College Basketball Betting: Weekly Atlantic 10 Report
by Christopher G. Shepard - 12/09/2008
Head Coach Sean Miller got his 100th win in the Xavier Musketeers seven-point victory against the Auburn Tigers behind senior BJ Raymond's seven treys in his 32-point scoring explosion. The Xavier Minutemen moved up to No. 10 in the latest AP poll and ninth in the ESPN/USA Today polls released on Dec. 8.
The Musketeers moved to 7-0 with their win over the Tigers but it might not be a long stay inside the top-10 for the Musketeers as freshman point guard Terrell Holloway, who was awesome in Xavier's three-game sweep in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, including a win against Memphis, is sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot for another two weeks.
Last week the A-10, as a conference, improved over the previous week, going 5-11-1 against the number, while posting a 13-11 straight-up record. Even lowly Fordham managed to earn their first win of the season in a game that was off the card; a 79-58 drubbing of Lafayette.
According to the RealTime RPI, the A-10 is ranked fourth among D1 conferences in strength-of-schedule. Although we're only a few weeks into the college basketball season A-10 teams have already faced 11 ranked opponents in the past month covering the spread in only two of those games while notching a 3-8 SU record. Until further notice the trend should be to bet against A-10 teams when they play ranked opponents.
Another trend that you should hammer until further notice is to go against Fordham (1-6, SU, 0-6 ATS) and George Washington (3-2, SU, 0-2 ATS) until they prove they can actually cover. I could put UMASS (1-6, 0-5-1 ATS) in this category as well if I didn't think their fortunes would change in the upcoming weeks. Granted the Minutemen have been awful, but their heartbreaking, 85-81, OT home loss to cross-town rival Boston College as four-point dogs may signify that UMASS is turning the corner.
Overvalued ATS Teams
Undefeated Xavier, No. 9/10 (7-0 SU, 2-4 ATS), leads the list this week as they will host Ohio on Dec. 10 and travel to Cincinnati on Dec. 13. The Musketeers failed to cover the 12.5 points in their win against Auburn in their last outing as they went up 22 points in the second half in what looked like an easy cover until the closing minutes when the Musketeers looked content to just win the game.
There are a few bad omens for Xavier that could cost gamblers. I mentioned earlier the loss of Holloway. What this has done is made shooting guard Dante Jackson run a half-court offense, which doesn't play to the Musketeer's inside strength. Jackson has been having a hard time making good choices under pressure; against Auburn's trap Jackson had eight of Xavier's 22 turnovers.
Xavier, perennially the A-10's best from behind the charity stripe is shooting below 66 percent, which has affected Xavier's ability to consistently cover the spread. Forward Derrick Brown is still nursing a sprained ankle and is having trouble getting back on defense as witnessed against Auburn when he tallied only three rebounds. Until Xavier is healthier and starts burying their foul shots as well as playing better defense I see them as a "public" overvalued team.
I am also going to put Temple in this category despite winning and covering the spread in their last outing against Penn State. The win snapped Penn State's nine-game home win streak and the Owls three-game losing streak. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Owls covered on the same night Lavoy Allen returned from injury. What is of more concern is that A-10's leading scorer, guard Dionte Christmas, had his worst game in a long time and only hit 1-7 FGs with 5:15 to play in the game. While the Owls won on defense their four-guard set that they have been forced to play due to injuries will be severely tested this week against Tennessee and next week on the road against Kansas.
Undervalued ATS Team
Rhode Island (6-3 SU, 5-2 ATS) was my undervalued ATS team in last week's column and the Rams did not disappoint this week, going 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS. The Rams are in third place in the win column in the A-10 and most likely will not have a listed game this week as they play New Hampshire and Central Connecticut. This week I have two teams moving from overvalued to undervalued and hopefully I am catching them at the right time.
The good news for the Charlotte 49ers (2-6 SU, 3-5 ATS) is that due to a scheduling conflict they will not play Davidson on Dec. 10, the first time in 31 years the teams will not meet. As a result the 49ers will play at Mississippi State this week. Last week the 49ers won and covered a tough game at Southern Illinois as 5.5-point dogs. The win halted their longest losing streak since 1985-86 season and perhaps the win will spur more victories. The 49ers average 8.25 steals per game and with their offense is seemingly pulling together behind the sharp-shooting guard Ian Anderson, who was 6-8 beyond the arc against the Salukis.
UMASS (1-6, 0-5-1 ATS) is quietly improving their play although their numbers SU and ATS belie this statement. Senior forward Tony Gaffney has been impressive this year with four double-doubles in seven games. Defensively Gaffney has proved his value on defense as he leads the A-10 in rebounding at with 13.1 rebounds per game and had a career high nine blocked shots against Boston College. This is a major reason why the Minutemen were able to take BC to the brink. While the OT loss was difficult for UMASS I saw the maturity in the players that was absent so far this year. One shining example was junior guard Ricky Harris who scored 35 points at BC. This was the highest output by a Minuteman since Marcus Camby dropped 38 on Dayton in 1996. This week UMASS will host Holy Cross and Kansas and due to their abysmal record SU and ATS I see the Minutemen getting a good number from Vegas and will cover their first games of the season.
ATS Surprise of the Week
On Dec. 14 the Villanova Wildcats (8-0 SU, 3-2 ATS) will visit the LaSalle Explorers (4-3 SU, 2-1-1 ATS). LaSalle has won three consecutive games and improved to 4-3 after beating Hartford, 70-64, on Dec. 6 in an unlisted game. 'Nova will be coming into this tilt off a three-game home stretch, but will be playing in their third game in five days as they have Texas on the 9th and St. Josephs on the 11th.
LaSalle's three losses have come to UCONN, Florida State and Southern Mississippi who are now a combined 20-4 SU. The Explorers have gone 1-1-1 ATS in those games. Junior Rodney Green, who could be one of the best guards you don't know about in the A-10 is one reason I like LaSalle as my ATS surprise of the week. In the Explorer's road victory at Hartford Green tied high scorers with 14-points. Green seems to rise to the occasion when playing marquee (on TV) matches. Green recorded 25 points against UCONN and 22 points against Southern Mississippi.
The Explorer's last three listed games have gone over the posted total so a total play on this match should be considered as well if you don't like taking the points. The Explorers have four returning starters and six of their seven top scorers from last year. If the Explorers have a weakness it's their outside shooting after Darnell Harris led the A-10 in three's last year. Despite the fact that A-10 teams have only two wins against ranked teams, Villanova is currently ranked No. 15 in the latest AP poll, I like LaSalle in this spot to cover the spread at home, even though a cover in this spot would be a huge surprise.