College Basketball Betting: Handicapping NCAA Senior Nights
by Robert Ferringo - 2/27/2014
Emotion is one of the most prominent factors in handicapping college basketball. It is also one of the most difficult to assess for gamblers and analysts because it is next to impossible to predict how 19- and 20-year-old kids are going to respond to pressure and rapid combinations of joy, sorrow, excitement, and fear.
One of the most emotional moments for college basketball players is Senior Night. The last regular season home game for a college senior is a bittersweet situation. It marks The End. But at the same time it is also a cause for celebration for these veteran players and their careers.
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How will teams – especially veteran teams, with a core of players that have been together for years – handle the feelings and the distractions that come along with Senior Night? It is always difficult to tell. Some teams can harness the energy in the building and use it to propel themselves toward a blowout win and validation. Others can’t shake the shroud of emotion, and they can be ripe for a languid performance.
Here is a look at 10 games in the next nine days that will feature Senior Night for some of the most experienced teams in the country. There will be other emotional games played in major conferences as individual players – guys like Aaron Craft and Shabazz Napier – enjoy their final moments at home. But here I am focusing on teams with a large group of its key contributors that will all be bidding adieu in this one affective game:
St. Mary’s (vs. Gonzaga, Saturday, March 1)
One of the Gaels’ most important games of the year will also be one of its most emotional. St. Mary’s does not have a resume that would warrant an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. So that makes this game all the more important, because any win over archrival Gonzaga qualifies as a huge win. In case seniors Stephen Holt, Beau Levesque and James Walker need extra motivation, they can draw on the fact that the Bulldogs absolutely demolished the Gaels 73-51 when they played back on Jan. 2. St. Mary’s has lost four straight against the Bulldogs since beating them in overtime in the 2012 WCC Tournament title game. The seniors want nothing more than to snap that streak.
Eastern Kentucky (vs. Tennessee State, Saturday, March 1)
The Colonels have one of the best home court advantages of any small mid-major team in the country. They are 25-5 on their home floor over the past three seasons, and EKU’s seniors will have a two-game set in McBrayer Arena this weekend to close out the regular season. Eastern Kentucky is the No. 8 most experienced roster in the country, and they have four senior starters that will lace them up against Tennessee State. Eastern Kentucky will be a monster favorite in that game – I project that spread somewhere around 16 – and it might be tough for them to keep their focus. But EKU also needs to win both of their home games this weekend to lock up a top four seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, which brings with it a first round bye.
North Dakota State (vs. Denver, Saturday, March 1)
The Bison have a habit of redshirting players so they actually have several super-seniors that will be playing their final games on campus this weekend. Leading scorer and likely Summit Player of the Year Taylor Braun is a fifth-year player as are key reserves Mike Felt and Jordan Aaberg. NDSU has two other senior starters, and they are looking to clinch the Summit League title this weekend with wins over South Dakota on Thursday and then over Denver on Saturday. The Pioneers are tough. But NDSU is also trying to avenge their last loss, which came on Feb. 1 in the Rockies.
Middle Tennessee State (vs. Rice, Saturday, March 1)
Unlike the previous teams, MTSU’s last home game will not be its last home game of the regular season. This game is sandwiched between critical contests at Louisiana Tech and at UAB, and it could be argued that this Senior Night game against Rice is the least important of their remaining games. The Blue Raiders are one game up in the standings in the race for the Conference USA regular season crown. This is their first season in CUSA after toiling in the Sun Belt. But MTSU’s four senior starters have made the adjustment, and they will be focused on a huge blowout against hapless Rice this weekend.
North Dakota (vs. Northern Colorado, Tuesday, March 4)
The No. 9 most experienced team in the country has had a somewhat disappointing season. They are below .500, which would keep them out of any postseason tournament, and you know that their veterans don’t want to go down without a fight. They have four senior starters, and a fifth, Josh Schuler, was lost to injury earlier this season. This group has endured an interesting career. They were all recruited before North Dakota had moved up to Division I. They spent their first two seasons in the Great West before stepping the program up into the Big Sky. North Dakota has three straight home games, culminating in this Senior Night contest on Tuesday.
Saint Louis (vs. Dayton, Wednesday, March 5)
This is another crop of seniors that have experienced a long, emotional career. They suffered through the passing of their former coach, Rick Majerus, and have enjoyed unprecedented success for this formerly fledgling program. St. Louis has ridden the backs of its five senior starters to a Top 10 national ranking and a 19-game winning streak. They have a death grip on the Atlantic 10 regular season title, but the Bilikens play this final home game in the middle of a brutal three-game stretch that features trips to VCU and Massachusetts.
Utah State (vs. Wyoming, Wednesday, March 5)
Here we have another team that’s endured a disappointing season. And, honestly, this group of veterans has had a pretty disappointing career together. They enter this weekend on a four-game losing streak and with no momentum. But there is some talent here, particularly big man Jarred Shaw and guard Preston Medlin. And if this team can score a revenge win over Wyoming, they could carry that into the Mountain West Tournament.
Arkansas State (vs. UL-Lafayette, Saturday, March 8)
Next Tuesday Arkansas State will start a three-game homestand to end the regular season – and the regular season careers for the five seniors on the roster. This will be bittersweet for several Red Wolves seniors. Starters Kirk Van Slyke and Melvin Johnson were transfers from other programs. And Brandon Reed actually started his career at ASU, transferred to Georgia Tech, and then transferred back for his final year. Regardless, this is the No. 10 most experienced roster in the country, and these guys will be amped up for their final home game.
Troy (vs. Texas State, Saturday, March 8)
Troy is a terrible team. But if they are anything, it is experienced. They are the No. 3 most experienced team in the nation, with their roster averaging 2.6 years of college basketball. There are six seniors of the nine players logging time, and they have two home games to close out their year. This is a team and a program that hasn’t had anything to play for the last few years. This game will at least give them something to get excited about.
Creighton (vs. Providence, Saturday, March 8)
There are a ton of Senior Night events going on across the country on March 8. But I am willing to bet that the CenturyLink Center will be one of the most emotional venues in the country. Doug McDermott, one of the Top 10 scorers in college basketball history and the son of the coach, will be playing his final home game. But he is one of four senior starters on this team. Grant Gibbs, Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge have been at the center of a lot of great wins for the Bluejays over the past several seasons. That includes back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference titles and two straight trips to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. Creighton is neck-and-neck with Villanova for the top spot in the Big East this year. And this game against Providence is actually a chance for Creighton to get revenge for one of its only losses on the year. Also, this experienced Providence team (three senior starters) will head to Creighton just four days after its own Senior Night celebration on Tuesday against Marquette.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and one of the top college handicappers in the country. Robert has posted 10 of 13 winning college hoops weeks and 17 of 20 winning college hoops months. He has banked nearly $8,000 in profit with his side plays this year and nearly $15,000 in profit since Nov. 11, 2012. Robert is a profit machine and you can take advantage of our free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s college basketball selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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