Midnight Madness has come and gone, so the college basketball season is just around the corner. I can’t wait. College basketball is a brilliant game to watch and an even better one to bet on. There are so many teams and so many games that value is out there to be found for those willing to do the work to find it.
Here are four college basketball teams that, for various reasons, have a chance to deliver some very nice value to bettors this season.
The Big Ten is ridiculously strong up top. Indiana is the top-ranked team in the country, Ohio State and Michigan are Top 5, Michigan State could be elite, and Wisconsin can be a Top 20 team as well. With all of that strength in the conference it will be easy for other teams to be ignored — even if they are playing well. That can mean real value. The team I like to deliver that value is the Hawkeyes. This is Year 3 of the Fran McCaffery era, and it’s the third year when things can really start to roll — especially when they have been moving in the right direction up to this point. Iowa lost only two players from last year, though Matt Gatens is a big loss. They have replaced them with two very nice freshmen in Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury. They join a solid core of players, and Melsahn Basabe is a junior with a chance to be a real breakout player this year. The Hawkeyes aren’t going to contend with the top teams for the Big Ten title, but they have a very legitimate shot at making the tournament. And they are going to be tougher than the public gives them credit for.
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Weber State Wildcats
The Wildcats are one of those teams that, when people think about them at all, they will only associate them with one player — Damian Lillard. The wildly impressive point guard is now a Portland Trail Blazer after being drafted sixth overall in the last NBA Draft. His loss will certainly be felt, but this team will still be solid without him. The new point guard will be Gelaun Wheelwright, a sophomore who was good enough to commit to USC before winding up here. He played in relief of Lillard last year, and he should be in good shape heading into this season. His job will be made easier by two big pieces around him. Senior Scott Bamforth has twice been all-conference, and he is more than capable of leading the way offensively. Junior Byron Fulton was the conference freshman of the year two years ago, and he will lead the team in rebounds while being very dangerous from beyond the arc. Add it all together, and mix in the outstanding and innovative coaching of Randy Rahe, and you have a team that will still contend for their conference title despite their huge loss. That could mean very nice value.
The Horizon League lost Butler to the A-10 this year, so people are going to pay less attention to the league than they have in recent years — and that’s saying something. Bryce Drew was in his first year as coach last year, but he won the regular season league title last year, so he is obviously as comfortable coaching Valpo as he was playing for them. The team should be considerably better this year than they were last year. They have five returning starters, and all five are seniors. Ryan Broekhoff was league Player of the Year last year, and he could be even better this year. The team is deeper than they were last year as well, as Indiana transfer Bobby Capobianco is now eligible to play. He will be a big threat off the bench after his two years of Big Ten experience. Other teams — most notably Detroit — could be tough, but Valpo has a chance to dominate this league and to deliver some nice profits for bettors at the same time.
The Ivy League is wide open now that Harvard has suffered significant losses due to a cheating scandal. Columbia is a team that could quietly be poised to make some noise. Head coach Kyle Smith is a guy to watch. He’s entering his third year at this program and has provided the highest RPI finish in school history each of his first two years. Before Columbia he spent a decade at Saint Mary’s as associate head coach, and he gets a lot of credit for building the excellent program that the Gaels have. Now in his third year, and with five returning starters, he has a chance to take a big step forward here and deliver some nice value as a result.
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