College Basketball: The Best and Worst Teams Against the Spread
Reliable betting trends are not always easy to find, but sometimes it is as simple as looking at teams that the oddsmakers have had a tough time valuing properly. Whether it be inconsistent play or a public perception that has determined the inefficiencies in line placement for these teams, they have been hard for the books to figure out this year.
Using only teams from conferences in the top 10 in RPI with a minimum of 20 games of recorded data, here are the five best and worst teams against the spread this campaign.
Best Teams Against the Spread
Rhode Island is in the midst of a 16-game winning streak and has been creeping up the ranks -- up all the way to 16 in the latest AP polls -- since their last lost on December 6th. The Rams have a 14-7-1 record against the spread and are covering by an average of 1.9 points per game. While Rhode Island has been dominating the Atlantic 10 this year with a 13-0 record, they have also been outpacing the sportsbooks' expectations, holding a 10-3 record against the spread in conference play.
Xavier has ridden a 24-3 record into the top five of the AP polls, and they have also been reliable in covering point spreads this season. They are covering the spread 70 percent of the time and are especially good as road underdogs, winning outright four times in five opportunities. Where the Musketeers have struggled is in games where they are double digit favorites -- having not covered the spread in their last five chances in such situations.
Auburn's position in first place of the SEC would come as a surprise to many considering their preseason ranking of ninth by SEC media members. Their status as a surprise team is likely the catalyst for their 18-6 record against the spread this season. The Tigers have covered in each of their 11 SEC wins, and for the season, they have beaten the spread by an average of 4.6 points per game.
Another surprise this season is Nebraska -- who Big Ten media members picked 13th out of 14 teams in the preseason polls. They are currently fourth in the conference with an 11-4 record. The Cornhuskers have covered the spread at a 20-6 clip -- 77 percent -- doing so at an average of 5.1 points per game, which is the best of any team in the country with more than seven games of recorded data. They have been especially reliable in conference games, covering in 13 of 15 contests.
Virginia has overcome many offseason roster losses and is putting together possibly their most successful season under Tony Bennett, securing the top spot in the AP poll for the first time since 1982. Their 18-5-1 record against the spread has them covering at a higher percentage than any other eligible team. Although the Cavaliers are 24-2, they have been double digit favorites on only eight occasions, and the Cavs are 4-4 against the spread in such games.
Worst Teams Against the Spread
Minnesota is one year removed from going 24-10 and capturing a 5 seed in the Big Dance. This year, however, they are 14-14 and 3-12 in the Big Ten, losing 11 of their last 12 games. After starting the season 5-1 against the spread, they have failed to cover in 16 of their past 21 games --37 percent overall versus the spread -- and are an abysmal 2-7 against the spread as an underdog in conference play. The Golden Gophers have a -4.6 point differential versus the spread, the second-worst clip amongst eligible teams.
Ole Miss' struggles were foreseen this season, but their inclusion on this list is due to their recent woes. The Rebels are 9-16 against the spread and have not covered in any of their past six games. Of those games, they were somewhere between a pick 'em and 10-point underdog in each, but they have lost by an average of 14.6 points per game in the span. Their upcoming slate does not get an easier, with three of four on the road and their only home game against 18th-ranked Tennessee.
After 29 consecutive seasons over .500, UConn is trying to avoid its second straight losing season. The Huskies' 8-14 mark against the spread is not as glaring as their -4.7 point differential versus the spread, which is the worst of all eligible teams. This is a direct cause of their blowout losses and lack of ability to cover what big spreads they had early in the season. In their 14 games they did not cover, their outcome is nearly 12 points worse -- on average -- than where the line was set.
Oklahoma is the outlier on this list -- a good team that is terrible against the spread as they are covering only 33 percent of their games. The Sooners have been limping lately, losing seven of nine after a 14-2 start to the season. That start and the emergence of Trae Young is probably the reason OU has been tough on the oddsmakers. Oklahoma has failed to cover in 10 of their past 12 games, losing 5 of their last 7 games outright when they were favored. We can still rely on their ability to score, however, as they have hit the over four of their past five games.
Vanderbilt has proven to be the best team to bet against this season as they are only 6-17 against the spread. Although they were picked seventh in the SEC preseason poll, they are tied for last in the conference and have an overall record of 10-16. The Commodores have covered in only two games in which they have not been favored in this season, and they won one of those outright. Vandy deserves credit for their tough non-conference schedule, but it has certainly played a role in them not covering 74 percent of the time.