NCAA Hoops Betting: Under the Radar
by Christopher G. Shepard - 2/4/2010
Four of the Top 5 college hoops teams against the spread have been prominently featured in this space at Doc’s Sports with St, Mary’s (CA) currently in the top spot, earning +1050; Cornell is in second to the tune of +970; Villanova is tied with two other teams for third at +950 (but they are dropping); Northern Iowa and Sacramento State also have earned backers +950 on the season. This week I have three more live teams that I believe have been flying under the gambling public’s radar.
Northwestern (15-7 SU, 13-5 ATS, +750) For the first time this season I am going to look at the Big Ten. Normally when searching for under-the-radar teams I try avoiding the power conferences, but Northwestern is a small fish compared to the basketball programs get marquee billing like Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Simply put, Northwestern is fulfilling Coach Bill Carmody’s vision of being an unselfish team. Read: one extra pass for a high-percentage shot rather than one extra three-point prayer.
And this has been working for the Wildcats who are 2-2 SU but 4-0 ATS in their last four games, including their most recent 15-point dismantling of Michigan, 67-52, as one-point home ‘chalk.’ In that game four Northwestern starters scored in double-figures (just the third time this has happened in the Big Ten play), but more importantly each starter dished at least three assists in the game, something that Carmody has preached since the beginning of the season. However, something the team doesn’t always do a great job at is executing. In the unbalanced game at Michigan State John Shuma dropped 31 points but nobody else on the team notched more than 10 points.
Northwestern will host Indiana on Saturday in a very winnable and coverable game for the Wildcats. Against Michigan Northwestern proved that not only can they distribute the ball but they can pound the inside. Indiana has been susceptible guarding the post and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give center Mirkovic and backup Kyle Rowley a chance to establish their presence against the Hoosiers. If the Wildcats do this it should give them some breathing room to drop a few from outside the arc and another Big Ten home win and cover.
North Texas (13-8 SU, 10-4-1 ATS, +540) The Mean Green lost their last outing to Middle Tennessee State, 64-69, but managed to cover the number as six-point road ‘dogs. This was North Texas’ third consecutive win ATS and second consecutive road game the Mean Green have covered. In fact, North Texas has covered every road game this season but two; Boise State in the beginning of the year and Arkansas State on Jan. 2. This is significant because the Sun Belt is a conference that road teams notoriously struggle in. The Mean Green are .500, or 3-3 in the Sun Belt and 5-6 overall on the road. This team has now covered six of their last seven listed contests.
However, don’t get fooled by North Texas as this team is best characterized by their Jekyll-and-Hyde approach. Sometimes they shoots lights out, other times not so much. Coach Johnny Jones’ team has been doing it behind junior forward George Odufuwa, who has managed a double-double in four consecutive games. Odufuwa notched 26 points and 29 rebounds in a signature win at Western Kentucky. Odufuwa is now 20th in the nation in rebounding. As good as Odufuwa has been in the last four games, Josh White, the Mean Green’s leading three-point shooter (41.4 percent) has only dropped three of his last 16 from beyond the arc!
This team started February with a shot for first in the Western Division. And North Texas has been one of the better stories in the Sun Belt this year. One positive for the squad is that they are a deep team that has played consistently well on the road. Consider that nine players average double figures in minutes played per game while eight players average 15 minutes or more and six players record at least 21 minutes per game. So when North Texas plays team with little depth back the Mean Green big time!
Northeastern (15-8 SU, 14-7-1 ATS, +630) It has been a while since a Massachusetts school other than BC has represented well. But that is exactly what Northeastern has done in the Colonial Athletic and now the Huskies have put themselves in a three-way conference tie for first at 10-2. The Huskies are tied with George Mason in the overall loss column for second and are only two losses behind leader Old Dominion, making the CAA one of the more competitive conferences this season.
Coach Bill Cohen’s Huskies fit the profile of an under-the-radar team in an under-the-radar conference. Northeastern has been on a tear, covering 12 of their last 14 listed games while they won SU and covered ATS their last two games. Realistically the Huskies should have covered against Drexel at home but Drexel ran Northeastern off the court and stunned everyone at Mathews Arena. I think it’s more important to look at how well Northeastern bounced back in their next game when they beat conference leader Old Dominion at home on Jan. 30 as one-point ‘chalk.’
I don’t think the Drexel loss was indicative of how Northeastern plays and in college hoops betting you have to assume that there will be mental and physical lapses over the season. There are seven games remaining in the season with six of them leading up to an exciting season finale at George Mason, which could end up determining who gets their dance card punched from the CAA.
Last week I looked at Arkansas State, New Mexico and Northern Iowa. As I expected the Red Wolves beat Denver, 73-62, as 1.5-point home ‘chalk,’ easily covering the number. New Mexico extended their win streak to six games SU and four games ATS as the Lobos destroyed the Horned Frogs, 73-57, at TCU covering as 6.5-point favorites. Gamblers should note that the ‘under’ has cashed in eight of the Lobos nine games since Jan. 1. Finally, I looked at Northern Iowa as another under-the-radar team. The Panthers escaped Missouri State with a 55-54 win and barely cashed the ticket as a ‘pick‘em’. The Panthers are now 19-2 SU and 15-5 ATS and have earned backers +950 on the season.
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