College basketball might be out of sight, out of mind for many right now, but that doesn't mean there isn't any news coming from campuses that can be utilized by bettors looking to gain an early edge on next season. On the heels of their 2008-09 National Championship, Roy Williams and North Carolina are rebuilding minus several stars while the Davidson Wildcats begin life without the talented Stephen Curry.
One of the challenges that come with handicapping college basketball is the annual roster turnover. Players graduate, leave early for the pros (both NBA and Europe), or transfer from one school to another. Some even give up the game for any number of reasons. This is college, after all, and being a student is all about finding your way in life. Basketball isn’t the way for everyone.
Both schools and handicappers adjust by making the coach the primary focus of the program. People at the top of their profession like Roy Williams and Tom Izzo, the coaches of last month’s NCAA Tournament finalists, have a system in place that recruits student-athletes to fit the template. It’s not unlike working at a fast-food restaurant. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some talented players out there who are more Iron Chef than burger-flipper. Keeping track of their movement is important for sharp betting.
Here are three of the teams under the microscope right now.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Williams and the defending national champions have some work to do. 2008 Wooden Award winner Tyler Hansbrough has graduated; Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington announced last week that they would enter the NBA Draft. Lawson has an opportunity to be a late lottery pick after being named the ACC Player of the Year and leading the Tar Heels to the championship. Ellington was the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Danny Green is also moving on, leaving Williams with Marcus Ginyard, Deon Thompson and an outstanding rookie class.
Shades of 2005. Williams faced a similar situation four years ago after winning the title. With the freshman Hansbrough leading the way, North Carolina went 23-8 SU and blew out the betting odds at a mouthwatering 18-10-1 ATS.
It’s a lot more difficult for a mid-major like Davidson to absorb the loss of even one talented player. But the ‘Cats have no choice. Stephen Curry has announced he’ll forgo his senior season and hire an agent, which will prevent him from pulling his name out of the NBA Draft and returning to Davidson. The first-team All-American appears likely to be drafted ahead of Lawson; LeBron James has compared him to another successful shooter, Richard “Rip” Hamilton.
We’ve already gotten a taste of what Davidson looks like without Curry: not so spicy. While the consensus top marksman in college sat out with a sprained ankle, the Wildcats lost 64-46 to The Citadel as 14-point home faves. The good news is that coach Bob McKillop has been on campus since 1989 and took the ‘Cats to the Tournament the year before Curry landed on his doorstep.
Duke Blue Devils
When you think about recruiting, you think about Coach K. Mike Krzyzewski keeps bringing the Blue Devils back to the Big Dance – the only time they’ve missed in the past 25 years was in 1995, when Krzyzewski decided to take some time off after back surgery. Scout.com has Duke’s 2009 recruiting class ranked ninth overall (Williams and UNC are the current No. 1) with two absolute blue-chip power forwards: Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee. They’re joining a team that went 30-7 last year (17-18-1 ATS) and has at least four starters returning for another crack at the title.
The fifth player in question is Gerald Henderson. The talented swingman has declared his intention to join the NBA Draft, although he’s reportedly holding off on hiring an agent for now. Henderson led the Blue Devils in scoring with 16.5 points per game; if he returns, Duke could be in the same position a year from now as North Carolina is in today.
Krzyzewski could also use some more help in the backcourt with former starter Greg Paulus deciding to make the shift to football. The point guard/quarterback will apparently either play basketball in Europe until he gets an NFL job (Paulus has worked out for the Green Bay Packers) or use his final year of eligibility to strap on the helmet for a team like the Syracuse Orange. Basketball isn’t the way for everyone.