We are experiencing one of the wildest college basketball seasons I can recall with number one teams dropping almost every week and alsorans beating blue bloods on their home floors. As a handicapper it is sometimes hard to know which way to go.
As a fun little exercise I thought I would take a quick look at the current AP Top 5 and see how they are doing, “as an investment”. Also, I am going to take a look at the best spread teams and see if we can understand why they are making money.
AP Top 5 (records as of December 14th)
Louisville Cardinals (9-1 SU / 5-5 ATS)
The Cardinals were undefeated when the week started but fell to Texas Tech as a 7.5 point favourite. The loss revealed that their backcourt play might eventually hold this team back though looking silly against a good defensive team like Texas Tech is nothing to be ashamed of. Being .500 against the spread is hardly something to be excited about. That includes a recent game where they only beat Akron by 6 plus some others where the spread were just enormous.
Next game of note: December 28th at Kentucky. I will be fading them in that rivalry spot.
Kansas Jayhawks (8-1 SU / 5-3 ATS)
This is a good Kansas team and they definitely look like a national title contender. Their only loss was to Duke in the first game of the season and since then they have not disappointed much,. They have covered in their last four but it seems like they might be disinterested when they are not playing teams that can actually give them a game. That is going to be something to keep in mind the rest of the way, especially that first weekend in the Tournament.
Next game of note: December 21 at Villanova. I anticipate good value there. Not sure what to make of the Wildcats right now.
Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0 SU / 8-1 ATS)
By all rights the Buckeyes should have already been the top ranked team in the country. They may not have the best talent but their results speak for themselves, including three dominations of other ranked teams. Their profile is second to none. That ATS record is also awesome and I wish I had seen that coming as I have faded the Buckeyes a couple of times that I am embarrassed about. They can’t stay undefeated forever but I don’t know how you fade them.
Next game of note: December 21 at Kentucky. Winning at Rupp is hard but not impossible. This is going to test my brain a lot. What do you do if Kentucky is a home dog, which is might be.
Maryland Terrapins (10-1 SU / 5-6 ATS)
The Terps are the second team on this list that was undefeated when this list was published and then lost. It was a road game in the Big Ten against a pretty good Penn State team, though one OSU just clobbered. I was on MD in that one so it was a disappointment but it does not shake me too much. I never thought they were truly a Top Five team. That ATS record shows they have been disappointing backers more often than not. Not sure there is a pattern we can predict off of though.
Next game of note: December 19 at Seton Hall. This will be a good test and feature two great senior guards in Myles Powell and MD’s Anthony Cowan. I will look to back the Terps here. Cowan does not have to outplay Powell for them to win.
Michigan Wolverines (8-2 SU / 6-4 ATS)
Michigan is a good team. However, when they rattled off back to back to back wins against Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga the pollsters had to rocket them up the rankings. Since then they have lost a few times showing that they are not going to be a juggernaut in Juwan Howard’s first season as coach. There is a lot to like as this is a nicely experienced group but their capability of winning it all might be higher than the value of looking at that on a game to game basis as a bettor. They are a dangerous underdog though. That is for sure.
Next game of note: January 5 at Michigan State. Rivalry spot where they will definitely be an underdog. They only play once between now and then though.
Now a look at the Top ATS teams in the nation so far…
Northern Iowa Panthers (10-1 SU / 10-1 ATS)
If you truly follow the sport than you know about about Northern Iowa out of the Missouri Valley. This year they are doing their best to make sure that the MVC is a multi-bid league and with wins over South Carolina and Colorado they have a great shot at an at large bid. They are definitely a dangerous underdog.
Next game of note: Feb 1 at Evansvillle. The Purple Aces got the pub off their upset of Kentucky. Maybe that creates a value opportunity with a better team visiting.
Yale Bulldogs (10-2 SU / 9-3 ATS)
This is supposed to be a year that the Ivy could possibly get an at large bid. That is because of the strength of Yale and Harvard. Yale is holding up their end of the bargain. Their only SU losses are to Power 5 Penn State and Oklahoma State, two game they covered in. Big man Paul Atkinson might be the best player in the Ivy and he gives them size and production that plays against any team. Once the Ivy schedule starts they are going to have to dominate to cover most nights but don’t forget about them.
Next game of note: February 7 at Harvard. Long way off but their home and home creates a nice buying opportunity on Yale.
Sacramento State Hornets ( 8-0 SU / 6-2 ATS )
You can’t beat a perfect ATS record!. The Hornets, who play in the Big Sky are far from elite but at least one of those games was a tough one at Colorado, a tough place for anyone to play. Their best player Joshua Patton is a senior and that always helps. You might not be tracking this team but those ATS numbers will get anyone’s attention.
Next game of note: January 11 vs Weber State. They upset the Wildcats at home last season. Why not two in a row?
Liberty Flames (12-0 SU / 9-2-1 ATS)
The Flames play in the Atlantic Sun, hardly a high profile league. Still undefeated is undefeated. When you look at their spread results you see they have been pretty big favourites in a lot of games. The lone game they weren’t was when they just beat Vanderbilt. That game was a pick’em they won outright. If you look at their schedule there are no obvious losses.
Next game of note: Jan 2 at Florida Gulf Coast. They are going to have a huge gap between games due to finals and holidays. Could be a fade spot.
Eastern Washington Eagles (6-3 SU / 8-1 ATS)
I bet you didn’t know the Eagles are the highest scoring team in the nation, 90ppg. It helps that they have scored more than 100 points in a couple of unlined games. Still the Eagles have been putting up points on everyone including 80 against big brother Washington in a game they covered by 7 points. They also covered at Boston College so taking on the better teams does not scare them. They are going to be on my radar from here on out.
Next game of note: December 21 at Gonzaga. The Bulldogs might not be in danger of losing but the Eagles are going to keep coming at them.