With finals exams upon us, the college basketball card is light so I'll be providing conference breakdowns throughout the week.
- I wrote yesterday about Kentucky's strong under trend. You can read it here
. Last year, playing Florida over the total was one of the more frustrating bets on the board. Billy Donovan had his hand in every play and the Gators averaged about 65 possessions per game. This year has been completely different. Florida has already played seven games with 70 or more possessions whereas last season only four games topped that mark. And there is no reason for Donovan to ask for a more controlled environment as the Gators average 1.19 points per possession – the top mark in the nation. Alabama opened the year competitively lined against Maryland, Purdue and Wichita and won and covered all three contests. Then for whatever reason, the Crimson Tide was priced as an elite level team which they are clearly not. They've failed to cover each of their last four contests – two of which they lost outright. A bet against team until the oddsmakers make some sort of adjustment.
I notice that Vanderbilt is allowing over 50% on two-point field goals (245th nationally) but that should improve with Festus Ezeli back in the lineup. His defense and highly efficient offensive game will provide a much needed boost to a team that has underachieved. Is Mississippi State actually playing smart, team oriented basketball? So far, so good. As Brent Crow pointed out on Tuesday's podcast, Arnett Moultrie is a difference maker and the Bulldogs seemed to have rid themselves of the jack-a-shot syndrome. I'm still standing by for an inevitable midseason swoon however. Ole Miss is off to an 8-1 start and offense had little to do with it. The Rebels are shooting 27% from three and 57% from the free throw line – a death sentence in years past. They had an 96-point hiccup against Marquette but other than that, this team has been better than expected on the defensive end of the floor. Arkansas is young and lacks depth which doesn't exactly suit what head coach Mike Anderson needs to run his system. This team will struggle to finish above .500.
LSU looked a bit more dynamic on offense in the early going but over the last few weeks it has been the same old Trent Johnson coached team. In wins over Houston, Rutgers and Boise State, the Tigers averaged less than 60 ppg. Never a good sign when a power conference team can't average a point per possession in the non-conference. The fact that they are 6-3 is a testament to the defense which remains stout. Unfortunately, lack of offense will keep this team from making much noise in the SEC. Tennessee has been a weird case study thus far as head coach Cuonzo Martin has allowed the Vols to play at an up-tempo pace. Scoring hasn't been a problem but defensively, it has been ugly. Austin Peay was 1-9 and came away with a 74-70 win in Knoxville last Saturday. The Governors shot 72% in the second half. I would expect Martin takes the appropriate steps to shore up the defense before conference play starts. Georgia has played a fairly tough non-conference schedule which allowed bettors to witness just how bad the offense is. The Bulldogs rank 300th in effective FG% (43.7) and have topped a point per possession in only two games (vs. South Dakota State and Colorado). This Saturday's game against USC may not top 100 points.
South Carolina is another squad that has struggled on offense. Since putting up 75 vs. Western Carolina to open the season, the Gamecocks have scored 53, 63, 61, 62, 60, 67 and 58. How do we judge Auburn? The Tigers have played only five games and four came against garbage opponents. In their lone step up in class, they lost 81-59 at Seton Hall. Not a good sign. And despite playing the likes of Kennesaw State, Nicholls State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Auburn currently averages less than a point per possession. Yikes.