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College Hoops Breakdown

   by Al McMordie - 01/25/2007

The Florida Gators are riding high, still celebrating the school’s national football title a few weeks ago, which came less than a year after the basketball team finished No. 1. Last week Florida had a wild win, holding off an improbable Ole Miss comeback, down 25 points in the second half against the No. 1 team in the country. Instead, Florida retained its slim lead and finished with a 79-70 win as a 17-point favorite.

From a betting standpoint, what stands out about the Gators is that they like to run the court, using their tremendous depth to their advantage, tiring other teams out. Notice that Florida is averaging 83 points per game and is 9-3 over the total. The public perception is that Florida is a run-and-gun team so oddsmakers are going to have to continue to raise Gator totals.

However, Duke and North Carolina are also perceived in the public’s minds as run-and-gun teams, yet they are playing good defense this season. Notice that Duke is allowing just 55 points per game, which explains why they are 12-6 under the total. A young North Carolina squad is averaging a sizzling 88 points per game, but it may surprise you that they are 10-5 under the total.

It’s important from a handicapping perspective to examine each college basketball team carefully, especially with conference play in full swing. Teams can have major differences with respect to totals and home/road play, so it’s essential to break down teams carefully. For instance, North Carolina dominates at home at 12-0 straight up and 8-1 against the spread. They not only win going away, but cover regularly.

Another ACC team, Georgia Tech, has a young group of players who play great at home (11-0 SU, 6-4 ATS), but are a very different team on the road (0-4 SU, 1-3 ATS). This is common with many teams that lack depth, have average or below-average coaches, or haven’t yet learned how to play on the road.

I recently heard an interview with a former college basketball player, long since retired from the NBA, and he was asked about what it was like to play on the road in college. He mentioned that one game they traveled to North Carolina and he said he had never heard an opposing crowd so loud. He was young and had plenty of adrenaline, but admitted that with the game close at the end of regulation, he felt sick, almost dizzy, because of the intense nature of the game, the environment and the hostile crowd.

Remember, these are not pro athletes, these are young, impressionable college kids, which explains why so many college basketball teams can have remarkably different home/road records. Illinois, for instance, is currently 10-3 at home, but 1-4 SU/ATS away from home. Iowa is 10-9 overall, but 9-1 at home and 0-6 on the road!

A couple other Big 10 schools are similar: Michigan State is a perfect 14-0 SU and 6-3 ATS at home, but 1-3 SU/ATS on the road. Purdue: 11-1 SU/5-2 ATS at home, 0-5 SU, 1-4 ATS away from home.

Make sure you examine each team and their home/road play carefully, because they can differ dramatically, which will tell you a lot about them. Some other ATS notables to chew on: Clemson is 5-1 SU/ATS on the road, Florida State is 12-1 SU, 5-3 ATS at home, but 2-4 SU/1-4 ATS on the road, UNLV is 5-3 SU/7-1 ATS on the road, while Alabama is 11-0 at home, but 1-3 SU/ATS away. And Indiana is 3-2 ATS as a dog, including a nice upset win at UConn. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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