College Basketball Betting: Top Teams Against the Spread
by Robert Ferringo - 2/6/2015
I have been handicapping college basketball for a decade. And I can tell you that there is no better feeling than getting in early on a team that you know is undervalued and then cashing ticket after ticket as the sportsbooks and the betting markets struggle to catch up.
Driving the bandwagon is a lot more profitable than being the last guy to jump on board. The sportsbooks survive thanks to their ability to sense a threat and snuff it out. So when a team can make it into February winning 70 percent of its games against the spread then that team is something to celebrate. And that team is also a group that you need to make a tough decision about: are they good enough to keep betting on or is it time to start playing against the top ATS teams under the assumption that the books will catch up?
Below is a look at the best college basketball teams against the spread so far this season. I think that more than half of these teams are going to have a losing record against the spread the rest of the season. But the trick is - and that's why the professionals are the professionals - picking the right ones to fade and the right ones to follow.
Here is a look at this season's top ATS earners to this point of the season:
Providence (14-6 Against The Spread)
Ed Cooley's team has been doing work all season long. They have been outstanding against the nation's No. 19 schedule. Granted, they have some red-flag losses to regional rivals Boston College and Brown. And they have been swept by meager St. John's. But other than that the Friars have wins over Notre Dame, Miami, Butler, Xavier and a sweep of Georgetown. LaDontae Henton is the most underrated player in the country, and point guard Kris Dunn is a future pro (if he stays healthy; which he won't). The key to Providence's success has been their work as an underdog. The Friars are 7-2 ATS when catching points with six outright wins in that role.
North Dakota State (14-7 ATS)
I don't know what's in the water up in Fargo, but the Bison just keep cashing tickets. Last year they not only went to the NCAA Tournament but they won a game, taking down Oklahoma in overtime. NDSU lost three starters and five of their top seven players from that team - and they might be even better! They real secret to NDSU's success may just be that the Summit is significantly weaker this year after a banner 2014. Last year four teams finished ranked in the Top 150, while this year just one is. The Bison simply haven't fallen off the pace as much as their weak sister counterparts.
Massachusetts (14-7 ATS)
I've been pleasantly surprised by how well UMass has held up after graduating one of the top players in school history in Chaz Williams. They've clearly taken a step back (13-9 SU) after entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed last season. But the Minutemen have battled in every game a gainst one of the most difficult schedules in the country. They've played only two games against teams ranked outside the Top 200 - their last two - but remain a salty veteran bunch. Their middle-of-the-pack status should keep their spreads reasonable, and I think this team still has some ATS wins left in it, especially in the underdog role.
St. Mary's (14-5 ATS)
Head coach Randy Bennett deserves a ton of credit for what he's been able to do in Moraga this year. He's been able to seamlessly work in two Pac-12 castoffs, Desmond Simmons (Washington) and Aaron Bright (Stanford), and the Gaels haven't missed a beat in a stacked WCC. This is one of the most experienced teams in the country, and I expect them to go down swinging in the last month of league play.
Utah (14-5 ATS)
The Utes have been the most impressive team on this list simply because everyone knows they are good - they are currently No. 13 in the AP Poll - but they still keep cashing tickets. Utah has benefitted from a home-heavy schedule, and they close Pac-12 play with five road games to just four more home games. Utah has really struggled outside of Salt Lake City the past several season, and their earning potential is tied directly to their ability to play well in opposing gyms.
Yale (8-3 ATS)
Harvard entered the year as the runaway Ivy League favorite, but Yale currently has control in the nation's only conference without a league tournament. Yale beat Connecticut back in December and threw scares into Providence and Vanderbilt. They host Harvard this Saturday in a game that will have massive ramifications in the league.
Idaho (12-4 ATS)
Idaho is really a bit of an anomaly because they are the only team on this list that currently has a losing record. They are just 9-11 overall and 4-5 in league play in the Big Sky. Moving to their new conference was actually a step down after years in the WAC. I don't think I'd say that they've responded - but they keep cashing tickets! Idaho has lost five of its last six games but covered the spread in six of their last eight. They get credit for not being as terrible as people think, I suppose, but four of their last seven ATS wins have come by two points or less, so the books are clearly catching up.
Seton Hall (15-6 ATS)
The Pirates have been a money burner for years, turning in just two profitable seasons in the last 10 years. But they have exploded this season thanks to an influx of freshman talent that includes stud guard Isaiah Whitehead. Whitehead was the catalyst for this team's early-season success, but then he missed nine games with a stress fracture. The Pirates finally ran out of steam without their top frosh, going just 1-4 ATS from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25. But they have covered two of their last three games, including Whitehead's return on Jan. 31. The Big East is a bear. And this team has been flying a bit below the radar. Their earning potential rests solely on how quickly Whitehead can get back up to speed.
UC-Davis (13-4 ATS)
This is the deepest and most talented Big West Conference season that I can remember. UC-Davis is 17-4 SU and 7-1 in league play, and they just lit up last year's NCAA Tournament rep, UC-Irvine, despite being nearly a double-digit underdog. Last year this team was devastated by injuries, losing top forwards Josh Ritchart and J.T. Adenrele. That duo is back, and it has made a big impact on both ends of the floor. However, the engine of this team is Corey Hawkins, one of the best mid-major guards in the country. He's averaging 21.3 points per game and shooting over 50 percent from the field (51.2) and from 3-point range (52.6). He's the top player in the league and has helped the Aggies place in the Top 5 in the country in offensive efficiency.
Bowling Green (12-3 ATS)
Former Wichita State assistant Chris Jans has been a smash hit in his first year as headman in Bowling Green. Granted, he walked into a situation with a veteran team that is stacked with juniors and seniors. But Jans' offensive style has been a welcome change to the slow-slower-slowest, post-oriented approach former head man Louis Orr favored. Defensively this is a Top 20 unit. But I think they will struggle to continue to cover spreads now that they will be favored more and forced to cover some thicker numbers. They went on the road and took care of Central Michigan on Wednesday. If they can continue that road success then they'll keep earning.
Davidson (13-4 ATS)
The Wildcats have run a barnstorming tour in their first season through the Atlantic 10 after decades of calling the Southern Conference home. Davidson is No. 8 in the country in points per game, and they have covered the spread in eight of their last 10 outings. The Wildcats are doing this after losing three starters from last year and despite the fact that they are one of the better-known mid-major teams in the nation. However, they were dealt another tough injury blow this past week when lead guard and No. 2 scorer Jack Gibbs tore his meniscus. Davidson has four other double-digit scorers. But without Gibbs, and with books and bettors catching up to them, I think Davidson may be a team to fade down the stretch, as evidenced by Wednesday's loss (as a nine-point favorite) to St. Bonaventure.
Georgia Southern (12-1 ATS)
I feel pretty confident betting that you, reading this right now, couldn't tell me what conference Georgia Southern is in. The Eagles are in first place in the Sun Belt, their new home after spending the last two decades toiling in the Southern Conference. (Sound familiar?) Southern, whose move to the Sun Belt was fueled by their football team, is 15-4 straight up, and their only ATS loss this year came against Troy on Jan. 17 when they lost outright as a 5.5-point road favorite. Southern just won a huge game Thursday against second-place Georgia State, the preseason conference favorite and an in-state rival. That was a peak performance, and it will be interesting to see how this team responds to success. Especially with a crafty Louisiana-Monroe team coming to town this weekend.
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