College Basketball's Worst Against The Spread

College Basketball's Worst Against The Spread

College Basketball's Worst Against The Spread
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

Last week, I took a look at the best pointspread teams in all of college basketball, with the goal of assessing which teams were most likely to continue their ATS success down the stretch. This week, I’m taking the opposite approach; examining the very worst pointspread teams in college basketball. Why are they so bad against the spread? Will they continue to be overvalued as February rolls into March? Let’s find out!

The single worst pointspread team in all of college basketball this year has been IUPUI (Indiana-Purdue, Indianapolis); the type of team that only wiseguys bet on or against on a regular basis. At 5-17 ATS, no team in all of college basketball has suffered more pointspread defeats than the Jaguars this year. The Jaguars play in the Summit League, on the added board in college hoops – exclusive territory for sharps.

IUPUI has virtually no homecourt edge, covering just a single pointspread at home all year. They’ve been besieged with injuries and attrition; leaving them with a rotation that goes only seven deep these days. Statistically, their two biggest weaknesses really stand out: rebounding (-5 per game) and defense (49% shooting and 77 points per game allowed).

But the real question is why a team like IUPUI is at the very bottom of the ATS standings. Todd Howard’s squad wasn’t particularly highly thought of coming into the season, expected to finish in the bottom half of the league. But they were much worse than expected through the non-conference season, opening the campaign on an 0-10 ATS run.

The type of bettors who wager on schools like IUPUI aren’t likely to be perusing aggregate ATS records very often. The biggest college basketball betting syndicates are driven by computer generated power rating numbers. If their mathematical calculations say to bet on any particular team in any particular game, they will, plain and simple.

Since that 0-10 ATS start, IUPUI has gone 5-7 ATS – not good, but well within the expected range of long term pointspread results. Blindly fading the Jaguars down the stretch of their campaign is not likely to produce significant profits.

Marshall has only four pointspread covers in their 19 lined games, another true ATS bottom feeder. The Thundering Herd, unlike IUPUI, was projected to be a contender for the Conference-USA title this year after returning a trio of starters from last year’s 21 win NIT team. But like IUPUI, Marshall’s ATS struggles were apparent from the get-go, as they failed to cover any of their first ten lined games (0-9-1 ATS).

Since that awful start, the Thundering Herd have gone a modest 4-5 against the spread, again, not the type of numbers that produce significant profits for those betting against them blindly. But bettors who have faded Marshall on the road – where they seem to have a lot of ‘quit’ in them this year – have been rewarded throughout conference play where four of their five defeats have come by double digits, all ATS losses.

The next two pointspread disaster areas both come from the same conference—the Colonial. Drexel is 6-16 ATS; Old Dominion 6-15 vs. the number. But the two teams have taken very different routes to get to their current status as ATS bottom feeders.

To say this has been a truly miserable season for Old Dominion is something of an understatement. The Monarchs haven’t just been bad – they’ve been awful, 3-21 SU, with only a single victory since Christmas. This program has been a fixture in the postseason for the last eight years, averaging 24 wins per season during that span. They won 22 games last year and got a CIT tournament bid.

But the Monarchs final season in the Colonial Athletic Conference has been an unmitigated disaster. Head coach Blaine Taylor, who was fired last week summed it up well: “The kids have good hearts, they've got good heads. They want to try to do the right things. It's just one of those times in the program's history that we're going to have to kind of endure.” Athletic director Wood Selig: "It's not anything that any of us wanted. From time to time, even the best programs have one of these kinds of seasons. I guess it's our turn.”

But since Taylor was fired, replaced by interim head coach Jim Corrigan, the Monarchs have shown real signs of life. First they won SU on the road as double digit underdogs at Drexel. Then they took CAA leader Northeastern to overtime at home this past Saturday before falling short. Still, following an 0-9 ATS run to open the conference campaign, there’s a realistic chance that Old Dominion could produce some profits for their supporters over the next few weeks.

Drexel was expected to contend for the CAA title this year. Like the Marshall team described above, those expectations have hung like an albatross around their collective necks all year long. At 5-6 SU in conference play and 9-14 SU for the full season, it’s clear that Bruiser Flint’s Dragons have been power rated too high all year long, but at 4-4 ATS in their last eight ballgames, once again, the best time for blindly fading Drexel has probably come and gone already.

Duquesne closed out the weekend with a 5-14 ATS mark for the season. Richmond and Portland both sit at 6-15 ATS for the full season. It’s very clear that this year, as is the case in most seasons, the strongest ‘bet against’ teams are schools from smaller conferences who just don’t get much mainstream media coverage or much public support from bettors.

The three worst major conference teams from a pointspread perspective are South Florida (8-14 ATS), TCU (6-12 ATS) and Wisconsin (8-14 ATS). The Badgers problems are simple to identify – bad offense, ensuring repeated struggles to win by margin. Combo guards Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson have combined for only five assists per game. And the Badgers shoot below 62% from the free throw line; a major weakness that has kept them from extending margins late in games. They’ve won seven games in SU fashion while losing them ATS; a classic ‘can’t win by big enough margins’ ballclub.

South Florida is another ‘plagued by too-high expectations’ type of squad. Stan Heath’s squad improved from 10 to 22 wins last year and reached the Big Dance. This year, they got off to a solid 9-3 SU, 5-6 ATS start. But the strong defenses in the Big East have wreaked havoc on the Bulls limited offensive acumen. USF has been held to 50 points or less in six different conference games, going 0-6 SU and ATS in those contests. Plain and simple – if you can’t score points, you’re not going to cover many pointspreads!

TCU was expected to be a bottom feeder this year. We’re talking about a squad that couldn’t compete in the Mountain West last year, taking a step up in class to face Big XII opposition this time around. Yes, the Horned Frogs enjoyed a remarkable upset over Kansas last week, earning their first conference victory in the process. But for most of the season, Trent Johnson’s squad, like South Florida, has been unable to put the biscuit in the basket for extended stretches. TCU’s 54 points per game average ranks 345th out of 347 Division 1A teams. Even when a team is expected to be bad, if they can’t score enough points to hang within the number, they’ll end up as ATS bottom feeders.

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