College Basketball Betting: Mid-Majors Poised to Make Noise in March
March Madness is less than a month away. Nearly every NCAA Tournament we witness a mid-major team or two grab the headlines by pulling off multiple upsets. What non-Power 5 teams are capable of capturing America’s hearts this year while busting some brackets in the process? Let’s take a look.
Vermont Catamounts (America East)
Quietly, the Catamounts sit a very respectable 69th in KenPom’s ratings thanks to an early season win over St. John’s and competitive losses Cincinnati, Yale, and Virginia. And their other three losses each came by five points or fewer. Vermont likes to play a Virginia-style basketball that emphasizes a slow place and sound defense. Assuming they earn America East’s bid, it’s likely they’ll be a 13th-seed like they were last season. Unfortunately, they drew a very tough assignment with an uber-talented and athletic Florida State squad but managed to stay competitive in a spread covering 76-69 loss. That experience and a better draw could see this squad advance to the second weekend.
Rhode Island Rams (Atlantic-10)
The A-10 is a rising conference with a handful of quality teams including Dayton who is currently ranked in the top 10. Rhode Island appears to be the second-best squad. While seeing the Flyers make it to the Sweet 16 or beyond wouldn’t be all that surprising the Rams have similar potential. Rhode Island has solid wins over Alabama, Providence, and VCU (twice). Aside from their loss to Brown, the rest of the Rams’ losses have come against quality opponents in Maryland, West Virginia, Richmond, and LSU. The Rams have been tested with a top-70 schedule in terms of difficulty and their offense and defense are both in the top-80 in terms of efficiency. This is a well-rounded team that could be a nightmare matchup for a middle-tier power 5 team.
Winthrop Eagles (Big South)
Winthrop is undefeated in Big South play and enters this weekend on a 12-game winning streak. Their schedule hasn’t been all that tough but the Eagles have a big road win over Saint Mary’s. Four of their losses have been by four or fewer points and they competed with Duke before losing by 13. They have blown out a lot of their weaker competition with 10 wins by double-digits. And unlike Vermont, Winthrop isn’t afraid to play with pace. They have the firepower to take down some of the weaker shooting power 5 teams.
Northern Iowa Panthers (Missouri Valley)
At 20-3, it’s possible that the Panthers could get an at-large berth should they not win the MVC Tournament. All three of their losses have come by six or fewer points including to West Virginia on a neutral floor. They also have a true road win over ranked Colorado. With an above average schedule and top 20 offense in terms of efficiency, Northern Iowa is capable of making plenty of noise come March. And unlike past NIU teams, there’s an ability to win with both offense or defense.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (Southland)
Stephen F. Austin is no stranger to playing Cinderella. In 2016, as a 14th seed, SFA took down West Virginia in the first round. And earlier this year, they won at Duke which was arguably the biggest upset of the college basketball season. Two of their losses have come to solid teams in Alabama and Rutgers. Their third loss was by one point in a poorly played game against a weak conference opponent in Texas A&M-CC. Note that since that loss, SFA hasn’t lost and will be favored to win the remainder of their league games. Stephen F. Austin has had one of the easiest schedules in the country but they have already proven they can compete with an elite team if they play their best. And while a lot of mid-major teams live an die by the three which can be a double-edged sword come March, the Lumberjacks prefer to attack the paint with high percentage shots and trips to the free throw line.