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Improving Teams Offer Value

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/09/2008

This is an interesting time of the sports betting calendar for college basketball season. Some teams are out of it, seemingly giving up on a lost season. Other teams are playing much better in the second half of the season than the first, and still others can be more focused on the Big Dance than conference tournament play.

It's important to try and gauge where a team's heart is. Is it focused on a division title? On tournament seeding? And as the season winds down, is this their final home game, meaning the seniors will all be introduced? That's particularly important if a team is loaded with seniors and this is their final run together. Or just as important: Has a team given up?

I had a play on Citadel against Charleston, as it was a situation where a young Citadel team was improving and playing hard, despite a bad overall record. They were not a team packing in a poor season. In my analysis I argued, “It’s rare when you look at a 5-15 team and say that they have value, but that’s exactly the case tonight with the Bulldogs. Sure The Citadel brings a 9 game losing streak into this cross-town matchup, but this team is improving.

“Last time out they dropped a 2 point decision at Furman. Before that they were very competitive against NC Greensboro and Wofford. In fact, they hung in pretty well against the class of the league Davidson despite being outmanned at every position. This is a team that continues to play hard every night and now they are showing signs of improvement. The Cougars will be shorthanded as Coach Bobby Cremins has suspended forward Dustin Scott and guard Marcus Hammond for violating team rules. Scott averaged 29 minutes a game and 10.7 points while Hammond averaged 19 minutes per outing off the bench.

“Charleston has been struggling themselves dropping four straight to sit at 9-12 on the season. College of Charleston had little problem disposing of the Bulldogs earlier this year in a 23 point victory. But neither one of these teams is playing as they were at the time of that meeting. With both teams desperate for a win the pressure will be on the short handed host. This is simply too many points to lay in a close rivalry game, especially without your full arsenal.â€쳌 Citadel got the cover as a +16 dog, their fifth straight cover.

It’s a long college basketball season. Teams can start out hot with a weak schedule and then struggle as conference play heats up. Other teams, like Citadel, can play competitive and improve down the stretch, which is particularly true with young teams that are well coached.

Strength of schedule is a good way to gauge many teams. It's no shame for a small college to get blown out by a Duke or LSU, but you will find a lot of times these smaller schools played extremely well. That can tell a lot about their character and their toughness: They don't back down or get scared when stepping up in competition.

The same is true in the NBA with young teams that have no shot at the potseason, but they might be playing well as they improve, offering excellent wagering value. After all, it’s not the team that wins the game that’s important, it’s the one that covers the number!

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