College Basketball Handicapping: Potential Value Teams ATS
by Trevor Whenham - 11/10/2011
As we get ready for the start of another glorious season of college basketball it’s a good time to be on the lookout for teams that could be better than the public expects them to be. When a team overachieves while not at the forefront of the public consciousness, they can often be strong ATS performers. That’s obviously a good thing for college basketball handicappers.
Here’s a look at four major conference teams that have a chance to be significantly better than we have come to expect them to be:
Sidney Lowe was great with the Wolfpack as a player, but as a coach he ran a program that was never great and was a mess by the end. They were just 15-16 last year, and they played some lousy basketball too often.
Lowe is gone, and the school made a very good hire in Mark Gottfried. The first recruiting class was solid, and there is a strong energy around the team right now.
Two players lead me to be optimistic about this team. The first is freshman forward Thomas de Thaey. He’s a big, strong inside presence who I really think will take to the college game. He won’t be a superstar player, but he’ll be very useful.
More significant than de Thaey, though, is C.J. Leslie. The sophomore forward is one of the most talented players in the country, but he and Lowe were never on the same page and last year was a wasted season. If Gottlieb can harness Leslie big things could happen for this team.
I’m under no illusion that this is a championship team, but it could be a pleasingly consistent one.
Tom Crean is a very good coach, and this year is when he will finally get to show it again. He took over a total mess of a program in 2008, and it has been a slow and painful recovery process.
He still isn’t likely to add his first conference title, but at least he’ll be competitive. He’s got a solid core of returning players who know his system and can provide leadership. The key here, though, is Tyler Zeller’s little brother Cody.
The 6-11 power forward is the first elite player Indiana has had for too long, and he has the body and the game to be a big factor right out of the gate. He’s not the only reason this team should improve dramatically, but he’s the biggest.
The only reason to temper the excitement just a little bit is that the Big Ten is so deep and so tough this year - eight of the 12 teams are legitimate tourney squads. Still, this is a team moving rapidly in the right direction, and with the recruiting class they have assembled for next year this is the last chance we will get for a while to bet on this team before their bandwagon is again full
You have to respect a team that wasn’t happy with what it had and, as a result, made some drastic changes. By that logic Iowa State should be worthy of mountains of respect.
The Cyclones have no fewer than 11 new players on the team this year. While they will need name tags to figure out who everyone is, the transition period shouldn’t be as rough as it might seem.
First, this is the second year for Coach Fred Hoiberg. He had a lousy year last year, but the team and the school still clearly bought into him and his changes. More significantly, some of the new players are very well picked.
A couple of transfers from the Big Ten are the key -- Royce White from Minnesota and Chris Allen from Michigan State. Both guys are very talented, and they have the experience to hit the ground running.
When things are going good Iowa State is a very tough place for opponents to play, and this team should be good enough to get the crowd back on side.
The Tigers aren’t going to be good this year - a tournament bid would be a huge and highly unlikely accomplishment. They were so bad last year, though -- their 11-20 record was flattering -- that there is a lot of room for them to improve.
At a school that only cares about football it can be easy for a team to improve significantly without anyone really noticing. Last year this team couldn’t score and they were struggling to adapt to a new system.
Now Coach Tony Barbee has a year under his belt, and he now has some firepower to help him out.
After dealing with injuries last year to key players like Varez Ward and Frankie Sullivan, Barbee has a healthy team to deal with. In December Clemson transfer Noel Johnson will be eligible to play as well.
Add those three players to a pretty solid class of freshmen and you have a team that won’t look anything like the mess that this team was last year. This is a team that has 17 or 18 wins in them -- and no one will notice as it happens.
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