Five College Basketball Teams to Bet On
by Trevor Whenham - 01/17/2008
When it comes to teams with unimpressive records there are two basic types - those that are better than their record would indicate, and those that really aren't. Both can be interesting from a college basketball betting perspective - the bad teams can be good to bet against, and the teams that are better than they appear can present real betting value if you catch them before they start winning and the public figures out that they are better than they appear. Here are five teams that fit into the latter category - teams that are better than they seem and stand a good chance of proving it during conference play:
Davidson (9-6, 8-5 ATS) - The Wildcats were media darlings coming into the season. They had a strong NCAA tournament run last year, they have a superstar in Stephen Curry, and they had the schedule to create some serious buzz factor. Some less than anticipated results, though, dropped them right out of the public eye. Their record is less than stellar, but it is much better than it seems, and it will only get better in Southern Conference play. Just look at the teams they have played - UCLA, Duke and North Carolina. All three of those teams will be high seeds during March Madness. They, and others like N.C. State, have combined to give Davidson the seventh best non-conference strength of schedule in the country. Most impressively, Davidson covered the spread against all three powers. They have had some notable lapses in concentration against teams like Western Michigan and Charlotte, but they are definitely rounding into form - they have won five of their last six and are a perfect 7-0 in the conference. They need to win, and they have a conference they can win in, so they will continue to improve ATS from this point forward.
La Salle (6-9, 5-1-1 ATS) - The Explorers have a record that doesn't look like much, but over the last month they have shown signs of life well beyond how they appear on paper. They are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games, and they have covered against some teams that are pretty solid - four covers in a row against Ole Miss, DePaul, Villanova, and Florida State. They didn't win any of those games, but no one thought that they would. The point is that they were stronger in each of them than the public expected. The A-10 is not an easy conference at all this year, but La Salle is good enough to win their share, and better than most will give them credit for. That spells betting success.
Illinois (9-9, 7-10-1 ATS) - The Illini have been one of the bigger disappointments of the early part of the season, but I look for them to reverse that trend and return to form later in the season. Their record is worse now than it was a month ago thanks to a recent five-game losing streak. Only one of those losses, though, was truly regrettable - losing to Tennessee State as 22-point favorites. The other four games were against solid Big Ten opponents. The two toughest games, by far, were the last two against Wisconsin and Indiana. It's both telling and comforting that they covered both games even though they were on the road both times. They enter a somewhat softer stretch of their schedule now, and it began with an easy win and cover over Michigan. They have had health issues, but if they can get those resolved then the season should end much stronger than it began.
Austin Peay (11-7, 1-11-4 ATS) - The Governors have a better record than the rest of the teams on this list, but they have such a truly bizarre betting record that they deserve some attention. It seems almost impossible that a team can perform as well as this one has and be so consistently misjudged and overvalued by bettors. They are the solid leaders of their conference with seven wins in their last eight games, yet they are just 0-5-2 ATS in that time. The OVC isn't strong enough that their performance will wane, and they stand a very good chance of winning the conference, but at some point the betting public is going to clue in that they are consistently overbetting the team. Once they do that, and it should happen soon, this team could deliver some real value to bettors. This team may not improve their record significantly, then, but they really can't help but do better ATS. For that reason they are worthy of attention here.
Long Beach State (4-11, 9-5-1 ATS) - Some of the other teams on this list may end up in the tournament, but Long Beach State certainly won't. They may not even end up with a respectable record. Why they deserve attention, though, is because they are a better team than people seem to think. They have only won three of their last 11 games, but they are a surprising 8-2-1 ATS in that time. They have won just once in conference, but the 3-1 mark ATS shows that there is room for hope. This is one type of team that I really like to pay attention to - their record will scare off casual bettors, that will keep lines fat, and the team has shown a continued ability to stay just close enough to pay off their backers.