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College Basketball Betting
Heading For A Fall
By WagerWeb.com and Ecobika College Basketball Betting Picks
The odds are that every college basketball season will feature teams that show strong improvement from the prior year, and others that were strong but have fallen back into the pack. Here are my candidates that college basketball bettors should remember for the latter category in the 2006-07 season.
Michigan State: Guards Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown and center Paul Davis made up the heart of the Spartans’ Elite 8 team two years ago and last season’s underachievers. All three are gone now, taking their combined 54 points per game with them. Junior point guard Drew Neitzel will take over leadership of Coach Tom Izzo’s squad in their absence. Neitzel had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big Ten last year and made 40.4% of his 3-point attempts, but there are a lot of raw, inexperienced players around him.
Besides Neitzel, there is no one else on the roster who averaged more than three points per game last season. None of the three freshmen looks like they will make an immediate impact. Michigan State is in a serious rebuilding mode and could miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years.
Oklahoma: It’s bad enough when your new head coach (31-year old Jeff Capel) is still getting carded at bars, but it’s even worse when all of your team’s veteran leaders have exhausted their eligibility. Guard Michael Neal is the Sooners’ leading returning scorer (12.4 ppg) who, after two years of junior college ball, has developed into a dangerous perimeter shooter (42.4% 3-point FG). It remains to be seen how effective Neal will be without Kevin Bookout, Taj Gray and Terrell Everett to draw attention from opposing defenses.
Capel’s squad will also be a small one, another major change from recent Oklahoma teams. Forward Taylor Griffin is the most likely candidate to replace Bookout and Gray as a force inside, but he’s probably a year away from being a major factor. That pretty well describes the state of the Sooners’ program.
NC State: Wolfpack fans have been quite grumpy in recent years despite former coach Herb Sendek’s despite five straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. Well, the Sendek era is over and so will be NC State’s string of NCAA bids. Despite losing center Cedric Simmons, forward Ilian Evtimov, and guards Tony Bethel and Cameron Bennerman, the Wolfpack roster is not without talent. It’s depth that is almost totally lacking.
New head coach Sidney Lowe, one of the anchors of Jimmy V’s 1983 national championship Wolfpack team, returns to Raleigh from an NBA coaching career to find a roster anchored by guard Engin Atsur and forward Gavin Grant. Atsur has never played a leading role and seems better suited to being a “glue player” and a combo guard rather than the primary ball handler and quarterback of the offense. Grant is a raw talent who showed flashes of excellence last year. Freshman Brandon Coster should help the frontcourt right away, as will junior Andrew Brackman if he sticks with hoops and doesn’t concentrate on his promising baseball career. Reaching the NIT would be quite an accomplishment for Lowe this season.
Iowa: They should sell plenty of programs at the Hawkeyes’ early season games because there are a LOT of new faces for Coach Steve Alford’s team. This year’s Iowa time will bear little resemblance to the group that tied for second in the Big Ten last season. The Hawkeyes' success was based on great team chemistry and the leadership of forward Greg Bruner and guard Jeff Horner. All of that is gone, and senior swing man Adam Haluska will need to step up and pick up some of the slack.
Iowa does have a steady, experienced point guard in senior Mike Henderson, but
West Virginia: No team will fall harder quicker this season than the Mountaineers. It’s great when a magical recruiting class like the one led by C Kevin Pittsnogle and G Mike Gansey are in school and leading their team to great heights, but when they’re gone they take that magic with them. That’s what Coach John Beilein has to deal with this year. He has only two players, junior forward Frank Young and junior guard Darris Nichols, who averaged more than 10 minutes of playing time last season.
There are plenty of newcomers to fill the open roster spots, and junior center Jamie Smalligan (transfer from Butler) will have the biggest immediate impact. Big is the operative word for Smalligan, who stands 7-feet tall and weighs 255 pounds. Guard Devan Bawinkel and forward Da’Sean Butler carry the highest expectations from the group of incoming freshmen. Keep an eye on Jonnie West. He’ll probably redshirt this year, but I hear his dad Jerry was pretty good back in the day. Even though the Big East will be somewhat down this year, West Virginia will sink toward the bottom of the conference.
Of course, if you have good coaching, down cycles in a program are rare and short lived. We’ll see if Oklahoma’s Capel and NC State’s Lowe can make that true at their schools.
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