Handicapping College Basketball from a Court Side Seat
I have a background that is quite different than most College Basketball handicappers. I called play by play College Basketball games for both Division I & Division II teams for 7 seasons, so I understand the intangibles like team travel and the politics of getting screwed at particular venues. At the forefront, there are less variables in College Hoops to contend with. There are 7-9 players to keep track of per team as opposed to offense, defense, special teams, etc. in College & Pro Football. There are also 300 plus teams as opposed to 126 Division I College Football squads and I follow more of these teams than 90% of the guys out there. It’s something I’ve done for decades. You will not find many who put in the hours that I do but it’s what I do. I have been more profitable at this sport than any other in my capping career. I have been profitable in College Hoops in 8 of my past 10 seasons and look to continue to make money at a sport I feel I break down as well as anyone in the country. I have been on The Edge TV show with Matt Schick as their College Basketball Las Vegas Insider on ESPNU and have been respected in this industry for a long time. The record 14 straight games ATS that I hit in the Las Vegas Review Journal were 90% College Hoop selections.
I grew up in Jersey and was fortunate to have traveled around with my Uncle Carl who coached basketball for 42 years in Brooklyn. He would take me through Manhattan, Queens & the Bronx as well as Brooklyn while coaching his AAU type teams back in the 70’s. I learned to develop a knack for court chemistry and have been an astute scout of the game for eons. As the season gets going, there may be times when I don’t have an elaborate, detailed write up on all the games. There are reasons that I play what I do and I will not just throw some play up without merit behind it. My schedule is so hectic and line moves can happen quicker in this sport than any other so be ready to jump on things quickly so you can get the best numbers. It can be the difference in 3-10 units on average during a season.
As a guy who doesn’t give a darn about College Football Rankings until around week 6 or 7 based on watered down non-conference schedules, I do enjoy the early rankings in College Hoops at the D-I level. With over 300 D-I teams it would be virtually impossible to get some sense of pecking order without publications like Blue Ribbon. First off, most handicappers are deep into the College Football & NFL seasons. Couple that with the NBA starting 3 weeks prior to CBB tip-off and it can get overwhelming if one dabbles into more than one sport.
Last season, I closed by winning my final six plays including coming within one point of predicting the actual final Score in Villanova-UNC final. As the season unfolds I will have more and more plays. I do a lot of scouting throughout the first two months but will still be firing away. I don’t get discouraged when getting getting whipped in a few contests as this will happen in any sport but with College Hoops you can change things in a hurry as there are 30 games per team as opposed to just 12 for football. During the days when I prepare for my nightly sports talk radio show (SportsXRadio), I am constantly watching games back that I did not catch “live” so that I can get a feel of the season. I feel my background in scouting teams is as solid as most as I have been watching CBB now for 4 plus decades at a serious level.
This season on paper, the same cast of characters will vie for the title. Kentucky, Duke & Michigan State had the overall top recruiting classes. What else is new? Bill Self tries to keep that incredible Big 12 Title streak intact for Kansas and although Perry Ellis finally finished up his Jayhawks career, I expect Kansas to be an Elite Eight team. This may be the weakest the Big 12 has been, collectively in awhile. Kentucky and Coach Cal bring in another stellar one & done freshman group that has extreme talent but may take a bit to develop chemistry. Georgia & Florida will be highly competitive in the SEC as well. With Nigel Hayes coming back to Madison, a lot will be expected from this Wisconsin group and HC Greg Gard will do things his way out of the gate after Bo Ryan called it a career early on last season due to off the court problems. Michigan State & Purdue will be the other two out of the Big Ten that should make the most noise, at least early on. The ACC will be the deepest Conference with Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville, Notre Dame, Miami, Maryland & Syracuse all looking like potential Sweet 16 teams and beyond. And then there is the Pac-12, which may be the best it’s been at the top in a long while. What Dana Altman has built in Eugene in a short tenure is impressive. With Tyler Dorsey coming off foot surgery in the summer, the Ducks may go to a 3-guard offense early on until Dorsey returns. The next seven on the roster are as good as any in the country and Altman is in the top 10 mentors to help Oregon possibly take things a step further than last season. HC Steve Alford will turn things around for UCLA after an abysmal 2015-2016 season in Westwood. His son Bryce should help lead the Bruins back to upper echelon in a solid Pac-12 Conference. Arizona & Colorado will also be dangerous to do serious Post Season damage.
Defending Champion Villanova lost Ryan Arcidiacono but the rest of the Wildcats roster is back along including NCAA Finals hero Kris Jenkins. All of these Conferences will have potential National Title contenders come March but what still gets me most excited about College Basketball are the Mid-Majors. These teams that come from the smaller Conferences but still have that David vs. Goliath opportunity to slay the Giants of College Hoops! There are a good 45 – 55 of those teams that will spring some mind blowing upsets and cover a bunch of inflated lines Against the Number! Some of those teams are usual Mid-Major suspects like Xavier, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Wichita State, Belmont, Creighton, Dayton & San Diego State. Two of my newcomers to the Big Dance will be Long Beach State, a team I used to call games for some 16 years ago & UT-Arlington out of the Sun Belt. Had leading scorer Kevin Hervey not gone out with a season ending knee injury two thirds into the season we may never of heard much about Chris Beard the former HC of Arkansas – Little Rock. The Mavericks more than likely, would have won the Sun Belt last season and there would have been no UALR upset of Purdue…..no Chris beard spurning UNLV after 3 weeks to take the head coaching job at Texas Tech. That’s College Hoops in a nutshell. Those things did happen and there will be other unforeseeable occurrences this College Hoops Season as well.
So buckle up. Let’s take this trip together and make some coin along the way!!