Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NCAA Basketball 2012-2013: Preview of Wednesday Night January 30th Key Games

Starting this evening and once per week I will post some previews of college basketball games that will take place that same evening.  It will be rapid fire format, selecting some of the most important contests of the evening – most important being measured by the impact each game will have on the tourney chances of team’s involved – and providing a few thoughts on each contest along with a couple selections that will be given out to my clients later that evening.  That way you can not only enjoy reading some previews of perhaps games where your team is involved, you can also get some of my client selections at no charge – and official selections below will be clearly marked, and those same plays will be part of my client’s package that same evening.
Let’s get into tonight’s card – Wednesday is the biggest night of college hoops (and the NBA) during the week – lots of action, lots of work to be done, so let’s jump right in and analyze:
6pm Villanova @ Notre Dame: Nova is looking to build off a pair of Top 5 wins last week and heads to South Bend to face an Irish team that is no longer ranked, and really has been a disappointment this season.  The Cats have historically played well at ND, but the Irish have won the last two meetings including in Philadelphia last year in OT.   ND enters losing 3 of their last 5 with their only wins at South Florida and home to Rutgers.  Big game for Villanova, but a bigger one for ND.
7pm Oklahoma @ Baylor: pair of Big 12 bubble teams (by the time the season is played out in its entirety) square off in Waco.  The Sooners have most of the trends on their side entering this game 7-3 ATS L10 & 6-1-1 L8 meetings in Waco; in addition, Baylor is just 2-6 L8 home games.  Bears did sweep series last year but OU covered game @ Baylor.  OU has lost 2 of 3 while BU has won 6 of 7, both those records SU.  Baylor’s defense could be the difference here.
7pm UMass @ LaSalle: can the Explorers match the intensity of the Minutemen following a pair of solid wins last week?  This is a big game for both team’s tournament chances, and the Explorers have won 7 of the L8 meetings with UMass. 

8pm Iowa State @ Oklahoma State: ditto OU@BU above, pair of Big 12 bubble teams.  Oklahoma State I view as 2nd best team in B12 behind Kansas despite just sitting at 3-3 in conference play so far.  Home team/favorite has dominated series of late.  OKST has won 7 of L9 meetings.

8pm Missouri @ LSU: Bowers returns for the Tigers putting them at 100% health wise for first time in weeks.  I am a big fan of this Mizzou squad.  LSU started hot but has since faded.  Let’s play Missouri here laying the 4 points.

8pm Maryland @ Florida State: I am not a big Terps guy as far as making the dance but they do sport a solid record.  FSU already won at College Park in early January, another loss to the Seminoles could be a killer.  Home team has won 12 of L16 meetings.  Typically I stay away from games where I am leaning towards taking the team that won the first meeting in that same season.

9pm Boise State @ Colorado State: along with the Big 12 the MWC has a bunch of teams fighting for limited bids.  Home team has won all 4 meetings between these schools.  BSU comes in losing 3 of 4, while CSU has won 10 of 12.  The Broncos have a few injuries of note.  Rams have huge edge defensively.

9pm DePaul @ St Johns: big game for the Johnnies if they want to keep their faint hopes alive.  Keep in mind the Redmen already beat the Blue Demons in Chicago earlier this month.  Despite a familiar record near or below .500 DePaul is a tougher team this year than recent history.  SJU has won & covered L7 meetings.

9pm Dayton @ Xavier: both of these teams are barely alive to even get into the NCAA Tournament conversation in a deeper & improved A10.  The Flyers enter off back to back wins; Musks come in off back to back losses.  Dayton has covered 4 straight meetings, but X has the edge statistically.

9pm Miami @ Va Tech: the Canes avoided the letdown at home vs. rival FSU on Sunday following their HUGE win over Duke.  Now they head to Blacksburg looking to extend their win streak to 8 vs. a down Hokies team.  VT has taken care of Miami at home at least their last 5 matchups.  Canes enter this one atop the ACC at 6-0.  I look for a lower scoring game here, and with that in mind getting double digit points as a home dog isn’t a bad option.

9pm Texas A&M @ Mississippi State: the Aggies were unable to leverage their road win @ Kentucky 2 weeks ago losing 4 straight since.  The Bulldogs are down this year and also enter this one losing 4 straight.  A&M's tourney chances are on life support with an RPI of 78, and a win here vs. RPI 218 MSU is an absolute must to have any chance of dancing.  I am not a big totals guy in basketball but the under looks strong here: MSU has scored 43 & 47 points in their last two home games, while A&M hasn’t scored above 54 in their last 4.

9pm New Mexico @ Wyoming: NM enters this game off a brutal loss @ SD State this past weekend where they scored only 34 points, losing by 21.  They still are in solid position to dance with a Top 10 RPI, while Wyoming's chances continue dipping since they lost leading scorer Luke Martinez mid-January.  Almost a must win for the Cowboys here as slim 2pt dogs.  Between these two schools NM has won L3, 5 of L6, and 7 of L10.  Considering the Lobos are coming off a loss let’s back New Mexico here as a small road favorite.

11pm Oregon @ Stanford: the Ducks continued rolling last week taking care of both Washington schools at home.  They have won 9 straight games since at OT loss at UTEP before Christmas.  Of note however is each of their last 6 wins have come by single digits, and only a trio of those 9 wins came on the road.  Stanford has been a huge disappointment this season but could salvage some respect with a win here over the Ducks.  I personally love Stanford here and will be on them pretty big.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

NCAA Basketball 2012-2013: Power Poll January 25

My first and last Power Poll of the season was posted way back on December 14 so we have had 6 FULL WEEKS OF ACTION since then to get a much firmer grasp on where teams lie in the pecking order.  And especially now that we have a few weeks of conference play, which begins to level the playing field, it’s certainly becoming somewhat easier stacking these teams for my Power Poll.  As a reminder, my Power Poll for college basketball includes the Top 15 teams in the country the way I see it.  Let’s jump right into the rankings:
Current Rank, Team, Record, Last edition’s Rank
#1 Michigan (18-1) [9]
#2 Kansas (17-1) [10]
#3 Indiana (17-2) [2]
#4 Florida (15-2) [3]
#5 Louisville (16-3) [4]
#6 Duke (16-2) [1]
#7 Syracuse (18-1) [6]
#8 Michigan State (17-3) [NR]
#9 Ohio State (14-4) [5]
#10 NC State (15-4) [NR]
#11 Arizona (16-2) [12]
#12 Gonzaga (18-2) [N5]
#13 Miami, Fla (14-3) [NR]
#14 Oregon (17-2) [NR]
#15 New Mexico (17-2) [14]

Next Five (in alphabetical order): Butler (16-3) [NR], Cincinnati (16-4) [11], Kansas State (15-3) [NR], Minnesota (15-4) [13], Missouri (13-4) [NR]

Dropped out of Power Poll
#8 Illinois
#11 Cincinnati
#13 Minnesota
#15 Wyoming

Games this week featuring Power Poll teams:
Sunday: #8 Michigan State @ #3 Indiana

I will release my college basketball Power Poll each Friday of the season, to change it up some from the AP/USA Today release on Monday.  That will make it a little more of a worthwhile read since it will include the games during the week, and will be posted right before the weekend’s action.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

NFL 2012 Season Review: Leading Indicators Article posted May 11, 2012

Hello everyone, thanks for stopping by my blog again!  I wanted to provide a few updates before getting into the first NFL 2012 Season Review article. 

There has not been a blog posting here since December 11 due to multiple reasons.  One, it was the holiday season and like many of you I was busy with family activities, travelling, and also handicapping games which is most important because after all, that is what my clients pay for.  This blog is here to share my thoughts, and hopefully educate everyone some in the art/science of handicapping - but it is only posted to when I have time allowing me to do so.  Two, I was ill in early January, literally out of commission for close to 10 days.  I am nearly back to 100% now, and with football season winding down, I will be posting more and more to my blog.

In the coming weeks and months I will be posting numerous NFL related articles - that is where most of my readers interest lies.  I will be looking BACK at my articles from last Spring & Summer where I did many projections using various statistical angles; I will also look FORWARD with at least the same articles as last year - updated for the new numbers provided by the 2012 regular season.  In addition to all my NFL work the following will also be posted:

Weekly NCAA Basketball Power Poll Top 15 (posted on Fridays)
NHL Season Preview (during the last week of January)
NBA New Power Rating System (multiple entries in the coming weeks)
NBA Days Rest Analysis (multiple entries probably commencing around the ASB)
MLB Season Preview (March)
NCAA Football 2013 Team by Team previews (starting in early Spring like last year)
PGA Tour Season Preview (mid February)

Please continue stopping by - there will be at least  weekly entries moving forward.  I also welcome any and all comments, criticism or praise - please email or leave comments here.  Do not be concerned about emailing me - I NEVER use email addresses for marketing purposes unless I am specifically asked to do so.  I also NEVER sell or trade email addresses to other services.  Keep in mind, I have been known to give out free selections or even free packages in all sports based on comments I receive about my articles - if you spend the time to formulate a response to me and its valid and a good discussion point you may wind up earning yourself a free night, few days, or even a free week of selections!

With all that behind us, let's jump into the first article of 2013!

Last offseason in early summer I posted an article here on my blog entitled “NFL 2012 Leading Indicators” which examined three stats I felt were strong predictors of the success or failure of team’s in the upcoming season.  Now that we have the 2012 regular season in the books we can go back, examine my projections, and see how each played out. 

  1. Points Differential: simple calculation by taking the average points scored per game minus the average points allowed per game which yields a points differential per game.  There is a pretty standard matrix across the industry that has been put together studying just this figure over the last 30 or so years, which allows you to slot teams into a specific projected record based on this number.  Once you do that the value to this analysis is added by comparing the actual record of a team vs. the record their points differential suggests it should have led to – and based on that you can green light or red flag specific teams for the upcoming season.
·         Below are the teams I projected to move up or down as far as record went in 2012. 
o   MIA & PHI were the two teams this metric projected would increase their wins in 2012 when comparing to 2011.  MIA did indeed improve year over year (YOY) going from 6 to 7 wins.  Unfortunately PHI did not move the way this metric projected, falling from 8 to 4 wins.  One potential driver of this drop was the QB position, namely, the injury to Michael Vick.  The embattled Vick only started and finished 9 games during the 2012 season, with the remaining 7 games started by rookie QB Nick Foles.  The Eagles were just 3-6 in Vick’s games so in order to at least reach last season’s 8 wins they would have needed to go 5-2 in the other 7 games – unlikely it seems.  PHI is the only team over the last 3 seasons (at least, that is how far I have gone back using this specific stat) that moved the opposite way the stat projected.  There is a lot more Eagles analysis to come as they were the lone outlier on quite a few statistical projections this season, the biggest of which was turnovers & turnover margin.
o   DEN, KC, OAK, PIT, TB were the teams this metric projected to decrease in 2012.  Although the points differential did suggest a drop from 8 wins for DEN I did mention how I would eliminate them from this analysis because of the addition of QB Peyton Manning.  KC was one of my most likely teams to fall from their 7 wins in 2011, and they wound up backing me up after finishing at 2-14, the worst record in the NFL.  OAK was right behind KC in my most likely to falter teams and they did not disappoint as the Raiders only won 4 games this past season, which was 4 less than 2011.  PIT was next up on the list and due to this metric, along with an improving AFC North I felt their win total would drop in 2012 – and it did, falling from 12 to 8 wins.  Last up is TB, and in my initial article I mentioned how it would be tough for them to drop from their 4 wins in 2011 – and it turned out they indeed did not drop, instead improving to 7 wins.  To summarize these five teams, I removed DEN from the analysis initially which left four; I also mentioned TB would be hard pressed to drop from their 4 wins in 2011 which left three; KC, OAK & PIT all saw their win total drop YOY.

  1. Yards per Play: the calculation is straight forward, and the idea here is to take this number for each team, sort from best to worst, and identify outliers – where teams that are near the top of this metric had a poor record, or vice versa.
·         When projecting the 2012 season this summer, here were some of the outliers I isolated as teams that had either a green light or red flag heading into the season:
o   SF & BAL were projected by this metric to have a worse record YOY.  SF fell from 13 to 11 wins, a check mark for this metric.  Likewise BAL went from 12 to 10 wins, another correct projection.  Ironically these are the two teams that will be playing in the Super Bowl next week! 
o   CAR will have a better record, while BUF is on the fringe.  CAR did improve from 6 to 7 wins, while I called BUF to be on the fringe – and there is no better way to define fringe in this spot than a team that won 6 games in both 2011 & 2012 for net no change. 

  1. First Downs per Game: another straight forward calculation or stat you can pull from just about any website, this is a strong indicator of the consistency and success teams have offensively, and hence scoring points.  While the big play isn’t captured in this metric in its totality, a solid way to measure success of an offense is by their first down frequency. 
·         When projecting the 2012 season this past summer here were some of the outliers that could be isolated as teams that had either a green light or red flag heading into the season:
o   SF to have a worse record.  Similar to the Yards per Play metric above SF did in fact move the way this metric projected, dropping 2 wins YOY.
o   CAR to have a better record, while BUF again is on the fringe.  These are the same two teams mentioned in point #2, and both teams moved the way this metric projected.

Looking at the Leading Indicators projections as a whole, I projected a dozen teams to either improve or worsen in record based solely on the three stats mentioned above: Points Differential, Yards per Play & First Downs per Game.  Of those 12 teams only the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the two teams projected to improve based on Points Differential (point #1) moved the opposite way as projected.  The remaining 11 teams in this analysis moved just as my indicators projected!

Analysis like this can be used in the offseason, and applied once the season commences.  The key to being a solid NFL handicapper is completing all your legwork & backward looking analyses by the early summer, and then following that up by working on specific angles and areas for the upcoming season such as schedule situations, coaching trees, etc.  Setting your foundation by examining in great detail the happenings of the prior season can really assist you once the new season gets underway!

Check back in the coming months as I will post the 2013 Leading Indicators article as I once again isolate teams that will either improve or falter as the new season begins!  Enjoy the offseason everyone – but remember, if you want to be a successful NFL handicapper there truly is no offseason!

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