College Basketball Handicapping: Top 5 ATS Teams
by Aaron Smith - 1/17/2013
The college basketball season is a couple months old. There are no remaining unbeatens. As conference play gets going at full speed, the action will just get hotter over the coming weeks. For most bettors, the most important factor is who covers the pointspread and who doesn’t.
We wanted to take a look at the top five ATS teams through the first two months of the season. A couple of these teams might be teams you would expect to see here, but there are definitely some under-the-radar surprises as well. Can these teams that are beating the odds keep up their outperformance? Let’s take a look at them on a case-by-case basis. Statistics used are for games from the beginning of the season through Jan. 16.
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Top Five College Basketball ATS Teams This Season
1. Appalachian State Mountaineers (10-0 ATS) Jason Capel’s Appalachian State Mountaineers are unbeaten against the spread so far this year. You might think that means that the team is having a great year, but they are actually only 7-8 overall. Early in the year, the Mountaineers actually lost seven straight games. They are currently on a five-game winning streak. This team can put up the points, but their terrible defense gets them in trouble against quality opponents. Close losses against Virginia Tech, Duquesne, and South Carolina show that this team can play with the big boys. You have to expect the oddsmakers to catch up to this team soon. It isn’t very often that you see a 10-0 ATS team in college basketball.
2. Creighton Bluejays (12-4 ATS) This is probably the least surprising team in the Top 5. Everyone knew the Bluejays were stacked heading into the season, and that has been evident in most of their games this year. Doug McDermott is arguably the best scorer in the nation. McDermott is a 6-foot-8 forward who can score from anywhere on the floor. He is averaging 24 points per game so far this year. Even though McDermott is great, this is far from a one-man team. Creighton has a dominant center in Gregory Echenique. The Bluejays have five players shooting at least 44 percent from beyond the arc. As a team, the Bluejays knock down amazing 45.4 percent from three-point range. With this team’s offensive efficiency, it’s hard to imagine them hitting a terrible slump.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (9-2 ATS) Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners went 15-16 last year, so it has to be considered a surprise to see them sitting at 13-3 through 16 games this season. This is a team without a superstar, but they are loaded with solid players who are playing great within the system. In the past couple years; Oklahoma has been mediocre on both ends of the floor. The big area of improvement this season has been on the defensive end. Oklahoma is allowing opponents to shoot only 29.2 percent from beyond the arc this year. It is important to note that the Sooners lost nine of their last 11 games last year, so they aren’t out of the woods yet. I expect the Sooners to fare better than they did last year, but I’m not sure this is a NCAA Tournament team.
4. Wyoming Cowboys (10-3 ATS) There hasn’t been a bigger surprise in college basketball than the Cowboys. Wyoming was one of the final four unbeaten teams in the country, and they have only failed to cover the spread three times. Can they keep it up? Recent news will make it a lot more difficult for the Cowboys. Luke Martinez, the team’s second-leading scorer, is suspended indefinitely (and isn’t likely to be back) after being arrested for aggravated assault following an ugly bar fight. Martinez was the team’s best outside shooter, so losing him will hurt. Also, the Mountain West Conference is extremely good, so the Cowboys will be up against some terrific competition. Don’t be surprised if this team hits a cold streak against the number soon.
5. Western Illinois Leathernecks (10-3 ATS) We go even farther off the radar for the final team on the list. Western Illinois is part of the Summit League. If there’s one thing you can say about this team it is that they are going to play their style of basketball no matter what happens during the course of the game. Western Illinois plays at the slowest tempo of any team in the country. The Leathernecks only allow opponents to score 52.2 points per game. Through the first two months of the season, Western Illinois opponents have failed to reach 40 points in four different games. Western Illinois shoots 40 percent from the three-point line as a team. The team’s next game is against South Dakota State, the favorite in the Summit League, so we’ll learn more about this team very soon.
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