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Check out the Catamounts

Check out the Catamounts

Check out the Catamounts
By Brian Edwards

With most schools either taking exams or already out of school for the holidays, bettors won’t have many attractive matchups to wager on this week. So with that in mind, let’s discuss a few under-the-radar teams that gamblers should be watching in the coming weeks.

Let’s start with Western Carolina (10-1 straight up, 6-1 against the spread) from out of the Southern Conference, the same league that produced Davidson and its Elite Eight appearance two seasons ago. The Catamounts went into Freedom Hall on Saturday and beat Louisville by a 91-83 count as 15-point road underdogs.

Mike Williams scored 22 of his career-high 24 points in the second half to pace the winners. Jake Robinson added 23 points, draining six shots from 3-point range.

"This was a really good win for our basketball team and I'm really proud of and happy for our guys," WCU head coach Larry Hunter told the Associated Press. "We have a veteran team and they've been through the other end of this. They've earned it. It's a good group with great chemistry and its something we can continue to build upon."

WCU’s only loss came at Texas. Since then, the Catamounts have won nine in a row, including their first two games in SoCon play.

Harvard (7-2 SU, 3-1 ATS) only has a pair of losses, at Army and at UConn, but the Crimson covered the number in last week’s 79-73 loss to the Huskies as an 18-point road underdog.

Tommy Amaker’s squad bounced back from the UConn loss to beat Boston College 74-67 in Chesnut Hill. The Crimson won outright as a 12-point underdog. They return to the court in what is certain to be another double-digit ‘dog situation on Dec. 23 at Georgetown.

Jeremy Lin is a star for Harvard, leading the Ivy League in scoring with an 18.6 points-per-game average. Lin, who dropped a game-high 25 points on BC, leads the Crimson in scoring, rebounding (5.3 RPG), assists (4.6 APG) and steals (2.1).

Cornell and Harvard are going to have an interesting fight for the Ivy title and its automatic NCAA berth based on regular-season play. The Big Red continue to cash tickets at a frenetic clip, including a 78-66 home win over St. Joseph’s as a 10-point home favorite. Steve Donahue’s team is 6-2 ATS for the season and has covered in each of its last four outings.

Cornell is led by Ryan Wittman, who is fourth in the league in scoring with an 18.0 PPG average. The Big Red has wins at Alabama and at UMass, but it lost at home to Seton Hall (89-79) and at Syracuse (88-73). CU plays at Davidson this Sunday and goes to top-ranked Kansas on Jan. 6.

Portland (6-3 SU, 5-3 ATS) made a bunch of noise over the Thanksgiving holidays, beating the likes of Minnesota and UCLA before losing to West Va. However, the Pilots have lost two of three games since then. They lost 86-82 to Portland St. as 14 ½-point home favorites, then took woodshed treatment in the form of a 68-48 clubbing at Idaho.

On Saturday, Portland got back into the win column with a 72-62 win over Denver to hook up its backers as a nine-point home ‘chalk.’ Nik Raivio, the younger brother of former Gonzaga star Derek Raivio, had a team-high 12 points for the Pilots. They play at Washington this Saturday in what will be a revenge game for Lorenzo Romar’s team.

Portland upset the Huskies 80-74 last season as an 11 ½-point home underdog. Washington will also be looking to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to Georgetown in Anaheim at the John Wooden Classic.

Another team from out of the WCC is Saint Mary’s, which is still perfect for our purposes. The Gaels are 5-0 ATS after Saturday’s 81-76 win at Oregon as one-point road underdogs. They now have road wins over the Ducks and Utah State. Vandy dealt Saint Mary’s its lone loss by a 72-70 score.

Senior center Omar Samhan is averaging a double-double with 19.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per contest. Junior guard Mickey McConnell has played outstanding basketball in replacing second-round pick Patty Mills. McConnell is averaging a team-high 5.8 assists and is burying 57.1-percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Like Saint Mary’s, William & Mary (6-2 SU, 5-0 ATS) is unscathed versus the number. The Tribe have cashed tickets in all five of its underdog spots, including outright wins over Wake Forest and Richmond. They lost to Harvard by two in overtime and dropped a 75-66 decision at UConn.

William & Mary could be an attractive play as a double-digit ‘dog at Maryland on Dec. 30.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

What a week for Georgetown, which came to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday having accomplished nothing yet this year. As a matter of fact, the Hoyas were probably the nation’s biggest disappointment last season in not making the NCAA tournament, so they brought a bunch of baggage to the Big Apple. However, after an excellent win over Butler at MSG and Saturday’s domination of Washington across the country in Anaheim, Georgetown looks like a legit Final Four contender all of a sudden. That’s what dominating post play from Greg Monroe gives the Hoyas. They host Old Dominion and Harvard before getting into Big East play.

Tough beat for Cincy backers on Sunday as the Bearcats lost 83-79 at Xavier as 3 ½-point road underdogs. The Muskateers beat Cincy for the third straight year but needed double overtime to do so.

Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo is going to need a miraculous run from his team to save his job. The Tigers have already lost to Troy at home and to UCF on a neutral court. They haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in Lebo’s first five seasons and it’s not looking good this year. During a recent appearance on the Power Hours, Birmingham radio host Paul Finebaum said, “It’s no longer a matter of if he gets fired but when he’ll get fired.”

I know Depaul and UCLA aren’t very good, but I was impressed with Mississippi St. in a pair of blowout wins this past week. When Ravern Johnson is knocking down 3-balls galore and Jarvis Varnado isn’t in foul trouble, the Bulldogs will be capable of beating just about anybody on a given night.

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