Cinderella Story: A Weekly Look at the Top Mid-Major Teams
by Nick Parsons
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For those who enjoy watching small school hoops rather than one and done’s in big conferences, here’s a look at our list of the top ten mid major teams and what they are up to for the week ahead.
#1 Butler 8-4, 4-8 ATS
Dec 31 Wisconsin Green Bay (conf)
Jan 2 Wisconsin Milwaukee (conf)
Butler finished a tough non-conference schedule with only four losses and had quality wins over Ohio St. and Xavier. Most expect them to breeze through Horizon League play, but expect big spreads and sharp numbers. At 4-8 ATS, they haven’t been the best cover team and in their first conference game against Valparaiso they failed to cover the 18 point spread by one point.
#2 Northern Iowa 9-1, 6-3 ATS
Dec 29 at Creighton
Jan 1 Evansville
Jan 3 Missouri St
Victories over potential tournament teams like Boston College, Iowa St. and Siena, has Northern Iowa prepared for Missouri Valley play, which looks to be the toughest mid major conference this year. Creighton is in a down year, but they’ll be tough on the road. Then following a New Year’s Day tilt with Evansville they go up against 10-1 Missouri State. The Panthers have won games with their defense which is ranked 11th in points allowed per game at 57.7.
#3 Gonzaga 8-3, 3-4-1 ATS
Dec 28 Eastern Washington
Dec 31 Oklahoma
Jan 2 at Illinois
The Maui Invitational champs will look to bounce back from their embarrassing 76-41 loss to Duke at MSG, where they shot 27%. They have an easy game versus Eastern Washington to start to week, but go up against Oklahoma at home and Illinois on the road. Aside for the performance against Duke, Gonzaga has been one of the best over teams going 6-3-1 on totals and averaging 76 points per game.
#4 St. Mary’s 11-2, 9-1 ATS
Dec 29 Binghampton
Dec 30 Howard
C Omar Samhan has done a good job replacing Patrick Mills as the star player on St. Mary’s, averaging 21.1 PPG and 11.2 RPG. They have an easy schedule this week but have had no problem covering big spreads this season. In their last four wins, they beat opponents by an average of 14 points.
#5 Cornell 9-2, 7-3 ATS
Dec 29 at La Salle
Dec 31 Penn St-Behrend
Jan 2 Bryant
Cornell ended the Xmas break by winning the MSG Holliday Festival Tournament. The "Big Red" beat the St. Johns “Red Storm” 71-66 in the finals, as +3.5 dogs. The only game this week that will probably have a line set is their road match against 7-4 La Salle. You’ll probably have to set your own line with your friends in that tilt against Penn St-Behrend. Look for value the following week when take on Kansas on the road.
#6 Western Carolina 10-2, 6-2 ATS
Dec 30 NC-Ashville
The Catamounts failed to cover and lost their last game to Clemson 79-57. However prior to that they were on a 9 game winning streak, and they beat Louisville on the road 91-83. Bettors though may have to wait though to bet on West Carolina as most books won’t put out a line for their lone game this week against NC-Ashville.
#7 Old Dominion 8-4, 3-5 ATS
Dec 30 Duquesne
Jan 2 at George Mason
The Monarchs are 4-1 in their last five games, with one of those wins coming on the road against Georgetown. Their defense ranks 1st in the NCAA in points allowed at 53.9 PPG and they are one of the under teams going 1-6 on totals this year. Before they resume conference play against George Mason they have a tough game against 9-4 Duquesne. That match may be attractive to bettors though as Duquesne is only 1-6 ATS this year.
#8 Missouri St. 10-1, 8-3 ATS
Dec 29 at Evansville
Jan 1 Illinois St.
Jan 3 at Northern Iowa
Missouri St. is one of three Missouri Valley Conference teams that entered the Xmas break with only one loss. That lone defeat came in overtime to Arkansas on the road. It’s nothing but in-conference action for them this week starting off with Evansville and 9-2 Illinois St. It doesn’t get easier after that as they have to go against 9-1 Northern Iowa on the road. But this team is capable of winning all three of those games
#9 Virginia Commonwealth 7-2, 3-4 ATS
Dec 29 East Carolina
Jan 2 NC-Wilmington
Power Forward Larry Sanders leads the team in scoring and is averaging 8.4 rebounds per game. He is expected to go in the 1st round of the NBA draft and is a big reason why VCU remains a mid major powerhouse despite the loss of Eric Maynor. Their close wins and recent ATS losses may actually be beneficial to bettors and provide value as they come closer to conference play.
#10 Wichita St. 11-1, 2-3 ATS
Dec 29 at Illinois St
Jan 1 Drake
Jan 3 Bradley
Prior to their matchup against Texas Tech most of the press attributed Wichita State’s success to their weak schedule. However oddsmakers (who often know more than the media) were well aware of this team’s talent, making them 6 point favorites against then undefeated Texas Tech. They won by two and failed to cover, but in that victory the Shockers proved that they are capable of making it to the NCAA Tournament. The road to an NCAA berth continues with a challenging road game against 9-2 Illinois St.
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