College Basketball Betting: Micah Joe vs. KenPom’s Extra Board Conferences
It would be fair to say that I am a huge fan of the decision to include all 353 Division I Men’s basketball teams in the betting rotation. Currently, it is difficult to find many places that will take big limits on these games, but that situation will surely improve in the years to come. With the WAC conference moving into the regular rotation, that leaves eight conferences comprised of 84 teams that we’ll call “extra” teams. I am going to include the WAC conference, just because I like that league so much. Most of these games can be watched through streaming devices and they are easy to find using Matt Sarz’s website, which I couldn’t recommend more for any extra game junkie. As always: My model only takes this current season into account and is more heavily weighted toward recent results, while KenPom’s model is based not only on the entire season’s data, but on data from prior years as well. For Ken Pomeroy’s rankings I will use KP #7 as an example for where he has a team ranked and KPD #74 or KPO #65 for their offense and defense. All records discussed will be straight up, unless noted by ATS (against the spread).
The Patriot League comes in slightly ahead of the WAC in my model. Colgate would be the pre-conference favorites, garnering 18 of 20 first place votes. Navy was ranked 9th in the same poll. Yet, the Midshipmen are on a roll, winning four of their last five. Ed DeChelis has built this team around a disciplined defense, which leads the league (KPD #183). Senior forward Evan Wieck is the best post player for a squad that specializes in offensive rebounding (KPOR #18). If Navy can improve their turnover problem (KPTO #289), they can contend for an upper conference finish while getting points in most games. After a nearly certain blowout loss to Virginia on Sunday, the market may undervalue them going forward. Smart bettors will overlook this loss, and instead back the Naval Academy in the right spots.
With all their players back and healthy, New Mexico State really looked like the WAC favorites in a big win over Mississippi State. The Aggies open the conference slate January 4 at Cal Baptist, the site of their only conference loss last year. Head coach Rick Croy has the Lancers rolling after a slow start and he is 22-14 ATS in CBU’s Division I history. The CBU Events Center is a brand new arena seating 5k and boasting a great atmosphere. Baptist is KPO #113 while putting up some big offensive numbers. Built on transfers, this experienced squad is led by former Washington State player Milan Acquaah’s 19 ppg and 6.5 apg (15th in the nation). He is responsible for the majority of the offense and ranks KP%POSS #12 nationally. Acquaah’s play is highly correlated to the success of the Lancers and he is currently playing at a very high level.
Vermont played a really ambitious schedule this year, going 1-4 against KP top 100 teams. The Catamounts are again the favorites to win the America East Conference. However, New Hampshire is the team that has caught my eye for betting purposes. Bill Herrion’s teams have always been designed with defensive rebounding as a priority. From 2015 to 2018, the Wildcats finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, and 3rd in KPDR%. That is very impressive for an extra team. The year’s edition is currently 15th. With the schedule softening for conference play, they should finish higher than that. The mindset is to force offenses to speed up (4th in the nation at opponent’s avg. poss. length) and then eliminate second chances on the glass. This is a balanced squad that has averaged dominating the ball for +2.5 seconds per possession this season. KenPom’s predictions indicate they should be getting points in the majority of the remaining schedule. I am going to be grabbing those points like the Wildcats will be grabbing defensive rebounds.
The undefeated Liberty Flames are no longer a secret. It will be tough sledding to win money on them in 2020. Instead of burning money with the ever-popular Flames laying double-digits, crafty bettors are trying to find the runner-up in the Atlantic Sun. I believe it’s the Jacksonville Dolphins. Head coach Tony Jasick lost leading scorer J.D. Notae (transfer to Arkansas) and two other double digit scorers. Seniors David Bell (averaging a double-double) and point guard Aamahne Santos (9 ppg, 3.4 apg) have increased production to compensate for those losses. Like a broken record for teams that I like, the Dolphins are built around defense, boasting a top 100 ranking in several categories. Their true strength is playing defense without fouling as they are KP #80 at FTA/FGA. Liberty is very likely to wear the crown in the A-Sun but I think it’s Jacksonville that will make the most money for bettors.
The Northeast Conference is very crowded at the top with no real favorite. In keeping with tradition, I lean to the best defensive team (KPD #163) in Bryant. In Jared Grasso’s second season, the Bulldogs increased their win total by 7 games. At 8-4, there is no reason they can’t repeat that accomplishment. Senior Adam Grant is the focal point of the offense and he has been instrumental in their current four game win streak. After Grant, the offense is very balanced. But the fingerprint is the defense, with Bryant ranked 35th in FG%D and ranking in the top 100 in several defensive categories. The defense should show up every night in conference play. We also get a little bonus market value if they get blown out at Maryland on Sunday before they start conference play at home against fellow contender St. Francis, PA.
Stephen F. Austin is the only team in the bottom three conferences with a winning record at 8-2. Throw them out and the MEAC, SWAC and Southland conferences are an embarrassing 44-278 combined. Other than SFA, it’s really hard to determine who should be the favorites in the conference races. We really need some samples of games against similar competition to make a confident determination. Some teams have played a money-grabbing schedule filled with away games against top schools in an effort to fund their programs. The SWAC, for example played 101 games against non-conference opponents and only FIVE games were home games. That’s the entire conference. Seven of ten didn’t even play one home game. That’s brutal for those teams and brutal for bettors attempting to handicap them. A smart guideline is to be very cautious when playing favorites and lean heavily toward dogs until the teams separate themselves.
EXTRA TEAMS TOP 10
2. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
4. SACRED HEART
7. STONY BROOK
8. ST. FRANCIS PA