College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Drake, Loyola-Chicago & Utah State
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: DJ Wilkins.
There’s one thing that separates college basketball from every other sport on the planet: the Cinderella stories.
Mid-major teams play a key role every season because they’ll undoubtedly make an impact when tournament time comes around. That’s why it’s important to be aware of how they’re performing throughout the season.
But with over 320 college teams taking the court every week, it’s hard to keep track of every Valparaiso and Belmont out there.
That’s where we come in.
We’ve narrowed down some of the mid-major programs bettors will want to be aware of — now and in March.
Check out an against the spread (ATS) update for notable teams below, along with recent performances and upcoming games to keep on your radar.
- 13-0 (4-0), 1st in Missouri Valley Conference. 11-0 ATS.
- at Missouri State, Tuesday, 1/26
- at Missouri State, Thursday, 1/28
- vs. Illinois State, Saturday, 1/30
- vs. Illinois State, Sunday, 1/31
Drake was the talk of the mid-major world before COVID-19 cases among Tier 1 personnel tore the Bulldogs down before tumbling with 10-3 Loyola-Chicago. Because of that, Drake hasn’t played since Jan. 4 but is scheduled to return to the hardwood at Missouri State on Jan. 26.
Drake is a sterling 11-0 ATS with wins over Kansas State, Air Force, Southern Illinois and Indiana State.
The Bulldogs — a team I affectionately call the “Fighting Drizzys” as a nod to Drake, the rapper — receive their scoring from three main sources: ShanQuan Hemphill (14.2 points per game), Roman Penn (12.1) and DJ Wilkins (11.3).
The backcourt duo of Penn and Wilkins is especially intriguing.
Penn dishes out 5.8 assists per game, while Wilkins drains 3-pointers at a 53% clip. They combine to form a combo that has proven tough to beat, as they help the Bulldogs to an adjusted offensive efficiency of 110.6, one of the more impressive marks among competitive mid-majors.
While their defense could be better (97.1 adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom), they own an adjusted efficiency margin — defensive efficiency subtracted from offensive efficiency — mark of 13.56. That number ranks 57th nationally but is still one of the best among mid-majors.
When Drake returns to the floor, it will have two interesting games back-to-back against Missouri State. The Bears are 5-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference and 9-1 overall, with their only loss coming to Northern Iowa on the second night of a back-to-back.
Missouri State sits at 6-1 ATS, which is tied for the second-best cover rate in the country behind Drake.
But the Bulldogs’ advanced metrics are much better as the Bears fail to crack the top 60 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, so I’ll be watching for value on the Fighting Drizzys moving forward.
- 10-3 (5-1), 3rd in Missouri Valley Conference. 8-3 ATS.
- at Valparaiso, Wednesday, 1/20
- at Bradley, Sunday, 1/24
- at Bradley, Monday, 1/25
It’s impossible to forget Loyola-Chicago’s run to the Final Four in 2018. Magic like that doesn’t just go away. And apparently, neither do the Ramblers.
Despite missing the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19, Porter Moser’s squad finished 20-14 as the Missouri Valley’s regular-season champion en route to the NIT.
While the Ramblers’ ATS record of 8-3 isn’t as breathtaking as their conference foes’, they have even more impressive metrics.
Loyola-Chicago’s offensive efficiency seems average at 110.1, but it shines on the defensive end of the floor with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 92.4, per KenPom. That equates to an adjusted efficiency margin of 17.70, which ranks second of all competitive mid-majors behind only Saint Louis, which is really only a mid-major by formality.
But defensive numbers like those can help the Ramblers do some damage come March.
A big chunk of Loyola-Chicago’s success comes from big man Cameron Krutwig, who leads the team with 15.0 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 59.8% from the floor.
When Krutwig and senior guard Tate Hall are both on, the Ramblers can be a scary team. Northern Iowa saw that first-hand last week.
Hall scored 24 in Game 1 before dropping 13 in Game 2, and he finished the series 5 of 8 from 3-point land. Krutwig didn’t need to do much from that point, finishing with eight and 11 points, respectively.
The Ramblers won by at least 15 in each game, outscoring the Panthers, 160-103, across the two games.
After dispatching Northern Iowa twice in a row, I’m expecting Loyola-Chicago to be a large favorite against Valparaiso on Wednesday. But after that, the Ramblers take on a 9-3 Bradley team that has won three in a row.
I’m hoping to see some value against the Braves, and then I’ll keep an eye on the Ramblers’ chances to win the Valley.
Utah State Aggies
- 11-3 (8-0), 2nd in Mountain West Conference. 11-2 ATS.
- vs. Colorado State, Tuesday, 1/19
- vs. Colorado State, Wednesday, 1/20
- at UNLV, Monday, 1/25
- at UNLV, Wednesday, 1/27
Utah State is an interesting case.
The Aggies own an incredibly concerning adjusted offensive efficiency of 104.9, per KenPom.
But on the other end of the floor, they boast an adjusted defensive efficiency of 89.7, which is by far the best out of competitive mid-major teams. In fact, that number is 1.8 better than the next best team in the metric, San Diego State.
The Aggies have allowed fewer than 60 points in each of their last seven games.
All of that leads to an adjusted efficiency margin of 15.28, which trails only Saint Louis, Loyola-Chicago, and San Diego State.
To prove it’s not just the numbers talking, Utah State downed San Diego State twice in a three-day span last week, completing a season sweep of the Aztecs. That all boils down to one truth: The Aggies are for real.
A lot of that production on defense comes from Neemias Queta, a 7-footer from Portugal who averages 12.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 blocks per game, all of which lead the team.
When paired with guard Marco Anthony — who ranks second on the team 11.5 points per game — the Aggies boast legitimate threats inside and on the perimeter. Anthony can also battle on the interior, as evidenced by his 5.2 rebounds on the season, which isn’t bad considering he stands at 6-foot-5.
Utah State has a pair of intriguing games coming up against a Colorado State team that sits at 10-2 overall and 7-1 in Mountain West play.
The Rams’ adjusted offensive efficiency is only slightly above the Aggies’ poor number, and considering Utah State’s huge advantage on the defensive end, I’m not impressed — at least in this matchup.
For what it’s worth, Colorado State has also been a less profitable team, in general, this season.
The Aggies opened as 6.5-point favorites for the first game of the series, and that number has already been bet to -8. Considering Utah State’s ability to shut down solid offenses and slide past good defenses, I’m not putting anything past the Aggies, and I’m not going to fade them anytime soon.