Five Inexperienced College Basketball Teams that Bettors Should Monitor Down the Stretch in 2022
Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dayton Flyers forward R.J. Blakney (23).
Toward the end of February, the college basketball betting market becomes pretty efficient prior to the start of conference tournaments. However, there are certain teams that start to peak late in the regular season that still hold value in the market.
Some of those squads will be less experienced teams that took a bit longer to figure things out and may have struggled early in the year.
For instance, it’s no surprise that a team like Oregon has seemingly figured things out over the past month or so. That seems to happen every year under head coach Dana Altman, whose complex schemes take some time to figure out, especially with a bunch that ranked outside the top-300 in Minutes Continuity, per KenPom. Believe it or not, since the start of the new year, Oregon ranks 25th overall, per Bart Torvik.
Other power conference teams that ranked outside the top-300 in minutes continuity, such as Pittsburgh and Missouri, seem to be getting feistier of late. However, similar to the Ducks, those teams have experienced players who just hadn’t played together much in the past.
In this article, I want to focus on five non-power conference teams with much less experience that casual bettors might not be as familiar with: Dayton, Temple, Portland, New Mexico and Northern Arizona.
KenPom Experience Ranking: 358th
Minutes Continuity: 288th
Dayton’s KenPom ranking has risen from a low of No. 132 all the way up to No. 50 in the country after recently picking up a season sweep of Rhode Island on the road. Six of its seven leaders in minutes this year are freshmen, and the other is a sophomore. The only junior in the rotation, Elijah Weaver, missed four games recently as he recovers from a wrist injury suffered in December.
The Flyers showed their youth early in the season with three consecutive bad losses — all at home — to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay. However, they followed up that stretch by showing off their potential with three straight victories over Miami (FL), Kansas and Belmont — a trio of teams we could see in the NCAA tournament.
While it’s been a steady rise up the analytical rankings ever since, Dayton has been flying even higher since the start of the new year. Per Bart Torvik, Anthony Grant’s squad ranks 16th in all of Division-I since Jan. 1. The least experienced team in the country just keeps getting better.
KenPom Experience Ranking: 357th
Minutes Continuity: 196th
Let’s call out an improving ex-member of the A-10 that some might not be as aware of compared to Dayton. Five freshmen lead the Owls in minutes this year, and you can see the team’s progress since the calendar has turned to 2022.
Not only did Temple have to deal with an extremely young corps, but it also lost star guard Khalif Battle to a season-ending injury just seven games into the season. Additionally, the Owls had to endure an extended COVID-19 pause.
On top of all of those obstacles, head coach Aaron McKie has had three members of his rotation miss time due to injuries in recent weeks. Guards Damian Dunn and Jeremiah Williams didn’t play in each of the past two outings, while center Jake Forrester has suited up only once in the new year.
Yet, Temple has still exceeded expectations in 2022. After a close home loss to Houston in early January, the Owls won six of seven games with their only loss coming on the road at SMU.
he team’s only bad loss since then came at South Florida, where the Owls blew a late lead after both of the aforementioned guards suffered injury. They still almost pulled out a road win with a shorthanded roster in the following game, but Tulane hit a shot at the buzzer to force overtime — where the Green Wave eventually prevailed.
The offense still has flaws, especially in the half court due to poor spacing and a lack of shooting. However, the young Owls thrive in transition, get to the line at a high frequency and can battle on the offensive glass.
Plus, Temple hasn’t had those same issues on the defensive end, where it has thrived in the half court all season. The Owls have been tremendous at guarding both the rim and perimeter. For the season, they rank 18th nationally in Effective FG% (eFG%) in large part due to their superb length and versatility.
Keep your eyes on the Owls down the stretch once they get everybody back in their lineup.
KenPom Experience Ranking: 351st
Minutes Continuity: 346th
I’m not surprised to see the Pilots trending up lately under head coach Shantay Legans, of whom I’m a big fan. For those not familiar, he held the same position at Eastern Washington during the previous four seasons.
Portland is one of the least experienced teams in the country with a rotation of all freshmen and sophomores. After starting off the season ranked No. 329 on KenPom, the Pilots have since jumped all the way up to No. 204. They also rank 121st overall since mid-January, per Bart Torvik.
Legans is still tweaking some things with basically an entirely brand new roster full of underclassmen with a heavy international flavor. However, the Pilots have started to flash more potential recently, including an enormous road upset at San Francisco as 18-point underdogs.
The Pilots could offer some value down the stretch and will certainly be a team to watch next season — especially if the band sticks together.
KenPom Experience Ranking: 282nd
Minutes Continuity: 335th
The Lobos had to deal with a lot of change to start the season. Not only did they have a new head coach in town with Richard Pitino, but they also had a new cast of characters after a disastrous season that almost resulted in the team quitting on the season. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Pitino has also lost a number of his front-court contributors to injury throughout the season. Tumultuous times were to be expected.
That said, the Lobos still have one of the best backcourts in the conference with Minnesota-transfer Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Arizona State-transfer Jalen House. And as time has gone on, with adjustments being made after some of the personnel losses, the Lobos are finally playing their best basketball of the season.
After sitting at No. 281 on KenPom early in the season, New Mexico now finds itself at a season-high 138th after an upset win over red-hot Wyoming. The Lobos are only 4-5 straight-up since their blowout loss against UNLV on Jan. 11, but we’ve really only seen one bad performance — in a beatdown at San Diego State. The team’s other four losses were all relatively close, and New Mexico has gone 7-1 ATS during its last eight games against Division-I foes.
The Lobos still really struggle on the glass on both ends and have holes in their half-court defense, but their explosive back-court gives them a puncher’s chance on any given night against any team in the Mountain West.
KenPom Experience Ranking: 337th
Minutes Continuity: 168th
The Lumberjacks had a bit more continuity coming into the season compared to the other four teams on this list. However, they still ranked in the bottom 25 in experience, per KenPom. It was still a relatively youthful roster that added highly-touted sophomore transfer Jalen Cone from Virginia Tech.
The results haven’t been pretty overall, but the Lumberjacks could end up being against-the-spread (ATS) darlings to close out the season.
Northern Arizona seems to have found something in the month of February. After picking up a road win against lowly Sacramento State, the Lumberjacks only lost by three at home to Northern Colorado in a game they led by double digits in the second half.
They showed even more progress on their recent Montana road swing by ending the Grizzlies 15-game home winning streak and then falling by only a bucket against a red-hot Montana State squad that has won 11 straight games.
This is still a bad basketball team that I have power-rated outside the top-300, but it’s possible they present some potential opportunities as an underdog worth backing down the stretch.
Honorable Mention: Florida Atlantic Owls