Best Betting Teams in College Basketball: Time to Buy or Sell?
Today we're going to take a look at the five most profitable teams in college basketball this year and determine if there is more value betting on them or against them the rest of the way.
It helps to look at these teams as stocks. Each of them has overperformed against market expectations this season, as indicated by their positive records against the spread. However, past results are not a perfect indicator of future actions. Just because these teams have been successful at the window it doesn't mean that they will continue be.
In fact, what we often see is just the contrary. When the same teams are consistently burning the sportsbooks the oddsmakers will adjust. They will start shading lines on these teams, meaning they will be laying more points then they generally would otherwise. Also, from an on-court performance perspective, teams could see a natural regression in their level of play as the season wears on.
For the sake of this exercise, we are going to put it in the simple terms of "buy" or "sell". To "buy" a team means that I feel like there is still value left betting on them as we head down the stretch. To "sell" means that I think these teams have hit their ATS peak and they won't be profitable for backers from now through the end of the season.
Here are the five teams from major conferences (I will conduct a similar exercise with mid-major teams) that have been the best bets in college basketball, with my recommendations for each:
Michigan State (19-8 ATS) - SELL
With the exception of Duke and Kentucky, two teams that have built their programs around one-and-done prospects, no program in the country can stand to lose two lottery picks and actually get better the next season. But that's the case with the Spartans. Michigan State won 30 games last year and was perhaps the biggest disappointment in the NCAA Tournament. Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges went pro and swingman Josh Langford, a third starter, has been lost for the year to injury. But the Spartans have again handled a stacked Big Ten conference. Cassius Winston has been the best point guard in America and Tom Izzo is producing a vintage coaching job. However, center Nick Ward fractured his hand and is out indefinitely. On one hand, the loss of a star player could increase their value. On the other hand, how many key players can one team lose and continue to cover spreads? As we saw in their game against Rutgers on Wednesday, the Spartans may be slowing down at the window.
Mississippi (19-7 ATS) - BUY
I always say that if you want to gauge the true value of a player or coach that switches teams, don't just look at the instant impact they have in their new home. Instead, also go back and see how his old team is doing without him. New Rebels coach Kermit Davis took a team picked to finish last in the SEC and has them as one of the most profitable wagers in college basketball. Davis' old team, Middle Tennessee State has also fallen off a cliff. After 81 wins in three seasons the Blue Raiders are 8-19 straight up and 9-16 ATS this season. Davis will be on the short list of national coach of the year candidates and the Rebels are not a team that anyone in the SEC can overlook.
Virginia (18-7 ATS) - BUY
The Cavaliers have spent nearly a year trying to shrug off the embarrassment of becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament. They've played with a "something-to-prove" attitude all season and it has paid off for backers at the window, with the Cavs covering the spread in over 70 percent of their games. They also went 20-10 ATS last year, giving them a stellar 38-17 (69%) ATS mark the past two years. Barring a major collapse, this should be the eighth profitable year in a row for Virginia basketball and they are one of the top moneymakers in the sport.
Oklahoma (18-7 ATS) - SELL
What makes the Sooners so curious is that despite their success at the betting window this team has still been erratic on the court. They are the only team on this list that isn't currently guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament field. Much like last season, Oklahoma started off hot, going 11-1 straight up in nonconference play. However, also like last year, the wheels have fallen off in the Big 12 and they are just 4-9 in league play. Oklahoma has a brutal schedule down the stretch. But I think they may have enough juice to sneak into the field and they should get their 20 th ATS win before the Big 12 tournament.
Houston (18-8 ATS) - SELL
I have been wrong about Houston all season long. I didn't think they could lose a talent like Rob Gray and stay in the upper echelon of the AAC. I was wrong. Houston has just one loss on the season, a four-point road loss at Temple back on Jan. 9. Beyond that they have been dominating and are coming off a 35-point blowout win over Tulane. The Cougars do have a tricky final week to the regular season, with games against Central Florida, SMU and the season finale - which may decide the league title - at Cincinnati. The Cougars will be double-digit favorites in every game except the one at Cincy. And it will be interesting to see if this smallish team will wear down. I think they might.
Carpe diem. Good luck.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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