Five Value Teams in College Basketball
by Trevor Whenham - 11/14/2007
For people who aren't highly committed college basketball bettors and fans, the sport can be overwhelming. There are so many teams in so many conferences that keeping track of it all, or even having a good sense of what is going on, can be almost impossible if you don't put the effort in. That scares a lot of people away, but it shouldn't. You can be successful on a smaller scale just by getting to know a few teams and paying attention to what they have to offer and how they are performing.
One solid way to make a few bucks, and to have some fun at the same time, is to identify the teams that are under the radar but are very good. Those are the types of teams that are a bettor's dream because they can consistently perform well against the spread since the public has no expectations of them. Here's my guess at five teams that could fit that category this season:
Davidson - The Wildcats probably would have fit on this list last year better than they do this year, but they are still worthy of consideration. The team from the Southern Conference (home of Michigan-killer Appalachian State) is getting a lot of attention as a potential Cinderella. I suspect some of that media momentum could subside a bit with a few decisive losses before Christmas. Their pre-Christmas schedule is absolutely deadly, with a game against North Carolina, and trips to Duke, UCLA and NC State. I suspect they may struggle during that stretch, but that certainly won't mean that they aren't a good team - there is hardly a team in the country that wouldn't have trouble with that batch of opponents. I think that Davidson will be solid ATS in conference play anyway (they are basically a lock to win the conference), and real opportunities will be presented if the public sours on them because of their early play. Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA sharp shooter Dell Curry, is the star of the team and he is truly special.
George Mason - These guys were the darlings of the NCAA Tournament in 2006, but they faded from the minds of the public with a bit of an ugly season last year. They ended up at just 12-13 ATS. They should be much improved this season. They return four players from last year's backcourt, which is where most of the points came from, including Folarin Campbell, who you may remember as a starter from the Final Four team in 2006. Forward Will Thomas is also back from that 2006 squad, and he should lead the team in rebounds and will probably be their best defender, too. Overall, they return all five starters, including four seniors, and they add an intriguing freshman in Romanian Vlad Moldeveanu. They should be an improved team and a solid bet.
Siena - The Saints were a solid 15-11 ATS last year, and they should at least repeat that record this year. There's a pretty good chance that they will be significantly better than that. The fate of the Saints rests on two pretty talented and emerging stars. Junior guard Kenny Hasbrouck was second team all-conference last year, and he should be improved this year. He's small but explosive, and is a pleasure to watch. Ronald Moore was impressive as a true freshman point guard, with an enviable assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.26 and clutch late-game play. With experience he should be even better. Coach Fran McCaffery has turned this program around in two years, and I expect that improvement to continue. The team needs to play better defense, but if they can do that they should be a bettor's friend.
Rhode Island - At 12-16 ATS, the Rams were not a good bet last year. I expect much bigger things from them this year. They are a deadly offensive team with all sorts of weapons to choose from. Foremost is Jimmy Baron, the coach's son, who was fourth in the country in three-point accuracy last season. He, along with senior forward Will Daniels, lead a very up-tempo offense which is as fun to watch as it is difficult to contain. They need to be better defensively, but if that is the case then they should be a much-improved team from a betting perspective. If it's any indicator, they won their first game of the season this year by 27 points as 14.5-point favorites and were defensively sound.
New Mexico State - Like Davidson, the Aggies play an early schedule that will leave them bruised. They have already lost to Duke, and they play Texas, Louisville, and either Tennessee or West Virginia before Christmas. Though that stretch of games won't likely go well for the team, it will certainly make them stronger and more effective by the time conference play starts. The Aggies were good enough to earn a tournament berth last year, and they didn't embarrass themselves in their first round loss to Texas. One key for the team will be to have Justin Hawkins emerge as a star, and the guard is certainly playing well to start this season. The team should be a force, and a solid bet, in the WAC.