As the calendar turned the page to 2017, the men’s college basketball season ended the nonconference portion of its schedule to focus attention on conference play as part of the eventual run to March Madness and the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The start of a new year in college hoops makes it the perfect time to start taking a closer at some of the more pertinent stats and betting trends for some of the top teams in the nation according to the latest AP Top 25.
No. 1 Villanova Wildcats
The Wildcats have picked up where they left off last season as national champions with a straight-up 14-0 start including victories against DePaul at home and Creighton on the road in early Big East play. They have covered against the spread in nine of their first 15 games including a 3-0 start ATS on the road heading into Wednesday’s showdown on the road against No. 18 Butler. The total has stayed UNDER in four of their last five games. Villanova’s leading scorer is senior guard Josh Hart with 20.3 points per game. The team as a whole is averaging 79.9 points while holding opponents to 62.1 PPG at the opposite end of the court.
No. 2 Baylor Bears
Baylor has risen to the top of the rankings with 13 SU victories in its first 13 games including wins against Michigan State, Louisville and Oklahoma in its Big 12 opener on Dec. 30. The Bears have covered in seven of their 10 games with a posted betting spread and the total has gone OVER in four of their last five games with a betting line. They head into this Wednesday’s home game against Iowa State averaging 79.3 PPG led by junior forward Johnathan Motley’s 16.3-point scoring average. The real strength of this team so far has been a shutdown defense that is fifth in the nation in points-allowed (58.0).
No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks
As another Big 12 team that has made some early noise, the Jayhawks’ lone loss of the season against 12 SU victories came in their season opener against Indiana as six-point favorites at home. They also failed to cover their last time out in an 86-80 victory against TCU as 6.5-point road favorites in their conference opener. Kansas is 4-7 ATS so far and the total has gone OVER in five of its last six games with a posted line. It will play host to Kansas State on Tuesday night as a 13-point favorite behind an offense that is 12th in the nation in scoring with 86.5 PPG.
No. 4 UCLA Bruins
The Bruins opened play in the Pac-12 with a tight 89-87 loss to Oregon as two-point road favorites, which was their first SU loss of the season after going a perfect 13-0 SU in nonconference play. They quickly bounced back with a 76-63 romp over Oregon State on Dec. 30 as heavy 21-point favorite at home. UCLA has failed to cover in its last three games as part of a 10-5 record ATS. The total has stayed UNDER or ended as a PUSH in four of its last five games. The hot hand for the Bruins so far has been freshman forward TJ Leaf. He is averaging 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. UCLA is the second-highest scoring team in the country with 93.9 points a game.
No. 5 Gonzaga Bulldogs
The top-ranked Mid Major in the country is a perfect 14-0 SU on the year with a profitable 10-3 record ATS. The Bulldogs have already covered a pair a hefty closing spreads (-24 and -17.5) in their first two West Coast Conference victories against Pepperdine at home and Pacific on the road while scoring a combined 173 points. The total has gone OVER in four of their last six games. Conventional wisdom dictates that Gonzaga could be able to run the table in the WCC in the regular season to keep it undefeated heading into the month of March. This is a well-balanced team on both sides of the ball with an 84.9-point scoring average complementing a defensive effort that is holding opposing teams to 63.9 PPG.