Teams to fade and back in college basketball

By Adam Burke  ( 


This is a good time of the year for college basketball bettors. The holiday break is over and a lot of teams seem to be coming back from COVID pauses.

We should start to see some more normalcy in the schedule. Plus, there are more data points available because of sample size, and on a micro level with recent head-to-head matchups in conference play.

As I’ve talked about recently, coaches may not be fully prepared for non-conference games, but the stakes are much higher against familiar foes. Those games will determine seeding for conference tournaments, or qualification in leagues that don’t take every team.

With more information at our disposal, isolating teams to fade and teams to back gets a little easier. Here are two that fall into each category.

Teams to Fade

Northern Kentucky: The Horizon League has a new schedule format that can be challenging. The schedule now features some extended road trips, or a whole lot of bus rides for teams that decide to go home between games. The Norse are about to start a run of four road games in nine days beginning Thursday. Some trips are even more extreme than that. Milwaukee, which just beat NKU to end a five-game road trip, plays four home, four away, five home and two away to end the regular season.

Northern Kentucky is shooting a ton of 3s this season. The Norse took 42 of them against Milwaukee and still scored just 55 points and .885 points per possession. The style of play for Darrin Horn’s team requires a high success rate from deep. The Norse rebound well on offense but also give up a lot of second chances and have thrown away a lot of possessions with a 20.8% turnover rate. They’re also a bad free-throw shooting team but won’t get to the line much with all the jumpers they take.

I tend to shy away from jump-shooting teams on the road because of different shooting backdrops and less familiarity. This also just might be a really bad team.

Appalachian State: The Mountaineers play at the highest elevation east of the Mississippi, so I try to look for spots to play them at home, especially against teams that may be on a road trip and tired. After Thursday’s game against Coastal Carolina, the next three are on the road.

The Mountaineers play like syrup coming out of a tap. They are in the bottom 25 in pace, and the biggest problem with that is the Mountaineers are inefficient on offense and defense. They’re shooting under 30 percent from 3-point range against D-I teams and rank in the bottom 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Three of their wins have come against lower-division teams — by 49, 61 and 25 points — which is important to note if you look at sources that don’t take those games out.

Most of their games will feature single-digit lines as both a favorite and an underdog, but their lack of efficiency at both ends is problematic.

Teams to Back

Dartmouth: I don’t think Dartmouth is very good. That being said, we’re looking at ATS teams to consider and the Big Green fit the bill. They are 1-6 in close games, so their 4-9 record could definitely be better. They’ve also played nine of their 13 games on the road. They’re essentially a .500 ATS team, but I think they could be a good bet in Ivy League play.

The program is in the midst of its worst 2-point percentage and defensive rebounding season of the David McLaughlin era. I am expecting improvements in those areas. McLaughlin knows his team is offensively-challenged, so they’re playing at a slower pace. Every team in the Ivy is flawed, but Dartmouth’s record and bland style of play may leave them a bit undervalued.

Charleston: Anytime a new coach comes in, it can take some time. Charleston has a really good one in Pat Kelsey, who was a solid coach at Winthrop for a long time. Charleston is playing at the fastest adjusted tempo in the nation, per Bart Torvik, and there are positive signs moving forward.

The Cougars are a top-40 team in both offensive and defensive rebounding, similar to Kelsey’s Winthrop teams in his last two seasons. While trying to figure out what he has to work with, Kelsey has spread the minutes out. As the season goes along, he’ll have a better handle of lineups and substitution rotations.

This is about the time of the year when you want to take stock of teams with first-year head coaches, and Charleston should be one on the rise.

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