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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bryan Leonard: NCAA Hoops: Match-up Madness!

Bryan Leonard: NCAA Hoops: Match-up Madness!
Posted on January 8, 2007

College basketball picks is largely about match-ups. My concerns when analyzing games and the point spread are: Can this team defend the three-pointer? Is emotion a part of a match-up? Does the home team have a dominant inside game that the opponent won’t be able to contain? Is one team soft on defense?

Analyzing questions like this can identify excellent wagering opportunities. I used several match-up angles in two recent college hoops games. When New Mexico played at TCU it occurred to me that perhaps the Lobos wouldn’t be as focused for the game because they had just played an emotional contest, taking Bobby Knight and Texas Tech to the wire on national television just two days prior.

New Mexico is also not the kind of team to back as road favorites. They are 0-4 straight up on the road this year and 2-13 in that role the past two seasons. In three previous road games they had been outshot from the free throw line 83 to 57! In fact, they didn’t make a single shot from the charity stripe against the Red Raiders.

New Mexico lives and dies by the 3-pointer, hitting 36% on the season with no balance. And what does TCU do well? Defend the three-pointer! TCU allows just 29.7% from three-point land at home and are a much better rebounding team than the Lobos. TCU ended up winning the game as a home dog.

Depth is another important match-up angle. A team that runs the court well all game facing a team with little depth can be a big mismatch. Memphis plays a wide-open, street ball style under John Calipari. Disciplined defensive teams can give them some trouble, forcing turnovers for instance, but many teams can struggle because Memphis runs the court all game long.

Cincinnati just played at Memphis and the shorthanded Bearcats are a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth. Memphis makes an opponent expend a great deal of energy running the court, and Cincy is a team lacking depth and not in great shape athletically.

Making matters worst, Cincinnati played its first true road game of the season on an opponent’s home court at Memphis. I expected Memphis to pressure the ball and be too much for the Bearcats. As the Tigers jumped out to an 11-0 lead within the first three minutes, the Bearcats looked stunned and helpless.

The Tigers won by 33 as 15-point home favorites. Memphis outshot UC 59 percent to 37 and outrebounded the Bearcats 42-23. “When we’re outmanned like that and the other team shoots the 3 that way and we’re outmanned in the post, there’s really nothing we can do,” Bearcat coach Mike Cronin said afterward. I could have told him that before the game, as I did my clients! It’s the job of successful handicappers to identify those mismatch match-ups before each game.

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