College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Saint Louis, Toledo & Colorado State
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Javonte Perkins.
The NCAA Tournament is called March Madness because of the Cinderella stories that cause chaos year in and year out.
With blue blood programs like Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas struggling, the opportunity is there for the right mid-major program to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. But with over 320 college teams taking the court every week, it’s hard to keep track of every UAB and Western Kentucky out there.
That’s where we come in.
Mike Randle broke down three mid-major programs sports bettors will want to keep an eye on now through 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.
Saint Louis Billikens
- 7-1 (0-0), Atlantic 10 Conference. 6-2 ATS.
- vs. Dayton, Tuesday, 1/26
- at Richmond, Friday, 1/29
- at George Washington, Saturday, 2/6
- vs. Rhode Island, Wednesday, 2/10
Saint Louis was playing like one of the best teams in the country before COVID-19 paused its season for over a month.
It has certainly earned the respect of the voters, as the Billikens are still ranked 22nd and 24th in the AP and Coaches Poll, respectively. They are finally scheduled to return to the court tonight against Dayton for their first conference game of the season.
Saint Louis has started 6-2 ATS with impressive wins over LSU and NC State. It owns the third-best overall adjusted efficiency margin among all mid-majors, trailing only Loyola-Chicago and San Diego State.
The Billikens are led on offense by the senior backcourt of Javonte Perkins (17.8 ppg) and Jordan Goodwin (16.9). They also get long-distance contributions from sophomore Gibson Jimerson (11.3 ppg, 42.5% 3-point).
But the foundation of the Billikens’ success is always defense.
Saint Louis ranks 38th overall in adjusted defensive efficiency and 16th in the nation in defensive turnover percentage, per KenPom. The Billikens also dominate the boards, ranking 25th in defensive rebounding percentage.
They also are among the best in the country in offensive second chances, with 6-foot-7 senior Hasahn French (7.3 rpg) and the uber-athletic Goodwin (11.1) leading the way.
The most inspiring part of Saint Louis’ season has been a drastic improvement on offense. The Billikens rank 40th in adjusted offensive efficiency, the highest in head coach Travis Ford’s five seasons. They are blistering hot from beyond the arc, shooting a robust 41% (seventh-best nationally).
But the biggest improvement? The charity stripe.
Saint Louis has been pitiful from the foul line, shooting an anemic 57.1% last season, the absolute worst in college basketball. This season, it’s up to 73.2%, ranking inside the top 100 teams.
Saint Louis should earn a comfortable win against a shorthanded Dayton team tonight, before a huge test at Richmond on Friday night. The Spiders have picked up impressive wins over Kentucky, Loyola-Chicago, and Davidson but are only 7-6 ATS this season. Richmond is talented but vulnerable.
With strong advanced metrics at both ends of the court, the Billikens are the powerful mid-major that college basketball has forgotten about. I expect this to be the high point of their betting value, as their futures numbers will drop quickly. Saint Louis may have been temporarily gone, but it certainly was not forgotten.
- 13-4(8-1), 1st in Mid-American Conference. 13-4 ATS.
- at Miami (Ohio), Tuesday, 1/26
- at Bowling Green, Saturday, 1/30
- vs. Akron, Tuesday, 2/2
Head coach Tod Kowalczyk now has one of the best Toledo teams during his 11-year tenure.
The Rockets are an elite offensive team, ranking 18th overall in adjusted defensive efficiency. They are led by the guard trio of Marreon Jackson (17.5 ppg), Ryan Rollins (15.1), and Spencer Littleson (13.2).
Toledo ranks 23rd-best in the country in 3-point shooting at a 38.9% team average. Both Jackson (36.3%) and Littleson (46.7%) are at superb efficiency with 122 or more attempts.
In MAC play, the Rockets have been even more efficient, ranking first inside the arc at 57.5% efficiency. Throw in their 77% free throw percentage (28th-best), and Toledo scores at an alarming rate in every offensive facet.
The Rockets’ ATS record of 13-4 is among the best in the country, but they have failed to cover two of their past three games. A 95-94 loss at Akron was followed by a win but no cover against Kent State last Saturday.
Toledo’s defensive efficiency seems average at 101.8, and rates among the lowest for a top mid-major program (169th nationally). Howver, it sits second-best in conference play at forcing turnovers, per KenPom, and holds MAC opponents to just 29% from beyond the arc.
The Rockets have their biggest test of consecutive games this week, traveling to Miami (OH) Tuesday and then to Bowling Green on Saturday. In fact, four of their next five MAC games are on the road. They project right around a five-point favorite in each road contest.
Toledo could gain some more value in the event of a loss to either opponent this week, but it still remains the favorite to win the Mid-American Conference.
Kowalczyk is certainly eyeing a home rematch with Akron on Feb. 2 to avenge his team’s only conference loss.
With one of the most potent offenses in the country, Toledo is set to be a dangerous opening-round opponent for any Power Five school in the NCAA Tournament.
Colorado State Rams
- 11-3 (8-2), 3rd in Mountain West Conference. 7-5 ATS.
- vs. Boise State, Wednesday, 1/27
- vs. Boise State, Friday, 1/29
- at Wyoming, Thursday, 2/4
- at Wyoming, Saturday, 2/6
Colorado State strikes fear in every team it faces.
The Rams already own two of the most impressive wins this season, with a 26-point comeback at San Diego State and their most recent 84-76 win at Utah State. Head coach Niko Medved’s team is talented and resilient.
Colorado State does it with offense, ranking 72nd overall and second-best in Mountain West play, per KenPom. Its shooting averages of 39.1% for 3-point 53.1% for 2-point, and 76.9% on free throws all rank near the top for any mid-major program in the country.
The Rams have crested 83 or more points in four of their past five games.
Even on the other end of the floor, they boast an adjusted defensive efficiency of 97.1, which ranks near the top of competitive mid-major teams. In fact, that number is ahead of schools such as Davidson, Richmond, and even undefeated Drake.
With wins over the Aztecs and Aggies on their resume, the Rams boast two of the biggest conference wins of any mid-major program.
Their success comes from a small but quick guard-dominated lineup. Sophomore Isaiah Stevens (15 ppg, 47.3% 3-point) and junior Kendle Moore (11.2 ppg, 43.5% 3-point) are versatile scorers and superb from the free-throw line.
Most of their internal production comes from the 6-foot-5, 252-pound David Roddy, who usually is charged with guarding the other team’s big man. The burly sophomore contributes 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Colorado State has a pair of huge games at home against first-place Boise State this week. A sweep would put the Rams atop the Mountain West, making them a serious contender for the regular-season conference title.
Colorado State will need to account for a mismatch on the boards against a Boise State team that ranks among the leaders in rebounding. Last year, the Rams kept pace with the Broncos, only getting outrebounded, 39-37.
The Rams are projected as a one-point underdog against the Broncos on Wednesday night.
With their 3-point shooting ability and a great coach in Medved, this Colorado State is relishing a chance to earn another huge mid-major win, except now on their own home floor.