Atlantic 10 Odds, Third State of Conference Betting Report: Flyers Not Yet Cleared for Takeoff
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: DaRon Holmes II (Dayton)
In the last Atlantic 10 check-in, we featured a Dayton team that seemed to be rounding into form and developing into the clear favorite to win the regular season title.
Since then, there has been quite a change in the standings and overall outlook of one of the best mid-major conferences in the country.
Let's dive into the A-10 outlook for the remainder of the season.
The New Favorite
VCU Rams (+170)
Following an early loss to Duquesne on the road, VCU has responded with five consecutive victories, helping it earn a spot atop the league standings alongside Saint Louis (6-1).
The Rams' remaining schedule is much easier than the Billikens' scheduled contests, which is why VCU is now the favorite.
Should VCU go on to win the A-10, the pivotal point to look back upon will almost definitely be its comeback victory at Dayton. Despite trailing almost the entire game, the Rams took advantage of some late mistakes by Dayton to clinch a victory that stunned the Flyers' home crowd.
Of course, the defensive on-ball pressure Mike Rhoades' team is known for also deserves credit.
Combine that win with an impressive dismantling of Richmond on the road last Friday, and you arrive at the Rams' current price.
The key to VCU's success has been Brandon Johns Jr., a forward and transfer from Juwan Howard's team at Michigan. Johns has a highly-efficient field goal percentage and is athletic enough to match up with a number of different opponents.
Coach Rhoades likes to dip deep into his bench, so Johns and others are not often asked to play any more than 30 minutes per game. In fact, Rhoades often plays 10 guys per game in an effort to keep fresh legs and avoid any potential lapses in his team's defensive intensity.
Even though VCU is the favorite, I still think it's worth a play at +170.
After looking forward at each team's remaining schedule, I think it's very possible that the Rams could win the league by more than one game.
If Dayton continues to underperform and Saint Louis loses a couple of road tests which it's likely to be underdogs in, VCU could win this thing.
Flawed But Talented
Saint Louis Billikens (+250)
Saint Louis has followed a similar narrative each year under Travis Ford's leadership.
Ford is typically able to recruit with relative success, especially in attracting local talent to stay at home.
The fanbase, in turn, builds excitement for the upcoming season. Fans are often familiar with the players leading the roster, since many are local talents or returnees. Then, the Billikens somehow continually underperform their talent on paper, often against key opponents.
Consequently, the faithful tribe of Saint Louis supporters have started to point a finger. Ford's proverbial leash has shortened to a shorter length than ever with fans this year.
The Bills were projected to contend for an at-large bid in October, given the talent and experience on their roster. After multiple non-conference disappointments, Ford's team likely can only earn a bid by winning the conference tournament.
Before we get to the A-10 tourney, it's worth considering if the Billikens can continue the play that has led to a 6-1 start in the league. Even if I were to assume Saint Louis avoids any home losses for the remainder of the year, there are three road contests that concern me.
The Billikens must make visits to VCU, Dayton and Richmond before the season concludes. KenPom favors the home team in all three games as we stand today.
At the price, I do like the Bills at +250 more than Dayton at +180, considering Saint Louis is already a game in front. However, I would not recommend taking either team right now. Both preseason favorites seem overpriced to me.
Dayton Flyers (+180)
As mentioned previously, Dayton is in the midst of turmoil. If you, like many, struggle to keep up with the pace of mid-major hoops, I will make a bit of a leap and compare the Flyers' past couple of weeks to the Kansas Jayhawks' recent play.
Dayton and Kansas are both perennial contenders, if not favorites, to win their respective conferences. Both schools were off to solid starts in league play. Then, a sudden one-point loss to a bitter rival seemingly became a catalyst for tension throughout the locker room.
One-point losses in both cases were shortly followed up by concerning defeats in games where each team was favored by a "touchdown" or more.
While Kansas fell to Kansas State and TCU, respectively, Dayton's recent losses came in a home game vs. VCU, as well as a road defeat at George Washington.
Anthony Grant, like Ford, is now being criticized at a level he has not yet encountered. Just as is the case with rival Saint Louis, Dayton likely has already cost itself a chance at an at-large bid.
Dayton still has a chance to avenge its loss to VCU when it visits the Rams on Feb. 7, a game that will certainly have large implications for the regular season conference title.
The Flyers will have a lot to sort out between now and then. Their offense has struggled mightily at times, scoring less than 52 points in three separate games this year.
The emergence of potential star Malachi Smith is something Flyers fans are still hopeful of.
Should VCU regress, the regular season finale between Saint Louis and Dayton will take place on Friday, March 3, at Chaifetz Arena. A VCU collapse — although seemingly unlikely — could set the stage for that particular contest to decide the conference.
Dayton's talent seems too prevalent for this team to continue its current slump. I do believe Dayton will linger near the top of standings from now until mid-March.
Unfortunately, my gut says that coaching holds it back from reaching its potential.
I would avoid the Flyers at their current price of +180 to win the A-10.
Still Worth a Flier
Richmond Spiders (+2000)
Richmond has followed its assumed script almost perfectly since conference play began.
That is to say, the Spiders have won the games they were favored in and lost all games in which their opponent was favored.
If Richmond is to climb the A-10 standings and be a threat to win the regular season title, it has to get a win(s) this week.
Chris Mooney's team travels to Amherst on Wednesday to face a UMass squad that's reeling in Frank Martin's first year at the helm. Despite the Minutemen's struggles, Richmond will have its hands full in a game that figures to be priced around a PK.
Win or lose, the Spiders will stay on the road and play in Dayton, OH, this Saturday.
If you like Richmond to rally, be sure to get your ticket in prior to its games this week.
I do think the Spiders are worth a small ticket. Just last year, Mooney proved his teams can get hot for extended periods.
This year's team will need to improve offensively and begin to close out one-possession games.
Both weaknesses are often a sign that a team is lacking experience and poise in the backcourt. And inexperienced guard play is certainly a shortcoming for the Spiders.
Freshman Jason Nelson will need to develop if this team is to find success.
However, if Richmond can win two difficult road games this week, its price to win the A-10 will shorten significantly.
Worth a Hail Mary?
Duquesne Dukes (+6000)
Duquesne is below .500 in league play, sitting at 3-4. Thus, it feels slim to think it can take off to the extent it would need to in order to become the champion of the 15-team A-10.
Here, though, is why you might consider searching the couch for change to place on Duquesne at 60:1:
- The Dukes have already made road trips to Dayton, Richmond and St. Bonaventure.
- In a perfect world, the Dukes could realistically win every remaining game, apart from a likely road loss at Saint Louis.
- Duquesne's losses have all been competitive, aside from its loss to Kentucky in its second game of the season. Kentucky does not find itself on Duquesne's remaining schedule, nor does any team resembling the Wildcats' athleticism.
- The Dukes' improvement needs to come on the defensive end. Duquesne has showcased plenty of talent thus far. While talent and scoring cannot arrive overnight, defensive improvement occasionally can occur rapidly. A desperate team — paired with proper coaching and scouting — could give Duquesne the defensive improvement it desperately needs.
The market seems wary of Duquesne in general, likely believing the Dukes will soon revert to the terrible versions they displayed in the past two seasons.
If you do not have the stomach to throw a Hail Mary wager on Duquesne, perhaps now is simply a good time to buy on the Dukes ATS from a game-to-game perspective.
But if you can stand it, I could think of worse places to spend your couch change than a 60:1 ticket on the Dukes.