Betting struggling college programs

Betting struggling college programs

Betting struggling college programs
By JOSH NAGEL

When lines are posted for teams having sub-par or transitional seasons, there’s a natural tendency to at least give them a look.

You already know they are going to be spotted a whole bunch of points and they’ll sometimes be spotted a double-figure number even within the friendly confines of their home court.

You can bet with confidence that, at the very least, you have a fighting chance until the end. And there’s always the possibility of a back-door cover of such a high number.

If you find such mitigating factors too appealing to resist, you’re not alone. But recent results suggest that the even a major helping of points can’t sugarcoat the reality that these teams have limited value.

Take, for instance, two programs that are struggling but whose spreads might catch your attention.

The Indiana Hoosiers are plagued by sanctions and defections in the wake of the mess left by former coach Kelvin Sampson, Indiana is now trying to find stability under the direction of Tom Crean.

The former longtime Marquette coach has the credentials and patience with which to turn things around but the Hoosiers predictably are struggling this season. They are 6-18 overall and 1-11 in the Big 10.

The same goes for the Air Force Falcons, which for years have overachieved despite being consistently out-manned by its opponents. The Falcons’ consistent success led to a wave of coaching turnover that left the program in constant transition. The program has stumbled to a 9-16 mark this year under second-year coach Jeff Reynolds, with an 0-12 record in the Mountain West Conference.

Although Indiana has a respectable 9-9 record against the spread, the value hasn’t come where you might expect it. The Hoosiers failed to cover 17 points in a rivalry game against Kentucky and have failed to bring home the money as an 11-point home underdog against Illinois and while getting seven points from Ohio State at Assembly Hall.

Air Force historically has provided gamblers a good value when getting five or six points because of its methodical offense that lends itself to low-scoring games. But this year, the value has evaporated. Air Force is just 6-12 ATS and has failed to cover in eight of its past 10 outings. What’s more, the Falcons have failed to cover in four of the six games in which they were spotted 10 or more points.

“We knew both of these teams were going to struggle, but not this much,” said Jay Kornegay, sports book director at the Las Vegas Hilton. “So each time they play, we re-evaluate them. Their power rankings have continuously dropped throughout the year, and we have adjusted.

“Some people just need to get over the fact that these are two teams that have had success in the past, but are not a competitive team this year.”

For experienced handicappers, determining if and when there is value on a struggling team is no easy chore. Sometimes it’s best to let the sleeping underdogs, well, sleep.

“Some spots do call for a fade on a rebuilding or bad team,” said Stephen Nover of Covers Experts. “Usually the value is with the (struggling) team, but that has to balanced with the fact that sometimes these teams have given up.

“Sometimes, coaching can be a factor. If the coach of a struggling team is a friend of the opposing coach and the spread is big, the coach of the favorite team may let up, not looking to embarrass his friend.”

But even such logic-based strategies can backfire when you’re dealing with a wounded animal.

Crean’s Hoosiers were spotting a whopping 21 points Feb. 7 when they visited Michigan State in East Lansing. Crean is a longtime friend and former assistant under Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

The Hoosiers played an outstanding first half and trailed just 33-30 early in the second half. However, respectability gave way to reality, and the Spartans pulled away for a 75-47 win that gave their backers brave enough to lay 21 points in a conference game the cash.

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