NCAAB Betting: Top 5 Players Who Can Change the Outlook of Your Wager

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Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana)

We’re almost halfway through February and one day closer to March. I’m counting down the hours to Selection Sunday, waiting for that all-important bracket.

As we approach the most sacred month of the year, we at The Action Network highlight the best teams, most probable Cinderella stories and most impactful players in college hoops.

Hopefully, our comprehensive college basketball coverage gets you caught up now that football is over.

Let’s start with the most impactful players. More specifically, which players can affect a handicap? Which ones can swing a bet? Who are the guys that can get that last-minute bucket to cash that parlay or earn you a backdoor cover?

These are the top five college hoopers that can change the betting outlook of any game at any time.



Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan)

Eastern Michigan has been an abject disaster. It’s an absolute layup line at the rim for any opponent playing the Eagles, and they’ve just fallen to 3-8 in the MAC.

However, the Eagles have quietly covered five straight games. They’ve pulled off outright wins against Ohio and Miami (OH) as two-possession underdogs and took Ball State to overtime last Friday.

That’s because Emoni Bates has finally arrived.

After largely underperforming for the first half of the season, Bates has played out of his mind.

Here are his stat lines over the last five covers:

  • 1/24 @ Toledo: 43 points, 15-for-23 shooting, 14 FTAs, 7 rebounds
  • 1/28 @ Miami (OH): 17 points, 5-for-18 shooting, 6 FTAs, 6 rebounds
  • 1/31 vs. Ohio: 19 points, 7-for-14 shooting, 4 FTAs, 4 rebounds
  • 2/3 vs. Ball State: 38 points, 14-for-26 shooting, 3 FTAs, 5 rebounds
  • 2/7 vs. Buffalo: 27 points, 8-for-17 shooting, 8 FTAs, 5 rebounds

And Bates is scoring in ludicrous ways.

He’s a 6-foot-10 walking three-level bucket with incredible range. Some of his performances look Kevin Durant-esque, and there isn’t a better shotmaker in college hoops right now.

Emoni Bates | Shot Making Ability

• great change of pace – slow to quick
• great balance on step backs / side steps / controlled fades
• ability to get into clean pick ups out of isolation moves.

Bates is a shooting 37% from 3 & averaging 21 PPG this season@BatesEmonipic.twitter.com/99H4NOiqcu

— Harp (@3SeedTraining) February 6, 2023

Bates has dragged his team to respectability in the MAC. With Bates scoring at this level, Eastern Michigan has scored 90 points in three straight games.

Bates’ performance has two major implications for bettors.

First, Bates continues to drag the Eagles inside any number. Eastern Michigan will continue to catch points for the rest of the season — projected as 10-point home dogs on Saturday against Toledo — and Bates alone has proven he can cover any number.

Second, Eastern Michigan will be a buy-low team in the MAC Tournament. With his recent performance, Bates could single-handedly guide any team in the conference.

I just wish the Eagles could defend better. They dropped 90 against Ball State but allowed 91. Then they dropped 97 against Buffalo and allowed 102.

That said, the Eagles put together two solid defensive performances in the previous games, holding Ohio and Miami (OH) under .9 PPP.

Either way, there isn’t a college player in the nation that has a more significant impact on his team, especially from a spread and futures perspective.

Bates is an unbelievable talent imposing his will on the MAC, and I’d take advantage in the markets.


Drew Pember (UNC Asheville)

These are the KenPom Game MVP leaders this season:

  • Zach Edey: 17
  • Drew Pember: 13

That’s a good list to be on.

Pember is arguably the most underrated player in college basketball this season. He was a first-team All-Big South selection and won the Big South Defensive Player of the Year last season, and he got better.

The best example of Pember’s play is his Jan. 28 performance against Presbyterian.

Drew Pember went off today. The 6’11 center finished with 48 Points, 12 Rebounds, and 2 Blocks. He was also efficient shooting 58% from the field and 80% from three on 10 attempts. pic.twitter.com/T1S3iJsmfG

— KJ (@Kjpistons) January 26, 2023

As an aside, not included in that tweet are his 12 FTAs.

Pember is a stretch center and an elite rim protector with an innate ability to get to the line. He’s the Big South’s highest-usage player, leads the conference in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, ranks fifth in block rate and shoots 38% from 3 while grabbing 10 boards per game.

I’m sorry, but that feels physically impossible.

That’s what makes Pember so unique. He’s a well-rounded unicorn that does everything right, and his development into an all-mid major player is why Asheville is tied with Radford atop the Big South standings.

Image Credit: CBB Analytics

His on-off splits make him one of the five players that can change a bet. Without Pember on the floor, UNC Asheville is a joke.

Image Credit: Hoop Explorer

UNC Asheville is arguably the team to beat in the Big South Tournament, but the Bulldogs could lose to Long Island without him on the floor. Seriously, KenPom No. 363 LIU has a -17.6 net rating this season.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Big South ball this season, check out Pember’s Bulldogs, especially in the conference tournament.

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Max Abmas (Oral Roberts)

Max Abmas entered the national consciousness two years ago during Oral Roberts’ run to the Sweet 16.

Since that defining moment, Abmas has gotten better.

Now that's scary.

Abmas is the same old Abmas. He’s high usage, plays almost every minute and carries the Golden Eagles’ offense through timely drives and heroic 3-point jumpers.

But Abmas has refined his game.

For example, Abmas has the lowest turnover rate of his three seasons as an ORU starter. In addition, he’s on pace for a career-high free-throw percentage (94.2% in conference play).

As a result, Abmas’ 125.2 ORtg would be the highest of his historic career.

But I’m highlighting Abmas partly because of his team’s accomplishments. With the elder Abmas at the helm, this is the most dangerous Oral Roberts team ever.

Oral Roberts current resume:

21-4 on a 8 game W streak
Undefeated (12-0) in Summit League
#53 in KenPom (27 Off)
#38 in NET Ranking
17-0 in Quads 2-4
4 losses: UH, Saint Marys, Utah St, UNM
85.2 ppg (#3 in nation)
10.1 TO/g (9th lowest in nation)

And they have Max Abmas. pic.twitter.com/JDAg67IaRR

— Ryan Hammer🔨 (@ryanhammer09) February 6, 2023

The Eagles are 12-0 in Summit League play and recently beat South Dakota State by 50 points. They’re on pace to finish top-20 in offensive efficiency for the first time. Their only losses have come against ridiculously talented tournament teams in Saint Mary’s, Houston, Utah State and New Mexico.

Yet, Abmas is still the type of player that can take over a game. He dropped 35 in a three-point win over Kansas City and 32 in a three-point win over Omaha.

Abmas has attempted 200 shots from 3 this season and is shooting an absurd 39.5%. He averages 4.9 FTAs per game and makes 4.5.

And his team’s accomplishments are a direct result of his play.

Mad Max has still got it, and he’s arguably the biggest threat to any high-major March Madness team.

And that’s what makes Abmas one of the nation's five most impactful players in a handicap.


Zach Edey (Purdue)

This season, any college basketball “list” or “ranking” needs Zach Edey. He’s been too much of a force to ignore.

It’s Feb. 8 and Edey has locked up the National Player of the Year award. At this point, it’s hard to find a statistical category where Edey isn’t at the top.

What makes Edey such an important player from a handicapping perspective is what he does for his teammates. Purdue has an all-freshmen backcourt, is sub-225 in minutes continuity and is sub-280 in average experience.

Yet, Edey’s total and complete dominance has this team atop the polls and in line for a No. 1 seed.

What exactly makes that possible?

Edey is a walking double-double that requires a double-team, but he’s above-average at kicking it out of the double and is essentially money from the charity stripe.

So, you can’t defend him one-on-one, double him or hack-a-Shaq him. No matter what you do, your defense will be scrambling to keep up.

Edey is also the best offensive rebounder in the nation, creating unlimited second chances for his team.

There are issues with Purdue, specifically on defense. However, you can’t deny Edey’s total and complete dominance.

Without Edey, Purdue is an average team. With him, the Boilermakers are a national title contender.

Image Credit: Hoop-Explorer
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Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana)

Trayce Jackson-Davis has answered every question. And every doubter has to shut up now.

TJD passed the 2,000-point mark Tuesday night, becoming the first player in Indiana history to record 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.

He also dominated in a win over Rutgers in a near-impossible spot following a win over No. 1 overall Purdue.

Jackson-Davis is on pace to post career-highs in points (19.8), rebounds (11.3), assists (3.5) and blocks (3.0). He’s also shooting over 70% from the charity stripe for the first time and committing fewer fouls than ever.

And that’s precisely why Jackson-Davis is one of the five most important players in college hoops gambling.

So many players have a distinct offensive or defensive persona, but Jackson-Davis can influence all 4,700 square feet of the hardcourt the same.

When Jackson-Davis is at his best, he’s the best player in college basketball, a two-way force that couples unbelievable athleticism with savvy post moves and a high motor.

There isn’t a player that can out-duel him for 40 minutes, and I’m pretty sure that includes Edey.

And Jackson-Davis has been the best player in college basketball over the last month.

Trayce Jackson-Davis in his last 10 games:

22.2 PPG
14.7 RPG
4.2 APG
3.4 BPG

Has played as well as anyone in the country over that span.

— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) February 8, 2023

Jalen Hood-Schifino has made a difference for Indiana, but it’s largely because of his development in pick-and-roll sets with Jackson-Davis. Like Edey, TJD makes everyone around him better.

Indiana is back, and it’s because of Jackson-Davis. Bet accordingly.


Honorable Mentions

  • Darius McGhee (Liberty): The human flamethrower is second nationally in shot percentage while knocking down 40% of his deep shots.
  • Antoine Davis (Detroit): The nation’s leading scorer is second only to Pete Maravich in all-time college points scored. Keep an eye out for Detroit in the Horizon Tournament.
  • Jordan Dingle (Yale): The nation’s second-leading scorer, Dingle is a walking bucket that can win the Ivy League Tournament by himself.
  • Jalen Pickett (Penn State): My pick for All-American guard (alongside Marcus Sasser), Pickett is the motor behind Penn State's pick-and-roll spread offense.
  • Tyree Appleby (Wake Forest): Appleby finished with 28 FTAs in a win over North Carolina and is the clubhouse leader for the nation’s “Head Turning Heat Check” award.
  • Ryan Kalkbrenner (Creighton): The difference between Creighton with and without Kalkbrenner speaks for itself.
  • Azuolas Tubelis (Arizona): It's impossible to make this list without Tubelis, who just dropped 40 in a win over Oregon
  • Kansas State’s duo Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson: K-State is a Big 12 title contender because of the isolation play from these two stars.
  • New Mexico’s backcourt duo of Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr.: The Lobos' backcourt can take over a game unlike any backcourt in the nation over the past few seasons.

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