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College basketball handicapping encompasses more than match-up angles and coaching. Home court, revenge, look-ahead spots and injuries all can be important factors when trying to determine who has the edge against the number. With conference play in full swing, revenge, rivalry and payback spots are all factors to be weighed. Last week I had a play on Syracuse when they were at Villanova.
In my analysis on the game I wrote, “Nova was a winner at the Carrier Dome in the season’s first meeting with Syracuse, but the Orange should get some payback here. The Wildcats are in awful form right now, as they just can’t seem to generate any kind of consistent offense. The youthful ‘Cuse side should be all fired up for their chance to get revenge, and I expect them to accomplish their goal. Take the available number with Syracuse.” That available number was +3½ and the Orange not only covered but won the game with ease, 87-73.
The Orangemen shot 62% from the field while Villanova shot 44%. They also had a whopping edge on the glass, 33-18! That should come as no surprise, as Syracuse is third in the Big East in rebounding while Villanova is tied for 10th. In addition, it was the Wildcats’ fourth straight loss, all by by double digits. The Wildcats also trailed at the break for the sixth straight game, so this was not a team playing with any kind of good karma or momentum, as I noted before the contest.
And it was a revenge spot, as Syracuse lost at home to Villanova 81-71 last month. Since that defeat, the Orange are on a 4-0 ATS run, even covering in an overtime loss at Georgetown, 64-62, as 12-point dogs. For the season, Syracuse has a winning ATS mark as a dog and on the road.
They wanted the game badly, too. Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris were yelling in the locker room to fire up their teammates. “Both Paul and Jonny came out talking from the locker room to start the game on,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “More than they have all year.” The yelling continued in the Orange’s on-court huddles. “During the timeouts and right after the timeouts,” Syracuse forward Kristof Ongenaet said, “we’d start screaming at each other to keep each other motivated.” Motivation is a powerful weapon in college athletics and one needs to look for spot where one team might be fired up more than normal.
Sometimes the best coaches are masters at firing up their players, while other teams, like Syracuse in that revenge game, the players lead the way. Other times, you’ll find players and coaches talking about revenge before a big game, either from an early season loss or a painful loss from last season.
Injuries and revenge came into play in another game I had this weekend, when Dayton played at Rhode Island. Last month, Dayton shot 62 percent from the field in beating URI, 92-83, at the University of Dayton Arena. For the rematch, I wrote, “Dayton finally got back on track with an easy win over St. Louis. But the Flyers remain banged up and this is a huge revenge spot for URI. The Rams are the better team, at home and obviously motivated, and I expect the convincing Rhode Island win and cover here.” In the rematch, Rhode Island was completely focused on improving their defense, winning 82-70 and covering. “I thought our defense really stepped up. We made some great defensive plays,” Rhody coach Jim Baron said. They held Dayton to 42% while shooting 51.9%. The Flyers made just 2-of-15 3-pointers. That makes Rhode Island 12-0 SU 7-3, ATS at home. It was an excellent example of home court, an injured Dayton team, plus revenge all falling in line to heavily favor the home team.
Also, notice that HC Baron said about his home fans, a sellout crowd of 7,657: “This is the way it was when we walked into Dayton,” Baron said of the crowd of more than 13,000 that rooted the Flyers to the victory in the first meeting. “It was nice for us to have that kind of environment,” Baron said. “I hope we can continue it.” That’s something that doesn’t show up in box scores, but can be evident when you see games in person or on TV: That college basketball home crowd advantage. It varies from place to place, of course, and some teams even have a minimal home court edge or none at all. But overall, home court, revenge and rivarly factors can be huge in college basketball.
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