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College Hoops: Injuries and Motivation

   by Al McMordie - 02/21/2011

Football season is behind us, along with the NBA All-Star break, and we find ourselves smack in the middle of both the college and pro basketball seasons. Fortunately for bettors, there are dozens of games each day to look for soft sides, totals, and winning opportunities. One thing to keep in mind as we come down the home stretch in college and pro basketball is that we are approaching the point where some teams are more motivated than others.

There are many reasons for this: Injuries, personnel, coaching, postseason races at stake. George Mason, for instance, is tops in the Colonial Athletic Association and has two easy conference games on deck, so the Patriots are in great shape to finish as the top team. They have been playing like a motivated team, on a remarkable 13-0 SU/ATS run after winning a Bracket Buster game at Northern Iowa. That also helps the RPI rank.

George Mason is talented and deep, led by 6-4 senior G Cam Long (15.3 ppg), 6-6 junior Ryan Pearson (14.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and 6-9 junior Mike Morrison (6.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg), 14th in the nation in shooting (.481%), tops in the Colonial conference in 3-point shooting (40%).

The team it beat, Northern Iowa, is on a 1-4 SU/0-5 ATS run that coincided with the loss of leading rebounder Lucas O'Rear, gone for the season after fracturing his right ankle. Another team dealing with injuries is Temple. The Owls lost forward Michael Eric for the season with a fractured right patella and on Sunday they played without Scootie Randall (foot), who is day to day. They didn't need them in a rout of St. Joseph's, 66-52, though they failed to cover.

Randall is expected back for Wednesday's game at No. 5 Duke. A candidate for the A-10's most improved player of the year, Randall has averaged 17.3 points over the last eight games and is second on Temple in scoring at 11.6 points per game. He also leads the Owls in three-pointers (45). Freshman forward Anthony Lee (herniated disk) and senior forward Craig Williams (fractured fifth metatarsal of his left foot) have missed the entire season with injuries. Junior point guard Juan Fernandez (left knee bone bruise) missed four games. And senior power forward Lavoy Allen (sprained left ankle) is back but missed time two weeks ago. Temple clinched its fourth consecutive 20-win season after defeating Richmond. The Owls finished 29-6 last season and went 22-12 in 2008-09 and 21-13 in 2007-08. Keep in mind Temple is only 4-7 ATS the last 11 games and the lack of depth is a concern.

The team the Owls defeated on Sunday -- St. Joseph's -- has its own problems. The Hawks failed to win a city series game this season and the program was hit this week with off-court trouble.

Hawks guard Patrick Swilling is no longer enrolled at the school and center Todd O'Brien will not play until the completion of the university's judicial process. St. Joe's is on a 5-8 ATS run.

Out West, a pair of motivated teams met over the weekend because they are vying for the top spot in the Pac-10. Arizona (12-2) is in first place in the conference with UCLA and Washington (10-5) close behind. In a showdown, Arizona held on to top the Huskies, 87-86, with a late block. "I thought it was goaltending," one player said.

Arizona (23-4) moved 1½ games ahead of UCLA atop the Pac-10. The game sailed over the total, which was not a surprise as the two teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring in the conference. Washington is No. 1 in Pac 10 in scoring (85.6 ppg), No. 2 in the nation, and the Huskies' 48% shooting is 15th in nation, led by 5-9 junior Isaiah Thomas Jr (16.8 ppg) and 6-9, 240-pound senior Matthew Bryan Amaning (16 ppg, 8). Arizona is on a 7-2 run over the total; Washington on a 6-2 run over.

Depth is a problem for the Huskies, however: Scott Suggs became the latest casualty when he suffered a left MCL sprain three minutes into the Huskies' game at Arizona State last Thursday. Washington's depth was relatively thin without its starting shooting guard, so Coach Lorenzo Romar was forced to rely on an 8-man rotation and a 2-3 zone defense. Without Suggs, its best three-point shooter, redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox came off the bench and softened the Sun Devils zone with four three-pointers and 16 points. The Huskies are 0-5 in games decided by five points or less.

A year ago the Arizona Wildcats were young, but now they have taken a step forward as the team to beat in the conference. The centerpiece is 6-8 sophomore Derrick Williams (19.5 ppg, 8 rpg), an NBA prospect who shoots 64% from the field and takes 9.3 free throws per game, tops in the nation. He has help with 6-6 soph Solomon Hill (7.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Kevin Parrom on a club that has been hot, on an 8-0 SU, 6-1-1 ATS run.

If the Wildcats and Huskies meet in the Pac 10 tourney again, note that the 'over' is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings, the home team is 6-3 ATS in the last 9 meetings, and the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings. And March is just around the corner! Good luck, as always....Al McMordie.

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