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Vegas Wiseguy Report: NCAA Morphers

By Teddy_Covers | View all Posts
Posted Monday, February 18, 2013 03:42 AM   0 comments

I’ve done my last two columns breaking down aggregate season long stats, examining the very best and very worst pointspread teams in all of college basketball. Next week, the focus shifts towards conference tournaments and the Big Dance.  In between?  This little doozy about how to make money betting NCAA hoops in the always tricky month of February!

The key to late regular season college hoops for me has always been about ‘morphing’ teams – squads whose long term numbers don’t match their short term momentum – either positive or negative.  There are quite literally dozens of such teams right now, all of whom are at least moderately mispriced in the betting markets these days, offering savvy bettors solid opportunities on a near daily basis.

Who are some of these teams?  Why are they morphing now?  Read on to find out!

I’ll start with a handful of teams moving in the right direction – from mediocre to good, or from good to great.  Georgetown certainly stands out on this list; a perfect 7-0 straight up and against the spread in their last seven contests.  The Hoyas were never a bad team, but a 2-3 SU start in Big East play left them somewhat undervalued at the same time that NBA lottery bound small forward Otto Porter really stepped up into his ‘go-to-guy’ role during crunchtime. 

But more than anything else, Georgetown has morphed defensively from ‘good’ to ‘elite’ over the past month.  Only one of their last seven opponents has eclipsed the 56 point mark, and only one squad has shot better than 39% from the floor against them.  That type of shutdown defense can continue to cover pointspreads almost by itself.  The Hoyas recent run of success has the potential to continue in the weeks to come.

St Louis is another team riding a perfect 7-0 SU and ATS run into the new week.  When Jim Crew took over as head coach for the ailing Rick Majerus, there were more than a couple of early season hiccups, as St Louis went 2-6 ATS in their first eight lined games, including losses to Santa Clara and Washington.  But it wasn’t until the Billikens lost by double digits at Temple followed by a SU overtime loss to Rhode Island at home as 15 point chalk before this team really kicked it into high gear.

Since that loss to Rhode Island back on January 19th, St Louis has won every game and covered every pointspread; including impressive blowouts over A-10 heavyweights like Butler and Charlotte.  Much like Georgetown, it’s been the St Louis defense that has carried them through this run.  The team really doesn’t have a go-to-guy, as leading scorer Dwayne Evans averages less than 12 points per game.  And it took a while for St Louis to get comfortable with Kwamain Mitchell running the point again after he missed the first eight weeks of the campaign with a foot injury.  Great depth and great defense give St Louis a reasonable chance to keep their ATS success rolling into March.

Providence has risen from the dead, notching wins over Villanova, Notre Dame and Cincinnati as part of their current 4-0 SU and ATS streak.  The Friars success stems from their perimeter defense—shutting down opposing teams from the three point line – and the ability of big men Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton to clean up the glass and get to the free throw line.

Air Force has gone 7-2 ATS in their last nine games, exceeding all expectations in the ultra-competitive Mountain West.  Iowa is a hot team right now as well, as is Green Bay from the Horizon League.  And I certainly can’t fail to mention LSU; 6-2 SU and ATS in their last eight ballgames, including a perfect 5-0 pointspread mark as an underdog during that span.  There are many others; this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to teams that have morphed in a positive direction in recent weeks.

On the other end of the spectrum are the teams that are morphing in the wrong direction, becoming pointspread disaster areas in the process.  Look no further than my alma mater, the Michigan Wolverines, a team that had two different stints as the #1 ranked team in the country this year. 

The Wolverines full season numbers still look good, but they’ve clearly been slumping of late: 2-3 SU, 0-5 ATS in their last five ballgames after Sunday’s lethargic eight point win (as 22 point chalk) over Penn State.  Michigan’s early season success was as much about stellar execution as it was about talent level.  John Beilein’s team simply hasn’t executed on either end of the floor at the same level in February as they did in December.

Creighton is another team that’s been in the national rankings all year, but has fallen on hard times from an ATS perspective of late.  The Bluejays have always been something of a one trick pony; an exceptional offensive ballclub that has ranked in the Top 3 nationally in shooting percentage all season long, riding the impressive stroke of the coach’s son, Doug McDermott.  But McDermott has cooled off of late and his teammates have been unable to pick up the offensive slack. 

Creighton’s defensive numbers have been mediocre all season, and their pointspreads were most assuredly inflated following their 12-3 ATS mark in their first 15 lined games.  Creighton’s last ten games, however, have produced just a single pointspread cover, and I’m not convinced their supporters in the next ten games will show a net profit from that exercise.

There are three more mid-majors worth mentioning here.  Butler got leading scorer Rotnei Clarke back in the lineup following a four game absence and voila – the Bulldogs suddenly went 1-5 ATS in their next six ballgames, unable to win by the margins they were routinely achieving earlier in the campaign.  Butler hasn’t necessarily gotten worse, but their pointspreads have clearly been a notch or two too high since Clarke’s return.

Wyoming was a major early season surprise story; 9-1 ATS in their first ten lined games while going 13-0 SU to open the season, including wins over Colorado, Denver and Illinois State.  But the Cowboys clearly overachieved to their talent level early, and the rigors of the Mountain West have chewed them up and spit them out; just 2-5 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven lined ballgames.  Wyoming hasn’t necessarily morphed per se, but their pointspreads grew inflated following that red hot start, and the team simply hasn’t been good enough to live up to those lofty expectations.

Last, but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my current hometown ballclub, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  UNLV was pretty darn good in November and December, working their way into the Top 25 with an 11-1 SU, 6-5 ATS mark to open the campaign. 

But that mediocre pointspread mark when they were playing extremely well should have been a clear warning.  Once the schedule toughened up and UNLV was forced into halfcourt sets against solid defensive foes, the Rebels have proceeded to go 3-11 ATS in their last 14 ballgames.  On the road in the Dave Rice era, UNLV is now riding a 2-16 ATS run that dates back to 2011; soft and overvalued by the markets in every hostile environment they face!

So what’s the moral here?  Simple -- be on the lookout for these type of morphing squads, either good or bad.  The betting markets often react too slowly or too quickly compared to what is actually going on with each individual team, giving astute bettors positive expectation opportunities to support or fade teams that have changed their stripes since the start of conference play.

 

 

 

 

 

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