College Basketball Betting: Power Conference Mid-Season Notes
It’s February and conference play is in full swing with the postseason on the horizon. There are plenty of intriguing situations, with some teams vying for a regular season championship and others merely trying to build a resume to get into the NCAA tournament. Here’s a look at what’s taken place so far as well as some projections for what we’ll see in the future.
Tulsa was predicted to finish 10th in the preseason coaches poll in the American Athletic Conference. Yet after Saturday’s last second win over Wichita State, the Golden Hurricane sit in first place at 7-1. Note that in every season under Frank Haith, Tulsa has finished better than its preseason poll ranking. Bettors have also been rewarded for backing this squad as they sport a 13-8 ATS record. The rotation is dominated by seven juniors and seniors with a combined 18 years of “Tulsa” experience. The defense is ranked 36th in Ken-ending date at Wichita give Tulsa plenty of opportunities to get into the tournament. Winning a few of those is imperative as Joe Lunardi doesn’t even have them among the eight teams currently sitting outside the bubble. Winning the conference would guarantee a bid.
Only four ACC teams are projected to make the Big Dance!? It has been a season of mediocrity to say the least. Louisville, Duke, and Florida State appear to be “locks” while NC State is currently in but on shaky ground. Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse are sitting just outside the bubble and need some resume-building wins. All those teams also have chances for multiple “bad” losses. I don’t see many scenarios where they end up with only three teams in and it will be surprising if the tournament committee allows that to happen. But I have no idea who the fourth team will be.
While Lunardi is typically accurate on his tournament projections, I just can’t see the Big Ten getting 12 teams in. There are a lot of games yet to be played and numerous losses to go around. Purdue is the most likely candidate to be left off that list. Matt Painter is a great coach, but the loss of Carson Edwards was too much offense to replace. In the ten years prior to Edwards, Purdue’s offense was an average of KP#75. The four years WITH Edwards they averaged KP#12. This season they are back to KP#77. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the reason. I will be looking to fade the Boilermakers going forward, especially on the road where they are a woeful 1-6.
I have the Big 12 conference slightly ahead of the Big Ten, but it’s negligible. Baylor and Kansas are the headliners with West Virginia flying under the radar. The Mountaineers are not the same “Press Virginia” that they once were. They are currently playing a smothering brand of half court defense that ranks second nationally. The defense is anchored by two outstanding rim protectors in Derrick Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe (who also leads the team in scoring). It’s not surprising that ten players average double-digit minutes for Bob Huggins. This squad is a legitimate Final Four contender and is projected by KenPom to only lose to Baylor and Kansas the rest of the season. This might prove to be Huggins’ best team at West Virginia since the 2010 Final Four team.
What a wild weekend for the Big East as every home favorite lost outright. With five teams solidly in the field, look for the underachieving Xavier Musketeers to make a push for a sixth bid. Travis Steele’s team has been a money burner so far (6-15 ATS) but there were signs of improvement in the recent four-game stretch. Xavier only went 2-2 but won the box score in every game. Two “false losses” were followed up with an annihilation of conference leading Seton Hall. This team is dominated by veterans, but the emergence of freshmen KyKy Tandy (14 points vs. Seton Hall) and Zach Freemantle (double-digits in three of the last five games) will propel them forward. Their current form demands more playing time and is a welcome addition to an experienced rotation. The Musketeers are live dogs in February and March.
I can and will go on endlessly about the LSU Tigers. I love this team. Head coach Will Wade is an emotional mess on the sidelines who continually needs to be calmed down by his players but so far, it’s worked. Riding a 10-game winning streak, this squad looks like the best team in the SEC. Listening to player interviews after the game it is evident they all have very high basketball IQs. Skyler Mays and Javonte Smart dominate the ball and are excellent decision-makers. The combination of undersized posts Emmitt Williams and Darius Days are the perfect compliment to freshman center Trendon Watford. All five are double-digit scorers and ferocious offensive rebounders (KP#7). I am shocked when they DON’T get a rebound. The warts are there for sure. At times they appear to be playing 90 mph with no brakes, yet most of the time it’s a controlled chaos. They don’t shoot the three well and they turn the ball over too much, but they tend to force their opponents into sloppy play as well. I am holding a ticket at 150-1 to win the National Championship which feels like stealing. A Final Four run isn’t out of the question but a first round exit isn’t either.
What a difference a year makes in Bill Walton’s “Conference of Champions.” Washington was The Pac-12’s highest seeded team at no. 9 last year. Lunardi predicts four teams will get higher seeds than that this year and five total bids. All five are sitting at three conference losses. I like Tad Boyle’s Colorado Buffaloes to win the regular season. Led by outstanding junior point guard McKinley Wright, the Buffs are built around their KP#17 defense. Junior Tyler Bey is their most talented player and is averaging 13 ppg and 9 rpg. He has even worked his way onto various NBA Draft lists. The offense ranks 50th overall but first in league-only play. This is another veteran team with nine players totaling 22 years of “Colorado” experience. Way better that their projected sixth seed, Colorado’s impressive statistical profile indicates there is more to come.
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