NCAA Hoops Betting: Under the Radar
by Christopher G. Shepard - 1/7/2010
As the NCAA nightly basketball lottery teaches us this New Year has not been a good time to back marquee favorites like UNC, Texas, and Boston College. Looking below the radar you would have seen Charleston, Arkansas, and Maine as three teams with little chance of covering the spread, but they did and that is why sports investing is a challenge.
When looking for an edge in your college basketball handicapping it’s natural to look at teams under the radar. But keep in mind that scheduling is a factor in how a team is doing at any given point in the season. While the three teams listed below have had a remarkable ATS cashing streak it’s good to remember not to fall in love with any team before you have seen how they will perform in conference play. Of the three teams only William & Mary have begun their conference schedule. Baylor and St. Mary’s begin their conference play this weekend.
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Baylor Bears (12-1 SU, 5-1 ATS, +380) The Bears enter conference play on an eight-game win streak and have won 18 of their last 21 games. The Bears are also coming off an impressive road pounding of the SEC. Baylor destroyed Arkansas, 70-47, as four-point favorites and then four days later beat up South Carolina, 85-74, as 2.5-point underdogs. Baylor begins Big 12 conference play at Oklahoma on Saturday and looks well prepared to meet the Sooners.
Head Coach Scott Drew has to be pleased with what he has seen on defense from his team. With Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh the Bears have an all-around defensive stud. Udoh can crash the boards, and confuse opposing offenses with his speed and agility. For the Bears winning back-to-back games on the road in two tough environments was a good preparation for the conference tip-off.
The Bears have also been shooting lights out from beyond the arc; against USC the Bears hit 11-of-17. But they’ll have to keep tenacious as last year if the shots didn’t go in the Bears gave up defensively. So far this year this has not been the case. Keep in mind that after the South Carolina game the Bears led the Big 12 with a plus-11.5 rebound advantage. Last year the Bears had a minus-0.5 rebounding advantage.
St. Mary’s Gaels (13-2 SU, 12-2 ATS, +980) They are not exactly ever flying under the radar, but the Gaels were picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga and Portland. However, Coach Randy Bennet’s boys are in first place as the Gaels head into conference play. St. Mary’s opens the WCC portion of their schedule with two winnable games at San Francisco on Friday and then Santa Clara on Sunday. San Francisco has won only five games and is second to last in the conference while the Dons are coming off an eight-point home loss to Harvard on Monday.
Leading the lucrative Gaels is senior center Omar Samhan, who has quickly and clearly established himself as the best big man in the conference if not on the West Coast. As of Monday he led the WCC with 20.8 points per game, 11.0 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocked shots per game. But Samhan can also be a liability as well. He leads the team with 42 fouls in 15 games and fouled out of three games. Against lowly Howard Samhan was tagged with three fouls in the first half and had to sit on the bench for significant time. He will need to control his wild behavior as the Gaels face much tougher teams than Howard, Bingham, and Stephen F Austin in two weeks time.
If you are planning on jumping on the Gaels do it this week before the powerhouses of the WCC come to play. While the Gaels out of conference ATS is excellent, two SU and ATS losses were to USC (B.M. – Before Mayo) as a six-point ‘chalk’ and to Vanderbilt as a five-point favorite. Even though St. Mary’s has beaten up on lesser competition the Gaels don’t have a lot of depth and losing their center to foul trouble will hurt them when it comes to the WCC. And don’t think Portland and Gonzaga don’t know that already. For this weekend’s games the Gaels should continue to be a good play.
William & Mary (11-3 SU, 8-1ATS, +690) Tribe is 3-1 in the Colonial Athletic and recovered from an 0-2 start to win 11 of their next 12 games. Granted, their first loss was to UConn, but it was only by nine points and they easily covered the 23.5-point spread. In fact W&M covered the next eight consecutive listed games until Tuesday’s bitter home loss to UNC Wilmington. The loss killed a 10-game win streak and W&M failed to cover for the first time on the season as a nine point ‘chalk.’ This is only the second time that Tribe was a favorite on the season.
Considering that Head Coach Tony Shaver’s team has been picked to finish 10th in the Colonial pre-season poll, the Tribe won’t fly under the radar for long if they keep beating teams like Wake Forest and Maryland on the road. Perhaps Monday’s home loss will help Tribe to keep things in perspective. Even so, they’ve played well behind senior Daniel Schneider’s 16.3 ppg and guard Quinn McDowell’s 15.2 ppg.
I looked at Miami (FLA), Missouri State, and Sacramento State. Miami won at Pepperdine, 86-63 easily, covering as a 12.5-point ‘chalk.’ Miami is now 14-1 overall, but more importantly 6-1 ATS and +490. Sacramento State, meanwhile, lost at Eastern Washington but covered the spread but then got blown out at Portland State, 99-64, and failed to cover as 12.5-point pups. The loss brought the Hornets to 6-9 on the season. However, Sacramento State is 10-4 ATS and a profitable +560 for backers. Missouri State pushed or covered (depending where you shop) versus Illinois State at home, and then two days later lost SU and ATS at Northern Iowa. The Bears are 11-1 overall and have notched a tidy 9-4-1 record ATS and +460.
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