College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: The Value on Boise State, Abilene Christian and Colgate
David Becker/Getty Images. Pictured: Derrick Alston Jr.
Before they’re busting brackets in March, most mid-majors of note are laying the groundwork for special seasons in January and February.
As a college basketball team of sorts in our right, the Action Network team is identifying the mid-majors with the most upset-upside and detailing what makes them special.
This week, I’m setting my sights on a mid-major that may enter the Big Dance nationally ranked and a pair of programs off the national radar that are racking up wins in smaller conferences.
Links to Previous Mid-Major Betting Reports
If you’ve missed out on any of our previous mid-major coverage to date, click the links below to navigate to previous iterations of our Mid-Major Betting Report column.
- Marshall, Furman & Dayton (Feb. 2)
- Richmond & Western Kentucky (Jan. 28)
- Saint Louis, Toledo & Colorado State (Jan. 26)
- Drake, Loyola-Chicago & Utah State (Jan. 19)
Boise State Broncos
14-2 (10-1) • 1st in Mountain West • 10-4-1 ATS
There’s a lot to like about the Broncos this season.
Offensively, Boise State trots out five players averaging double digits, which includes Arizona transfer Devonaire Doutrive.
The former four-star recruit is a perfect compliment off the bench, blending with Boise’s starting five nicely while shooting 40% from long range in seven games this season.
I prefer to back offenses in March that are high-scoring but those that don’t overly rely upon the 3-point shot.
Nothing throws the brakes on an upset faster than a rough outing from 3-point range, so displaying offensive versatility is key.
The Broncos attempt only 22 treys per game (162nd), and they have the talent on the perimeter to score on the move.
Derrick Alston Jr., the son of the former Duquesne standout and NBA Draft pick Derrick Alston, has improved his shooting percentages from the field, line and 3-point range, approaching the rarified air of the 50/40/90 club.
Alston Jr. is the go-to guy for Boise, but RayJ Dennis and Marcus Shaver Jr. are doing their part to round out a balanced backcourt.
Dennis has taken a significant step forward in his second season on campus and has helped distribute the basketball (3.3 apg).
Shaver, who was once the only offensive option while playing at Portland, has really come into his own while cutting back on turnovers. With him running the point, Boise is averaging just 11.1 turnovers per game (32nd).
If you’re looking for an in-game betting strategy for or against Boise, keep an eye on senior big Abu Kigab.
In Boise’s two losses this season, Kigab has averaged just seven points and three rebounds. In its 14 wins, he’s averaged 14.4 ppg and 6.5 rpg.
Outside of back-to-back home games with Utah State in the middle of this month, Boise won’t have an opportunity to impress on the national stage.
Currently sitting as a nine-seed, according to Bracket Matrix, Boise has the potential to play its way up to a seven-seed with a regular-season championship and conference tournament title two-fer.
Do that, and the Broncos could be giving a two-seed fits in the second round of the Big Dance thanks to their balanced attack.
- Friday, Feb. 5 | at Nevada
- Sunday, Feb. 7 | at Nevada
- Thursday, Feb. 11 | vs. UNLV
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | vs. UNLV
Abilene Christian Wildcats
14-3 (6-1) • 2nd in Southland • 8-4 ATS
Unlike Boise, the Wildcats aren’t going to run past a higher seed in March with a dynamic offense.
What they could pull off, however, is the tried-and-true Southland Conference formula in the Big Dance. That, of course, is suffocating opponents with a style of pressure defense that has all but vanished from college basketball.
Before Abilene got on its recent run, it was the SLC’s flagbearer, Stephen F. Austin, causing havoc in March with a full-court press defense.
The Lumberjacks made the NCAA Tournament four times between 2014 and 2018, collecting a pair of shocking upsets and falling a single basket short of the Sweet 16 in 2016.
ACU has embraced the SLC top-dog persona and is turning teams over at a dizzying pace in 2021.
No program in the nation generates more TOs per game (20.2), and when teams do break the press, they’re not finding the sledding any easier in the half-court.
Here’s a look at how teams are doing against ACU this season and where that ranks the Wildcat defense:
- Opp. Shooting Efficiency, .991 (35th)
- Opp. Shooting, 39.3% (17th)
- Opp. 3-point, 27% (8th)
- Opp. Assists/Game, 9.5 (7th)
The only flaw that ACU has to own is how often it sends teams to the charity stripe. Opponents average 23.1 FTAs per game (314th) against the Wildcats.
If they are paired against an elite foul shooting team, particularly teams with primary ball handlers who shoot in the 80% range, that could be an issue.
Offensively, senior center Kolton Kohl has been the difference-maker. Kohl recently dropped 20 points in 20 minutes against SFA, helping Abilene Christian establish a foothold at the top of the SLC standings.
The 7-footer plays limited minutes, but when he’s scored north of 13 points this season, the Wildcats have been untouchable.
This should go without saying, but despite its strong start, it still comes down to the SLC Tournament for ACU.
Win two in Katy, Texas (double-bye for top-four seeds), and ACU will be dancing, most likely as a 14-seed.
If that happens, make a note about foul shooting and turnovers for the higher seed.
If it shoots below 73% as a team and turns it over 13 or more times per game, it could be ripe for an upset at the hands of ACU.
- Saturday, Feb. 6 | at Lamar
- Monday, Feb. 8 | at Texas A&M Corpus-Christi
- Wednesday, Feb. 10 | vs. Houston Baptist
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | vs. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi
7-1 (7-1) • 1st in Patriot League North • 5-3 ATS
The Raiders won a share of the regular-season Patriot League title with Bucknell in 2019 and defeated the Bison in the Pat League title game to secure an NCAA Tournament bid.
They followed that up last season with another regular-season championship but fell short to Boston in the league championship game.
The backcourt of Jordan Burns, Nelly Cummings and Tucker Richardson played a large role in that recent success, and the trio may be playing their best collective basketball of their careers.
The guards, as a unit, are pumping in 40.5 points, dishing out 10.5 assists and collecting 10.7 rebounds per game.
Burns continues to be a sharpshooter from long range, but he’s upped his aggressiveness this season, attacking the basket more often. That has translated to a career-high 5.5 free-throw attempts per game, which is a positive sign for a career 82% foul shooter.
But while the guards get most of the publicity for Colgate, I’m more concerned with sophomore power forward Keegan Records. The 6-foot-10 big had the unenviable task of replacing Rapolas Ivanauskas.
The prolific Lithuanian did all the heavy lifting for Colgate in the paint in recent years and kept it competitive on the boards, particularly against high-major competition.
Records has responded to his increased playing time and is averaging 8.4 rebounds per game. That’s even more impressive when considering he’s only logging 21 minutes per game.
If the Raiders lock horns with a three or four seed next month, they’ll need him to channel his performance against Holy Cross on Jan. 30 (16 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks) if they hope to advance to the Round of 32.
As a program, Colgate has scheduled a lot of high majors in the past two seasons, so its All-Pat League schedule this season doesn’t frighten.
What will be key for Burns and Company is receiving an ideal matchup should they punch a ticket to the Big Dance.
Facing an elite big like Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn or Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell would probably end poorly for Colgate.
But if it secures a matchup against a perimeter-oriented team like Creighton, I could see things breaking Colgate’s way.
- Saturday, Feb. 6 | vs. Boston University
- Sunday, Feb. 7 | vs. Boston University
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | at Lehigh
- Sunday, Feb. 21 | at Lehigh