College Basketball Betting: Micah Joe vs. KenPom’s Mid-Major Conferences
This article will focus on some mid-major conferences that get a positive rating with their group average. 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 Atlantic-10 leads the first tier of Mid-Majors. There are three teams that I have ranked higher than KenPom: Duquesne, Richmond and George Mason. However, I am going to focus on a team which I think he is overrating, VCU. By all rights this should be a better team with the experience they have coming back. The Rams start four seniors and an experienced junior from last year’s 25-8 team. A 7-2 record is covering up some glaring weaknesses. Mike Rhoades is a disciple of the Shaka Smart “havoc” system on defense. The problem is they play way too fast. Per KenPom they average 15.3 seconds per possession, while their opponents have the ball for an average of 18.6 seconds. That’s a difference of 3.3 seconds longer their opponents have the ball per possession! While they are normally on the positive side of the turnover battle, when they play good teams that value the ball the Rams are in trouble. The result of this playing style is a 2-7 ATS record.
The West Coast Conference is usually ruled by Gonzaga, with BYU and Saint Mary’s in the next tier. The dogfight is generally for the remaining top spots. My fourth team in the conference this year is Pacific. Two consistent statistics in Damon Stoudamire’s tenure in Stockton is the pace has gotten slower every year and the defense has improved. While the Tigers are fairly balanced, their top scorer Jahil Tripp is the unquestioned leader. Three new guards are the primary ballhandlers and each bring different strengths. Justin Moore is the point guard from Georgia Tech. Gary Chivichyan is a grad transfer from Idaho State who shoots a career 40% from three. Broc Finstuen is the junior college transfer that does a little bit of everything. I will be looking to play the Tigers going forward against the “non-elites” of the WCC in conference play.
The Missouri Valley has gone 48-31 ATS in the beginning of the season. I have almost every team ranked ten spots higher than KenPom. Get on board with the Valley before conference play starts.
San Diego State is one of the remaining unbeatens and statistically they have been impressive. Their resume falls short of some of the elite teams, yet the Aztecs have passed every test. The outstanding new guards Malachi Flynn (Washington State transfer) and KJ Feagin Santa Clara transfer) have been better than advertised. Vanderbilt transfer Yanni Wetzel has been way more productive on the west coast and Matt Mitchell has slimmed down while looking extremely more athletic. As usual, Brian Dutcher runs out a rotating door of rim protectors. The Aztecs could be the last remaining unbeaten with the only predicted loss per KenPom an away date January 4 at Utah State. San Diego State could be for real.
The Mid-American rounds out the list of positive conference ratings. Kent State is surprisingly my best team. We’ll forgive a road loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes and focus on the statistically dominated wins over lesser opponents. Rob Senderoff lost two four-year players that dominated the ball. As a result, everyone has stepped up their game as the Flashes have five players scoring in double digits. This is another “old” team with Juniors and Seniors getting the majority of minutes. Kent State values the ball (KPTO% 46th) and eats the offensive glass to secure second chances (KPOR% 37th). But defense is where they thrive as the KPD #28th team in the nation. With Justin Turner’s hamstring still a sticking point for preseason favorite Bowling Green, Senderoff has the best team heading into conference play, and brings a 5-2 ATS record with him.