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College Hoops Situational Handicapping

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/20/2007

College hoops offers outstanding situational wagering opportunities all season long. Situational handicapping incorporates many things above and beyond the old reliable stats and matchups. Situations can be how a team plays on the road, a revenge spot, a sandwich situation, or one that involves emotion, such as a coach being fired, a championship banner or retired number being raised, or a key player returning to the lineup.

All these things look less at stats and more on how emotion might influence a team's ability. One of the most basic in pro football is how a team does the week after playing on Monday night football. There is one less day to prepare the following Sunday, for instance, and often a team is fired up to be showcased on national TV Monday night, so a let down is a possibility.

Remember last October when the Saints played their first home game in New Orleans in over a year? It was against the Falcons on Monday night. The atmosphere was electric and the Saints destroyed Atlanta, 23-3. Six days later, the Saints suffered their first defeat of the season, at Carolina, losing the turnover battle with their lowest scoring output they had yet had. That was a bad situational spot for New Orleans.

It happens all the time in college basketball, too, because there are so many games. This week I had a play on West Virginia when they faced mighty UCLA. It was a terrible scheduling situation for the Bruins. They were off a come from behind win over cross town rival USC, then had to travel through three time zones to play a game at 10 AM Pacific on Saturday.

UCLA had lost at home to the Mountaineers last year. But because of the early start time they were less likely to be able to extract their revenge. At the time the Bruins had only played 5 true road games this season, posting a 3-2 straight up mark. Now they not only needed to win in a hostile environment, but they had to do so in the role of road favorite.

West Virginia is 12-1 straight up at home this year, and was off their lone loss on this court in their last game versus Pittsburgh. The Mountaineers are outscoring the opposition at home by 17.9 points per game, and they are off an embarrassing shooting performance. They held opponents to just 28.6% from 3 point land which I wrote should be a big edge against the Bruins. Sure enough, UCLA shot just 26% (6-for-23 in a 70-65 loss at West Virginia. You can get a sense of the combination of stats and situational factors that I examined.

It works with smaller conferences, as well, as the same dynamics are often in play. I also had Idaho against La Tech this week, because the La Tech Bulldogs had won just one game all season by double digits, either home or away. Now they were not only expected to win, but to do so by a large margin, as a 12-point favorite!

They beat Idaho by just one point on the road, despite holding a rebounding advantage of 19. They shot 49.1% from the field in that game. Idaho has been a big money maker in conference action posting an 11-3 spread mark in WAC play, while Louisiana Tech has never been a dependable favorite with a 13-31 spread mark laying points. The Bulldogs also had back to back revenge affairs with Fresno State and Utah State up next, so they less likely to not be focused on playing Idaho, and the Vandals got the money. Use statistics in college hoops as a starting point, but don't ignore the importance of situations surrounding a team.

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