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Anger Management

   by Scott Spreitzer - 03/07/2006

Don't get mad, get even! That's an old adage that certainly requires mentioning in March, with college basketball tournament play breaking out all over. Rivalry and revenge play is a huge part of this. It's important for handicappers to assess situations with so many games on the college basketball slate.

I love situational handicapping. As the name implies, this refers to some kind of key situation in a game that is about to take place. When Oklahoma State stunned Texas a few weeks ago, that was an excellent example of a unique situation OFF the court contributing to the play on the court. In that instance, coach Eddie Sutton had just announced a leave of absence after an embarrassing driving incident two days prior. On that particular Sunday, he called the locker room moments before the game was to take place and told his players to rally around the interim coach (his son) with the whole country watching. The players, and the raucous home crowd, responded with a whipping of Texas as an underdog.

That's a great example of situational handicapping because the motivational incident had little to do with anything tangible on the court. It had nothing to do with individual match-ups between Texas and Oklahoma State, it had no revenge or rivalry angle, and it had nothing to do with stats. It was something that cropped up to heavily benefit one team for that one afternoon.

While incidents exactly like that one rarely come up, what does happen all the time, particularly in March tournament play, is revenge situations. This is why it's essential to examine how two teams have matched up in prior years and in meetings already this season. And take that a step further by reading the analysis of the prior meetings, as well as examining the box scores. You can find a wealth of important data.

One thing to look for is a potential revenge spot. I used this Saturday when Kansas was playing at Kansas State, tabbing Kansas as my Revenge game. Why? First of all, teams that are in the same state AND the same conference, in this case the Big 12, usually play each other for many years. This can create geographical rivalries that stretch back decades and is very much a part of college sports. We see it in football all the time, and it's just as prevalent in basketball, though not mentioned as much as teams play two or three times a season. Teams, schools and even students can develop strong passion against the opponent, creating a buzz for the game that simply doesn't exist when Kansas plays Baylor or Colorado, for instance.

Secondly, within that particularly game you can also find additional revenge factors, such as the last time the schools played. Look carefully at the schedules. If two good teams played and one absolutely whipped the other the last meeting, their can be extra motivation when the two meet again, especially if it's in the same season. In fact, I've already made notes about the next Texas/Oklahoma State meeting, be it in this coming tournament or next year: Think the Longhorns will be a bit fired up? In Saturday's game, Kansas had been shocked the last time they played Kansas State, blowing a 12-point second half lead as the Wildcats rallied and won, 59-55. Understand that that wasn't just any old loss. It was a conference game to a state rival and a terrible collapse AT HOME to end a 7-game win streak!

It was K-State's first win at Phog Allen since 1994! In short, it stung. Brandon Rush tied a career high with 24 points, and No. 18 Kansas beat Kansas State 66-52 to clinch at least a share of the Big 12 championship, so there was plenty at stake, too, not just revenge. There will likely be several situational spots in upcoming conference tourney play. Make sure you're up on which ones matter and make sure the linemaker hasn't made the proper adjustment. There will be more gems between now and Sunday, March 12.

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