College basketball Top 5: Best early-season bets
The NBA won’t be back until Christmas Day, so how are you supposed to sweeten your holiday shopping pot? You need to go back to school.
College hoops is a month in and already teams have stepped up and shown some true betting value. Here’s a look at the five best bets heading into December.
Harvard Crimson (6-0 SU, 4-0 ATS)
The smartest team in college basketball could also be the smartest bet. The Crimson were picked to win the Ivy League, and have played up to those expectations during non-conference play.
A big part of Harvard’s ATS success has to do with the fact that it’s only played one game at home, and is getting manageable spreads on the road. The Crimson’s defense is among the best in the country and the roster is stocked with returning talent, including 6-foot-8 forward Keith Wright – the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year.
Word to the wise: What value Harvard has in non-conference play could be hard to come by in those league games Friday night.
Georgetown Hoyas (5-1 SU, 4-0 ATS)
Georgetown was expected to take a step back, with one of the youngest teams in the Big East. But it seems everyone forgot about head coach John Thompson III, who is an early – very early - favorite to win Coach of the Year.
The Hoyas made a small fortune at the Maui Invitational, giving Kansas a run, before roughing up host Chaminade and knocking off Memphis in overtime, posting a 3-0 ATS mark.
The moneymaker has been Georgetown’s offense. The team lost 41.5 percent of its scoring when stars Chris Wright and Austin Freeman left, but is getting double figures from four players, including versatile 6-foot-9 freshman small forward Otto Porter, who could be NBA bound.
Stanford Cardinal (6-1 SU, 6-0 ATS)
The Stanford football team isn’t the only cash cow in Palo Alto. The Cardinal are a bountiful 6-0 ATS and nearly stunned Syracuse in the NIT Tip-Off championship game last week.
Stanford was predicted to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 pack, and has gone above and beyond those expectations to start the schedule. But, while the return of four starters and an inspiring run at MSG has been enough in November, the Cardinal do lack a true, go-to scorer when the going gets tough.
The Pac-12 is a very competitive and underrated conference, with no easy games on the schedule. Buyers should beware when Stanford finds itself in the grind of conference play.
St. Louis Billikens (6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS)
What the heck is a Billiken? It’s a mythical little elf – a rich mythical little elf. St. Louis is off to a strong start after stumbling out of the blocks last year, knocking off big-name programs like Boston College, Villanova and Oklahoma to win the 76 Classic last weekend.
Rick Majerus has his top seven scorers back from last season, and a smothering defense, which currently ranks 13th in the country. The Billkens laid it on thick in the 76 Classic, scoring more than 80 points in each of the final two games and shooting 23 for 44 from beyond the arc in that span.
St. Louis is just one of the many talented programs in the Atlantic 10 this season. But with Xavier and Temple stealing much of the thunder, the Billkens should continue to hold that betting value into the conference slate.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (6-1 SU, 6-0 ATS)
The Blue Raiders are bursting with betting value, either against the spread or over/under. Middle Tennessee State is scoring more than 81 points per game and is shooting a nation-best 54.5 percent from the floor. That’s panned out into a perfect 6-0 ATS record and a 4-1-1 over/under count.
The Blue Raiders made headlines with an upset over UCLA – which doesn’t hold the water it once did – and have been underdogs in four of those six lined games. Six-foot-9 Iowa State transfer LaRon Dendy has been the difference, leading the team with over 15 points a game while providing some shot-block security on defense.
Middle Tennessee State is known for its poor non-conference performances and strong Sun Belt play, so this quick start could mean big things for MTSU. Coach Kermit Davis’ program has five straight games against defensively-challenged foes heading into a matchup with Ole Miss before the holiday break. Even if the Blue Raiders’ line value disappears, the over should remain a wise play.