Heading into Thursday’s college basketball schedule, underdogs have gone 1573-1533-55 against the spread (50.64 percent) this season, which sits par for the course as far as oddsmakers are concerned.
Some conferences have followed suit, like the Mountain West, which enters Thursday’s slate with a 28-28-2 ATS record for underdogs in conference play. But other leagues, like the Pac-12, have – for lack of a better term – gone to the dogs.
As of Thursday, Pac-12 underdogs have produced a 54-31-2 ATS record – covering the spread at a profitable 63 percent.
While pups have posted just a 32-55 SU mark in those games, the ATS numbers show just how volatile the Pac-12 can be. Southern California’s 89-78 win over No. 11 Arizona as a 7.5-point home underdog Wednesday is a prime example.
Knowing which conferences have been bountiful to underdog bettors is not only useful in the final weeks of the schedule but shines light on which leagues have the most upset potential come conference tournament time.
Here are the best conferences for underdog bettors and how their tournaments are shaping up:
Pac-12 – 63 percent (Underdogs are 54-31-2 ATS, 32-55 SU)
Four teams are fighting it out for the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament – Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Cal – but as Wednesday’s schedule proved (all three underdogs covered, two won SU), no team is safe no matter where they sit in the standings. Betting the Pac-12 postseason could be as easy as blindly siding with the underdogs each game.
Southern Conference – 59 percent (Underdogs are 57-39-2 ATS, 31-67 SU)
Davidson is the class of the Southern once again at 16-1 SU in conference play. However, the Wildcats are just 8-9 ATS and have been favorites in each of those conference clashes. Finding value in the Southern tournament will come from those teams below Davidson, like Samford, which is 9-7 SU but 13-3 ATS in conference play - nine of those paydays coming as an underdog.
Missouri Valley Conference – 58 percent (Underdogs are 47-33-3 ATS, 30-53 SU)
The MVC is one of the best little conferences in the land and the postseason race is hot and heavy with Wichita State and Creighton tied atop the standings heading into a showdown this Saturday. Both of those programs are in the conversation for an at-large NCAA bid but have also fallen at the hands of lesser MVC foes. Evansville could be the wildcard in the bunch, with two wins over WSU and six of their nine ATS conference wins coming as an underdog.
Colonial Athletic Association – 57 percent (Underdogs are 52-39-0 ATs, 37-54 SU)
Northeastern has already clinched the CAA regular season title, with one game remaining on the schedule, and there is a nice battle for second in the conference between Delaware and Towson. George Mason, Georgia State and James Madison all finished with double-digit conference wins. The Panthers took one win over Northeastern this season and nearly knocked off the Huskies in overtime Wednesday. The CAA tournament could very well pop a NCAA bubble for one of the major-conference program if there's an upset winner.
Summit League – 55 percent (Underdogs are 36-29-0 ATS, 21-44 SU)
Heading into the final string of schedule, just two games separate No. 1 South Dakota State and No. 4 Oakland in the Summit standings. The Jackrabbits have the makings of a Cinderella team come March Madness but the league tournament could snuff out that shocker before Selection Sunday, especially if star Nate Wolters is slowed by a back injury. The fourth-place Golden Grizzlies have wins over South Dakota State and Western Illinois this year and could be a dog to watch in the postseason.