College basketball is starting to heat up. We're now into December, and we're starting to see some trends develop, not only from the big guys, but from the little guys as well. Over the years I've tended to focus on the smaller schools, as there is a great sense of continuity with teams who work together for years, rather than the bigger, star-studded rosters with the one-and-dones. I've gotten a better feel for UC-Northridge, as opposed to UCLA. I've found my betting has taken me frequently to the Big South and Southern Conference rather than the ACC and SEC.
As they say, it doesn't really matter what games you're handicapping, as long as you're selecting winners. Give the people what they want.
If you're a bettor of college hoops, there are plenty of little guys that you will not want to overlook. Let's take a look at some of the smaller-school teams which have been running hot and cold.
Appalachian State (1-6 SU, 4-0 ATS): As mentioned, I've taken a real shine to the SoCon over the years. My interest was first piqued when Stephen Curry was at Davidson, and I started dabbling in the conference. Since, I have been a big fan, as there is quality play and, more importantly, money to be made. The Mountaineers have not fared well straight-up, beating Montreat College in a local rivalry game. However, App State has made bettors money, covering huge spreads at East Carolina, at Virginia Tech and most recently at Missouri Saturday, losing 72-56 to the Top 20 Tigers, more than covering a 25.5-point number.
This week: at Western Carolina, Saturday
Arkansas State (4-3 SU, 0-4 ATS): As a guy who attended one of its 10 schools, I have always had an affinity for 'The Belt'. Whether it is football or basketball, I follow all of the teams rather closely. Ark State has been decent this season, especially at home, but they haven't been able to cover the spread at all. They recently lost straight-up and against the spread in their Florida road trip swing to Florida International and Florida Atlantic. They were favored in both games, but couldn't even pull out a straight-up win. In fact, FIU clubbed them 80-61 Thursday, and FAU won 72-65 Saturday. The Red Wolves will host a good St. Bonaventure team Saturday, and it's a good bet that the Bonnies come out on the right end of the spread.
This week: St. Bonaventure, Saturday
Cal-State Northridge (6-2 SU, 7-1 ATS): The Matadors have been gold so far for bettors, covering their first seven games of the season before finally getting their doors blown off at UCLA Wednesday. Along the way, they have recorded straight-up wins against Siena and Tulsa at home, as well as a road win at San Diego. The Mats also picked up a road cover at BYU Nov. 24, by a narrow margin. But, a win is a win. There won't be a spread on their game against NAIA foe, Vanguard University, but they will be traveling to Arizona State Saturday for a game which they're likely to be a double-digit dog. If so, don't sleep on the Matadors.
This week: Vanguard (CA), Wednesday, at Arizona State, Saturday
Canisius (4-1 SU, 2-0 ATS): The Golden Griffins have been playing pretty good basketball, knocking off local rivals St. Bonaventure and Buffalo already this season. For their fans, that has already made their season. For bettors, they are smiling after covers in each of those contests, their only spread-eligible games to date. The Griffs will be on the board this week in conference games against Fairfield and Marist. The Stags of Fairfield are just 1-4-1 ATS so far this season, so remember Canisius for their late-week conference tilt.
This week: at Fairfield, Friday, at Marist, Sunday
Illinois-Chicago (6-1 SU, 6-1 ATS): We've seen Horizon League teams get plenty of action in the past, especially when Butler was part of the league. They have since moved to the A-10, but there are plenty of good teams left in the league. The UIC Flames have been turning the most heads, covering six consecutive games, including a straight-up wins at Northern Illinois and Northwestern this past week. They also have quality wins against strong mid-majors like Iona and Mercer. In fact, that win against the Bears was a complete undressing, beating a good Mercer squad 62-36 back on Nov. 17 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The only straight-up loss for UIC came at the hands of a solid New Mexico team, and the Flames covered that 16.5-point spread rather handily. They won't be on the betting board Wednesday, but they'll be available Saturday in a home contest.
This week: Roosevelt (IL), Wednesday, Colorado State, Saturday