Going into this week, just one college basketball team had yet to take an against-the-spread loss — Sacramento State. The Hornets graduated their leader in points, assists and steals from a season ago in Marcus Graves but have done a tremendous job of getting their pace this season.
Over the last few years, the Hornets have relied on defense to hang in games. But they have gone from giving up 69.5 points per game and ranking 166th in the country in points per possession allowed to 29th while ranking 306th in possessions per game. That has also led to five of their first six games dipping Under the total.
These results have not all come against bottom feeders, either, as true road games against Colorado, Pepperdine and Santa Clara are already in the books.
Sacramento State lacks towering height, as just one player among those who play at least 10 minutes per game is taller than 6-foot-8, but has averaged 6.9 more rebounds than its opponents thanks to 3-point-shooting defense.
Division I foes are shooting just 24.3% from beyond the arc, which ranks fourth In the country. The Hornets themselves do not hit a lot of outside shots, as 20.2% of their field goals are 3s, the lowest rate in the country.
Teams that play that level of defense and do not rely on 3s can often resist letdowns and flat performances thanks to their offensive distribution. Nobody on this team averages more than 12.6 points per game, but five players chip in at least nine, and all five also pull in three to six rebounds apiece.
With Sacramento State never more than a 5.5-point favorite this season and an underdog three times, this team has tremendous value given how it plays. The Hornets have a recipe for consistency. Thanks to playing stout defense and not attempting many 3s, they can deal with true road games more easily than schools that rely more on outside shots.