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2/1/06 2:25 PM
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Oddessa
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Edited: 01-Feb-06
Member Since: 06/08/2002
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SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES 
  By STEVE KOSMIDER

As we scan through the college basketball betting board, we look at the odds in many different ways. We implement many angles and trends into our handicapping as we aim to find our winners.

We look at road records against the spread and how a particular team does in conference play. Is a certain contest a rivalry game or game with revenge? Is school in session or are students away on break? These are all situations that come into play. As handicappers, we must sort through them all.

Even with all our hard work, there are times when special circumstances are thrown into the equation. In many cases, we aren't aware of them until well after the opening tip off. By then though, it is too late.

In December of 2003, Michigan State was coming off of an Elite Eight appearance the year before. The Spartans traveled to UCLA to take on the Bruins. UCLA had just lost at home to UC Santa Barbara three days earlier in an uninspired effort. The Spartans opened up as a three-point favorite in that game and took enough play to go off at a 3½.

What most bettors outside of Los Angeles did not know was that the court inside of famed Pauley Pavilion was going to be named "John Wooden Court" during a halftime ceremony. Seventy former players, many from the standout teams of the 70s, were on hand for the celebration. A record crowd of over 12,000 was in attendance. Fittingly, as though scripted for a fairy tale, UCLA won the game 64-58. I'm sure many of those who played Michigan State would have loved to have that wager back when they found out about the events surrounding that game.

In March of last year, the Illinois Fighting Illini were 29-0 and ranked No.1 in the country. Loaded with future NBA talent, they were the favorite to win the upcoming NCAA tournament. Media members and talk shows all over the country were buzzing about whether this team could run the table and become the first undefeated team in 30 years.

They headed to Ohio State to take on the Buckeyes in their Big 10 finale. Illinois had defeated Ohio State by 19 points earlier in the year. Illinois was a seven-point road favorite in this game. When the CBS telecast went live to game coverage, it was revealed that it was "Senior Day" at OSU and St. John Arena was in hysteria. Before a packed house, the Buckeyes upset the Illini 65-64 on a last-second buzzer-beater.

The ninth-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers, one of only three remaining undefeated teams, played at St. Johns in storied Madison Square Garden this past Saturday. The Panthers were a five-point favorite. Former Red Storm greats Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson and Coach Lou Carnesecca were being honored at halftime of this game. With all of the excitement in the arena, St. Johns lead 31-19 at the break on the way to a 55-50 upset win.

When Las Vegas and offshore sports books list their lines, there is no mention of numbers being retired or legends being honored. Many people outside of these schools have no idea that ceremonies are taking place and that usually half-filled venues are suddenly standing room only.

As you continue on through the heart of the college hoop season, be aware of scheduling and special events. Don't get sloppy doing your handicapping homework. You don't want to send in a wager on a road team and then turn on your television and see a player giving his mother a rose and a kiss on the cheek. Remember, there are 326 Division I basketball teams and every one of them has a senior night.


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