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Sports betting scandal takes shine off UTEP's ATS success

Sports bettors cashing in on the UTEP Miners’ hot start to the season may have had that money train halted by, well… sports betting.

The Miners announced Tuesday that leading scorer McKenzie Moore, along with reserves Jalen Ragland and Justin Crosgile have been suspended from the team for betting on sports – a big no-no when it comes to the NCAA.

Texas-El Paso is among the best bets in college hoops out of the gate, going 7-2 ATS in its nine lined games this season, and hits the court in the wake of this scandal against the Charlotte 49ers Thursday night. Oddsmakers aren’t overreacting to the suspensions, pricing Moore's worth at about one point to the Miners spread, and have set UTEP as a 4-point home favorite.

“We’re talking about a 13-point scorer not one of the best players in the country,” Peter Korner, founder of the Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, tells Covers. “Right now, it’s not a huge adjustment. It’s worth about a point. It’s not like this is Kentucky or Kansas. We’re talking about UTEP here.”

Moore led UTEP with 13.1 points per game while Ragland and Crosgile combined to score 9.1 points an outing. The Miners have already played without Moore this season, since he was suspended for what the team called a “violation of team rules” on Dec. 28. He missed UTEP’s 60-54 overtime victory against Denver on Dec. 29, with UTEP covering as a 2.5-point home favorite.

“We already knew he was out, for whatever reason, and adjusted to that last game,” Korner says. “Now we know why, but it’s still the same process. This is not a unique story, unfortunately. These things are starting to pop up every so often. It’s something that raises an eyebrow and something we’re always wary of as oddsmakers.”

Some contrarian handicappers look to jump on downtrodden teams when situations like this arise. With the public opinion looking to fade a team that has just lost its top player, some advantageous bettors search for spread value on the other side. Most handicappers, however, tend to wash their hands of the mess and watch how a team reacts before betting on or against them.

“I steer clear in situations like this,” says Covers Expert Sean Murhpy. “To be honest, I haven't followed UTEP much on the court this season, so even more reason to stay away.”

Reports from the investigation handled by the FBI indicate that the players were not betting on their own games or shaving points and it is unclear just what sport they were betting on.

“We evaluate every film after every ball game and I was not suspicious of any behavior that they were betting on any UTEP event," head coach Tim Floyd told reporters.

Texas El-Paso is 10-5 SU (7-2 ATS) on the year and boasts a 3-6 O/U record in games with odds available. Thursday’s total is set at 137 points.

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