College Basketball Betting Preview for ASUN: Liberty is Top Dog Once Again
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- Liberty has been unstoppable since joining the ASUN and with NBA prospect in Darius McGhee, things don't change this year.
- Bellarmine is an underrated school that could potentially challenge the Flames at the top.
- Keg gives you top notch insight on the ASUN.
The ASUN welcomes in three new teams this year, two of which I think have a chance to compete for the conference crown.
Central Arkansas joins the ASUN from the Southland, while Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State arrive from the Ohio Valley.
Last year, Liberty became only the second team in league history to win three consecutive conference tournaments. The Flames will again look to continue their dominance this year.
Coach Jordan Mincy is the only first-year head coach in the league as he and Jacksonville look to compete in one of the most balanced and competitive conferences in the nation (outside of Liberty).
One last thing to remember is that Bellarmine and North Alabama both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to the transition process.
|Overall Record 2020-21||23-6|
Liberty has won a share of the conference title every year since joining the ASUN. Its league record during that span is 38-7.
The Flames’ dominance is likely to continue this year, but they failed to bring in any experienced options to replace key starters that they lost.
While they may be the most talented team in the ASUN, this young Liberty squad may take some time to mesh. With such an inexperienced roster, more seasoned groups in the ASUN could be a threat.
However, with a potential NBA talent in Darius McGhee, the conference is still Liberty’s to lose.
|Overall Record 2020-21||22-7|
Eastern Kentucky finished its time in the Ohio Valley Conference with an excellent 22-win season. Now, the Colonels are off to the ASUN.
Wendell Green Jr. and Tre King — last year’s top two scorers — have transferred out of the program. But head coach AW Hamilton has brought in plenty of talented transfers to help this team get a strong start in their new conference.
The Colonels should continue their trend as one of the fastest teams in the country in Adjusted Tempo. In a league where no one else has ranked inside the top 50 in the past two years, they can be a headache for anyone.
It’s a shame that EKU, Jacksonville State and Bellarmine all reside in the West division of the ASUN. As the three teams most likely to challenge Liberty for their crown, it’s going to be interesting to see who can possibly prevail.
|Overall Record 2020-21||14-8|
What a first year in Division-I it was for Bellarmine, as it felt just short of a first-year conference championship.
While I never expected Bellarmine to make it to the ASUN championship game, I knew it would be a force in the league. I expect that to continue this year.
The Knights return 11 of their 12 players from last year, one being senior guard Dylan Penn, who has been named to the preseason All-ASUN team.
Unfortunately, the one player who departed was last year’s first-team All-ASUN selection Pedro Bradshaw. Bradshaw led the team in points, steals and rebounds.
The Knights should have the talent to come close to replicating the offensive production of last year, but more importantly, this team’s main goal should be to look completely different on defense. This is especially the case against the 3, as opponents shot 38.9% from outside the arc.
|Overall Record 2020-21||5-19|
Central Arkansas only won two games after DeAndre Jones went down with a season-ending injury last year. Jones is healthy, but he transferred to Saint Louis.
With him gone, Eddy Kayouloud and Jared Chatham will lead this team in their inaugural ASUN season.
While it returns three starters, I don’t expect much from Central Arkansas, as it is ranked 332nd out of 358 teams by KenPom.
The best news for the Bears is there isn’t anywhere else to go rather than up, as they’ve only had one season above .500 since becoming a Division-I program in 2006.
|Overall Record 2020-21||17-8|
Coming off a strong 18-win season and returning five starters and more minutes than anyone else in the ASUN, the Gamecocks rank third in the coaches’ preseason poll.
They could immediately challenge Liberty for its seat atop the conference.
Jacksonville State ranked 45th nationally in available offensive rebounds and 71st in effective field goal percentage last year.
Senior guard Darian Adams — selected to the ASUN Preseason All-Conference Team — led the roster in points scored (424) and points per game (15.7) last year. His 57 3-pointers ranked fifth in the OVC, while his average of 2.28 threes per game ranked fourth in the league and 142nd in the nation.
The Gamecocks have a solid chance to be the best offensive team in the ASUN, but to knock Liberty off, they will need to improve defensively after ranking 245th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (KenPom) last year.
|Overall Record 2020-21||10-13|
Stetson might not have been great last year, but it was consistent. In a season where the Hatters played every ASUN opponent twice, they split every meeting, other than against Bellarmine.
Last year’s biggest weakness was apparent, as they ranked 345th in experience, per KenPom.
That changes this year, though, as the Hatters return the second-most minutes in the ASUN at 95.2%.
Even though they rank eighth in the preseason coaches poll, Stetson may have as high of a ceiling as anyone in the ASUN.
Look for the depth and experience of the Hatters to cause problems.
|Overall Record 2020-21||9-7|
The Eagles had one of the best offseasons in the ASUN when it comes to transfers. They also returned their two leading scorers from last year.
Five senior transfers will join coach Michael Fly’s lineup. The two most significant additions — and likely starters — include forwards Kevin Samuel (TCU) and Carlos Rosario (McNeese State).
Meanwhile, Tavian Dunn-Martin (Duquesne), Matt Halvorsen (Western Carolina) and Austin Richie (Tulsa) will be critical rotational pieces.
While it may possibly be the best team Fly has fielded at FGCU, the ASUN is as deep as it’s ever been. The Eagles should be competitive but likely won’t be a top-five team in the league.
|Overall Record 2020-21||15-11|
The Bisons are a solar system; there are a lot of essential pieces, but they all revolve around a sun.
That sun is Ahsan Asadullah.
Asadullah led the Bisons in points, blocks, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage last year. Nearly every possession includes a touch for Asadullah, as both the offense and defense rely on his output.
Coach Lennie Acuff has brought in solid offensive transfers to help Asadullah.
However, if this team wants to be competitive, the defense will have to make strides when their best player is on the bench. The Bisons let up 103.9 points allowed per 100 with Asadullah, compared to 117 without him.
|Overall Record 2020-21||8-14|
North Florida returned the third most starters in the ASUN — two of them are top-10 3-point shooters in the conference. But as a team that went 8-14 last year, could percentage of returning minutes be a negative?
Last year’s team ranked 14th in 3-point attempts and 61st in three-point percentage. So while this team could drastically improve if they get better results from outside the arc, it won’t matter if they can’t fix their defense.
Last year, the Ospreys ranked 352nd out of 357 teams in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency.
The Ospreys will be a fun team to watch if the 3s can get home and they could potentially be a good team to monitor early for an edge on totals. But with how stout the ASUN is this year, they will struggle to maintain a position in the middle of the pack.
|Overall Record 2020-21||11-13|
Jacksonville enters the 2021-22 season with many fresh faces, the most notable being first-year head coach Mincy.
It may be his first year, but don’t let that discount the potential of this Jacksonville team. Mincy has brought in multiple talented mid-major transfers and returns leaders in Tyreese Davis and Kevion Nolan.
Unfortunately, with a new coach and so many new additions on the team, I expect it will take some time to become cohesive on the floor.
|Overall Record 2020-21||5-18|
Kennesaw State returns nearly its whole team, as it ranks 22nd nationally in returning minutes. However, last year, the Owls finished 350th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per KenPom.
So, while everyone’s back, did they improve?
Honestly, they can’t get much worse than last year, so there should be some improvement. The Owls may prove difficult for teams who lack experience, but that is the most I could expect.
|Overall Record 2020-21||11-10|
The Lions enter their last year of the Division I transfer phase. Head coach Tony Pujol has achieved more than anyone could’ve expected in his first three years at North Alabama.
However, they may end up taking a step back in 2021 after losing Mervin James and Emanuel Littles to the transfer portal.
While everyone else in the league seems to have progressed, North Alabama is likely to find itself on the outside of the conference’s top 10 looking in.
I have yet to see futures posted anywhere yet for the ASUN, however, I doubt there would be much value on Liberty.
Without odds, there’s no way to know where the value may lie. A small ticket on Bellarmine will be a play for me at likely any odds, though.
In my opinion, Scott Davenport is one of the best coaches in mid-major basketball. He proved it in Division-II and in Bellarmine’s first year of Division-I last season.
The Knights have been underrated by most in the preseason — they’re projected to finish fourth in the West by multiple outlets — so they should have value in the futures market when the odds become available.