirates are also 8-1 with little signs of slowing down.
Craig Robinson, Oregon State - has the Beavers believing they can go deep into the tourney this year. Consider that two years ago the Beavers went 0-18 in the Pac-10. In Robinson's first year as HC, the Beavers went 18-18 overall and won the College Basketball Invitational. This year Robinson has his top four scorers back and nearly 86 percent of their rebounding. These ingredients could make for a special year for the Beavers as they could reach the NCAAs for the first time since 1990. However, for this to happen they'll need to improve on their 3-4 record (4-2 ATS) and they will have to win on the road -- something they've only done once this season at GW. The Beavers will go for their 1,600th win tonight against Fresno State -- only 401 wins behind Kentucky. So the players are buying into Robinson's system
Jerry Wainwright, DePaul - In my mind he gets the dubious distinction of being one of the worst coaches in the NCAA during the last three years. At DePaul, however, Wainwright is known as a great guy but the wrong coach. Wainwright enters his fifth season as a Blue Demon after he went winless in the Big East last season. Leading scorer Dar Tucker left early for the NBA. This year it appears that Wainwright is teaching defense and the Blue Demons have benefited from this as they defeated Northern Iowa and St. Josephs. However, could this be a turnaround year? Doubtful with only one senior, but still, DePaul is 7-4 SU and 5-3 ATS this season. While I advise staying far away from a team as unpredictable as the Blue Demons, I'm betting against them in every listed Big East matchup.
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