College Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Studs and Duds Against the Spread
We are almost a month into the college basketball season. In that time, we have seen some teams that have met or exceeded expectations and others that have been big disappointments. We know that what happens in November rarely has a big impact on what happens in March, when things really happen. But it is still a good idea to look at which teams have been kind to bettors and which ones are burning money. These are trends that could continue to pay off, or there could be value in spotting a trend that is about to change. Here are some of the higher-profile betting studs and duds of the first month of the college basketball season:
Gonzaga (7-1 ATS): The Bulldogs came into the season with very high expectations, and they have certainly lived up to them. They have been a strong favorite in all but one of their games so far - they were a 7.5-point underdog against Duke in their defining win of the season. And despite the big odds and bigger expectations, the team just keeps rewarding bettors. The only game they didn't cover was against Illinois, and they still won it with reasonable comfort in the end. The team's schedule remains challenging until Dec. 15, then it is much easier the rest of the way. And Killian Tillie, their second-leading scorer last year, is expected to return after Christmas after missing all of the year so far to injury. The rich get richer. It will likely be tougher for the team to keep covering spreads nearly this effectively in conference play, though, if they are unbeaten until then, because the conference is a long way from the strongest it has been.
Utah State (7-1 ATS): The Aggies are probably not a particularly great team, but they are off to a strong 7-1 start straight up as well as ATS. It hasn't been a very strong schedule. They have been underdogs just twice. The first was against a St. Mary's team that was perceived to be much stronger then than they are now. Utah State won by 17. The second was against an Arizona State team that is currently unbeaten, and the Aggies missed a good chance at a nice win, losing by five as a 2.5-point dog.
Auburn (5-0-1 ATS): The Tigers had a very strong trip to Maui, beating Xavier, playing Duke surprisingly tight to cover the spread, and crushing Arizona. Add in a very lopsided win against Washington, and you have a surprisingly solid start for this team - which explains why they are covering spreads well. Bryce Brown is very hot out of the gate, but Bruce Pearl has some real questions on this squad, so it is tough to believe he can continue to be anywhere near this friendly through the season.
Nevada (6-1 ATS): Like Gonzaga, Nevada came into the season with truly massive expectations on their shoulders - big for any team, never mind one from outside the power conference. But the Martin brothers are playing great, and they are leading this deep team to strong betting performance. They have been favored every game but keep on rolling. Their only betting loss was against Tulsa as a 14-point favorite, and they still won that game by 10, so it was hardly reason to panic. There are plenty of soft games remaining on this schedule, and this is a deep team, so they should continue to be very kind to bettors.
Middle Tennessee State (0-6 ATS): The Blue Raiders are the highest-profile of the five teams in the country that have yet to cover a spread. They are 3-5 straight up this year, but they obviously aren't winning the right games. They have been beaten soundly as underdogs five times, and the only time they were favored - by 9.5 against Charleston Southern - they won by only three. The good news for this team is that the schedule has been tough but gets easier going forward. But will that be enough to make this a respectable betting team?
Alabama (1-6 ATS): The Tide certainly aren't as good on a court as they are on a field, but they actually aren't playing poorly - they are off to a 5-2 start. They are playing well enough to win games but clearly not to cover spreads. The ATS record is bleak, but it is a little deceptive - it doesn't really indicate how they are playing. They haven't covered a spread in their last three games, but they have fallen short of covering by a combined 3.5 points in those three games. So, just a break or two here or there, and they would be a much different betting team. That could be a sign of a team that could provide some value in coming games.
South Carolina (1-6 ATS): This is an interesting contrast to Alabama. They are another SEC team with a winning record that has been burning money. But it seems much more likely that this team will keep burning money than Alabama. Just once this year they have come close to covering a spread while falling short. The other five times, they haven't even come close. This just isn't much of a team.
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