Conference play in college basketball, especially early on, is when we tend to forget about mid-majors. We take notice again when talk of the tournament fires up and we are trying to forecast the bracket, but right now there is so much exciting action in the major conferences that it can be more work than many are willing to do to check in on the less-beaten paths to see which teams are worthy of attention. Some under-the-radar mid-majors, then, can be very useful for bettors who are willing to put in the extra effort to seek them out.
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Here are eight teams that are worth a closer look:
Gonzaga: Of course, by now Gonzaga hardly qualifies as a mid-major and certainly is in no way under the radar. They deserve being mentioned here, though, because they are really good. They are 15-0 and 10-2 ATS, which makes them the third-most-profitable team in the country. St. Mary's is as good as they have been in recent years and looms as a threat, but with conference season underway Gonzaga has a legitimate look at an undefeated season. No matter what, it's tough to imagine them with more than a loss or two . Most striking to me, though, is how strong they have been in mismatches. They have faced double-digit spreads eight times this year and are a stellar 7-1 ATS in those games. They will face many more of those down the stretch, so their unwillingness to let up on the throttle could be useful for bettors the rest of the way.
Middle Tennessee: If the tournament field were to be set right now the Blue Raiders would be a bubble team if they didn't have an automatic bid. So they are pretty solid. One thing that stands out is that they are a pretty clutch team. They beat Rice by three points on Thursday, and that was their 10th straight win in conference play in games decided by three points or less. That's the second-best such streak in the country. They play tight against good teams, too - they recently lost to VCU by three, which covered the four-point spread. They have been a useful ATS team this year at a solid 10-4 ATS.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs, never a particular college basketball force, are the top ATS team in the country with a strong 9-1 ATS mark. Even more impressively, they failed to cover their opener and haven't come up short again since. They have covered three times as favorites, twice as underdogs of more than 15 points, and all six times on the road - including games at both Oregon State and Oregon.
Marshall: At 10-3 ATS, the Thundering Herd sit just behind Gonzaga as the fourth-most-profitable ATS team in the country. Around Christmas they really showed how useful they can be for bettors by making strong showings in two tough games. First, on the 22nd they took Cincinnati to overtime before losing by two as 20.5-point dogs. Then three days after Christmas they lost to Pitt by just six as 12.5-point dogs.
Arkansas St.: Arkansas State is known mostly in recent years as a strong incubator for college football coaches on short-term stays. This year, though, they are producing betting profits, too. They are a solid 8-2 ATS and have done so against a reasonably strong schedule . Most usefully, they are a very nice 3-1 ATS when double-digit underdogs, highlighted by an early outright win at Georgetown as 22-point dogs.
Wichita State: Gregg Marshall somehow is still with Wichita State instead of moving on for greener coaching pastures, so we know this team is always going to be tough. Just let this be your annual reminder that you don't want to forget about them as we get closer to the postseason. They missed some chances to make statements early on losing to Louisville, Oklahoma State and especially Michigan State. They humiliated LSU by 35, though, so they showed they have some fangs. They have been less than ideally consistent, but they have looked like a new team since conference play neared and are just ripping opponents apart. Look for them again to be an MVC force.
The state of South Dakota: We get an interesting double feature here that is worth a quick note. The state has two teams, both toiling in the Summit League. The South Dakota Coyotes, at 11-3-1 ATS, are the second-most-profitable ATS team in the country. The South Dakota State Jackrabbits, in stark contrast, are the least profitable at 3-11-1 ATS. Conclusive proof that geography has nothing to do with ATS performance is finally here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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