College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: How Do Vermont, VCU & Belmont Hold Value?
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Douglas (4), Vince Williams (10), and Nah’Shon Hyland (5).
It’s getting to that point in the college basketball season when it’s important to be aware of solid mid-major programs across the country.
With conference tournaments coming up ahead of the NCAA Tournament, these teams are looking to make as many statements as possible.
And they’ll have opportunities.
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. But with over 320 college teams taking the court every week, it’s hard to keep track of every Vermont and Winthrop out there.
That’s where we come in.
Tanner McGrath 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.
Previous Mid-Major Reports
- Wright State, St. Bonaventure & San Diego State (Feb. 11)
- BYU, Saint Mary’s & San Francisco (Feb. 9)
- Boise State, Abilene Christian & Colgate (Feb. 4)
- Marshall, Furman & Dayton (Feb. 1)
- Richmond & Western Kentucky (Jan. 28)
- Saint Louis, Toledo & Colorado State (Jan. 26)
- Drake, Loyola-Chicago & Utah State (Jan. 19)
9-3 (9-3) • T-1 in America East • 5-6-1 ATS
After a shaky 2-3 start, Vermont has won seven straight and sits atop the America East Conference standings.
The conference has one bid to the tournament, and coach John Becker is looking to make his fourth NCAA Tournament in his nine seasons with the Catamounts.
Due to COVID-19, Vermont decided to play a conference-only schedule this season. But either way, the Catamounts have been very impressive, especially after losing Anthony Lamb to graduation.
Lamb was a two-time America East Player of the Year and Vermont’s best player for four seasons. He averaged 21 points his junior year and 16 his senior year and played in the NCAA Tournament twice. In his two games in the Big Dance, Lamb put up 20/9/3 against Purdue and 16/8/3 against Florida State.
However, the 2020-21 Catamounts are rolling in a post-Lamb world. Vermont plays UMBC twice this Thursday and Friday, and the Cats would hold first place in the conference outright with two victories.
Vermont has been excellent defensively, ranking 16th in the country in eFG% against and 20th in 3-point percentage against. It also ranks first in the America East conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
In the absence of Lamb, Junior forward Ryan Davis has been exceptional. Davis is averaging 18.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 59.5% from the field and 43.3% from 3. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Catamounts, and there’s also this:
Random things you find when scrolling random stats on ESPN: @UVMmbb’s Ryan Davis is second *in the COUNTRY* in Hollinger Player Efficiency Rating, only trailing the guy who’s gonna win NPOY. pic.twitter.com/xIj48FYpvp
— Jack Fitzsimmons (@WCAX_Jack) February 15, 2021
Finally, bettors would be wise to keep an eye on Vermont heading into March. The Catamounts started the season just 1-5 ATS but have since gone 4-2 ATS. Personally, I believe Vermont is a great pick to win the America East Tournament and maybe pull off a crazy NCAA Tournament upset in the first round.
- at UMBC, Thursday, Feb. 18
- at UMBC, Friday, Feb. 19
- vs. New Hampshire, Wednesday, Feb. 24
- at Hartford, Saturday, Feb. 17
15-4 (8-2) • 1st in Atlantic 10 • 10-9 ATS
VCU isn’t just the best defense in the Atlantic 10, it’s one of the best defenses in the country.
The Rams rank 14th in the country in defensive efficiency, 21st in eFG% against and fifth in turnover percentage. All-in-all, VCU is allowing just 65 points per game to its opponents this season.
Moreover, this defense has been playing great in recent weeks. VCU has won its last five games while keeping four of its opponents to under 64 points and holding Dayton to just 43 on Jan. 23.
Additionally, after beating St. Bonaventure last Friday, VCU is now in first place in the Atlantic 10.
The biggest issue with VCU is its recent ATS record. While it started 8-2 ATS, it’s just 2-7 ATS in its last nine games. The Rams continue to win, but betting on them has been tough recently.
VCU plays three of the top four offenses in the Atlantic 10 in its last five games, so it will be interesting to see how the defense responds. It seems like the Rams could shut down anybody, so it would be wise to keep an eye on them heading into March.
- vs. Richmond, Wednesday, Feb. 17
- vs. George Mason, Saturday, Feb. 20
- vs. Saint Louis, Tuesday, Feb. 23
- at Davidson, Saturday, Feb. 27
22-1 (16-0) • 1st in Ohio Valley • 16-5-1 ATS
Belmont has played one of the softest schedules in the nation so far. It hasn’t played a single team in the KenPom top 135, and its strength of schedule ranks 337th out of 347, per Sports-Reference.
However, Belmont is 22-1 overall, 16-0 in conference play, and has been crushing its opposition.
In fact, the Bruins have been one of the most profitable teams in the country. Belmont is 16-5-1 ATS on the season, 9-2 ATS in its last 11 and 4-0 ATS in its last four. Moreover, it’s covered the spread in its last four games by an average of 23.25 points.
How does Casey Alexander’s squad do it? The Bruins simply crush inferior opponents through a blitzing offensive attack.
The team is second in the country in effective field goal percentage (59.3%), second in the country in 2-point percentage (61.9%) and is ninth in the country in points per game (83.3). Belmont also averages 18.5 assists per game, which ranks seventh in the country.
There isn’t an Ohio Valley Conference team that can stop the Bruins’ attack, which is why they’ve scored 90 or more points six times this season.
Five Belmont players average more than 10 points per game, and none of them shoot worse than 47% from the field.
Additionally, Freshman guard JaCobi Wood has been a great sixth man, coming off the bench in the majority of the Bruins games and averaging 12.6 points per game.
So, while Belmont has played a cookie-cutter schedule so far, it’s crushed almost every opponent it’s faced.
Given the offensive firepower the Bruins possess, they should be considered a dark-horse Cinderella story this March.
- vs. Jacksonville State, Thursday, Feb. 18
- vs. Tennessee Tech, Saturday, Feb. 20
- at Eastern Kentucky, Thursday, Feb. 25
- at Morehead State, Saturday, Feb. 27