Yesterday I took a look at the Top 10 best college basketball teams to bet on this year based on their records against the spread. Now it is time to look at the worst of the worst.
Value is a tricky thing to get a grasp on in betting markets. To understand value you need to have a baseline of what your own expectations for a team are, a keen understanding of what the general public's expectations are, and then a focused insight into how to explain their results in relationship to the pre-understood level of expectations. As we saw with the Top 10 best ATS teams this year there were several reasons as to why they had been so good at the window. Some, like USC, were good teams that still enjoyed national anonymity. Others, like South Carolina, were simply just a lot better than people expected them to be. And still others (North Dakota) were teams bumbling around .500 with their straight up record that were simply fluking their way to cover after cover.
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With the worst ATS teams in college basketball the explanation is usually a lot simpler: these teams just suck.
It really is a feat to cover the spread in less than 35 percent of your games. Even if you are a terrible team, the oddsmakers know you're terrible and they inflate the spreads in those teams' games. The books know that the public wants to bet against these sad-sack teams. But the ability to actually go out and suck even worse than the inflated expectation of suckitude is truly breathtaking in some instances.
Here are the worst college basketball teams to bet on according to their current ATS records:
10. UCLA Bruins (8-15 Against The Spread)
The Bruins have some outstanding wins on the season, beating Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona. But they are just 4-6 in Pac-12 play and, at 13-10 overall, they are likely headed for the NIT. The worst part about UCLA's tank job this year is that the really only lost one player from the team that went to the Sweet 16 last year, bringing back five of their top six guys. They have one of the best guards on the West Coast in Bryce Alford and have a lot of talent. The Bruins are underachievers. And when you also have one of the most recognizable names in the sport on the front of your jersey that's a recipe for ATS disaster.
9. Boston College Eagles (6-12 ATS)
The Eagles have been massive underachievers for the last three years. This team has had guys that can play. Ryan Anderson (Arizona), Joe Rahon (St. Mary's) and Lonnie Jackson (Boise State) are all B.C. transfers that are starting on tournament-caliber teams. But for some reason everything has come unglued on Chestnut Hill. Coach Jim Christian, in his second season, has opted for a complete rebuild, giving a lot of time to a crop of six freshmen while fielding one of the 20 youngest teams in the country. B.C. is physically overmatched in the stacked ACC, and things will get worse before they get better.
8. Drake Bulldogs (7-15 ATS)
Drake has been terrible for a few years, but they actually turned a profit for bettors - inexplicably - in each of the past three seasons. Well, now they are paying the piper. The Missouri Valley has definitely improved. The past two seasons it has been Wichita State, Northern Iowa, a Himalayan drop-off, and then everyone else. That helped Drake compete while they slogged around the bottom tier of this feeble league. But teams like Evansville, Southern Illinois and Indiana State are all on an upswing this season, and the result has been Drake getting kicked in the face repeatedly. Fun random fact: Drake is 20-43 ATS in their last 63 games on Saturday. I guess that school gets crazy on Friday nights. Or something.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-15 ATS)
Little Dickie Pitino should not be coaching college basketball. He is absolutely awful, and Big Rick Pitino's spawn has run the Gophers completely off the rails. Minnesota has lost 13 straight games and has yet to beat a Big Ten opponent. Minnesota is currently below Rutgers in the Big Ten standings. Rutgers. The Gophers aren't even competitive in a lot of these games, recently losing by 24 to a mediocre Northwestern team. The sad part is that they are actually 4-3 ATS in their last seven games, meaning they have gotten to the point where they are so terrible the only option is to try to bet on them. I don't know if Pitino is going to get another year in Minnesota - and I don't think he should. But right now there is no bottom in sight for this team.
6. Georgia State Panthers (6-14 ATS)
Remember the NCAA Tournament darlings from last season? The Panthers really miss stud guard R.J. Hunter. He's not the only guy that they lost in the offseason (point guard Ryan Harrow was great for them last year). But it does go to show how special of a player that Hunter was for this team. Also, the Sun Belt has turned out to be a lot more balanced than people expected, with UT-Arlington and Arkansas-Little Rock proving to be much tougher than people expected. Ron Sr.'s team is shaky, though, and currently on an eight-game ATS losing streak. I don't expect much of an ATS turnaround, but you have to think that they are due to beat a number here pretty soon.
5. Davidson Wildcats (6-14 ATS)
The Wildcats are one of the most surprising teams on the list because they actually aren't a bad basketball team and because they were one of the best ATS teams in the country just last year. They brought back seven of their top eight scorers from the team that didn't just win the A-10 last year, but dominated it. The Wildcats haven't been able to recapture that magic, however, and they are plodding along at just 6-5 and seventh place in the league this season. Davidson's problem is that it is one of the worst defensive teams in the country. Because they can't stop anyone they have had a terrible time trying to cover the spread in games where they have been favored. Also, their offense has gotten too reliant on star guard Jack Gibbs, who can only do so much on his own. Davidson is actually 6-17 ATS dating back to last year. But with some talent and a great coach, I wouldn't be surprised if they made a late run and started cashing some tickets.
4. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (5-13 ATS)
It used to be that you could at least count on the Lumberjacks to be solid on their home court, lovingly referred to as Thunderdome. But Northern Arizona appears to be hitting rock bottom. They have won only two games against Division I teams this year, going 2-19 against everyone else. The Big Sky is actually down this year, making NAU's performance that much more horrifying. They are consistent in the fact that they are terrible, though, ranking No. 335 in field goal offense (39.7 percent) and No. 335 in field goal defense (47.8). And with two of their next three games against league powers Montana and Weber State, I would cover your eyes if you are a Lumberjack supporter.
3. Rice Owls (5-13 ATS)
Conference USA is always a solid swamp of suck. This league routinely produces one of the worst nonconference ATS marks of any conference in the country. So to be the worst of one of the worst is really saying something. Coach Mike Rhoades was brought in after Ben Braun couldn't get this program off the ground. And he is taking the same approach as Christian ta Boston College, feeding all his minutes to freshman and fielding the No. 337 most experienced team in the country. They've won only three times since mid-December (after a bizarre win over New Mexico - in The Pit). But five of their last six losses have been by double digits and they are 0-7 ATS in their last seven games overall, so it is not as if this team is showing signs of improvement.
2. VMI Keydets (4-13 ATS)
The Keydets used to be one of the most fun teams in the country. Former coach Duggar Baucom played that old Loyola Marymount run-run-run-shoot-shoot-shoot style of basketball that routinely produced 100-point scores for either VMI or their opponents. But Baucom has taken his wild style to Southern Conference rival Citadel, leaving an absolute mess at VMI. All of new coach Dan Earl's players were recruited for one style. But now Earl is playing the exact opposite style (VMI is No. 211 in the country in terms of average time of possession after spending eight of the last 10 years in the Top 5). So this team is just a mess right now, and they could be a solid fade the rest of the year even though the books continue to pump up their spreads.
1. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (3-17 ATS)
And here we have the worst of the worst: Southern Utah. And that also means that two of the five worst ATS teams in the country both hail from the same obscure conference, the Big Sky.It absolutely wasn't supposed to be like this for the Thunderbirds. They brought back seven of their top eight scorers from a year ago and were set to field one of the more experienced mid-major teams in the nation. But their best player, A.J. Hess, got hurt early in the nonconference, and it has been all downhill from there. They've had off-court issues - their two leading scorers are currently suspended - and this team has been a massive underachiever. They are 1-10 ATS in league games and going back to last year are 7-19 ATS.
Dishonorable mention: Memphis (8-13), Rhode Island (8-13), Baylor (6-11), DePaul (8-14), Cal Poly (7-13), Drexel (8-14), Illinois-Chicago (7-14), Harvard (5-10), LSU (8-13)
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