College Basketball Handicapping: ATS Greats from Small Conferences
by Trevor Whenham - 02/04/2009
Most casual college basketball bettors make a costly mistake when they bet on basketball. They get seduced by the teams that get covered in the news and ignore more obscure teams from smaller conferences. Some of those teams that fly well under the radar, though, provide more betting value than the better-known teams. The smaller conferences also provide another big advantage to bettors - the level of talent is generally lower, so a strong team can have an easier time winning and covering spreads than a good team in a strong conference does. Here's a look at five teams that don't make many headlines, but which have handsomely rewarded those bettors that have sought them out:
Wisconsin - Green Bay (14-4-1 ATS) - The Phoenix are the second most profitable team in the country after established Cinderella George Mason. They also proved that they are a legitimate team by soundly beating Butler, a team viewed as a near tournament lock, soundly last time out. That puts the team just half a game behind the lead in the tough Horizon League. The leader of the squad is senior guard Ryan Tillema. He's played significant minutes for four years now, but his numbers have elevated significantly. His jump in play has been mirrored by guard Troy Cotton and others. That has helped the team put together by far the most efficient offense in the conference. Combine that with only an average defense and you also have a handy over team - they have gone over 12 times in 19 tries. The Phoenix are only getting stronger as the season progresses - they are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games.
Drexel (14-5 ATS) - George Mason and VCU are the teams that get the most attention in the Colonial Athletic Association, but Drexel, while not the best team of the group, certainly is kind to bettors. They have won and covered their last seven games. Senior guard Scott Rodgers is the leading scorer with just 13.4 points per game. That is fitting for their style of play - they are a lousy offensive team that plays solid defense. As you would expect with that combination, they have reliably gone under this year - 12 times in 17 games. Don't mistake Drexel for a good team, though - their two best opponents have been Memphis and Georgetown, and they haven't come close to covering either time despite being given massive spreads.
Denver (12-4 ATS) - The Pioneers play in the Sun Belt Conference, a place that they don't belong in at all geographically. According to their record, they don't really belong in the conference by their play, either - they are just 9-12, and 4-6 in conference. Despite that, they are clearly good enough to consistently exceed the expectation of bettors. Though they have lost six of their last 13 games, they have managed to go an impressive 10-1 ATS over the same stretch. Unlike the two teams above the Pioneers on this list, they aren't particularly strong on either side of the ball. It seems to be working for them, though - at least from a betting perspective. This team is built almost entirely around junior Nate Rohnert. If he were to get injured and miss any time then this team would be in real trouble.
Samford (11-4 ATS) - The Southern Conference is an underwhelming group. If it weren't for Stephen Curry and Davidson then there is absolutely nothing happening in this conference that anyone would or should care about. Samford is as average as a team can be - they are 11-10, and 6-6 in conference. They have gone over seven times and under six. They aren't strong at all offensively, and only slightly better on defense. They excel at one thing, though - covering the spread. They have covered seven of their last eight, including their last outing - a three-point loss against Davidson as 15-point underdogs.
Weber St. (12-5 ATS) - The Wildcats are the cream of the crop in the Big Sky Conference, but that's not really saying much - every team in the conference has at least seven losses, and none have really flexed their muscles in a significant way. Still, the Wildcats have been very useful for bettors - they have covered six of their last eight spreads, and have gone over the total 12 times in 17 tries. They have been pleasingly consistent, too - they have gone over in nine of their 12 wins, so a parlay of those two could be attractive. The team doesn't have an overwhelming player, but they have a very well spread out offensive load, with six players within five points of the team's scoring lead. They are a very solid three-point shooting team, with the ability to really get hot.