College Basketball National & Conference Futures: Betting Value on Colorado State & Virginia Tech (Jan. 5)
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Storm Murphy (Virginia Tech)
Mike Calabrese: Kody and I have been offering up futures on teams that we believe have a great chance of actually cutting down the nets when all is said and done. But just like dating in the digital age, futures betting is a numbers game. You need to cast a wide net if you’re looking for “the one.”
For this exact reason, I’m balancing my 30:1 Arizona future (now 18:1) with a long shot out West that is starting to turn some heads.
As for Kody this week, he’s on the conference beat and headed down I-95 to see if the Virginia schools hold any value in a fairly wide open ACC. After that he caught up with a Big Ten Blue Blood that may actually be undervalued despite a high national ranking.
National Championship Picture
Mike Calabrese: A cute story in the Mountain West is starting to get serious. The Rams were laying waste to overmatched teams like Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Northeastern and Arkansas Little Rock in the first month of the season to little fanfare.
But recent neutral court wins over Creighton and Mississippi State — plus a blowout home win over Saint Mary’s — has caught my attention. Those are three KenPom top-50 teams, and the Rams not only won, but looked really good in victory against all three.
Then when you peek around the corner at the upcoming MWC slate, it’s conceivable that this team ends the regular season with just one or two losses. And that’s what I’d need to see from them to extract value out of this generous number.
Given the Rams’ non-conference success, a MWC regular season title and a strong showing in the conference tournament would likely translate to a top-five seed.
The hardworking folks over at Bracket Matrix — a site that aggregates every single projected bracket of note on the internet — currently have the Rams slotted as a seven seed. To realistically hedge, I need them to get out of the first weekend, and a seven seed isn’t going to cut it.
That brings me back to their road ahead. The committee has been incredibly stingy with bids for the MWC in the last decade, and has rarely been generous with seeding.
Since 2011, only 2.3 MWC teams have made the Big Dance, and the conference’s automatic bid has averaged a seed of eight. The committee hasn’t even awarded the MWC champion a top five seed since 2013.
So the Rams can’t realistically hope that a few Q1 wins are going to cut it on Selection Sunday. They need to finish in the 28-1 to 26-3 range to feel confident they’ll be taken care of as a mid-major.
On the floor, they have the goods to make this happen. This is a dynamic scoring team that can beat you inside and outside the arc. Averaging 83 points per game (10th) behind the nation’s best 3-point shooting (43.8%) and fifth-best foul shooting (81.8%), it’s almost impossible to defend these guys.
Hefty wing David Roddy (6-foot-5, 252 pounds) is averaging nearly 21 and eight while shooting 47% from 3-point land.
Isaiah Stevens has blossomed into a true point guard, trimming his turnovers (3.1 to 1.5) while upping his assist figures (5.4 to 7.3) year over year. Of full-time starting point guards nationally, he’s in a class of his own with an assist to turnover ratio of 4.87:1.
The Achilles’ heel for the Rams is rebounding, as they are mustering just 4.7 offensive boards per game (354th). If they have an off night shooting, they can’t rely on second chance buckets or a disruptive defense to create easy fast-break points.
But as it stands, this is one of the best mid-major offenses we’ve seen in years, and they’re far from a flash in the pan. This program is now 51-20 dating back to the start of the 2019 season and ready for it’s moment in the national spotlight, which I believe will include multiple March Madness victories.
Grab the Rams at this juicy number before people start throwing money at one of the last remaining undefeated teams in the country.
It went from Virginia Tech breaking my heart in Week 1 of football by beating my Tar Heels while Enter Sandman is blaring in the sportsbook, to now one of my favorite futures in basketball.
Life is funny that way.
While No. 3 Duke may seem to be the clear-cut favorite to win the ACC come tournament time, it has no value with such a short number and some glaring weaknesses.
The beauty of a tournament format is all it takes is one bad game and you’re done, bringing value to teams like Virginia Tech.
The Hokies have the tools to make a run and upset the perennial ACC favorite.
Battling vs. Duke earlier this season, the Hokies had a first-half lead, only to slowly squander it after a late Blue Devils surge. The Hokies still showed signs of life and put some chinks in the Duke armor, which is exactly what I was looking for.
When searching for teams that can make deep runs — whether it’s conference tourney time or March Madness — the first thing I always look for is low-balanced ranks on both sides of the court. Virginia Tech checks that box, as it is ranked 38th in AdjO and 23rd in AdjD, per KenPom.
The Hokies are led by senior forward Keve Aluma, who is averaging 15.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Aluma showed out in the game against Duke, scoring 25 and grabbing 10 rebounds in 38 minutes.
The offense is well balanced after Aluma, with three others scoring in double digits and eight players playing meaningful minutes. The Hokies are efficient on offense, facilitating until they get an open look from 3.
They hit the 3 at a high rate, shooting 39.1% from deep as a team, which places the Hokies third in the ACC behind Clemson and UNC.
While the offense is more than capable of keeping pace with the upper echelon of ACC scoring, it’s the defense and tempo that has my attention.
This team is slow — very slow. Ranked 332nd in tempo, the Hokies want to turn games into a snail’s pace and force teams to beat them with half-court sets. Duke was horrific in the half court in its game against Ohio State, and that can be considered a weakness for Coach K’s team.
I’m banking on a well-balanced offense and suffocating defense to give Duke — and other ACC elites — fits come conference tournament time. I may look to add a National Championship piece, as well.
What to Watch For
Kody Malstrom: A pretty short number for a long shot to look for, but this is a team that is still learning how to play together before hopefully clicking on both ends for a deep run.
I am hoping MSU drops a game or two in the near future. Then, we can get this number a little higher, and I will hopefully have a piece on the Spartans come Big Ten Tournament time.
This is a team that has been playing better and better as the calendar has been turning.
The lack of variance on offense is what held them back earlier this season, as they solely relied on the production of Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr.
With others starting to step up — like Malik Hall and Max Christie — the Spartans are beginning to become a threat on offense. They currently rank 22nd in AdjO, per KenPom.
While the offense is rounding into form, the defense has remained elite. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in blocks per game, forcing opponents to beat them from deep, as they allow nothing inside.
They also limit second chance points, ranking third in defensive rebounds per game in the Big Ten, as well.
With a pesky defense forcing opponents into shooting bad jumpers and an offense rounding into form, I will have my eye on the Spartans’ number and hope to get them at +600 or better to win the Big Ten.