Early Season Hoops Sleepers
LAS VEGAS, NV (TheSpread) - It's early in the college basketball season, which means non-conference play is the focus for bettors and fans.
When you handicap this early in the season, it's important to know how many returning starters a team has, whether they have a new coach and philosophy and whether key players are injured or suspended.
If you have the information and have done your research, you can find some loopholes in the line. One of my mottos is that "you should never fall in love with a team, but you should at least date them." In other words, find a few teams out there that oddsmakers undervalue and ride them, but once the books adjust the line, break up with those teams.
One of the teams I've followed so far that has played well is Wichita State. They are a very underrated team that has covered against the spread, four straight games and six of seven. Even though the Shockers returned just two players from last season, they did bring back a very good player in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. This is a team that has no fear as shown by their four-point loss to Louisville in the Final Four.
Another squad that is on the rise is Massachusetts. The Minutemen haven't been relevant since the nineties, but they have a legitimate guard in Chaz Williams and a very good big man in Cady Lalanne. When looking at sleepers, make sure they have good guards and have a quality big man who can rebound. UMass has covered six of seven games thus far including defeating a Big 10 team in Nebraska and an ACC squad in Clemson. This is a legitimate contender for the Atlantic Ten title.
One team you might want to jump on before conference play starts is Harvard. Once they get into Ivy League action, they'll be laying 20 or more points against most of the competition. If you can get them as a dog, you should at least consider the Crimson, who have covered four straight. Harvard has four starters returning for coach Tommy Amaker and a star in 6-5 junior guard Wesley Saunders, who can play for most BCS schools.
If you love college basketball and want to make some money, don't just pay attention to the ACC-Big 10 Challenge and all the featured games on the tube. There are a lot of quality clubs out there that media doesn't harp on. These are the clubs that Vegas and the sportsbooks tend to undervalue, especially when they play the so-called "big-name" teams. You can make a fortune by finding these undervalued teams, especially in non-conference play over the next few weeks.