February has arrived, which means conference tournaments are not that far away. At this point, we have a pretty good idea of what teams have to work with, especially because COVID-19 pauses have become few and far between. Some teams are definitely playing better than anticipated and others are going to pick it up as the games start to increase in importance.
It’s also a good time to look at some of the teams with the best and worst ATS records. The sportsbooks are plenty aware of the teams that have burned them and those that have been good to them. Expect lines for those teams to be adjusted, if they haven’t already.
Best ATS record by winning percentage
Middle Tennessee: 14-3-1
Worst ATS record by winning percentage
Morgan State: 3-11
Idaho State: 4-13
Southern Utah: 4-13
The bigger the name, the more likely the oddsmakers are to make their adjustments. Auburn is the only name from a power conference on that list, but teams like NC State (6-16) and Oregon State (5-12-1) will also catch some attention.
Because there are 358 teams to consider, the sportsbooks are always going to prioritize the major conferences. Those games get the biggest handles. There might be $20,000 on a Big Ten game for every $200 on a MAAC game, so they’re going to pick and choose their battles. That’s a big reason I prefer looking at the smaller conferences pretty much across the board.
Here are some teams to back and fade this week and beyond.
Teams to fade
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors have been very impressive with a 7-0 start in the Big West and 11-5 overall. They erased a 23-4 deficit against UC Santa Barbara to pull out a three-point victory and get the cover at home on Saturday.
Maybe they are the best team in this conference, but teams will start making more shots against them. Hawaii is last in the 11-team Big West in turnover percentage at 14.2% in conference games. Opponents are shooting only 28.7% from 3 and 41.5% on 2s. In the nonconference portion of the season, against a pretty marginal schedule, Division I opponents shot 34% on 3s and 52.9% on 2s.
Hawaii has played only four true road games, but four of the next six are on the road, as well as six of the remaining 10 conference games. Regression should be coming shortly. Hawaii is also 9-4-2 ATS, so it fits the concept discussed above.
Cleveland State: The Vikings are having another strong season under head coach Dennis Gates, but I’ll be looking to fade this bunch the next three games. Cleveland State is 10-2 in conference play and has not won a conference game by double digits since early December. Bart Torvik and Ken Pomeroy both have the Vikings near or above a double-digit favorite in the next three home games against Green Bay, Milwaukee and UIC.
The Vikings are one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country at 65%. They aren’t a good 3-point shooting team either. While they do force a lot of turnovers, it helps to be able to score in those two key areas when trying to cover big spreads. Oddly enough, the Feb. 10 game is the last home game on their schedule as they’ll play the last five on the road. That means it will be senior day for a squad with 10 seniors on the roster.
Teams to back
Buffalo: Daaaaa Bulls look like a team ready to go on a run. After losses to Toledo and Ohio to finish January, they’re set to play a trio of subpar MAC teams. Buffalo is just 4-4 SU in league play, but there are some indicators of better performance on the horizon. To start, the Bulls are the top offensive rebounding team in the conference. Their next opponent, Central Michigan, is one of the worst. Eastern Michigan, the following opponent, is the worst offensive rebounding team.
I like Buffalo’s matchups in their next three games. Even though the lines will be a bit big for a team that looks underwhelming, I wouldn’t be too concerned. These are much better matchups than some of their other games. They’ve already beaten Western Michigan by 14 and Ball State by 6, both on the road.
Belmont: The Bruins aren’t exactly flying under the radar as a team with a 17-5 record and a 7-2 mark in OVC play. They are 12-7-2 ATS, and their seven wins in league play have been by an average of 24 points per game. They are a tremendous bully because they are extremely efficient on offense.
Belmont is shooting over 62% on 2s in league play and just below 36% on 3s. They also take care of the ball about as well as any team in the conference. Inferior teams simply cannot stop Belmont, and Casey Alexander’s squad will face a lot of inferior teams coming up, along with a revenge spot at home against Morehead State on Feb. 10. Belmont plays nine games in 23 days beginning Thursday. The Bruins are deeper than just about any team in this conference, and the condensed schedule will be a detriment for most of their opponents. I’d expect them to keep winning big.