We have turned a key corner in college basketball. Nonconference play is mostly wrapped up, and we are easing into conference play. Now this is where things get really good. Transition times are good times to look at where you have been and where you are headed. That makes it a very good time to look at some of the more interesting ATS Studs and Duds of the early portion of the season:
St. Mary's (11-0 ATS): The Gaels always seem to be relevant, and that is again the case here. They are 13-1 on the season, with their only loss coming at Cal - by fewer points than the spread. They haven't played Gonzaga yet, so that looms large, but the Bulldogs aren't as good as they have been lately, either. Beyond that the conference just isn't very good - BYU is the third-best squad in the group, and the Gaels already beat them by 11.
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South Carolina (10-1 ATS): There are always many surprising things in each college basketball season. Near the top of the list this year is the fact that South Carolina is one of the last unbeatens standing. There just isn't enough about this team to get excited about. Of course, the biggest reason they have done this well is because they haven't played anyone of note - they have been favored in every game and by double-digits five times. Of course, playing in the SEC means that they aren't exactly going to play a tough schedule going forward, either. They could be a handy ATS team down the stretch.
Kansas State (8-2-1 ATS): Apparently the state of Kansas is where you go if you want to cover spreads. Unlike Kansas, which we will see soon, though, Kansas State has been doing it while being far from dominant. What has helped bettors is that the team is 3-0-1 ATS in the four games that they have lost. That means two things - they aren't good enough to be consistent favorites, and they lose close when they lose. Can't complain about that.
USC (10-4-1 ATS): Andy Enfield cashed in on his tourney success with Florida Gulf Coast to get the job at USC. His first two years were really ugly, but he has been much better this year - the team is 12-3 through their first 15 games. They don't have a real quality win, and their schedule hasn't been particularly tough, but you can't look too closely when you are trying to tell a story. The fact is that Enfield is covering spreads - and that's something.
Kansas (9-3 ATS): They are the No. 1 team in the country after beating Oklahoma in the best game of the season so far. Given how good they have been so far, it's only a little surprising that they are covering a lot of spreads - they aren't exactly a secret to the betting public, so they get a lot of betting attention and it can be harder for them to cover spreads than, say, South Carolina. If you want a mild reason to be concerned it's that the three games they haven't covered have been against Oklahoma, Michigan State and Harvard - three of the better teams they have faced this year.
St. John's (4-11 ATS): Chris Mullins took on a huge challenge when he took over as coach at St. John's. It's not like he had a lot of other coaching experience to draw on. It's going to take time for him to find his way - and that is evident by the way the team is performing against the spread. It hasn't been a total disaster of a season - they had a shocking upset of Syracuse earlier in the season and comfortably covered in a losing effort against Xavier on Wednesday night. They just aren't consistently competitive enough yet to be worth anything other than regular bets against.
UCLA (4-11 ATS): The Bruins have had a couple of big results - winning at Gonzaga and beating Kentucky. The Gonzaga win was on Dec. 12, though, and they have not covered a spread in five games since. They have looked lousy in their first two conference games, too, so it's hard to get too optimistic about what the future holds. Remember when UCLA used to be an all-time great program? It gets harder to believe every year.
Minnesota (3-10 ATS): Things are just not going well for the younger Pitino right now. The team has covered only one spread in their last eight games - fitting since they have won just once in their last eight, too. They have really struggled out of the gate in conference play, including a bad loss at a lousy Penn State team last time.
Davidson (3-9 ATS): Steph Curry, where are you now? The Wildcats certainly aren't the team they were back when the reigning NBA MVP was playing for them. That shouldn't be shocking for anyone. The fact is that the team just isn't very good right now. They are decidedly average on the court, and they don't cover spreads with any consistency. They got a cover on Wednesday night, but that only pushed them to this level - and it came after they had failed to cover four in a row.
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