NCAA Hoops Betting: Under the Radar
by Christopher G. Shepard - 12/30/2009
Now that the holidays are about over it’s time for college basketball to turn its attention to conference play. The best team against the spread in non-conference play has been Texas, who marched out to a 12-0 SU record and 8-1 ATS, earning Longhorns’ backers +690 return on their investment. However, Texas and other public teams aren’t the only bookie killers on the card; a deeper look around the country shows that there are teams flying under the radar that have been equally adept at covering the spread.
Each week throughout the college hoops season I’ll cover the country by looking at three teams that have had consistent ATS success while also remaining somewhat under the public’s radar.
Missouri State (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS, +570) – It’s safe to say that the Bears have exceeded expectations as Coach Cuonzo Martin’s team quickly jumped out to a 10-0 non-conference record, winning seven straight at home and three on the road. In fact, as of Dec. 30 no team had more ATS wins in the nation than the Bears. Missouri State’s sole loss was at Arkansas; a four-point OT loss. Despite the close score the Bears shot atrociously and made only one bucket in OT but they were still able to keep the game close. If you have been following the Bears you know that they are only getting stronger from the play of Kyle Weems and Adam Leonard. This is one reason the Bears have posted a 9-3 record ATS.
So far so good for the Bears, but remember last year they started 7-4 in non-conference play and ended up 3-15 in MVC play, and 0-9 on the road. However, there are early indications that Missouri State won’t suffer the same collapse as they did last year. This year’s 11 wins has already matched last year’s total. January should give the Bears a litmus test of how good they really are. They’ll travel to Northern Iowa, the preseason favorite to win the MVC, on Jan. 3 and then three days later they play Wichita State. Two things that look good for the Bears is their lockdown defense and their half-court motion offense. Both have been employed by Martin to a greater degree of success than last year. I think you should monitor the Bears and add them as one of your “play on” teams.
Miami, FLA – (12-1 SU, 5-1 ATS, +390) – The Hurricanes were picked in most pre-season polls to finish 11th in the ACC, just in front of Virginia. Despite their one-point loss to Boston College early in the season, the ‘Canes still wound up with 12 non-conference wins. This is the second time in three years that Miami has started their season with 12 wins.
Coach Frank Haith thinks the Hurricanes are better than the road loss to BC indicated. Miami went into the Christmas holiday on a four-game win streak. Looking ahead on the schedule it looks like Miami could realistically go 14-1 after a West Coast road swing to Pepperdine and then back home to face Wake Forest on Jan. 3.
Currently the average RPI of Miami’s opponents has hovered around 208, but in the ‘Canes two wins against teams from major conferences, Minnesota and South Carolina, their opponent RPI drops precipitously to 62. Miami is prone to playing up or down to the level of their competition. This is something they’ll have to work on, especially in the tough-as-nails ACC. Despite some inconsistent play on offense and defense Miami has been a solid team to back ATS as they are 4-1 in non-conference and 1-0 in conference play and with their tendency to keep games close I see Miami covering more games than they win.
Sacramento State (6-8 SU, 8-3-1 ATS, +570) – The Hornets are team that definitely won’t jump off the card at you and scream, “PICK ME!” But that is what you should be hearing when you see Sacramento in a listed game. The best part of the Hornets is their 6-8 record won’t grab the attention of the public, but sharps know that State has been a bookie killer in 75 percent of the Hornets’ games.
Sacramento State is much improved over their 2-27 record last year. This is the same Hornets team that sported a 39-game road losing streak through November. But it all changed when the Hornets won at Oregon State, one of their biggest wins ever. In December alone this year the Hornets notched three road wins. On Dec. 19 the Hornets beat a solid Idaho State team. One reason the Hornets are so improved over last year is that the team got 12 JC transfers, the most in the nation.
Suddenly the Hornets have been ATS road warriors.And while the Hornets aren’t going to win the Big Sky Conference any time soon, in the public’s mind they are still a bad team. This is a boon for sharp bettors who take advantage of the public’s ignorance. Granted, the Hornets still have work to do on the offensive side of the court; through December they were shooting a paltry 38 percent from the field and averaging about 60 points per game. Last year in the Big Sky Sacramento State was 1-15, but that should change with a winnable game at Eastern Washington on New Years Eve.
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