NCAA Basketball Betting Report: Top 10 Teams to Buy/Sell in February
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images. Pictured: The Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team.
As we head into February, I want to share five teams I’m looking to potentially buy and five I have on my radar to potentially sell.
Of course, these buy/sell decisions will still come down to the price and matchup on a case-by-case basis.
Nonetheless, hopefully this top-down analysis can help you identify a few profitable spots during the next few weeks.
5 NCAAB Teams to Buy
Virginia Tech didn’t win nor cover in its most recent road game against a very good Miami Hurricanes team. However, the game really could have gone either way until Nigel Pack went ballistic (17 points in a five-minute stretch) late in the second half to seal it for the Canes.
That loss makes the Hokies 3-8 in ACC play, which further drops them all the way down to 12th place and squarely on the bubble. However, I don’t think VT nor its fans should panic.
This is a veteran and very well-coached team under Mike Young. Moreover, the Hokies found themselves in almost the exact same position last season.
After a late January loss to Miami dropped them to 3-7 in the ACC, the Hokies won nine of their next 11 to close out the regular season. Then, Virginia Tech reeled off four consecutive victories in Brooklyn, NY to win the ACC Tournament championship.
I wouldn’t be surprised to witness that happen again. It’s not like the Hokies have been far off; five of their eight league losses have come by one, two, three, four and five points (in overtime).
Virginia Tech also went 0-4 with Hunter Cattoor out of the lineup due to injury. He is now back and uber-critical on both ends of the floor.
Fellow guard Darius Maddux has also missed the past few games due to a family matter. Maddux is similarly important for a Hokies team that doesn’t have elite depth. I presume he will return shortly.
I’m buying the Hokies in February — likely starting this Saturday at home in Blacksburg, VA against the rival Virginia Cavaliers.
Villanova has had a very disappointing season. The Wildcats sit under .500 overall at 10-11 and have started 4-6 in Big East Conference play.
However, the Wildcats recently saw the return of Justin Moore, who made his season debut last Saturday against the Providence Friars. Moore was clearly rusty, especially down the stretch, but that isn’t surprising in his first live action of the season.
Moore should improve exponentially with each passing game, and the Wildcats clearly missed him on both ends of the floor in their first 20 games.
He is a veteran presence that gives Nova another ball-handling option who can facilitate the offense and get his own shot when needed.
Moore is also one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. His versatility can’t be understated for a defense that likes to switch everything. Moore also helps from a pure depth perspective for a team that features a fairly short rotation.
Keep in mind that freshman sensation Cam Whitmore did not play in the first seven games of the season, either. Whitmore should also continue to get better and will benefit from the addition of Moore to the lineup.
I’m buying the Wildcats, starting tonight on the road against a very good Marquette Golden Eagles team.
Now is the perfect time to start buying the Buckeyes, who may have now reached the bottom of their market value. Ohio State has lost seven of eight games overall to drop to 3-7 in the Big Ten.
However, I still have the Buckeyes power-rated as a top-25 team nationally. For comparison, Ohio State ranks 26th and 25th on KenPom and Torvik, respectively.
Ohio State has been one of the unluckiest teams in the country. It has gone 0-2 in overtime, in addition to another trio of one-possession losses in league play.
Plus, two of the Buckeyes’ conference defeats came without Zed Key, who is very important — especially on the offensive glass.
I’m not surprised that Ohio State has been fairly inconsistent so far — after all, the Buckeyes’ starting lineup features two freshmen. However, they should continue to improve, and I’m ultimately a believer in head coach Chris Holtmann.
The Buckeyes’ offense grades out as elite across the board. They don’t turn it over, aren’t too 3-point reliant and they excel on the offensive glass.
The defense has some issues in transition and against pick-and-roll, but I think we see the Buckeyes go on a run in February.
Maybe I’m a day late on this after the Pokes dismantled the Fresno State Bulldogs at home last night. However, I’m still looking to back them moving forward — obviously depending on the price.
Wyoming has been ravaged by injuries all season, which has forced it to use as many different starting lineups as any team in the country.
Predictably, that has led to a lack of continuity and a rough few months (especially on defense) for a team that most thought would compete for a Mountain West Conference title.
Instead, the Cowboys find themselves at 2-7 in league play — tied with the Colorado State Rams in the cellar of the Mountain West standings’ win column.
Wyoming has gone 1-6 in games decided by six points or less.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys got two more contributors back from injury last night and continue to get healthier.
I’m also a big fan of head coach Jeff Linder — a theme among the teams you will find on this “Buy” list.
Linder is one of the nation’s most underrated head coaches in my book. I trust he will figure things out after being dealt a brutal hand of injuries so far.
Don’t forget Mountain West Conference Preseason Player of the Year Graham Ike still hasn’t played this season due to injury.
We still don’t know if the dominant big man will suit up in 2023. However, look out if he does. Wyoming could easily steal a bid by winning the conference tournament if Ike does indeed return.
After naming three high-major teams and one mid-major team, it’s time to give one of the low-majors some love.
Lets head down to Clinton, SC and talk some Blue Hose basketball.
After defeating the Campbell Fighting Camels in its Big South opener, Presbyterian has dropped nine straight games to fall into solo last place in the conference standings.
It’s certainly been a tough season for a Blue Hose team that had to replace star guard Ray Harrison, who transferred to Grand Canyon in the offseason and recently dropped 38 points in a game.
To make matters worse, Presbyterian also lost Winston Hill on the interior due to a season-ending injury; Hill played just seven games in 2022-23.
Harrison and Hill were the team’s two best players last season, which has left two massive voids for a very young team to fill.
I’m not going to sit here and say many good things about this team. Presbyterian is bad. However, this might be the very bottom of the market on the Blue Hose, which could create some value against the spread moving forward.
They are also likely due for some breaks to finally go their way.
Presbyterian has been particularly unlucky, reporting a straight up record of 0-7 in games either decided by five points or less or in overtime. It has lost both games that have gone to overtime, including a recent loss at the hands of conference-leader UNC Asheville.
The defense does have major holes. However, opponents have shot a scorching 42.6% from beyond the arc in league play.
That’s likely unsustainable when you consider teams have scored 1.211 points per possession on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers, per Synergy.
Only Delaware State and San Diego have allowed a higher clip — this, despite the fact that Presbyterian ranks 32nd nationally in the percentage of those jumpers that are guarded.
Meanwhile, it ranks in just the fourth percentile nationally on its own unguarded jumpers. A higher frequency of those shots should start to fall.
Presbyterian could end up being underdogs in each of its remaining games. But we may see some betting value with inflated lines in the near future on a team that prefers to grind games down to a halt.
5 NCAAB Teams to Sell High
Now, lets switch gears and focus on five schools that I have circled as “Potentially Bet Against” squads.
As you might imagine, these are all going to be good teams with a few in the upper echelon of the national rankings.
I’m not saying any are bad — just that they might be overvalued in the betting market heading into the final two months of the season.
As long as he doesn’t suffer an injury, Zach Edey essentially has the Wooden Award locked-up. Edey has been downright dominant inside on both ends for the Boilermakers.
A matchup nightmare against almost any opponent — the attention Edey draws opens up so much on the offensive end for an inexperienced surrounding cast that has thrived in Matt Painter’s post-heavy offense.
That said, I do think Purdue is likely at or near the peak of its market value after decimating the Michigan State Spartans this past weekend. Purdue has benefited from quite a bit of good luck in a few different categories.
Not only has Purdue gone 6-1 in games decided by five points or less, but furthermore it has also benefited from facing a number of teams with key players missing.
Opponents also seemingly can’t hit an open jumper. The Boilermakers’ defense ranks in the 98th percentile in points per possession allowed on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers.
In fairness, opponents don’t get a high frequency of attempts at the rim, ranking sixth nationally in NRA% (percentage of shots allowed that are near proximity vs. average opponent), per Haslametrics.
Edey’s presence at the rim enables Purdue to stay out on shooters, but there’s probably some negative shooting regression still coming its way.
Keep in mind: Purdue has also already played Minnesota and Nebraska twice, so the remaining schedule is no cakewalk.
The Volunteers’ defense is elite. They make opponents work for everything while seemingly guarding every inch of the floor.
The Vols’ offense can go through long droughts, but recent rotation tweaks by head coach Rick Barnes have offered some more promising results on that end of the floor.
That said, the defense cannot keep up this level of play, primarily from a shooting standpoint.
Opponents have shot just 22.0% from 3 against the Volunteers. For reference, Norfolk State set the single-season record of 25.3% back in 2005.
In fairness, the SEC is filled with teams that can’t shoot from deep, which certainly is a contributing factor. However, teams are also missing open jumpers at an insanely high clip. It’s not just the Vols’ defense — although their length and tenacity certainly has an impact even when shooters are open.
Ultimately, after four straight double-digit victories, I think it’s time to sell the Vols, who also lead the SEC in free throw and 3-point percentage on the offensive end of the floor.
I personally started tonight in Gainesville, FL.
TCU picked up a win last night at home against the West Virginia Mountaineers in its first game without star guard Mike Miles, who will miss time with a hyperextended knee.
That was a decent win given the circumstances but maybe had more to do with the Mountaineers than anything. After all, two of their starters barely played in the second half, and they only shot 6-of-22 from 3 in a four-point loss.
Plus, you often see everybody else step up in the first game without a star player.
Moving forward, it will likely be much more of a struggle for the Horned Frogs as they navigate the Big 12 gauntlet until Miles comes back.
Miles is critical on both ends of the floor and spearheads the nation’s deadliest transition attack — where TCU does most of its damage.
In a very down year for the ACC (especially at the bottom of the league), Virginia has looked like the class of the league.
Miami’s electric backcourt leads an elite offense, while Duke and North Carolina clearly have plenty of potential, but the ‘Hoos have the most impressive resume.
That said, the conference schedule has been fairly favorable, especially when you consider they played UNC without Pete Nance and Armando Bacot.
The Cavaliers’ offense runs very good stuff under the brilliant Tony Bennett, but they have still shot a bit over their heads compared to historical averages.
Virginia also ranks in the 99th percentile in guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers at 1.191 points per possession, per Synergy.
And while the defense is very stingy and obviously well-schooled under Bennett, it’s not as dominant as some of the recent UVA stop units.
Tread lightly with any of the basement dwellers of the ACC, but Virginia may be close to the top of its market value after seven consecutive conference victories.
I’m looking at a different angle when it comes to the Thundering Herd, who have a legitimate chance to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in a wide-open league.
If you haven’t watched senior Taevion Kinsey, he’s worth the price of admission.
That said, I have Marshall circled as a potential “Play Against” team headed into February. Why? Well, the Thundering Herd are about to hit the road for four straight games, with six of their eight contests in February coming away from home.
That’s not ideal, especially late in the season for a team that prefers to play fast (24th in Adjusted Tempo) with no depth (362nd in bench minutes).
Only Notre Dame averages fewer bench minutes, but the Irish at least play at a slow pace.
Marshall’s senior guard duo of Kinsey and Taylor each rank in the top 20 in the country in percentage of minutes played. Fatigue could come into play as the month wears on.
Lastly, Marshall really struggles at the free-throw line, ranking 334th nationally at 65.0%. That could swing a few covers, since it should be a medium- to decent-sized favorite in the majority of its remaining games.
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