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College Basketball: True Colors
by Scott Spreitzer - 01/22/2007
Now that college basketball teams are well into conference play, many are showing their true colors.
What do I mean by that?
*Teams who don't play much defense are getting exposed inside. They could hide this weakness against soft non-conference schedules or by pushing tempo in home games in front of friendly referees. Now that conference play has begun, opponents will patiently work the ball for an open look. More often than not, they'll drain the shot. That's why teams who had acceptable defensive field goal percentage numbers are now suddenly allowing upwards of 48% shooting per game.
*Teams who only have one offensive star are suddenly finding that threat neutralized or taken away by opposing defenses. Great college players can have field days vs. soft non-conference opponents. This is particularly true if they're protected by the refs in November and December. Now that the games matter to both teams involved, star players find themselves double teamed, or otherwise taken out of the flow of the offense.
*Teams who can't rebound are suddenly finding that it's one and done in terms of shot selection. They can't get sloppy and throw up bad shots any more. That's the same thing as a turnover against quality conference foes. Teams who aren't disciplined on offense are finding out what a negative that can be in this sport.
*Teams who can't play well on the road are now forced to play on the road every week! There are many teams like this at the college level. They build up impressive won-loss records by playing a lot of home games in the first two months. If they do travel, it might be to a nearby site against a team from a lesser conference. Many youngsters (and, this sport is younger than ever) are truly playing in hostile territory for the first few times of the season lately.
*Teams with a touch of arrogance are finding out that they can't take their foot off the gas pedal. We've seen several upsets and near upsets the past couple of weeks where big name favorites lacked fire. Powerhouse teams can get complacent. When they run into an opponent that's fired up for the game, it's going to be a war. A new batch of kids has to learn about this every year. You just can't relax at this level.
Based on the notes above, you should now have a very good sense of who can't play defense, who has a one-dimensional offense, who can't rebound, who can't play on the road, and who gets cocky after a few victories. If you don't have that sense yet about the teams you follow, then you really shouldn't be placing Las Vegas wagers. These are the keys to success and failure when handicapping college basketball. The teams themselves will literally announce their strengths and weaknesses to anyone willing to listen.
Think about your local conference. Wherever you live, you've been following one of the local conferences closely in the newspaper or on TV. Which teams are struggling on defense? Which teams have multiple offensive weapons? Which teams win blowouts at home but come and go on the road?
Most fans and wagerers make the mistake of listening to media hype about coaches, players, and rivalries; rather than thinking about handicapping keys. You may know which star is destined for the NBA. Do you know which offense can work the ball around and consistently shoot 48% or better from the floor? You may know which coach is either a living legend or a young up-and-comer. What are their ATS records in conference play the last few years? You may know which schools just hate each other. How do those teams perform when not playing a blood rival?
The media is focused on telling stories. In some cases they'll bend over backwards to hide the negatives about a team or a coach. There's an unwritten rule in journalism that you don't focus on the negatives of youngsters, or of the men who guide them. In terms of what's best for the spirit of community, it's hard to argue with that. You can't pick winners that way though. Handicappers have to know both the positives and the negatives.
Conference play is where teams show their true colors. Pay attention so you can paint a handicapping masterpiece!