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College Basketball Betting: Teams on the Rise and Decline 


The college basketball season started just over a week ago and in the two polls that have been released this season we have seen the #1 ranked team lose each week. Of the 25 teams ranked as of November 14, nine have lost a game already and only nine made it to 3-0. It’s still very early but this looks like it could be one of the craziest college basketball seasons in recent memory. Let’s see which teams are starting to rise up the ranks and which teams are already under-performing. 

Teams on the Rise 

Louisville (3-0) 

Duke is likely to become the new #1 team in the country after Kentucky lost to Evansville earlier this week. However, Louisville can make a strong case for the top spot. The Cardinals opened their season with an 87-74 win against a good Miami-Florida team. Their next two wins came by 23 and 29 points against Youngstown State and Indiana State, respectively.  

Louisville won’t have its next real challenge until its plays host to Michigan on December 3. Still, this Cardinals team has looked very sharp. They shot over 50% from the field in all three of games and they are hitting 43% from deep. Louisville is currently second in the country in points scored per 100 possessions and third in points allowed per 100 possessions. With the second-highest efficiency margin the country to Michigan State, the Cardinals are a legit Final Four team. 

Virginia (2-0) 

Teams off winning the National Championship can be prone to slow starts the following year. Especially for a team like the Virginia Cavaliers who lost three core players in Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De’Andre Hunter to the NBA draft. Not the case as the defense looks like it hasn’t missed a beat. And outside of a cold start from three (16%), the offense looks solid as well.

Kihei Clark isn’t expected to be much of a scorer but he opened the season with a double-double and is the type of point guard that can manage an offense. Down low, Mamadi Diakite has been UVA’s best player so far this season as he looks poised for a big year. Add in the talent of Braxton Key and perhaps this team really can make another run at the title. Virginia is #1 in defensive efficiency and a respectable #30 in offensive efficiency. The Cavaliers are #3 behind Louisville and Michigan State in efficiency margin. 

Ohio State (3-0) 

When the next rankings come out we can expect to see the Ohio State Buckeyes in the top 10. The Buckeyes opened their season with a solid win against a tough Cincinnati defense, 64-56. A 20-point win against UMass-Lowell wasn’t necessarily all that impressive but Wednesday’s victory over #10 Villanova 76-51 shows this team is for real.  

The scariest thing about this Ohio State team is its depth. In each of their last two games, the Buckeyes had five players score in double figures. They only shot 58% from the line against ‘Nova but shot 60% from the field and 56% from three. The Buckeyes are #5 in defensive efficiency and #23 offensively.  

Free throws seem to be an early season issue for this team and could potentially cost them victories if they don’t get better. Still, they look like a team that could be a tough opponent come tournament time. 

Teams on the Decline 

Kentucky (2-1)  

We can’t have a decline list without including Kentucky. The Wildcats fell to Evansville 67-64 earlier this week despite being a 25-point favorite. Kentucky shot just 24% from three and 37% from the field. While this was a bad loss, let’s not overreact to it just yet. 

This is a very young squad. Growing pains are a notorious part of John Calipari’s teams in November. It still wouldn’t shock me if they are one of the four #1 seeds in the tournament. This loss to the Aces was more of a “slice of humble pie” as Aaron Rodgers would say. When you’re 18 and on top of the college basketball world you just expect to coast through teams like Evansville. The Wildcats learned the hard way that you must perform each and every night no matter what the competition. 

They’ll drop in the rankings because of this loss, probably farther than they should. But a gut punch like that can be good and the Cats should be back in the “rise” category sooner than later. 

Villanova (1-1) 

As much as Ohio State is rising from defeating Villanova 76-51, the Wildcats are falling just as fast. It is still too early in the season to tell if the loss was because Ohio State being legit or Villanova being down. To me it looks like both. Losing by 25 to any team regardless of their rank is never a good thing. Losing to a team five spots behind you in the rankings means something isn’t right. 

The Wildcats no doubt have talent and will be a solid team at some point but their pedigree still has them considered by some to be elite. That loss to Ohio State should drop them down to the high teens or low 20’s in the rankings. Looking ahead, Villanova’s next six games are all very winnable against sub-par competition. How they perform against the spread will be a good indicator if the loss to OSU was an abortion or perhaps an indicator they are a tick or two below where they were projected heading into the season. After that, they play host to Kansas — the only other quality opponent in what is otherwise a very soft non-conference slate.  

Memphis (2-1) 

Memphis is on the decline for two reasons, one much bigger than the other. The loss to #14 Oregon is the smaller reason. Likely losing James Wiseman for the season is the bigger reason. Memphis was a hot team in the futures market heading into this season thanks to its top recruiting class. Those hopes obviously take a big hit without Wiseman.

There was no shame in losing to an older and more experienced Oregon squad, but you could see the potential impact Wiseman was going to have throughout the season. His talent no doubt would have helped offset the fact that virtually every rotation player is a freshman. Memphis might still be ranked next week but it won’t be long before there is no number in front of this team. Their next two games should be walkovers but perhaps Ole Miss or even NC State can take down the Tigers by the end of November. A March Madness berth isn’t out of the question but their chances of actually competing for a title are all but gone.  

Brandon Wittmeyer

Brandon Wittmeyer is a professional gambler in Las Vegas and has earned a living doing so for the last 15 years. He specializes in college football, college basketball, NFL and mixed martial arts. He also educates and advises others on many gambling topics including sports betting and poker. Brandon is featured occasionally on the Vegas Sports Information Network (VSIN) and you can hear him on podcasts regularly. He has written for Card Player magazine in the past about betting and poker strategies. His poker resume includes winning a World Series of Poker Bracelet and a WSOP Circuit Ring.