Conference play is officially in full swing and the cream has been rising to the top as teams begin to make their tournament cases for March with February conference play tipping off this weekend.
Today we look at five teams who are currently stepping up their play when it matters outside of the conference leaders.
Nebraska (3-5 Big Ten, 7-1 ATS)
Nebraska has a new-found excitement around their basketball program that has led to inspired play from a squad that plans to compete in the tough Big Ten after joining the conference for football purposes. A tough, but unspectacular, team has won three of its last four, beating Ohio State, Minnesota and Indiana at home. Those three wins have Nebraska hopeful it can turn the corner in February, and their 7-1 ATS record proves their worth as a good underdog bet that can stick with teams in the ultra-competitive Big Ten.
UCLA (6-2 Pac-12, 6-2 ATS)
UCLA, a run and gun team that has been one of the breakout teams of the season so far, hasn't slowed down in conference play. With a narrow home loss to Arizona and a road loss to an always tough Utah team being their only blemishes, UCLA is eying a high Pac-12 tournament seed behind 83.6 points per game scoring. At home they have their best value as they are 9-4 ATS all season.
Utah (3-5 Pac-12, 6-1-1 ATS)
Utah's inclusion in this list is solely based on their ATS record as the Utes have been covering all season on their way to a 12-2-1 record. They've stayed on course during conference play as the Utes are 6-1-1 to date. With a +9 rebounding margin per game and a 50 percent field goal rate, Utah is always tough to play and stick in most games even with a lack of talent. Keep a look out for when Utah are underdogs for the rest of Pac-12 play.
Stanford (4-4 Pac-12, 5-3 ATS)
After a shaky start to Pac-12 play, Stanford has finally began to start playing with a sense of urgency. Currently, Stanford is on a 4-2 stretch with wins over Oregon, USC and both Washington schools and the program is 5-1 ATS during that span. A near upset over Arizona may push Stanford to new heights during a stretch where they face Arizona State and Cal before making their Washington swing.
Tennessee (4-3 SEC, 5-2 ATS)
The Vols have fallen off the map a bit since Bruce Pearl was forced out of the program, but recently had a season changing win over Ole Miss where they won 86-70. Led by Jordan McCrae (18.8 PPG) and Jarnell Stokes (9.8 RPG), the Vols have hung tough so far in SEC play and have a chance to make a push for a higher SEC tournament seed if they can beat lower ranked opponents Alabama, Vandy and South Carolina over their next three games.