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Identifying Basketball Changes

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/17/2007

There are many places to find edges in basketball. One of the best is to identify changes taking place with a team before oddsmakers catch up. Coaching changes, injuries, home/road play, freshmen stepping up, even changes in philosophy all can significantly alter how a team performs both straight up and against the number.

I used this over the weekend when Rhode Island played at Duquesne. Duquesne made a drastic move as coach Ron Everhart discarded Duquesne's conventional style of play for a high-octane attack that features plenty of 3-point shots, a two-platoon substitution rotation and a scrambling, trapping, full-court pressure defense. Everhart alternates players similar to hockey every 2 to 3 minutes. Therefore he has fresh players in the game at all times who are able to run and wear down the opposition.

You can already figure out how this change might affect totals. A quick look finds Duquesne currently averaging 78 ppg, but giving up 84 ppg, and sitting at 13-4 over the total. A closer look finds that since implementing this new system in mid-season the Dukes have averaged 98.5 points per game in winning 5 of 7 games. The last three games they managed 111, 111 and 87 points. They've now gone over the total 7 straight games, despite their totals rising from a 144 line to 176 on the Rhode Island game.

Duquesne happened to be playing a Rhode Island team that also likes to play uptempo. Rhode Island is 17-6 over in their last 23 games and 21-6 to the over after suffering a loss. I wrote, “While this posted total would seem to be high, the last 5 Dukes game have averaged 194.6 points scored. We are looking at an old fashioned playground atmosphere with points coming in bunches.â€쳌 Over it went, in a 111-87 shootout!

A significant change took place in the NBA this week with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns went without two top players Sunday against Chicago as Boris Diaw's lower back spasms worsened and playmaker Steve Nash woke up with more soreness in his troublesome right shoulder. That's some significant starting talent, one a former MVP.

In their absence, Marcus Banks received his first start since last season with Minnesota and Jalen Rose got his first time in the regular rotation since early December! Phoenix fell 8 points behind their average of 111 points per game and lost by 13 as a 6-point favorite.

Not all injuries and lineup changes are that drastic, as sometimes teams have backups who can step in and keep things rolling for a few games. But clearly, the Suns losing two key starters like that does influence what they want to do. It's essential for serious handicappers to keep up on all kinds of college and pro changes like this AND to figure out whether this offers value against the spread.

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