As sports gambling makes its way across the country, now is the time to start thinking about betting on mid-majors. Each week I’ll be highlighting the mid-major games that I like for the week, along with a Friday feature on that weekend’s slate. At the end of the season, hopefully we’ll be makin’ money, but, disclaimer, I am not a pro at this and by no means should my picks be taken as the holy grail (as much as I’d like to think they should be). Be sure to follow along for the ride this season. I’ll also be throwing out some other picks I like throughout the week on Twitter, so give me a follow @jaredkotler to stay up to date on all my action.
DraftKings Sportsbook has given us some preseason fun by throwing out a handful of win totals for the year, including five mid-major teams (you’ll note the geographic area they are all in and how that relates to the DraftKings Sportsbook availability). I’ll break down the five teams listed and at the end call out the ones I like the best.
Gonzaga O/U 27.5 wins
As this bet only looks at regular season win totals, looking at the Zags’ schedule is key. Gonzaga does play a more difficult schedule than last year, including games at Arizona, Washington and Texas A&M, and home against UNC with three games in the Battle for Atlantis (including a possible semi-final match up against Oregon or Seton Hall). When you put in the two games that aren’t on the schedule for Gonzaga right now (as matchups aren’t known) that puts them at 31 regular season games. That leaves you three games to spare if you like the over of 27.5. I say Gonzaga loses at least one game in Atlantis and one of the road non-conference games. That’s not leaving you a ton of breathing room with a relatively young Gonzaga team. Hate to bet against Mark Few, but I’ll take the under here.
Penn O/U 16.5
I’m high on this year’s Penn team. I loved what I saw from AJ Brodeur last year and his return is huge for the Quakers. They play a solid non-conference schedule including a trip to the Wooden Legacy. Losing the first game of the tournament to UCF might actually give Penn a chance to get out of the tournament with two wins (most likely Pepperdine in the semis if both lose) — something big when looking at win totals. This is a team that won 19 games last year, and returns its best player. While I think the final number will be really close to 16.5, I think we just sneak over here.
La Salle O/U 14.5
If you didn’t think betting Ivy league win totals was degenerate enough for you, just wait. We’ve got A-10 and CAA basketball on tap next. Let me preface this by saying this might be my favorite bet here. The A-10 will be much improved from last year with three NCAA Tournament bids a good possibility. In a league that is improving, a team that loses its best player from last year in Pookie Powell will struggle. I just don’t see how a team that won only 10 games last year will win five more this year to cover. Take La Salle and the under.
Drexel O/U 14
We’re onto our third Philly team and you should be catching on with the trend of teams relative to where DraftKings Sportsbook can operate. I’m torn when it comes to this year’s Drexel team. I don’t expect a whole lot, but I do think the Dragons will be competitive. With the style they play, they’ll be pushing tempo and jacking threes. Camren Wynter will lead the way but I’m not sure he can carry Drexel to a winning season. The program hasn’t won more than 14 games since the 2013-14 season...and I’m not sure we see that trend end this year. I’ll take the under.
Saint Joe’s O/U 12
If you thought betting La Salle was a low point, just wait until you bet on whether Saint Joe’s wins more than 12 games. Yikes! Outside of La Salle and Fordham, is there anyone in the A-10 that St. Joe’s can beat? Maybe UMass? Maybe GW (as an alum, I can’t stomach this right now). I’ll leave this short and sweet. Just as the Hawks shouldn’t have fired Phil Martelli, you shouldn’t touch this win total...but for fun, under 12.
Jared’s best bets: Gonzaga Under 27.5; La Salle Under 14.5