College Basketball Betting: Handicapping Teams With Coaches on the Hot Seat
We’re entering the time year where talk of “hot seat” head coaches really ramps up. For some, it’s obvious. For others, a bit more murky. What I do know is spotting “lame duck” head coaches can be a profitable profile the last month of the season. The coaching staff and players aren’t immune to outside chatter and it can no doubt impact a team’s play on the court. Below is a list of teams with questionable head coaching situations that bettors should closely monitor moving forward.
Penn State (7-14 SU, 6-14-1 ATS)
Head Coach: Pat Chambers
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 90%
Betting Approach: Of Penn State’s 14 losses, nine were decided by seven or less in regulation including last weekend’s gut punch overtime loss to Purdue. The Nittany Lions are young but every key player from last year’s NIT championship squad has regressed offensively — a big red flag on the coaching staff. Some betting market respect still remains with PSU a modest +3.5 underdog at Northwestern tonight. According to one report, the team’s passion is still there. Bettors should seek more than that to pull the trigger moving forward.
Nebraska (13-9 SU, 11-9-1 ATS)
Head Coach: Tim Miles
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 30%
Betting Approach: Of all the head coaches on the list, Miles is the least likely to be shown the door but the environment in Lincoln certainly isn’t positive. Give up 76 in a loss to Rutgers? Check. Lose by 10 at home to reeling Ohio State? Yes, sir. Lose 71-64 at Illinois despite the Illini shooting 9-of-23 from the free throw line? Of course. The loss of Isaac Copeland was big, especially for a squad shy on depth. Miles’ candid nature makes him a likable guy but there’s no excuse for being 13-9 despite being ranked among the top 35 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The schedule is ripe for a turnaround with four of NU’s next five “winnable.” Wednesday’s matchup vs. Maryland seems about as “must win” as you can get.
Texas A&M (8-12 SU, 8-12 ATS)
Head Coach: Bill Kennedy (8-12 SU, 8-12 ATS)
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 70%
Betting Approach: Kennedy has two Sweet 16 appearances in the last four years and a handful of 20+ win seasons. But it’s a bad year to rebuild with the SEC, top-to-bottom, as strong as it’s been in years. The Aggies haven’t had it easy from a SOS perspective. They’ve played Kentucky, Florida, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee — the top five teams in the SEC according to KenPom. In fact, the average KP ranking of A&M’s first eight SEC foes was 34th. The remaining 10, 72nd. That alone should keep the Aggies on your betting radar moving forward.
California (5-16 SU, 6-15 ATS)
Head Coach: Wyking Jones
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 100%
Betting Approach: It’s clear that Jones has no business being a power conference coach at this stage of his career. Covering point spreads is generally a good indicator of weather or not weaker teams have a shot to eventually turn things around. Under Jones, the Golden Bears are 17-34 ATS. Even more telling is how weak the PAC-12 has been the past two seasons. It took Cal nine PAC-12 games to post a “competitive showing” and the Golden Bears still found a way to lose to a soft Stanford team, 84-81. Oddsmakers can’t make the point spread high enough with this team.
Wake Forest (8-13 SU, 8-13 ATS)
Head Coach: Danny Manning
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 100%
Betting Approach: You can only play “the ACC is the toughest conference in the country” card so much. Manning has been milking that and his name for four-plus seasons. Wake’s last two losses came by a combined 55 points. And while the schedule does soften some moving forward with games vs. Pitt, Notre Dame, and Miami, do you really want to be betting on a team with a head coach that has showed zero ability to formulate a game plan to try to offset a nightly talent discrepancy?
New Mexico (9-12 SU, 7-13 ATS)
Head Coach: Paul Weir
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 55%
Betting Approach: Weir is an interesting case study. In his first season — a tumultuous one to say the least — the Lobos won 19 games and went a respectable 12-6 in MWC play. This year has been marred by inconsistent play and even more off-the-court issues. There was an obligatory mid-season transfer. A plea for the players to give effort. A head coach questioning is own principles. A head coach questioning why the media is questioning him about practice times. And those are just some of the issues we know about. A month ago, the Lobos beat Nevada by 27!. Since then, they are 1-6 with a lone win against bottom feeder Wyoming. Like Brad Underwood at Illinois, Weir is trying to install a fast-paced, chaotic system predicated on full court pressure. But switching to a 2-3 zone mid-season tells us that he doesn’t have close to the personnel to pull it off. For middle-of-the-road teams trying to find their way, I always felt that a head coach’s “likability” goes a long way towards point spread success or in the case of Weir — who comes off like a hard ass — failure.
Illinois (7-15 SU, 9-13 ATS)
Head Coach: Brad Underwood
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 35%
Betting Approach: Considering Lovie Smith is still employed by the university, Underwood likely has another year. But like Weir, Underwood doesn’t have the “nice guy” factor on his side. Because of Underwood’s chaotic playing style, Illinois has been a beast of a team to handicap. How about this four-game stretch: 95-68 win vs. Minnesota, 95-71 loss at Iowa, 72-60 loss vs. Wisconsin, 78-67 win vs. Maryland. The one positive is that effort is rarely an issue with his bunch. But the lack of talent is glaringly obvious and Underwood doesn’t seem interested in adjusting. Perhaps that’s a sign that he’s been assured of another season.
Washington State (8-14 SU, 9-13 ATS)
Head Coach: Ernie Kent
Likelihood of Getting Fired: 99%
Betting Approach: I can’t say 100% just because Kent has proven to be the Rasputin of the head coaching trade. That said, our own Eric Waz perfectly sums up how bettors should approach Kent and the Cougars.