December 21, 2011
With the exception of Christmas Eve when the NFL will be on full display, gamblers have plenty of college hoops action to wager on throughout this week and including three televised games on Christmas Day. Let’s take a look at several hot and cold squads before breaking out our first Sweet 16 Rankings of the season.
--Southern Miss has won five in a row after rallying to clip Arizona St. 64-61 as a one-point road favorite on Dec. 19. The Golden Eagles, who have taken the cash in four of their last five games, were in a tough spot in Tempe after flying West following Saturday’s 86-82 home win over Ole Miss as 4 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ In his eighth season at the school, Larry Eustachy is hoping this will be his first team to garner an NCAA Tournament bid. So. Miss started 14-3 last year, only to fade down the stretch. With a 9-2 record and a stellar RPI ranking of No. 4, the Golden Eagles are in great shape at this early stage. Their only losses came to Murray St. (RPI: #7) in overtime and at Denver (RPI: #9).
--Speaking of Murray St., it has jumped out to a 12-0 record and is in the midst of a 4-0-1 ATS run. The Racers have 3-point shooters galore, including five players that are draining treys at a clip of 48.1 percent or better. Junior guard Isaiah Canaan is scoring a team-high 19.3 points per game. Murray St. has won outright in all three underdog spots – at Memphis, at Southern Miss and at UAB.
--Virginia has won seven consecutive games since losing a nail-biter to TCU on Nov. 18. In the process, the Cavaliers have gone 6-0 versus the number in their six lined games. After winning 67-54 at Oregon on Sunday, they stay out West tonight to play at Seattle and also visit Baton Rouge to face LSU on Jan. 2. The Cavs got a quality win over Michigan on Nov. 29.
--The Big 12 is dominating non-conference play. In fact, Kansas has only the eighth-best ledger at 7-3 and no team is below .500. Missouri and Baylor remain undefeated at 11-0 and 10-0, respectively. The Tigers and Bears have combined for an 8-1 spread record.
--Indiana is the only Big Ten squad left with an unblemished record. Not only are the Hoosiers unbeaten (11-0 SU), but they are also a perfect 7-0 versus the number. They will cruise into Breslin Center to challenge Michigan St. on Dec. 28 with a 12-0 ledger.
--Tulane hasn’t played a daunting schedule, nor should it. In the post-Katrina Era, it’s tough for the Green Wave to compete in all sports. Nevertheless, they own a 9-1 straight-up record and we’ll give them props for doing so. We’ll find out what they’re made of when they travel to the Carrier Dome to take on top-ranked Syracuse on Dec. 22.
--Ohio cooled off Northern Iowa, No. 5 in the RPI, last night by going on the road and winning a 76-59 decision as a six-point road underdog. The Bobcats, who are now No. 12 in the RPI, are 10-1 SU and 6-1 ATS. Their only loss came at Louisville by a 59-54 count in an easy spread cover as 16-point road underdogs. Ohio now has three outstanding road wins at Marshall, at Oakland and at No. Iowa. Junior D.J. Cooper is the MAC’s best guard, averaging team-highs in scoring (14.6 PPG), assists (6.4 APG) and steals (2.5 SPG).
--The Missouri Valley Conference has been down the last several years, but that is changing this season. Four schools have legit shots at making the NCAA Tournament and that development wouldn't be unprecedented, as the Valley has sent that many teams to the Dance before in the last decade. No. Iowa, Wichita St., Indiana St. and Creighton have combined for a 36-7 SU record.
--Kentucky is mired on a 0-7 ATS slide. We should note, however, that the ‘Cats have been favored by 19 ½ or more in six of those seven, 24 or more in five of the seven contests.
--Butler got a nice win over Purdue in Indianapolis at Conseco Fieldhouse on a late bucket by Andrew Smith this past Saturday (12/17). However, the victory as 8 ½-point underdogs is the only time the Bulldogs have hooked up their backers all season. They fell to 1-7-1 ATS in last night’s 71-55 loss at Gonzaga as 13 ½-point puppies. I backed the ‘under’ for a winner and don’t be a shy of looking at that play in future games for Brad Stevens’ team that is now just 5-7 SU. Don’t dare write this squad off, though, because you know Stevens will have them playing better come February.
--Siena has lost seven of its last eight games and is an abysmal 1-4-1 versus the number this year. The Saints will host Princeton on Thursday night (12/22).
--Utah State’s run of 12 straight postseason appearances could be in jeopardy. The Aggies have won back-to-back contests but are just 6-5 SU and 3-4 ATS.
--Western Ky. has fallen on hard times and has one of the nation’s most putrid offensive attacks. When a team’s top shooter is making merely 34.6-percent of his shots from the floor, you KNOW it can’t throw it in the ocean. The Hilltoppers are 4-8 SU and 3-8 ATS. They play at Louisville on Dec. 23.
--Vanderbilt is still going to make the NCAA Tournament and has Sweet 16 talent without a doubt. However, the Commodores are underachieving and haven’t been nearly as formidable at Memorial Gymnasium as they usually are, losing home games to Cleveland St., Xavier and Indiana St. already.
**Sweet 16 Rankings**
These rankings were compiled before results on Dec. 21 and beyond.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Davidson went into the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Monday night and pulled a stunning 80-74 upset over Kansas as a 13-point underdog. The Wildcats hooked up money-line backers with a lucrative plus-850 return (risk $100 to win $850). Nik Cochran was on fire and scored 21 points in just 21 minutes of playing time. Cochran only took six shots from the floor, making five, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. De’Mon Brooks, who leads Davidson in scoring, rebounding, FG% and steals, was limited to 22 minutes of PT due to foul trouble but finished with 13 points nonetheless. The victory doesn't avenge the one-point loss to KU in the Elite Eight of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, but it's a huge step for Bob McKillop's program in the post-Steph Curry Era. The battle for the SoCon's berth to the NCAA Tournament is going to be classic between Davidson and College of Charleston, and we can't rule out the possibility that the one that doesn't win the conference tourney might be worthy of at-large consideration.
--The ‘under’ is a perfect 9-0 in UAB games with a total. UCF has also seen the ‘under’ cash at a perfect 5-0 rate.
--The ‘under’ is 6-1 overall for UVA and Wake Forest from out of the ACC. The ‘over’ is 8-3 overall for Duke.
--Gamblers should continue to monitor the status of LSU sophomore guard Andre Stringer, who has missed three straight games with vertigo symptoms. Stringer is averaging 12.1 PPG for the Tigers, who handed Marquette its first loss this past weekend at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.