NCAAB: Teams to Watch

NCAAB: Teams to Watch

Teams to Watch
By Brian Edwards

If you’re struggling with your college basketball wagers, perhaps it’s time to narrow your focus on a smaller group of teams? In this discussion, we’ll touch on some squads that are hooking up their backers with winners galore, in addition to covering a few schools that it’s best to bet against.

Beginning with the former, let’s go out to the Pac 10 and talk about the teams by the Bay. Stanford (12-3 straight up, 11-3 against the spread) has covered the spread in four consecutive games and seven of its last eight, including Saturday’s 75-69 win over California as a 2 ½-point home favorite. The Cardinal have been particularly dangerous at home, compiling a 9-1 SU record and a 7-2 ATS mark.

Cal (15-3 SU, 11-4 ATS) was unbeaten in conference play and on an 8-0 ATS run before going down against Mike Montgomery’s former school. Nevertheless, the Bears remain in a first-place tie in the Pac 10. They also have been profit producers at home, winning all 11 games outright while posting a 7-1 spread record. Cal returns home this week with back-to-back contests against the Oregon schools.

Just like last season, Kentucky (14-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) is coming on strong in SEC play under the direction of second-year coach Billy Gillispie. The Wildcats have taken the cash in five straight games and eight of their last nine, including Sunday’s dominant 68-45 win at Georgia as eight-point ‘chalk.’

UK went 12-4 ATS in SEC games during the regular season last year. The ‘Cats are out to a 3-0 start both SU and ATS against SEC foes this season. Jodie Meeks dropped a school-record 54 points on Tennessee last week to lead UK to a 90-72 triumph as a six-point road underdog. With Meeks and sophomore power forward Patrick Patterson playing like two of the nation’s premier players, the ‘Cats look like the class of the SEC.

Mississippi St. (13-5 SU, 7-4 ATS) has caught fire in recent weeks with five consecutive wins both SU and ATS. Junior center Jarvis Varnardo is leading the country in blocked shots, swatting more than five shots per game.

After suffering through a nightmare 16-19 campaign in 2007-2008, Illinois (15-3 SU, 10-4 ATS) is back among the Big Ten’s elite. The Illini own a 4-1 spread ledger in five underdog spots.

Staying in the Big Ten, Penn St. (14-5 SU, 8-3 ATS) has been a surprising money maker. The Nittany Lions are 4-1-1 ATS in Big Ten action and they’ve seen the ‘over’ go 4-1 in their last five outings.

At the other end of the spectrum, gamblers should have a handy list of teams to fade (bet against). Alabama (11-6 SU, 6-6 ATS) should certainly be one of those squads, especially with senior point guard and team leader Ronald Steele out indefinitely with plantar fascitis.

Without Steele the last two games, the Crimson Tide have lost by double digits both times. ‘Bama went down 84-73 at Mississippi St. as a seven-point underdog before falling 85-71 at Auburn as a six-point ‘dog. Steele’s return doesn’t appear to be imminent, so look for ‘Bama to continue to struggle.

Mark Gottfried’s hot-seat status is quickly going from a simmer to a boil. In fact, Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky recently noted that the Auburn loss was the “beginning of the end” for Gottfried.

“Alabama teams have been underachieving for years now,” Las Vegas Sports Consultants oddsmaker John “The Coach” Harper told VegasInsider.com. “They never play well on the road and Gottfried just doesn’t get much out of his players. The results don’t reflect the talent on the roster.”

Harper’s got that right. ‘Bama has lost 14 consecutive SEC road games. The Tide is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. With that said, we should note that Alabama had never been beyond the Sweet 16 until Gottfried’s bunch went to the Elite Eight in 2004.

Another fade team in the SEC is Georgia, which has lost five in a row SU and three straight ATS. Despite the Dawgs’ improbable run to the SEC Tournament title last March, Dennis Felton’s job security is also in serious doubt. Even with Kentucky fans filling the stands to make their presence felt, there were still plenty of empty seats during Sunday’s setback at Stegeman Coliseum.

Felton’s cause took a big blow last week when five-star recruit Derrick Favors of South Atlanta High School chose Ga. Tech ahead of UGA and N.C. St.

Speaking of Georgia Tech (9-8 SU, 4-9), it has also been burning the pockets of its backers. The Yellow Jackets have failed to cover the number in seven of their last eight games, including a 76-71 overtime loss Saturday at N.C. St. as four-point underdogs.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Coach of the Year candidates:
1-Dino Gaudio (Wake Forest)
2-Tubby Smith (Minnesota)
3-Oliver Purnell (Clemson)
4-Mike Montgomery (California)
5-Randy Bennett (Saint Mary’s)

--Player of the Year candidates:
1-Jeff Teague (Wake Forest)
2-Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
3-Stephen Curry (Davidson)
4-Jodie Meeks (Kentucky)
5-Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)

--Memo to Coach K: The Big East isn’t just better than the ACC this year, it’s a lot better.

--Nation’s Most Overrated Player: UCLA’s Darren Collison. What on earth was he doing on the Bruins’ last possession of regulation in Saturday’s loss to Arizona St.?

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