College Basketball Betting: One Chaotic Season
by Trevor Whenham - 2/3/2011
College basketball is in total chaos right now. Part of what makes the sport so great is that there is always chaos, but this year is way beyond normal. Last weekend is a perfect example -- there were 20 games featuring at least one ranked team over the weekend, and the college basketball point spread was covered in 14 of those games by the unranked team or the lower ranked team if both teams were ranked. Eleven of those lesser teams won outright, so betting the moneyline on all the underdogs would have been wildly profitable. Even the best teams were far from infallible -- five of the Top 10 lost, and Ohio State and Pitt barely scraped by with wins. The shocking result that capped it all was St. John’s blowout win over No. 3 Duke.
That was a particularly bizarre weekend of action that was more extreme than most of the year, but this still seems to have been a unique year in terms of parity. Here are five reasons why that could be the case this year:
Teams just aren’t very good - More correctly, I guess, there just aren’t any really great teams right now. There are a whole lot of good teams, and a few really good ones, but there aren’t any teams that are dominant like we have seen in recent years. No matter what top-ranked team you look at you can see flaws without looking deep. Top teams like Duke and Syracuse have made their issues very obvious for everyone. Most years by this time we have had a sense that at least one team has booked their ticket to the Final Four. That’s just not the case this year.
Depth of top conferences - The Big East and the Big Ten are the two best conferences in the country right now, and it’s not even close. The problem for the teams in those leagues -- which includes many of the top teams in the country -- is that there are several very good teams in each conference. That means that teams are beating each other up every week. It’s very hard for a team to establish momentum, gain confidence, and show that they are a superior team when they are playing a brutal game or two every week.
The same thing can be said about the Mountain West -- BYU and San Diego State are very elite, and there are several teams right behind them.
Weakness of other major conferences - It’s a strange phenomenon that the teams in a conference can rise and fall with each other. That seems to be the case in both the ACC and the Pac-10 right now. Neither of those conferences is any good at all right now, and that’s really having an impact on the overall caliber of college basketball.
The SEC isn’t great, either. All three conferences, and especially the first two, traditionally house several basketball powers, so their weakness this year is having an impact on overall quality.
The difference between well ranked teams and decent unranked teams isn’t large as a result - Because of the problems listed above, the difference between the 12th best team in the country and the 40th isn’t as wide now as it has been in the past. Teams ranked in the 20s could easily be replaced by teams in the 30s without a problem. In a lot of cases, then, the difference between the ranked team and the unranked one in a game isn’t nearly as big as we have been led to believe it is over the years.
Young players haven’t impressed - We have been spoiled in recent years by the quantity and quality of young players that have come along and led their teams to great success as freshmen -- Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Garnett, the crew from Kentucky last year, and so on. As a result we’ve come to take it for granted that these young players are going to look like stars right away.
This year that just hasn’t been the case. Kyrie Irving of Duke was looking as good as expected, but an injury has him on the sidelines. Harrison Barnes of North Carolina came into the season touted as a potential No. 1 draft pick after the season, but he hasn’t played well enough so far to even go pro after the year, never mind go first. Josh Selby of Kansas is another major star who has been a major disappointment. Kentucky hasn’t had the success from their young crew this year that they did last year -- and they were hurt badly when Enes Kanter was denied eligibility.
Much of the preseason expectations of several teams this year were based on the play of their youngsters, so when the youngsters haven’t lived up to the hype the teams have faltered as a result.
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