Reynolds: Five Situational Spots I’m Betting on Big Monday
Ben Queen – USA Today Sports
Our first conference tournament kicks off Monday as part of a fairly light card. I see a number of situational spots that I will put my money down on.
Let’s get into the five games that I feel present the most value from a situational handicapping perspective.
I included a glossary of my five favorite situational handicapping angles at the bottom. YTD: 18-15
Elon -3 (vs. James Madison)
7 p.m. ET
Elon has arguably been the most disappointing team in the CAA this season. The Phoenix start the same experienced lineup (two seniors and three juniors) that went 18-14 (10-8 in the CAA) last season. However, they have regressed to a 14-16 (6-11 in the CAA) mark this season. A loss tonight would shockingly put them at the No. 10 seed (dead last) in the CAA tournament. Moreover, they are on a five-game losing streak and have lost nine of their past 11. Sometimes you have to go near the stink to find a buy-low opportunity.
Elon sat at 4-2 in the league Jan. 18 after beating co-league champion and CAA tournament No. 1 seed Charleston. It then traveled to James Madison, which was 0-6 in league play at the time, and lost in overtime after blowing a 10-point lead with under two minutes left. That loss seemingly sent Elon’s season into a tailspin.
The Phoenix now get an opportunity to right the ship before the conference tourney against a JMU team in a tough spot. JMU played at home Thursday, then traveled to Delaware (where it blew a late lead) and now plays another road game in North Carolina to end the season. This game is being made up from the postponement due to the mumps outbreak that affected JMU. You have a potential no-show from JMU against what I expect to be a motivated Elon bunch.
Virginia Tech +6 (vs. Duke)
7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Duke has avoided the “Fat and Happy” pitfall in its past two games at home, but now travels to Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech will treat this as its game of the year. The Hokies should have an extra edge after losing at home Saturday, especially since they have revenge from a 22-point blowout loss earlier this month in Durham.
This is also an interesting spot because Duke just waxed Louisville at home Wednesday, while Virginia Tech lost outright to the Cardinals over the weekend. You might hear a casual bettor who takes everything at face value say, “Well, Duke just trucked Louisville who beat Va Tech at home. Duke will roll.” Not so fast.
Kennesaw State-Jacksonville OVER 144
7 p.m. ET on ESPN3
This first-round Atlantic Sun tournament matchup includes an angle I like. The total here is 144, yet neither regular-season meeting between these teams came close to 144 (123 and 132, respectively). You also have two teams that rank sixth (KSU) and eighth (Jacksonville) in offensive efficiency (per KenPom) out of eight teams in the conference. So why is this total so high? Hmmm.
Texas +9.5 (at Kansas)
9 p.m. ET on ESPN
There is a small caveat to this play involving Texas big man Mo Bamba, who is currently questionable. He played only 15 minutes against Oklahoma State on Saturday after leaving with a toe injury. If he can’t go, this line will likely rise by a few points. I like the Horns in either case, so I would wait to see if the line goes up based on any updates.
Texas showed its toughness Saturday without Bamba and Eric Davis, as it rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Kansas did Kansas things by winning at Texas Tech to clinch its 14th straight Big 12 regular-season championship. As a result, Kansas is back in the “Fat and Happy” spot on senior night. I will also likely play the first half, which should be around +5 or +5.5 if Bamba plays.
Nevada had a similar situation Sunday against Colorado State. It had the feel of a coronation for Nevada after clinching the Mountain West title, but Colorado State stayed within the number wire to wire. I don’t believe Texas will roll over and acquiesce here either, especially with the Horns playing for a bye in the conference tournament and looking for revenge from an earlier loss to the Jayhawks.
West Virginia -5.5 (vs. Texas Tech)
9 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Tough turnaround for Texas Tech after its home loss to Kansas with the Big 12 title on the line and ESPN’s College Gameday in attendance. That was arguably the biggest day in Lubbock for college basketball since Bob Knight put on a red sweater and gave the “Guns Up” salute at a 2001 press conference. Now, Texas Tech has to turn around with only a day in between its longest travel of the conference season to Morgantown. West Virginia will also be looking for revenge from a game it led most of the way in Lubbock on Jan. 13 before the win slipped away in the final 90 seconds.
Glossary of situational handicapping terms
1) Fat and Happy: I look for this angle from the second week of January through conference tourneys. It entails going against a ranked team on a winning streak of three or more games. As teams win, the lines, perception and power ratings all rise, which may offer value on the other side. In the rare occurrence of two ranked teams on these streaks, I look closely at the underdog.
2) Hangover: When a team loses a marquee game or has a long winning streak end, it can have a negative carryover effect.
3) Letdown: We see this all the time after a team follows up a huge win on national television by laying an egg in its next outing against a somewhat nondescript opponent.
4) Sandwich: When a team plays an inferior opponent in between two high-profile opponents and/or rivals.
5) Drop in Class: This situation involves a team playing an inferior opponent after a losing streak against quality teams. I call this “Drop in Class” because it’s comparable to a horse being defeated in a stakes race and then dropping in class for a tag in an allowance race.
Editor’s note: The opinion on these games is from the individual writer, and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.
Pictured in top photo: Duke guard Grayson Allen
Photo via Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports