College Basketball Betting: Under-the-Radar Teams with Value
by Trevor Whenham - 11/20/2014
One of the biggest of the many joys of college basketball is the capability of teams to come from seemingly nowhere to shine. There are so many teams and so many leagues that no one but the most devoted follower can pay attention to everything. That means that teams can come from off the radar and, for those who are wise to them, deliver huge value for bettors. Now that we are into the new college basketball season, here is a look at seven teams that could be pleasant under-the-radar surprises this season:
Temple Owls: Temple is very likely to get their first loss -- and perhaps by a wide margin - on Friday against Duke. It would be a mistake to let that color your opinion of this team, though. Memphis and Cincinnati get most of the attention in the American, and Temple isn't quite on their level, but they have a chance to be dangerous. They return a good and effective scoring backcourt, so the engine is good on this team. They have two good transfers joining them - most notably Jaylen Bond, who really should have been used better at Texas. Last year was a real disappointment for a lot of reasons for this team, but if they can find their way again they will make bettors happy.
Oklahoma Sooners: The attention in the Big 12 is all focused on Kansas, with Texas getting what is left. Oklahoma won't threaten the Jayhawks, but they should be much improved. Lon Kruger is a very good coach. He has a really nice three-headed monster of a backcourt to work with, and that is going to carry this team. They also grabbed a really nice transfer from Houston in TaShawn Thomas, who was able to become eligible after some concerns on that front. This is an overlooked team in a mostly weak conference.
Xavier Musketeers: Sometimes teams get better when their best player leaves, and that could be the case here. Semaj Christon, a sophomore point guard, went pro last year and was taken by the Thunder in the second round of the draft. He's currently in the NBDL. Christon was obviously talented, but he had to be very involved in the game. In his absence the team can now start an experienced senior on the point who is happy to make others look good. The young talent on this team is very impressive, led by Trevon Bluiett, the freshman who shocked many by reversing his commitment from UCLA to join the Musketeers. This team is deep and well-balanced and will threaten Villanova to win the Big East.
LSU Tigers: Every time I think of the Tigers, I think of how disappointing it is that Tyrus Thomas basically flamed out as a pro, but that's another story. This Tiger squad has a very good frontcourt with a couple of guys who could be playing anywhere. Their issue has long been guard play. They have taken a big risk on that front, but if it pays off they could be in great shape. Josh Gray was a big-time scorer as a guard in junior college last year, but that transition isn't always smooth. If he can shine and the rest of the backcourt can step up then this team could be among the top tier of mortal teams in the SEC - behind Florida, and way, way, way behind Kentucky.
UTEP Miners: I have never been a big Tim Floyd guy - especially in the pros - but he knows how to coach. This team was ripped apart by a betting scandal last year, yet he still found a way to win 23 games. Now he has much more stability around him, and he has three really huge players to work with. The name to watch here is Vince Hunter. He was the C-USA freshman of the year last year, and from many reports seems poised to take a huge step forward this year. In the team's opener against Washington State, Hunter had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Georgia State Panthers: This team isn't ready for primetime yet - they got smoked by Iowa State in their second game, though there is no shame in losing to a very good Cyclones team. This team has a very nice backcourt, and two of the three names are familiar to college basketball fans. Ryan Harrow was on the Kentucky team that didn't make the tournament before transferring here. He was excellent last year. Also with him is Kevin Ware, the guard formerly of Louisville whose broken leg in the NCAA Tournament probably haunts you when you sleep. If those three can find a way to work together - likely on the court at the same time quite often - then this team could be tough in tournament play and one to watch in the postseason.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles: This team got their 15 minutes of fame two years ago in the NCAA Tournament, but they are quite likely a better team now than then. The backcourt features two seniors from that Sweet 16 team, led by the impressive Brett Comer, and they are joined by Jamail Jones, a transfer from Marquette. The team is off to a strong start and should continue that success through league play. They are not at all likely to go to the Sweet 16 now - or ever again - but don't let them completely surprise you in March like they did last time.
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