Ranking College Basketball Conferences ATS
by Trevor Whenham - 12/13/2007
We are at a unique time in the college basketball season. Teams have played enough games that we have a sense of their relative strengths and weaknesses, but conference play hasn't started yet so we can't do head-to-head comparisons. Some teams look better now than they will in February because their schedule has played to their strengths better than the conference season will. Others, like Davidson for example, have had a very rough start to the year, but the experience of playing above their heads will put them in great position later on.
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The same kinds of distinctions can be made for the major conferences. On one hand you have a conference like the Pac-10 that is looking very strong, while on the other hand the Big Ten has so far gotten off to a rocky start.
For college basketball betting, the ATS records of the conferences as a whole aren't particularly meaningful by themselves. In each conference there are teams that are extremely strong for bettors, and others that are truly disastrous. What you can learn from looking at the ATS records of the whole conference, though, is whether the reputation of a conference is deserved, and whether belonging to a certain conference is given too much credit or is discounted too much. Here, then, is the ranking of the six major conferences in terms of ATS success. As a brief aside, it is interesting that the teams in those six conferences have not been profitable overall while playing against a lot of lower level teams at the start of the year - they are a combined 232-220-9 ATS, which is obviously better than .500, but not good enough to make any money. That's not very impressive given the general level of games that these teams have played. Up to this point in the season, the major conference teams have been getting fat on lesser teams. Of the 73 major conference teams, only four - Iowa State, Cincinnati, DePaul and Michigan - have a losing straight up record as of Thursday.
1. Pac-10 (41-30-3 ATS) - There are a lot of teams getting buzz in the conference this year, and that is paying off at the betting window. The top-to-bottom strength of this league is impressive - only Washington, at 1-6 ATS, has not been profitable for bettors. It's no surprise that better than expected Washington State and overachieving Stanford have delivered payoffs, but it is impressive that the incredibly public Bruins and the popular Ducks have also paid off more than they have cost.
2. ACC (46-36 ATS) - Though this conference is doing well when all the teams are combined together, the profits have definitely not been earned equally by all teams. Four of the 12 teams in the conference have cost bettors money, capped by the truly pathetic 1-8 ATS mark by Maryland - the worst of any team in any major conference. On the other side of success, Miami and Clemson have been very kind to bettors, and both Duke and North Carolina have been able to overcome their gigantic public expectations to post a combined 11-4 ATS.
3. Big 12 (40-33 ATS) - This is the last of the three conferences that would have been profitable if you had, for some reason, bet on every game played by every team. Kansas and Texas are, as expected, leading the way. They are a combined 18-0 straight up, and an almost as impressive 10-3 ATS. Texas A&M has also been playing very well, at 8-1, but they haven't done as well compared to the hopes of bettors - they are 3-3 ATS. The interesting team in this conference is Nebraska. Despite being a somewhat surprising 7-2, they have disappointed bettors by going just 1-3 ATS.
4. Big East (46-46-2 ATS) - It's not surprising that the biggest conference in the country, with 16 teams, has struggled against the spread. With so many teams there are inevitably going to be some stinkers that will pull down the rest of the conference. What is surprising, though, is that the Big East has so few betting stars. Just three teams - West Virginia (4-0 ATS), Marquette (4-1 ATS) and South Florida (7-2-1 ATS) - stand out from the crowd as having exceptional betting records. The conference's two undefeated teams, Pitt and Georgetown, are just 6-5 ATS.
5. SEC (29-32-1 ATS) - If the Big East is short of betting stars then the SEC is a wasteland. Only four of the 12 teams in the conference are profitable against the spread. Vanderbilt (10-0, 6-3 ATS) and South Carolina (5-4, 5-2 ATS) are the only two teams that have offered reasonable returns. The incredible team in this conference is Florida. At 2-1 ATS they have returned a profit, and are covering at a rate that would be spectacular over the long run. It's very hard to believe that a 9-1 team has only had three games with lines, though. Even in those games they have been favored by at least nine each time. This is the definition of a pathetic early schedule.
6. Big Ten (30-43-3 ATS) - With so many new coaches bringing in new systems and heightened expectations it isn't surprising that this conference has struggled. It's just a bit of a shock how bad the group has been against the spread. Eight of the 11 teams have been money losers. The worst offender has been Michigan at 1-7 ATS, but even conference star Indiana has burned money. The only bright lights from a betting perspective in this conference have been the surprisingly strong start Minnesota has had under Tubby Smith (7-1, 3-2 ATS), and the virtually unwavering consistency of Tom Izzo and Michigan State (8-1, 4-1-2 ATS).