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College Hoops: Buy or Sell

   by ASA - 01/30/2009

Sell – Providence Friars

Seven of the top eight and nine of the top 11 teams in the Big East are currently ranked. Providence is one of the teams that is not and that’s for good reason. The Friars are 6-2 in conference action, taking advantage of a weak start to the conference slate. Their only league win that could considered a quality one would be their recent win over a tired Syracuse team. Otherwise, Providence has played mostly the bottom feeders of the conference. That all comes to a stop in the upcoming week.

The Friars’ next three games come on the road against 2nd-ranked Connecticut, at home against 21st-ranked Villanova and on the road at West Virginia. Those three teams are a combined 50-10 on the season and each plays stellar defense. UConn is holding opponents to 38.3 percent shooting, Villanova 39 percent and West Virginia 40.6 percent. Providence’s season numbers suggest it can score on these teams but those statistics have been inflated by the aforementioned cream puff schedule.

Providence just doesn’t have the defense to be able to stay with teams if it isn’t scoring. The Friars are 300th in the country with more than 73 points per game on the year, with opponents shooting nearly 45 percent.

The Friars went a combined 2-3 against these teams last year, losing by an average of 16.3 points per game. Surprisingly, the two wins came against the Huskies of Connecticut. You can be sure that UConn hasn’t forgotten and will be out for revenge. Providence’s easy early-conference schedule has them overvalued. Don’t fall into the trap.

Buy – Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix

The Phoenix has been the Horizon League’s second-best team this season behind perennial contender Butler. They are 10-2 SU over their last 12, going 8-2 in conference action thus far. Green Bay’s only two losses over that span were road tilts against Loyola-Chicago and Butler, with both games going down to the wire. The Phoenix gets their chance at revenge against both teams at home over the next four days and you can be sure they’ll come out gunning.

Green Bay has been the most prolific offensive team in conference play this season, hitting on nearly 45 percent of its shots. Making the Phoenix even more dangerous is their ability to hit from beyond the arc as they are connecting at a 40.6 percent clip on the year, good for sixth in the nation. And if the game is close in the final minutes, Green Bay should have no problem putting up its opponent at the stripe, where they are shooting 78.9 percent on the season, good for fourth in the country.

The Phoenix is potentially catching Loyola and Butler at opportune times as well. Loyola comes into town Saturday and will be playing its fourth road contest in 10 days, a daunting task for any program. The Ramblers have lost two of the first three games on the trip, sandwiching losses to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wright State by an average of 17.5 points per game with a win over cellar-dweller Detroit. Butler is a tough team in any situation but this will be its first road game in over two weeks so there’s a chance for a letdown.

UW-Green Bay needs to make its move in the league with the conference season winding down. The Phoenix knows a sweep of these two contests would go a long way toward building momentum. Watch for good value when Green Bay hosts Loyola and Butler.

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