College Basketball Betting: Weekly Atlantic 10 Report
by Christopher G. Shepard - 11/19/2008
The Temple Owls will look to defend their A-10 Championship behind Dionte Christmas this year but will be challenged by Xavier, which has managed to win 20-plus games in 12 of their last 13 seasons. However, as seasoned gamblers know, winning seasons don't always mean covering the spread from November to March.
I am not going to pick who will win the conference (Temple), rather I will provide an overview of how I think A-10 teams will perform against the spread in the 2008-09 season. To achieve this purpose I have deconstructed the A-10 into three against-the-spread categories. Each week I'll look at the A-10 card and point out matchups I believe that are overvalued, undervalued and that have the potential to surprise sports investors.
Last year, of the 14 teams that comprise the A-10, only five teams busted the books. The Temple Owls sported a 21-12-1 ATS record for +7.8 units and led the A-10 cash cows. The Charlotte 49ers used their 19-12 ATS to earn backers +5.8 units while the LaSalle Explorers managed a respectable 14-8 ATS and +5.2 units. The Richmond Spiders were one of the surprises of the A-10 last year and enjoyed 16-10-2 ATS and +5.0 units. St. Josephs Hawks had a 19-13 ATS record but only earned +4.7 units last year covering a mere 59.4 percent of the time.
Overvalued ATS A-10 Teams
Charlotte 49ers (20-14 SU, 19-12 ATS, 15-16 o/u)
The 49ers are coming off a solid season ATS and return four starters from last year's roster that cashed 61.3 percent of the time, which is exactly what makes them overvalued in my book. Returning starters is maybe one of the most misused stat when it comes to predicting the outcome of a game. Charlotte lost their best player, Leemire Goldwire, and his 18.6 ppg. Head Coach Bobby Lutz's team will have to cut down on their turnovers this year if they are to duplicate last year's record ATS.
Massachusetts Minutemen (25-11, 17-16 ATS, 16-16-1 o/u)
Twenty five wins will lose you a coach as Travis Ford left for Oklahoma State and new Head Coach David Kellog has to deal with the loss of Gary Forbes, Etienne Brown and Dante Milligan; three players who were key to the Minutemen's success last year. Kellog wasted no time installing the dribble-drive offense but UMass has already lost Luke Bonner for 1-2 months so it remains to be seen if 6-foot-9 Freshman Tyrell Lynch can step up and avoid fouling out of games. UMass made it to the NIT finals last year but there are a lot of questions about the frontcourt this year and until they are answered UMass' season looks to be an ATS loser once again.
La Salle Explorers (15-17 SU, 14-8-1 ATS, 14-9 o/u)
Despite the bad memories from last year's 8-8 A-10 conference record the Explorers were one of the unheralded ATS darlings of the mid-majors last year. La Salle no longer has Darnell Harris (led the conference in trey's) but added Vernon Goodridge, 6-foot-9, from Mississippi State. Whether the new blood will lead to more covers for is doubtful but the public will remember them as last year's covering monsters and I expect this perception to artificially inflate the line by a few points.
St Joseph's Hawks (21-13, 19-13 ATS, 14-18 o/u)
Phil Martelli's Hawks lost Pat Calathis' 17.5 ppg from last season but will still field a deep team led by a strong frontcourt. While the Hawks have scoring potential aplenty the secret to covering the spread is rebounds and defense, both of which are suspect at this point of the season. The Hawks return only one player that averaged more than four boards a game Senior Forward Ahmad Nivins. Losing in overtime to Holy Cross won't be the only ATS disappointment for St. Joes this season.
Undervalued ATS A-10 Teams
St Louis Billikens (16-15 SU, 13-14 ATS, 12-15 o/u)
Rick Majerus is in his sophomore year for the Billikens and has been doing what he does best; recruiting a strong group of players. Whether that translates into an improved ATS record remains to be seen. St. Louis returns three starters to mentor the incoming wealth of young talent. Certainly there are questions about the frontcourt, but if anyone can get the most out of his young players it is Majerus. Next week's games against Kent State and Boston College should give a good indication whether the Billikens are undervalued or not.
George Washington Colonials (9-17 SU, 10-10 ATS, 10-10 o/u)
Sure the Colonials covered more games than they won (nine) last season but they were quality wins (sic). GW brings back four starters but rid itself of Maureece Rice, who observers said poisoned the team chemistry. We'll see if that is the case or if the players are just not very good. I think Karl Hobbs' team might be consistently undervalued if Rob Diggs can continue his impressive stats from last year and Virginia Tech transfer Wynton Witherspoon can also transfer his double-digit scoring as well.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies (8-22 SU, 11-13 ATS, 12-11 o/u)
The Bonnies are the equivalent to the A-10's redheaded stepchild. As the whipping boy of the A-10 everyone has the Bonnies finishing dead last in the conference. Of course, with an 8-22 SU, and 2-14 conference record last year it is not really a surprise. But that was Mark Schmidt's first season as head coach. This year things don't look to improve substantially in terms of conference wins. However, ATS could tell a different story. While they lost, and lost often, nine of their losses were by 10 points or less and five of those were kept within 15 points which is why I like the Bonnies to be the ATS surprise of the A-10.
Dayton Flyers (23-11 SU, 14-15 ATS, 18-11 o/u)
The Flyers could go either way this year so I'll have to wait and see. Dayton wins with solid defense and crashing the boards and that looks like it won't change this year. If Charles Little returns to form after an injury plagued 2007-08 Dayton could challenge for the A-10 title, but I don't actually see them improving ATS.
Duquesne Dukes (17-13 SU, 10-13-1 ATS, 9-14 o/u)
New HC Ron Everhart lost five players that averaged more than 9 ppg from the highest scoring team in the A-10 last year. With a tough conference and non-conference schedules this year should be more of the same, possibly fewer covers, as last year. Don't bet them with house money.
Fordham Rams (12-17 SU, 8-17 ATS, 10-14-1 o/u)
The Rams destroyed backers (I am not sure who bet them) to the tune of -10.7 units last year. And this year looks like more of the same. The Rams were the worst rebounding team in the A-10 and unless that improves (it won't) Fordham should be another go-against team this year.
Rhode Island (21-12 SU, 15-15-1 ATS, 19-12 o/u)
The Cardiac Rams had fans believing as they ripped off a 19-3 record to start the season and then came crashing from their overachieving ways as they lost nine of their final 11 games. They've looked good early this year but then they did last year as well.
Richmond Spiders (16-15 SU, 16-10 ATS, 14-14 o/u)
Chris Mooney's Spiders bring back almost 90 percent of last year's overachievers SU and ATS. However, the loss of Dan Geriot's 14.3 ppg and his 5.5 rebound per game might be too much to overcome as I see the Spiders ATS record reverse to 10-16 this year.
Temple Owls (21-13 SU, 21-12-1 ATS, 12-22 o/u)
Fran Dunphy's Owls won't surprise anyone this year. They've got the talent, personnel and coaching to win the A-10 this year. The Owls were the best A-10 team in terms of covers last year. Sure Temple will cover their fair-share of games but you aren't going to get great value on the Owls this year.