I know that I wrote about the Texas Longhorns in last week's Sweat Barometer. But, well, that column was really much more about Texas A&M and its pursuit (a failed one) of its in-state rivals. When I got the work-up from Sal of madduxsports.com this week, I couldn't help but give the guys in burnt orange their due.
Obviously, the fact that Rick Barnes' team dispatched the previously hustling Aggies at home and then dismantled the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence -- where it seems Rock Chalk hasn't lost since the Stilt was playing -- makes them a team that can't be ignored (at least until they blow it in Stillwater tonight).
The Longhorns are undefeated in Big 12 play and, more impressively, they haven't had any ugly losses: two points to Pittsburgh; a point to UConn; their worst loss came at USC by 17 points in early January. Any hoop head -- and every sharp -- will tell you that playing on the road against a Kevin O'Neill-coached team is as dangerous as getting between Jimmer Fredette and an open look. O'Neill's teams are always intense, well-schooled and deliberate. They are made to break down any system.
Last season the Longhorns started off hot (they began the season 17-0 and were ranked No. 1 in the country) and then trailed off, finishing 24-10 and unranked. Barnes struggled with finding a rotation and minutes for his too-talented, yet divided team (check out this Mag piece in which Barnes was remarkably honest about his issues). But, this season, that's changed. As sophomore guard J'Covan Brown told Pat Forde after the KU game, "It was every man for himself last year. It hurt us. We didn't know how to get it back together. That's the first thing Coach said this year: We had to stay together as a team."
The team has the right blend of experience (two senior starters and one sophomore starter plus Brown getting 20 minutes off the bench) and wide-eyed talent (two freshman starters) to be enticing for bettors. The adage is that wiseguys love to bet on experience. When power-rating a team, nearly all of the handicappers I talk to look at point guards and experience first. A team can lose an All-America forward, but if the junior point guard who scores just six points a game comes back, the rating for that team won't dip as much as you think. But they also recognize the game has changed over the past decade. Freshmen can come in and, after years of traveling the AAU circuit, their bodies and psyches take less time to adjust to the rigors of college hoops. Road games in Ames in January are not as daunting as they used to be.
For Texas, the mix -- Barnes has nine players averaging double-digit minutes -- is translating not just into wins, but impressive wins by wide margins. The Longhorns are the highest-rated Top 25 team in the Sweat Barometer and third overall. On average Texas' closing lines show it to be a little more than seven-point favorite on average. And, with a SB number of nearly six, it means the Horns aren't just covering decent-sized spreads, they are doing so handily.
Each week Jason Gilbert from Streak for the Cash will shed light on where some of the biggest opportunities are if you're looking to score in the sweepstakes.
It was a quiet week for Streak upsets, a little too quiet. Plenty of public favorites had great weeks, including Connecticut and the still-undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. Both teams had two props on the board this week and helped extend streaks. As for some surprising and upsetting defeats to the public, the places to look were mostly in the non-power conferences.
Sunday, a dependable mid-major team in years past, Southern Illinois, fell on the road to Illinois State. Even though SIU was a one-point dog, 92 percent of Streakers had it winning -- they haven't been paying attention. The loss made Southern Illinois 5-11-2 ATS this season and just 1-5-1 on the road. Another usually solid team, Dayton, hurt 91 percent of Streakers when it lost to Richmond at home as a 2.5-point favorite. Don't be down: the Flyers are a solid 10-5 ATS and 5-2 ATS at home. The biggest loss of the week came from Maryland, which was favored by 5.5 against Virginia Tech and got manhandled 74-57, destroying 95 percent of Streaks. It's hard to believe but that loss made the Terrapins 2-7 at home this season!
Here's a look at how the Sweat Barometer rankings shake out (through games played Tuesday):