Steve Merril’s college basketball report


Virginia starting center Assane Sene will miss as many as six weeks of action because of a broken ankle that required surgery. Sene is a 7’0″ senior averaging 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. He started every game for the Cavaliers and they went 15-2 SU over their first 17 games. Since Sene’s injury, Virginia has gone 2-1 SU but just 1-2 ATS with their lone spread win coming in a 61-60 game as a 2-point underdog. “Assane is a senior and an integral part of our team,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “In all my years of coaching, he is one of the most team-first players I’ve been around. I know he’ll do whatever he can from a rehabilitation standpoint to try and return to action before the end of the season.”

BIG 10: Illinois has a talented 7’1″ sophomore center dominating the paint this season. Meyers Leonard has opened many eyes with his play, and he is currently projected as a future lottery pick in the NBA draft. Leonard is a high-energy guy that also logs a lot of minutes for the Illini; Leonard averages well over 30 minutes per game this season. He is also an efficient shooter as he has shot over 50% in six of Illinois’ eight Big 10 games so far this season. But despite Leonard’s play, Illinois has been terrible against the spread in conference play; the Illini are just 3-5 ATS, including a 1-2 ATS log as a favorite.

BIG 12: Iowa State has played some terrific basketball this season. The Cyclones are made up of a bunch of transfers and head coach Fred Hoiberg has done a tremendous job molding those guys together. One of those guys is Minnesota transfer Royce White who is averaging 13.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. White is doing great work despite suffering from an anxiety disorder since childhood. “To an extent it’s almost a good thing. It’s almost a gift in the sense because I really focus,” White said. “Sometimes it’s a curse, too, because my fatigue level is always real high because of it. I never get to sleep.” Iowa State is 6-2 ATS in Big 12 play, including a money-making 5-1 ATS as an underdog.

BIG EAST: Georgetown has not played well recently. The Hoyas opened the season at 13-1 SU, but since then they’ve gone just 3-3 SU over their last six games. They’ve been even worse against the spread going just 1-7 ATS over their last eight games. A major reason for their decline in play has been their defense. The Hoyas have allowed 70 points or more in four of their last seven games; they held 12 of their previous 13 opponents to 68 points or less. “From the defensive end, lack of communication to lack of effort to breakdown,” said head coach John Thompson III. “The defense has not good,” senior center Henry Sims said. “Transition defense, half court defense. There are a lot of things we have to do better.”

 PAC 12: Oregon has been one of the most consistent teams in the Pac 12 this season. The Ducks have won 9 of their past 12 games, and they are 6-3 in conference play. Transfers are playing a big role for Oregon as Devoe Joseph (Minnesota) is the leading scorer, Tony Woods (Wake Forest) is the leading rebounder, and the top reserve is Olu Ashaolu (LA Tech). Oregon owns three road wins in conference play and the Ducks are also 10-1 SU in games decided by fewer than 10 points, including a 4-0 SU mark in games decided by fewer than five points. One reason is that they shoot lights-out from the free throw line down the stretch; the Ducks are shooting 88.3% (68-of-77) from the line in the final five minutes of games decided by fewer than 10 points. Oregon is 3-1 ATS as a road underdog in conference play, and we expect the pointspread covers to continue.

SEC: LSU doesn’t have an impressive record as the Tigers are just 12-9 SU overall and 2-5 SU in SEC play this season, but LSU has played a brutal schedule; they just played 3 ranked opponents in succession. They get a reprieve as they have no games scheduled for this upcoming week which is a major advantage to have this late in the season. LSU’s remaining schedule is very manageable as only three of the Tigers’ remaining nine opponents are over .500 in conference play. The Tigers are just 3-5 ATS over their last 8 games, but this team will present some good pointspread value going forward, especially in the underdog role.

Written by Steve Merril for

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