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College Injuries and Stretch Run Motivation

   by Al McMordie - 02/20/2012

Football season is behind us 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. For instance, Georgia Tech isn’t going anywhere, stuck in last place in the ACC. However, things got even worse as coach Brian Gregory suspended guard 6-foot-5 Glen Rice Jr. Rice had scored in double figures in each of the last three games since he missed the Florida State game Feb. 1 with turf toe. He averages 10.4 points per game and eight rebounds per game ranks 14th in the ACC in scoring and 11th in rebounding. That certainly won’t help this thin team improve and note that the Yellow Jackets are 8-20-1 ATS in their last 29 games vs. a team with a winning record, and 6-15-1 ATS in their last 22 road games.

Alabama is in the middle of the pack in the SEC but has a winning record and a shot at 20 wins. However, February has been a lousy month with the Tide losing JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Moussa Gueye. Green has been suspended due to conduct detrimental to the team and is their leading scorer and rebounder. Now THAT’S a serious blow! Keep in mind the Crimson Tide is 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games following a spread loss and the over is 9-4 in their 13 conference games. Will that over trend continue? It might not with their top scorer now sidelined.

In the Big 10, Purdue kicked guard Kelsey Barlow off the team and suspended swingman D.J. Byrd for a pivotal late-season game following an early-morning incident at a bar. Barlow, a 6-foot-5 guard from Indianapolis, started 22 of 26 games this season, averaging 24.3 minutes and 8 points. Injuries and suspensions can change the dynamics of a team and sap depth.

Many times teams are forced to use good role players off the bench to suddenly become starters. The dropoff in production might not be evident with the starters, but a lack of depth can cause teams to suffer at the defensive end or wilt late in games.

On the flip side, take a team like the Florida Gators. Florida is getting two of it important bench players back, forward Will Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario, both out with recent injuries. Yeguete has been cleared to practice after missing nearly two games because of a concussion, and Rosario has been cleared to play after sitting out two games with a hip pointer.

Yeguete is averaging 4.5 points and 6.1 rebounds, and plays an important role in Florida's full-court, trapping press. Rosario is averaging 7.9 points and is fifth on the team with 30 3-pointers. Rosario has missed five games this season because of various injuries, but improving depth and getting key players back can be a big plus as we approach the stretch run with tourney play on the horizon.

A year ago at this time Washington was No. 1 in Pac 10 in scoring, but depth was an issue, losing Scott Suggs (their best three-point shooter) to an ACL injury and forcing Coach Lorenzo Romar to rely on a 7-man rotation and a 2-3 zone defense at times. The coach was forced to use redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox more. High scoring clubs can be public teams and Washington suffered down the stretch defensively with a depth problem, finishing up last season on a 2-6 ATS run. The Huskies also went 0-5 in games decided by five points or less.

Washington is a fine team this season, too, though not the offensive powerhouse they were last season. Perhaps oddsmakers haven’t caught up yet: The under is 17-5 in the Huskies last 22 against the Pac 12. Conference tourney races are in full force now and March (the most exciting month in Las Vegas) is just around the corner! Good luck, as always....Al McMordie

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