Atlantic 10 Betting Guide
by Trevor Whenham - 12/21/2007
There are some things about the Atlantic 10 conference that don't make sense - most notably that is has 14 teams. What is making more and more sense every year, though, is that this is a conference worth paying attention to. The quality of play is extremely high, several member teams are regularly making waves beyond the confines of the conference, and betting opportunities abound. If you're a college basketball bettor and you aren't familiar with the conference, you should be. Here's a look at the teams that matter to get you started:
Xavier - The Musketeers are the class of the conference, even if they had an embarrassing setback against Arizona State last time out. They were conference champions last year, and they reloaded after losing three starters to have a good shot at winning it all again. They are doing it in large part thanks to a couple of very solid transfers. Drew lavender joined the team from Oklahoma, and leads the way in points, assists and steals. He has to be considered in the upper echelon of point guards in the country. C.J. Anderson transferred from Manhattan and has fit right in. He's part of one of the most balanced offenses in the country - six players have scored between 10.4 and 12.3 points per game. Though it's a guard-heavy team, the player with the biggest potential for improvement is sophomore forward Derrick Brown. He's a freakish athlete who has improved at scoring and rebounding this year, and should get even better as the season goes on.
The team is 4-3 ATS and 8-2 SU, and they will be well seasoned for their conference schedule by a challenging remaining non-conference schedule - Tennessee, Kansas State, Virginia, and Auburn. Either they will prove how good they are to the world, or they will suffer a couple of losses and that will keep their lines more reasonable in conference play. Bettors win either way.
Rhode Island - They are probably the next best in the league, but the way they have been playing they are in the argument for the honor of top team. Their only loss (10-1 SU, 7-2-1 ATS) was at Boston College, and they redeemed themselves with a big win at Syracuse last time out. They have four returning starters, including the dynamic duo of Jimmy Baron and Will Daniels. The rest of their non-conference schedule should be a cake walk, so they will go into conference play with a gaudy record that should help their cause when tournament time rolls around. The downside of their winning ways is that bettors will start to catch on, the spreads will start to grow, and the betting success will come back to earth. You might want to jump on the Rams while you still can.
Dayton - The team returned four starters from a solid team (8-8 in conference), so it seemed likely that they would be improved. Their performance to date is exceeding every expectation, though. They are 9-1, and have a huge win at Louisville. Their only loss was at George Mason, so it was certainly respectable. Their 3-2 ATS mark is solid, especially when you consider that they have covered their last three. Leading the way is Brian Roberts. If I was making a list of the most under-appreciated players in the country, this two-guard would be near the top. This is his third straight season of averaging at least 16 points per game. Freshman Chris Wright has been the real revelation. He leads the team in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, and often finds a way to be a key member of the team.
UMass - The Minutemen tied with Xavier for the conference lead last season, but they lost three starters and were expected to take some time to rebuild. Not long, apparently. They are 8-2, and they have big wins against Syracuse and Boston College to their credit. The key to the success has been senior guard Gary Forbes. He was expected to be good, but he has been consistently outstanding so far. He has had 18 or more points in nine of the 10 games he has played. At 6-3 ATS, including covers in four of their last five, the team is obviously better than expected. The way they are playing they could pick right up where they left off last year in conference action.
St. Joseph's - This team found a place in the heart of college fans back in the Jameer Nelson days. This team isn't that good, but they are better than their record indicates, and they could be a good betting opportunity down the road. They are just 4-4, but they have lost twice in overtime to quality opponents - Creighton and Gonzaga. A break in one of those games and suddenly the team has a solid record. Guard Pat Calathes has been outstanding, and is clearly the class of the team. Senior forward Rob Ferguson needs to be a key part of the offense. Early in the year he struggled, but he is rounding into form in recent games and will only get better. Ahmad Nivins can play better than he is as well. He had a huge game against Penn State at the beginning of December. If he can find that form more consistently then the Hawks will be dangerous in conference play.