Which Teams are College Basketball ATS Mirages?
T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions
If you find yourself wandering aimlessly through the desert, the last thing you want to see is a mirage. Sure, the palm trees, the big, blue lake with the fountain in the middle and an army of bikini clad bartenders catering to your every whim would seem perfect when you see it, but imagine your disappointment when you realize that it isn't real. A handful of sand just wouldn't taste as good as a margarita fed to you by the Olsen Twins. In much the same way, a team that seems like it is a good bet until you get your money on it, at which point it reveals itself as a hopeless loser, is every bettor's nightmare.
The Oregon Ducks are a team that has already revealed themselves as a betting mirage. They are 18-1 and perched at the top of the tough Pac-10, so the casual bettor might think that they are a good bet. At the start of the season they were. The public wasn't believing in them yet, so they started out 7-3 against the spread. Since conference play started the team is a very respectable 7-1, but they are just 2-5 ATS. They are winning and looking good, but they are costing loyal bettors a fortune. They are a mirage. Here's a look at four more teams that could be worth a fade:
Washington State - The Cougars are a team on the rise. They are playing in a conference that's getting a lot of respect, and they are climbing up the rankings. They stomped their bitter rivals at Washington in December and that really set the ball rolling. After a rough 3-5 start ATS, the team reeled off seven straight covers. It was during that time that the team started getting more press and rising in the polls. They have won two of their last three games, but covered in just one of them. They, were, however, close to the spread in both ATS losses. That means that the public shift in opinion probably caused the line to move enough that any possible value evaporated. If they keep winning, expect the public to continue to drive lines up, creating possibilities for a play on their opponent.
Indiana State - The Sycamores have been a betting dream this year. They are a brilliant 12-4 ATS. The problem is, though, that two of the games in which they haven't covered have come in the last four games. That's indicative of a much bigger problem for Larry Bird's alma mater - conference play has not been kind to them. They fattened up early in the year with impressive wins over Creighton, Butler, Wichita State and Purdue, but the weak early losses to Middle Tennessee State and a pretty dismal Ball State team were perhaps more telling of what the future held in store. They have lost their last four games in a row, including a blowout loss to Bradley that they really should have won. If that's a sign of things to come then a team that has been a joy to bet on will lose all of its fun.
Illinois - The Fighting Illini, at 15-7, are playing decent basketball, though they still haven't found another killer set of guards to replace the brilliant ones that led them during their recent glory days. Against the spread, however, the team has been an unmitigated disaster. At 4-13 ATS they are the second least profitable team in the entire country. To make matters worse, they covered their first two games, and then went on a dismal 0-12 streak. There is a light flickering at the end of the tunnel, though, even if it isn't a bright spotlight yet - they've covered two of their last three. There are still signs that the team is held in higher regard than they probably should be - they were only 1.5-point underdogs against a very good Wisconsin team on Saturday, and the Badgers beat them fairly easily. The Illini are heading into a relatively easy stretch for the next few games, so they stand a fairly good chance of turning their betting record around and finally rewarding bettors who want to believe in the ball that they are playing.
West Virginia - The ATS shine has already dimmed a bit for the Pittsnogle-less Mountaineers, but there's a pretty good chance that the ATS decline that they have started on could continue. John Beilein's team started the season at 13-1, and rewarded bettors with an 8-1 ATS record during that time. Since then, though, they've lost three of their last five in the conference, and they have just one cover in their last four games. In two of the three games they haven't covered, they haven't even been close. A bad overtime loss to Cincinnati, far from the class of the Big East, was a good sign that things might not be going well in Morgantown. The public still has some leftover love for this team because of the last couple of years, and that love was reinforced and rewarded by how the team started. Therefore, it's very likely that the public would be slow to react to a prolonged downturn by the team. That would mean that a team that has been a good bet would turn into a pretty bad one. They'd become a mirage.