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College Hoops: Revenge & Must Wins

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/26/2007

This is a great time of the year for basketball wagering. Good NBA teams are priming for the stretch run, while bad ones might begin to pack it in. In college, teams are approaching conference tournament play with seedings and division titles on the line.

This can set up many revenge spots, as teams will be playing each other for a second time. Take a close look at the earlier meeting and see if one rival embarrassed another and now gets them on their home court. In addition, there can be must-win games with teams approaching the 20-win mark or in a battle for division titles.

Take UNLV. This week the Rebels had a nice home game against Air Force. It was a must win situation for the Rebels if they had any thoughts of winning the regular season title. They came up a bit short in a 56-50 loss earlier at Air Force. I took a close look at that earlier meeting and found some important facts.

What was most impressive in that game for UNLV was that they shot just 36% from the field including 1 of 18 from long range, yet they still covered the number and nearly won the game. They were able to dominate on the boards, virtually doubling the Falcons in rebounding.

I couldn't fathom the Rebels shooting 1-for-18 from three-point land again and they should dominate the boards again, especially when you realize that UNLV had home court for the rematch. UNLV is 15-1 straight up at home this year and they have beaten the Falcons 10 of the last 11 meetings at the Thomas & Mack Center. The lone loss was a 2 point decision here a year ago.

Air Force has dropped 4 of their last 5 road games with the only win coming against a weak New Mexico squad. The Falcons were able to dominate non-conference opposition early because of their unique style of play. But they are just 4-10 ATS in Mountain West action because conference rivals are more prepared for what Air Force likes to do.

So what happened? UNLV crushed Air Force on the boards again, 41-28. They weren't a whole lot better from long range (4-of-18), but it was +3 better than the earlier meeting, which translates to 9 more points. And that's pretty much what they won by, 60-50. Most important, they covered.

When Mississippi State hosted Vanderbilt this week, it was a combination of must-win, revenge and a let-down spot that gave the Bulldogs extra edges. Revenge isn't always from this season. A year ago the Bulldogs faced the Commodores on the road and were embarrassed 80-52.

Now the tables were reversed on Vandy. This meeting would be at Mississippi State and the Commodores were coming in sky-high off a win over topped ranked Florida. That was their first victory over a top ranked team since 1993 when they knocked off Kentucky. Of course, that was at home. How is Vandy on the road? A bad team, at 3-6 SU, 4-5 ATS. In addition, they have lost to some questionable teams on the road, Auburn and Wake Forest, as well as being blown out at Tennessee, Florida and Georgia.

Mississippi State is tied for the division lead and playing their best ball of the season. The Bulldogs need every victory possible if they intend on making the big dance and they are on a 14-3 spread run as home favorites! The game meant far more to Mississippi State than the visitors, who were in a let-down spot after the thrilling upset of Florida. Mississippi State shot 53% while Vandy shot 42% for the game, and the Bulldogs led 45-27 at the half! Guess who won and covered with ease? Handicapping is about analyzing stats and situations, and college basketball this time of the year offers endless angles and winning opportunities.

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