This past week, the last unbeatens were knocked off in college basketball, causing a reshuffling of the Top 10 teams in the country according to the polls. In sorting the new order, one popular conception which has been floated about for years is betting against Top 10, because this is who the public supports. While this merits from time to time, a look at the USA Today Top 10 finds these teams at 88-59-1 against the spread, for a percentage of 59.8 percent, none too shabby.
Instead of taking a negative or positive stance on these squads, let’s breakdown how they might respond the next month versus the oddsmakers.
Louisville 10-7 ATS – The Cardinals have been anointed the top team in the country and it is deserved. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are tenacious defenders and one-man fast breaks in the open court. Center Gorgui Dieng is returning to form as a shot-blocker and rebounder and the wing players are explosive. Louisville will be watched closely by oddsmakers and likely juiced to a certain degree, but its quick strike ability makes them hard to bet against.
Indiana (9-5 ATS) and Michigan (10-6 ATS) – Consider this to be like a dual entry in horse racing. Both teams have all the weapons on offense and are tenacious enough on defense. Because of the competition in the Big Ten, at least for now, oddsmakers will have few opportunities to shade the better teams since they are matched against each other so frequently. Both are worthy of consideration by basketball bettors each time out, however, look for sandwich games in which they could be big favorites and fail to cover.
Duke 9-7 ATS – The ACC has a number of very average teams this season and Duke is a natural target for hoops bettors as a Play On team, suggesting those working the number will always look to shade the Blue Devils. The Dukies will continue to win, but are no better than a 50-50 wager with Ryan Kelly out of the lineup. Duke misses his skill and versatility, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon’s production has fallen off, making Coach K’s club easier to defend.
Kansas 7-8 ATS – The Jayhawks are far and away the best team in the Big 12, with everyone battling for second place. Kansas will carry the burden of an extra point or two in conference play the rest of the regular season. Part of the reason Bill Self’s squad is the only Top 10 team to be below .500 against the number is their offensive inconsistency. This might be splitting hairs to a certain degree, but while they rank 10th in the country in field goal percentage (48.9%), they are 23rd in Effective Field Goal shooting, which could be the difference when laying heavy chalk.
Syracuse 9-4ATS – The loss of senior James Southerland will affect the Orangemen, being second in scoring and fourth in rebounding. The suspension is indefinite and oddsmakers will have to recalculate Syracuse’s position in the bigger picture.
Arizona 7-7 ATS – Is Arizona a Top 10 team? Off their recent performances it does not appear that way, with three duds, before defeating Oregon State 80-70 as 11-point road favorites. (Five straight spread setbacks) Until the Wildcats display greater focus, they are play against or no play material.
Gonzaga 8-6-1 ATS – This might be coach Mark Few’s best and certainly most athletic team he’s had in Spokane. Gonzaga completed a basketball version of what Notre Dame football will do in the ACC, by going 5-0 (4-1 ATS) against the Big 12 this season. The Bulldogs will undoubtedly be loaded up with points in the West Coast Conference and will have to overcome some big numbers.
Florida 7-4 ATS – With Kentucky lacking veteran leadership, the talented Wildcats might not reach their true potential until March. This leaves open the door for Florida to be the dominant club in a watered-down SEC. The Gators give the appearance of a complete outfit and need to bring the effort for 40 minutes more continually and avoid their funks. Very capable of beating heavy spreads.
Creighton 12-3 ATS – The Bluejays are one of the top teams in the land for beating the spread because of their offense. Creighton is second in shooting percent (52.2%), No.1 in three-point accuracy (45.3), No.2 in two-point attempts (56.9) and the best in Effective Field Goal shooting. What has made the Bluejays such a good bet beside their offense; opponents are converting only 43.6 percent of their two’s against Creighton and are taking only 13.5 free throws a game. Keep backing the Jays until further notice.