College Basketball Handicapping: Possible Fade Opportunities
by Trevor Whenham - 2/7/2014
When betting on college basketball, one of the finest ways to generate a profit is to spot good teams that are vulnerable and could play below expectations for a stretch of games. Baylor was 12-1 and riding high in nonconference play. They have gone just 2-7 in the Big 12 and have delivered a lot of value for those who have bet against them. In the same conference, Oklahoma State was highly-regarded before they dropped four of their last five. Ohio State was unbeaten until they played at Michigan State on Jan. 7. They lost that game then dropped four of their next five. Identifying any of those struggles early on would have been very profitable.
The five teams on this list aren’t necessarily likely to struggle quite like Baylor, Oklahoma State or Ohio State have. There is a good chance, though, that they won’t be as strong down the stretch in conference play as they have been to this point. That could lead to some nice profits:
Virginia Cavaliers: It is very hard to believe that this Cavs squad is anywhere close to as good as their 9-1 ACC record indicates. After all, this is a team that lost to Wisconsin, Green Bay and Tennessee, during a five-game stretch, to end conference play, and none of the losses were particularly flattering. Their one conference loss is to Duke — the best team that they have played in the conference. Their remaining schedule isn’t exactly brutal, though Clemson and Maryland could be challenging, and Syracuse is a massive challenge. This is a team that just can’t score a lot of points, and that is going to come back to haunt them.
Michigan Wolverines: The team leapt out to a shocking start, winning their first eight conference games after some struggles in nonconference play. They suffered their first loss at Indiana and then came back to crush Nebraska by 29 at home. What characterized the last two games, though, as well as the earlier loss to Duke, was that teams were going to great lengths to shut down Nik Stauskas. The Canadian has emerged as a star and potential lottery pick, and he is a driving force to this team. They found ways to adjust against the Huskers, but they could have more issues against a challenging schedule to come. This team is still very well positioned to win the conference, but they aren’t going to make it look as easy as they have so far.
New Mexico Lobos: This team scores pretty well, and that has hidden some issues and allowed them to open up to a 9-1 record in the Mountain West so far. The biggest issue, though, is that their five toughest conference games of the year are still left to play amongst their final eight. They play San Diego State and Nevada twice each and travel to UNLV. Their record is not going to look as shiny at the end of all that as it does now.
Arizona Wildcats: The Wildcats were clearly the best team in the country through their first 21 games — and it wasn’t really that close. They could still prove to be the best, but they will have to prove that they can adjust to the very costly loss of Brandon Ashley, their third leading scorer and rebounder. He was a very significant player for the team. He was hurt early in their game against Cal. They lost that one and then struggled far more than they should have to beat Oregon at home next time out. It’s hard to be too concerned because the Pac-12 isn’t exactly formidable right now, so they can be much worse than they were and still be fine. Still, indications are that this will be a significant injury with a lasting impact beyond what you might expect on paper.
Cincinnati Bearcats: This team lost two in a row to New Mexico and Xavier in December and hasn’t lost since. That’s 15 straight wins — a true statement that this is a team in strong form. The question is, though, whether it is sustainable form, and it’s hard not to believe that this team is playing at least a little bit over their heads. They have an upcoming three-game stretch against Louisville, Connecticut and Memphis that will really test them, and will give us a good sense of where this team really stands heading into the postseason.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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