Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 3:00 PM
If you watched any of LSU’s win Tuesday night over Georgia in SEC college basketball play, you got a full sense of the conundrum for sports bettors trying to handicap this Tigers team.
*Ben Simmons is a legitimate star, expected to go #1 in the next draft
*He doesn’t have much talent surrounding him
*His team won the game but didn’t cover the spread
*His team didn’t look very good on defense
I was scouting that game very closely because LSU has a make-or-break game with the Oklahoma Sooners coming up on Saturday. Right now the Tigers are on the bubble for the Big Dance. Should they play great against Oklahoma…that plus what’s already been a big win over Kentucky will probably have them safely in. But, a bad loss to OU, and it’s going to be hard to make the case that LSU is really dance-worthy.
*LSU played a very soft non-conference schedule
*LSU is not respected by the computers
*LSU is now 5-12 against the spread this season, meaning much worse than informed expectations
Amazingly, since that big TV win over Kentucky, LSU has failed to cover SIX straight games! Talk about oddsmakers and the public overreacting to a game they watched on TV. It’s getting ridiculous.
Though, LSU did go 4-2 straight up in those six games. And, they do play in a relatively weak conference by national standards. This may be a team that has a good enough record to earn a Dance invitation even if they’re not really a Dance-caliber team.
I have two big problems with LSU right now, that I want to lay out for you here today in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping.
*First…it’s very rare for a true college superstar to only push his team to this mediocre level. I mean…the guys usually drafted #1 at least had their teams in the top 20! Often they were in the national championship discussion. Pick any guy from the last 20 years who played in the colleges. This just isn’t a story you see very often. Larry Bird wasn’t a #1 draft pick overall, though he was that good. Remember how far he took lowly Indiana State (meaning “lowly” before and after his time there). Bird had them as a #1 seed, and then they lived up to that seeding. Simmons may not get his team into the Dance! How could anyone compare him to LeBron James?
*The team defense here is just awful by Dance standards. They don’t rank in the top 100 nationally after you adjust for pace and strength of schedule. They allowed 55 second half points, and 85 total points to Georgia the other night. Georgia was a ridiculous 26 of 40 inside the arc (65%). Did LSU just stand there and watch them score in the paint all night. It’s very tough to go far in this sport if you’re not guarding people. And, that’s particularly true for an LSU team that doesn’t shoot well from long range.
They will need to lift their game to compete for 40 full minutes Saturday against Oklahoma. And, heaven forbid Simmons ever gets hurt. There’s no margin for error here. LSU might not be top 10 in the SEC if not for Simmons.
That gives me an idea for a homework assignment. Within your range of interest in college basketball (your local conferences, or the full country if you’re trying to handicap the entire board in Las Vegas), find out which teams…
*Have the softest defenses
*Are the most vulnerable to one big injury
These are teams you probably want to fade down the stretch. Soft defenses only get worse from fatigue as the grind of the season takes its toll. And, any team that relies too much on one player is going to be in big trouble in the postseason because of potential fatigue, potential foul trouble, or an ill-timed injury.
Let me pick an NBA team for an example here of the “ideal” championship contender. The San Antonio Spurs play great defense…and have so much talent depth and teamwork that they can sweat one major injury. Cleveland’s in trouble if they lose LeBron. Golden State’s in some trouble at least if they lose Steph Curry. San Antonio is better suited to surviving a long grind.
Your homework today is to find college teams who are the OPPOSITE of that. Who plays soft defense and relies too much on one player? I may or may not be fading LSU this Saturday…but I think it’s very likely I’ll be fading them from about Valentine’s on (at least occasionally) based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes in their recent games.
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Back again late this week with what will likely be another college basketball discussion. I’ll save Super Bowl coursework until next week when the media has started its full court press from Santa Clara. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. See you again next time.
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