NCAA Basketball Handicapping: Hottest College Hoops Teams
by Robert Ferringo - 2/11/2013
It is a splintered, unpredictable landscape in the realm of college basketball at the moment. Graduation, defection to the NBA, injuries, and a shifting conference landscape has created a storm of uncertainty this year. Mix in plenty of shaky play on the hardwood, and all of this has made for one of the more volatile college basketball betting markets in years.
However, there are still some solid exceptional moneymakers – blue chip stocks – in this crazy market. The trick is knowing where to find them.
Below I have some analysis on some of the hottest teams in college basketball betting. Some of these teams are among the hottest overall in the country. Others might not be making waves nationally – or even competing in the standings of their conference – but they have been pure gold for faithful backers over the last month.
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A college hoops team that goes on a serious run against the spread needs the right setup: momentum, a favorable schedule, low expectations and a slow-moving public. The teams I discuss have each had those benefits since the holidays. However, value in betting is a funny thing; the minute you think you have found a moneymaker is the minute that the books and the betting public adjust and suck all that extra value down the drain.
Here is a look at the hottest team in each of the top conferences in college basketball:
ATLANTIC 10 – BUTLER (11-4-1 ATS run)
An honorable mention goes to St. Louis (6-0 ATS) and Massachusetts (7-2 ATS) in the ultra-competitive A-10. But in its maiden voyage the Bulldogs are navigating the Atlantic seas with ease. The Bulldogs are in a first-place tie in the league despite facing the third-toughest schedule in the A-10 to this point. Three of their next four games are at home leading into a daunting St. Louis-at VCU-at Massachusetts stretch. But Butler has been excellent in the post, and Rotnei Clarke has been perhaps the biggest impact transfer in the country. This team is capable of another postseason run.
ACC – MIAMI (9-2 ATS run)
I think that a lot of the value on the Hurricanes may have been sucked out of the room thanks to their demolition of North Carolina last Saturday. The Hurricanes have blown out Duke and UNC this year, and they also boast a road win at N.C. State. Miami has won 11 straight games and they are a perfect 10-0 in league play. However, with so many college hoops bobbleheads lobbying for them as the No. 1 team in the country in the latest polls, I think the word is out on this team. I expect a significant spike in their spreads, and we’ll see if this team can maintain its high level of play. They are an outstanding team, with a brilliant blend of suffocating defense, savvy guard play, and size and athleticism in the paint. To this point, Jim Larranaga has to be on the short-list for the National Coach of the Year.
BIG 12 – IOWA STATE (7-3 ATS run)
No one is too hot in the Big 12 right now, and this conference, overall, is struggling a bit. However, the Cyclones have had a nice start to league play and have still been able to stay under the radar. They are in a three-way tie for fourth place, and they didn’t receive a single Top 25 vote in either poll. So this team is still lying in the weeds. But they are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games and have been outstanding in Ames. Fred Hoiberg has a very athletic team that has six players scoring at least 9.3 points per game. This team is one of the more experienced in the country, and I think they will continue their solid play.
BIG EAST – GEORGETOWN (8-2 ATS run)
The Hoyas started Big East play losing back-to-back games to Marquette and Pittsburgh and were completely forgotten about. They have won seven of eight games since, including a big win at Notre Dame followed by a home upset of Louisville, and things are clicking for John Thompson III’s squad. But beware: Georgetown has played the No. 12 (of 15) ranked schedule in the Big East so far. Three of their next five games are on the road, including back-to-back games at Syracuse and at Connecticut, and this team – which has virtually no depth or experience – could be peaking way too early.
BIG TEN – IOWA (12-4 ATS run)
The Big Ten has gotten a ton of attention for the powerhouse teams at the top of the conference. But no one has noticed how well Iowa has been playing. The Hawkeyes have been one of the best bets in the country this year because they are the perfect balance of being good enough to play with the conference’s top-tier teams but not good enough to beat them. Iowa’s 4-7 league mark belies the fact that this team has lost to Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin by an average of 3.4 points apiece. Fran McCaffery has a dangerous squad. And while they won’t win the league they could have a say in who does.
MISSOURI VALLEY – MISSOURI STATE (11-2 ATS run)
I know – I can’t believe it either. The Bears are second-to-last in the league standings, but this team has been an ATM machine in Valley play. The Bears are just 5-8 straight up in conference, but they have been able to hang around and tuck inside their inflated spreads. This team had subatomic expectations coming into the season and was terrible in nonconference play. But right now something is clicking with this team, and opponents are having trouble adjusting to their languid pace (No. 326 in the nation in adjusted tempo).
MOUNTAIN WEST – COLORADO STATE (8-4 ATS run)
This was a very tough call between the Rams and Air Force, which is on a 7-3 ATS push. But Air Force has dropped two straight at the window, and I think Colorado State has more “upside” in terms of what they can accomplish. It took some time for this veteran Rams team to adjust to new coach Larry Eustachy. But now that they have this team could be making a surge. They have won four straight and 13 of 15 overall. And what has been most impressive is that this team has absolutely demolished opponents in Fort Collins, winning its last five home games by an average of nearly 21 points per game. Now THAT is how you cover inflated home spreads!
PAC-12 – ARIZONA STATE (7-3 ATS run)
The Sun Devils couldn’t pull the weekend sweep, losing a tough one to Stanford on Saturday, but they have still been able to breathe life into this program for the first time in the post-Harden era. Coach Herb Sendek was securely on the hot seat coming into this year but has ridden sensational freshman point guard Jahii Carson into the top tier of the Pac-12 and into the NCAA Tournament discussion. The have benefitted from the third-easiest league schedule so far. And teams are starting to wake up to how good they are. But Carson is that good, and this team is generating a buzz in Tempe that could keep them competitive. The Sun Devils have covered seven of 10 and 11 of 16 games since Dec. 1.
SEC – AUBURN (10-3 ATS run)
There is a lot of disgusting basketball being played in the SEC right now, and no one is really standing out. But the Tigers have quietly been great at the window. This is another team that has been good enough to compete and exceed their low expectations but not good enough to win games. The Tigers are just 1-7 in their last eight games overall, with the lone win a stunning comeback over archrival Alabama. You would think you’d have to worry about this team starting to mail it in down the stretch. But, with four senior starters winding down their careers, I can see this team fighting to the finish.
WCC – SAN FRANCISCO (11-2 ATS run)
While Gonzaga is tightening its grip on the throat of this conference and BYU and St. Mary’s are trying to build their NCAA Tournament resume, the Dons are busy cashing tickets. San Francisco is on a 6-0 ATS run, and they are coming off a stunning 99-87 win at BYU as a 14-point underdog this weekend. Rex Walters has done an amazing job with this roster after an offseason of turnover, and little point guard Cody Doolin is one of my favorite players in the country to watch. The Dons have played the toughest WCC schedule to this point, they have a quirky style, and they are just 4-7 SU in league play. So I do think this team is going to be primed for an upset or two down the stretch.
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