Expert College Basketball Betting Advice: Mid-Majors to Watch
Mid-majors in college basketball are teams that typically only get paid any attention once about February rolls around. People first notice them when they might knock major conference teams out of the tournament, and then they really pay attention to them when they are filling out their brackets and looking for first-weekend upsets. In November and December, though, it's rare that a mid-major gets much attention unless they pull off a shocking upset. For bettors, then, this is a great time to do some work to get to know the mid-majors that could really matter. You can get ahead of the crowd and perhaps find some nice value in the meantime. Here are four interesting mid-major squads to keep an eye on. As a note, we aren't including Gonzaga or Saint Mary's here. They are probably the two best mid-majors in the country, but both are so established and consistent that we would just be wasting effort including them - you already know they will be good even if you haven't been paying attention:
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Nevada: The Mountain West has struggled lately. They have been consistently excellent for years, but last year was the second straight that they sent only one team to the tournament. Nevada was that team, and they are again very good - and quite likely not the only serious tournament contender. Eric Musselman, the former head coach of both Golden State and Sacramento, is running the show, and he is doing very well, winning 24 and 28 games in his first two seasons -- he's off to a 4-0 start this season. They have a soft nonconference schedule, so there is a legitimate chance that they could head into conference play with an unblemished mark. Musselman's approach is all about rapid development. He focuses more on attracting transfers than recruits - he added four from Power 5 conferences this year alone. He adds that to two returning starters. The new faces will benefit from the manageable early season to get acclimated, and by the time conference play rolls around they should be very dangerous. They are a good bet to beat last year's win total.
Vermont: The Catamounts won three games in three days to win the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase tournament this week, but their most impressive outing was actually their only loss. They opened up as cannon fodder at Kentucky and lost by only four as 12-point underdogs. They were closing strong at the end as well. It's no fluke - this is a very good team. They went 16-0 in conference play last year in the America East. Trae Bell-Haynes was the conference player of the year last year, and he's back for more - and was excellent in the Bahamas. Anthony Lamb, the top freshman in the league last year, is off to a great start and could be an even bigger factor to this team than Bell-Haynes. On top of it all they recruited well, so they have promising new recruits, too. Nothing is certain in college basketball, but it would be absolutely shocking if they did not win the America East again. And they are not a team anyone will want to play in the tournament if they stay healthy.
Texas-Arlington: The Mavericks had a good run in the NIT last year, and they should be much better this year. They have seven returning seniors on the roster this year, so they are all in for this season. One of those seven is Kevin Hervey, who was the conference player of the year last year in the Sun Belt. Added to that group of experienced vets was Virginia Tech grad transfer and shot blocker extraordinaire Johnny Hamilton. The squad has two nonconference games that should be just captivating - and very telling about how competitive this team can truly be. First, they play Florida Gulf Coast - another elite mid-major that knows how to score and entertain - on Dec. 9. Then, nine days later, they play at Creighton. The team should be very tough to beat in the Sun Belt, too. They are well poised to win the conference and make things interesting in March.
Belmont: The Bruins lost their opener in a tight one at Washington but then have won four straight. The first two of those wins - against Vanderbilt and at Middle Tennessee - were impressive. The Bruins have a whole lot to play for this year. They have been the top seed in their conference the last two years and have lost in the semifinals both times. There is a lot of talent on this team. Senior forward Amanze Egekeze has had a breakout season, scoring nearly 20 per game after averaging 11.3 last year. Junior forward Dylan Windler is only 6-foot-7, but he's a force inside with 16 points and 12 boards a game to date. And senior guard Austin Luke consistently produces assists while running the offense. The group is in good shape to again be the top seed in the OVC Tournament - hopefully with a better result.
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