Welcome back all degenerates to the first edition of "ATS Winners & Losers", a special segment in the 'Data Dishin' series brought to you by none other than DJ Dimes...
As a friendly reminder, the purpose of this segment is to cover teams who have been either hot or cold against the almighty opponent of Las Vegas. As a new addition this year, I will also give my prognosis on both the winners and the losers, in terms of how I see them trending moving forward.
For example, Temple is off to a 5-0 start against the spread this season. If I feel this success against the number is sustainable, then I will slap a 'Buy' rating on the Owls, implying you should continue to wager on them in the near-term. The reverse is true if I feel this streak is an anomaly and a regression is likely to come soon ('Sell'). Finally, if there is some uncertainty surrounding a team's future outlook, I may also assign a team a 'Hold' rating, which is essentially the same as a "wait and see" approach.
Easy enough? Good, let's get into it shall we...
Below are the schools with the best and worst returns over the first two weeks of action:
Every time I refresh my research and glance at these results on a periodic basis, my brain reacts in one of two ways as I look at each team:
- "Yup, no surprise here..." - Implies most folks are aware of a certain team's recent success or struggles
- "Woah, where have I been?!" - Implies myself, along with many others, are probably unaware that a certain team has been sneaky good (or sneaky bad) by Vegas standards
For the purpose of this analysis, I will try and focus a lot of my attention on the second group of teams, given this is where you, the loyal reader, are probably less familiar with the recent performance of said squads....
Now, let's take a deeper dive into some of the early season money makers - and money shakers:
Congratulations to Temple for being the sole undefeated team with 5 straight victories against the spread this season (per Vegasinsider.com). However, the Owls are somewhat fortunate that they aren't 5-1 against the number, given Vegas did not provide a line for a bad home loss to New Hampshire on November 14th. Since that debauchery, Temple has looked extremely sharp over its last three contests, including back-to-back wins against Florida St. and West Virginia on a neutral court.
What makes these two Ws uber-impressive is that the Owls have been without their senior point guard Josh Brown so far this year, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in May. While he plans to return at some point this season, his backup Shizz Alston (yes, that is the name he goes by) has been the unheralded gem for Fran Dunphy's squad so far. Despite the fact that his name is essentially a slang word for poop, Alston was masterful during the two game stretch at the Barclays, posting 22 points and 4 assists against the Seminoles and tallying only 2 turnovers against the full-court havoc of "Press Virginia". Make no mistake about it - while Alston's consistency has been enormous, the Owls have truly been lifted by the emergence of Obi Enechionyia, who is currently averaging 20 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks a game, while shooting an unfathomable 56% from downtown (18/32).
Final Prognosis: Despite a couple of marquee wins, Temple appears to be flying under the radar of the public eye, which may imply there is still some untapped value left on the table for Owls' backers to capture. While Enechionyia's ascension is by no means flukey (he produced consistently last season and is an ex 4-star recruit), the young Alston may be in for a few learning bumps and bruises moving forward. Over the longer-term horizon, he should only get better as the season progresses, but it's hard to expect a young point guard to continue playing such "error free" basketball, especially this early in the year. In the near-term, I'd be cautious about blindly backing the Owls.
Even though UNLV is off to a pedestrian 4-2 start to the season (which will ultimately be the first of a multi-year rebuilding project) new head coach Marvin Menzies is at least putting some money back in the pockets of delusional homer Rebel fans! After a disastrous start to the season (lost at home to South Alabama), the young Rebs have rattled off five straight covers, including four convincing wins against weaker opponents (UC Riverside, Cal St. Fullerton, Northern Arizona & Western Kentucky), and a respectable showing against a solid TCU team (lost by 4).
A major plus for this Runnin' Rebs team has been the play of sophomore point guard Jalen Poyser, who now is racking up big time minutes with Patrick McCaw and Jerome Seagers no longer in front of him on the depth chart. A similar story is true for senior Tyrell Green, who is also earning major minutes with superior talent ahead of him graduating and Christian Jones expected to miss a few more weeks with a foot injury.
Final Prognosis: This is a team that will surely have some value in certain home spots this season, but the baby Rebels have yet to leave their nests once this year. They play their first two roadies of the season this week, traveling to Southern Utah and then Arizona St., before returning home to play the big bad Duke Blue Devils on December 10th. I'd circle both Southern Utah and Arizona St. as good spots to fade the Rebels on November 30th and December 3rd respectively.
Team: Oregon State
After two confidence building wins over cupcakes (apologies to Prairie View A&M and UTSA) to kick off the 2016-17 campaign, the Beavers have now dropped their last four games, both outright and against the number. The biggest embarrassment came at the hands of Lamar, who handed Oregon St. a stunning 63-60 defeat at their home gym in Corvallis on November 16th. Since then, the Beavers have failed to generate any consistency on offense, which is largely because they've been too busy passing the ball to the other team. In fact, only four teams in the entire country have turned it over more on a per minute basis this season, which exemplifies just how badly this group misses Gary Payton Jr., specifically his ball handling and decision making at the point guard position.
If that isn't a bleak enough outlook, Wayne Tinkle's best player - his son Tres Tinkle - broke his wrist in their most recent home loss to Fresno, which will likely sideline him for 1-2 months. Tinkle now joins starting guard Stephen Thompson Jr. (injury) and freshman forward Ben Kone (suspension) on the sidelines, making his dad dig even deeper into an already thin bench. According to reports, Thompson could be back as soon as December 1st, which would be just in time for a two game road trip to Mississippi St. and Charlotte, before returning home for a long home stand beginning on December 11th.
Final Prognosis: While the obvious move is to continue fading this depleted squad, Oregon St.'s free fall in the advanced efficiency metrics has been cataclysmic (81st to 142nd in kenpom.com overall rankings), implying the Beavers may be close to bottoming out at their season low value point. While generally this is a situation I'd look to begin buying an undervalued team, the lingering injuries give me hesitancy to put any coin on the Beavers at the moment. Keep an eye on Oregon St. over the next month or so, but steer clear until the injuries/suspensions sort themselves out.
Similar to Oregon St., Illinois manage to pad their early non-conference slate with four easy wins, but got caught sleepwalking when Winthrop came to town and handed the Illini a shocking 84-80 loss in overtime. Illinois proceeded to follow this poor showing with yet another dud against West Virginia, in which they looked like a 3rd grade CYC team trying to break a press (turned it over 24 times). John Groce's bunch now sits at 4-3 overall on the season, but are 0-4-1 against the spread, after eeking out a push in their most recent bout with Florida St.
The issue for the Illini has been the lack of consistent guard play, which was glaringly obvious against West Virginia, but has also come to light in other games so far this season (22 turnovers against Winthrop and 15 against Detroit). While some may choose [incorrectly] to blame Tracy Abrams, the real issue has been the lack of contributions from senior Jaylon Tate, sophomore Jalen Coleman-Lands and freshman Te'Jon Lucas. While the young Lucas has struggled to take care of the basketball in spot minutes backing up the upperclassmen, Tate and Coleman-Lands are a combined 9/39 from behind the arc, which equates to an ice cold 23%. This is concerning given John Groce teams always lean on the 3-ball, and both Abrams and Malcolm Hill are desperate for consistent scoring production from the role players around them. Coleman-Lands was the Illini's best perimeter shooter last year, but has played relatively limited minutes this season as he continues to deal with nagging injuries (most recently a hand injury suffered in October).
Final Prognosis: Despite some early season hiccups, I continue to believe in this team as a legit contender for an NCAA tournament at-large berth - and why now may be the right time to put down some cash on the men in Orange. Don't expect Coleman-Lands to stay cold for too long, given he was a lights out 42% 3-point shooter last year on over 200 attempts. Abrams is still finding his confidence on the floor after essentially missing the last two seasons of his basketball career, and has been sneaky good in his return thus far (117 O-Rating). And regardless of whether Tate can figure it out, more minutes are coming soon for Leron Black, as well as Kipper Nichols at semester, two solid bench pieces that will add depth to what seems like a short rotation at the moment. The depth is critical for an Illini team that is trying to get back to Groce's roots at Ohio, in which he played much more up-tempo than Illinois has played in recent years.