How to Use the Emotion and Situations Surrounding Last Home Games
As we continue our pursuit of late season winners and evaluate the situations, stats and motivation of teams as they close the regular season, it's time to evaluate an additional late season situation and profile – last home games. I often isolate some solid Last Home Game (LHG) situations that have proven profitable for many seasons. These are not just plays on home teams, but also against losing teams that have "tossed the towel" on a lost season.
Many of these LHG's bring a level of emotion and effort from both the players and fans as the seniors make their final appearance for the home faithful. Year after year we see teams that seem to have lost their way rise up in an emotional spot late in the season, while other winning teams and those pushing for a conference title bring their best in a late season redemption or LHG spot.
These kind of efforts and situations are prevalent throughout the final weeks of the season, and it gives you an idea of the emotion and meaning of these late season contests in front of their home fans. While some teams are pushing for conference titles, others are just trying to finish above .500 or prepare themselves for the upcoming conference tournaments. Other teams are playing out the string and know the conference tournament is their last shot to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Thus, some of the remaining games will have far less meaning to teams on the downturn or struggling with cohesion, chemistry and potential coaching changes.
Coaches likely on the way out can impact player performance and their ability to respond, so pay attention to potential deadbeat coaches on the way out and also teams that have 'tossed the towel' on a lost season. While there may appear to be some value in the betting line, you must still be careful betting on some teams who have failed to be competitive. That would be the case for UNLV (10-18), as the Rebels have suffered through one of the worst seasons in history in Las Vegas. UNLV enters their Feb. 25 match-up with first-place rival Nevada on an 8-game losing streak and 2-10-1 ATS run. Big revenge for a 104-77 beat down in Reno Feb. 8 should seemingly be a game the Rebels will give a big effort as a big home 'Dog and also off an embarrassing 81-58 loss at fellow Mountain West bottom feeder Air Force. As indicated, there is usually a game or two down the stretch when a losing team will bring their best effort, and a rivalry or revenge situation is often the best spot. So too is the last home game, but watch and observe a team's chemistry, coaches and comments and how a team is playing and performing. The sports books will often 'tax' a winning home team with more to play for and also give far less credit to losing teams playing out the string at home.
Over the next two weeks we'll see the continuation of many of these Last Home Games. So be sure to evaluate the schedules and situations and watch for last home games and other solid situations (winning teams at home off back-to-back losses) that may provide additional motivation, energy and effort. Evaluating cohesion, chemistry and motivation (or lack thereof) are key factors beyond the stats and box scores, and Last Home Games are often a night when the emotion and energy reach peak levels.
Last Home Games with Conference Championship or High Seeding Implications.
Feb. 25 – Liberty at NC Ashville (Big South)
Feb. 25 – UCLA at Arizona (Pac-12)
Feb. 27 – Baylor at West Virginia (Big 12)
Feb. 27 – Georgia State at Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
March 1 - VCU at Dayton (A-10)
March 1 – Arkansas at Florida (SEC)
March 2 – Houston at Cincinnati (AAC)
March 4 – North Carolina at Duke (ACC)
March 4 – UC Davis at UC Irvine (Big West)
March 4 – Colorado State at Nevada (Mountain West)
March 5 – Minnesota at Wisconsin (Big Ten)
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay