by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

We’ve been hearing the same lament from countless college basketball followers for many years. “Why didn’t I notice that team was covering the spread in every game?” An oversight which, given the number of teams that are on the college hoops radar screen, can happen frequently. Following several hundred teams at a time is not easy.

Indeed, we recall the days when the big board in college hoops included fewer than half of the games currently posted on a nightly basis. Many of the current leagues didn’t even exist in the mid ‘80s, and it took a long while for certain leagues (such as the West Coast Conference) to be included in the regular rotation of games. And that was before the “added leagues” such as Big Sky, Metro-Atlantic, Summit, and Ohio Valley began to regularly appear as well.

It was in fact easier to uncover spread trends in those days, but as it was 20, 30, or 40 years ago, identifying just a handful of trends and taking advantage of them before they expire can mean the difference between a winning and losing season. And we have always noted that the conference season is the best time to really begin to search for these handicapping nuggets. Many team streaks, whether winning or losing, home or away, dog or favorite, as well as “overs” and “unders” inevitably tend to endure and often become more pronounced as the season progresses.

With that in mind, we’re going to devote space in this current issue as well as our next edition (available Monday, January 28) to team trends by conference. We will begin with the review of ten conferences for this issue; we proceed alphabetically, beginning with the Atlantic Coast Conference thru the Horizon League. In the next issue, we’ll pick up with the Ivy League. Though not every entry has developed a trend that merits review, many teams in fact do have some pointspread or “totals” angle worth noting; we’ll list the ones that have caught our eyes. All pointspread and “totals” trends include results thru Wednesday, January 23.

ATLANTIC COAST: Boston College...The Eagles have covered six of their last seven after their midweek game vs. Maryland; BC is also “over” 7-2 its last nine. Clemson...The Tigers could be in the early stage of something good, covering their last three games. Brad Brownell’s tempo-controlling preference has also resulted in four straight Clemson “unders” as well. Georgia Tech...After Wednesday’s loss to North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets have dropped their last six vs. the spread. Perhaps we were wise after all to wonder if the supposed improvements of Brian Gregory’s team in pre-league play were due to a relatively-soft non-ACC slate. Maryland...The Terps have hit a few high notes in recent weeks (such as the home win over NC State) but have still dropped their last five against the spread. North Carolina...Are the Tar Heels finally stirring? That’s three wins and covers in a row for Roy Williams’ Chapel Hill bunch after Wednesday’s home romp past aforementioned Georgia Tech. UNC is also “under”“ 5-1 its last six games. North Carolina State...Look out for some fraying around the edges with the erratic Wolfpack, who have lost 2 of their last 3 outright while failing to cover the number in each of those games. NCS is also a poor 1-6 its last seven as chalk after the midweek loss down Tobacco Road at underdog Wake Forest. Rumors of some internal discord involving players and HC Mark Gottfried? Virginia...Tony Bennett’s Cavs have offered good spread value all season, standing 9-3 vs. the line their last 12 on the board. Virginia Tech...It’s gone a bit pear-shaped lately for the Hokies, whose quick start under new HC James Johnson seems a long time ago; VPI has covered just one of its last eight (1-6-1) overall. Wake Forest...Don’t look now, but the Demon Deacons have covered 8 of their last 9 after the midweek upset over NC State at Winston- Salem.

ATLANTIC 10: Butler...Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs lost a tough one on Wednesday at La Salle but have still covered their last five. Duquense...The bottom might be falling out for the Iron Dukes, who have dropped seven spread decisions in a row. Fordham...While acknowledging the midweek 45-point smashing the Rams absorbed at Dayton, also note that Fordham is unbeaten vs. the line (3-0-1) at its quaint Rose Hill Gym in The Bronx. George Washington...Mike Lonergan’s Colonials have quietly offered superb spread value, covering 10 of their last 12 on the board. La Salle...Even after the Wednesday win over Butler, John Giannini’s Explorers have still covered only 1 of their last 7 games. UMass...The Minutemen have covered just 2 of their last 7 on the board. They’re also “under” 5-2 in their last seven. Richmond...Aracnophobia indeed for backers of the Spiders, who have covered just 3 of their last 15 on the board. Saint Louis...The Bills are “under” 5-2 in their last seven games. Saint Joseph’s...After the midweek loss to St. Bona, Phil Martelli’s Hawks have dropped their last four spread decisions at home. St. Bonaventure...Note the Bonnies’ 9-2 “over” mark their last 11 games. Temple...The Owls, who didn’t come close to covering a hefty number at home vs. Big Five rival Penn at midweek, are just 4-8 their last 12 as chalk and a mere 2-6 vs. the line at home this term.

BIG EAST: Cincinnati...The Bearcats have been trending “under” (5-1 last 6) lately. They’re also 6-1 vs. the line their last seven away from Fifth Third Arena. DePaul...The Blue Demons have covered just 2 of their last 7 while also going “over” in 7 of their last 9. Georgetown...The Hoyas reminded us on Monday at Notre Dame that they can be worth a look as a dog; they’re 3-1 as the “short” this season, and also “under” their last three on the road. Louisville...Keep an eye on the Cards, who have not only failed to cover, but lost outright their last two after ascending to the top of the polls and recording a 6-2-1 spread mark their nine preceding games. Notre Dame...The Irish have been in a funk, dropping their last four vs. the number. Notre Dame is also “under” in its last five games. Pittsburgh...Note “overs” in 6 of the Panthers’ last seven games. Pitt has also failed to cover its last three at home. Providence...Don’t shortchange Ed Cooley’s Friars, who have covered 4 of their last 5. Providence is also “over” 9-1-1 its last 11. Rutgers...No place like the road in Scarlet Knight games, as the visiting team has covered in five straight. Mike Rice’s team is also “under” 6-2 its last 8. Seton Hall...The Pirates have covered just one of their last five (1-3-1) as chalk. They’re also “under” 4-1 their last five. South Florida...We note “overs” in the Bulls last two games because it contrasts with the “unders” in their preceding five games. St. John’s...Steve Lavin’s Red Storm is “under” its last six games, while also covering 4 of its last 5 as a dog. Syracuse...Jim Boeheim is “under” 7-4 in his last 11 games. Villanova...Quietly, Jay Wright’s Nova has covered 9 of its last 12 games.

BIG SKY: Eastern Washington...The Eagles have dropped 8 of their last 10 vs. the line. They’re also “under” in five straight and 9 of 11. Idaho State...With “totals” posted so low because the Bengals have so little offense, ISU has nonetheless gone “over” in 5 of its last 7. The Bengals also haven’t covered their last three as chalk (0-2-1). Montana...The Grizzlies have won their last 8 SU, roughly coinciding with the return to action of star G Will Cherry. Wayne Tinkle’s team is also “over” in 4 straight and 5 of its last 6. Montana State...The Bobcats have covered 5 of their last 7 on the road. North Dakota...The Fighting Sioux are mildly surging, covering 5 of their last 7. UND is also “over” 9-3 its last 12. Northern Arizona...The Lumberjacks, who absorbed some wicked beatings before New Year’s, are showing mild improvement for first-year HC Jack Murphy, covering their last three (as an underdog in each). Northern Colorado...While the Bears are only 3-11 vs. the line this season, they have covered their last two outings. Portland State...The Vikings have a lot going on; 0-3 their last 3 overall, 2-5 their last 7 away, but 4-1 their last 5 at home in quaint Stott Gym. Sacramento State...The Hornets are “under” 7-2 their last 9; Sac State has also recently snapped an extended spread losing streak, but has still covered just 2 of its last 10 overall (2-6-2). Southern Utah...The Thunderbirds have covered 5 of their last 7. Weber State...It’s been “overs” in 5 of the last 7 for the Wildcats.

BIG TEN: Illinois...Though the Illini won on Tuesday at Nebraska, they’re only 2-7 vs. the spread in their last 9 games. Indiana...The highly-ranked, “highly-priced” Hoosiers have covered just 1 of their last 6 games; they’re also “under” 4 of their last 5. Iowa...Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes are providing good value, covering 9 of their last 11 games. They’re also “under” in 6 of their last 8 outings. Michigan...The high-powered Wolverines are “over” in 6 of their last 8. Nebraska...Getting benefit from some inflated numbers, the Cornhuskers have covered their last three away from Lincoln. Northwestern...Just when the Wildcats looked ready to drop off of the map, they’ve now covered three in a row for HC Bill Carmody, with outright wins as a dog vs. Illinois and Minnesota. They’re also “under” four straight. Ohio State...Thad Matta’s Buckeyes are “under” 8-1 their last 9. Purdue...Providing decent value lately, the Boilermakers have covered their last 3. Matt Painter’s team is also “over” 6-2-1 its last 9. Wisconsin...No surprise that the Badgers are “under” 8-3 their last 11 for the pride of Chester, PA, HC Bo Ryan.

BIG 12: Baylor...The Bears are “under” four straight. Kansas...Bill Self’s Jayhawks are “under” their last 4, and 6 of their last 7. Kansas State...Bruce Weber’s Wildcats have covered just one of their last five (1-3-1 away). Oklahoma State...The Cowboys are 7-2 vs. the line their last nine, but note they’ve failed to cover their last two. Texas...Lots going on with the Longhorns; 6-1 their last seven as an underdog, but 0-5 SU their last five. TCU...Trent Johnson’s slow-paced Horned Frogs are “under” 7-3 their last ten. Texas Tech..Red Raiders “under” 8-1 their last nine after another low-scoring game at midweek vs. Iowa State. West Virginia...The Mounties’ midweek win over TCU was their first cover as chalk after six straight losses in role.

BIG WEST: Cal Poly...Mustangs “over” 6-1 their last 7 while also covering 5 of their last 6. Cal State Fullerton...Slipping Titans no covers in their last three, also “over” 5-1 their last six. Hawaii...Warriors have covered their first three on the mainland this season, but have dropped 6 of their last 9 vs. the line in Honolulu. Long Beach State...Ascending 49ers now 4-1 vs. line last 5. Cal State Northridge...Bobby Braswell’s Matadors have dropped six straight vs. the number; remember, CSN had at one time covered seven straight early in the season. Pacific...Bob Thomason’s Tigers have offered good value all season, covering 5 of their last 6 and 10 of 14 overall. UCSB...Bob Williams’ Gauchos are “over” 5-1 their last six. UC Davis...It’s been best to shade the road team in games involving Kimberly Guilfoyle’s alma mater UCD, as the visitor has covered in five straight Aggie games. UC Irvine...Anteaters “over” 5-1 their last six. UC Riverside...The Highlanders are “over” their last four games.

COLONIAL: Delaware...Blue Hens “over” 7-2 their last nine. Drexel...Poor spread value all season, covering just 4 of 18 after another spread loser (though SU win) at midweek vs. Hofstra. The Dragons had earlier dropped 8 straight vs. the number. George Mason...Paul Hewitt’s Patriots have covered 4 of their last 5 away from Fairfax. Georgia State...On the upswing, the Panthers have covered their last four. Ron Hunter’s team is also “over” 8-3 its last 11. Hofstra...Remarkable spread turnaround for Mo Cassara’s suspension-depleted Pride, which has covered seven in row; those last seven are all “under” as well. James Madison..How about eight straight “unders” for the Dukes after their Wednesday win over Delaware? Towson...The Tigers have cooled a bit with SU and spread losses their last two; Pat Skerry’s improved team had covered 8 of its previous 10. William & Mary...Snakebit Tribe 1-6 vs. line last 7, but that “W” was in most-recent game, a double-OT loss on Wednesday vs. Northeastern. W&M also “over” 7-3 last 10.

CONFERENCE USA: East Carolina...The Pirates have covered 4 of their last 5. Houston...Fade the Cougars, with no covers in four straight after Wednesday’s humbling loss vs. Tulsa. UH also “over” 5-1 last 6. Marshall...A spread disaster this season even before the 102-46 (!) wipeout loss on Wednesday inflicted by Southern Miss; Herd now 2-11-1 vs. line this season. Marshall also “over” 4-1 last five. Memphis...Road rage of a different sort involving Josh Pastner’s Tigers; the visiting team has covered nine straight Memphis games, with the Tigers no covers their last six at FedEx Forum. Rice...Limited Owls just 1-4 vs. line last five; Ben Braun’s team also “over” 4-1 last 5. SMU...Early-season value has disappeared from Larry Brown’s Mustangs, who have covered just 4 of their last 11 overall and 1 of their last 6 on road. Southern Miss...Golden Eagles 6-1 vs. line last seven. UTEP...After a slow start, Tim Floyd’s Miners have covered 8 of their last 9, including their last six home games at the Haskins Center. Tulsa...Don’t look now, but Danny Manning’s Golden Hurricane has covered 6 of its last 7. UAB...The Blazers have offered poor value all season; no covers last 4 and just 4-12 vs. line overall.

HORIZON: Cleveland State...Vikings no covers their last 3, or 9 of last 11 after midweek loss to Loyola-Chicago; Gary Waters’ side has also dropped 7 straight vs. number on road. Detroit...Ray McCallum’s Titans have a couple of blowout wins in Horizon play, but overall are just 2-8-1 as chalk; they are 4-1 as dog, however. Green Bay...Fighting Phoenix have covered 5 of last 6 at home in the Resch Center, and are “under’ 10-3 this season. UIC...Howard Moore’s Flames are 12-6 vs. the line this season, but note their early 8-game cover streak. UIC has covered 6 of last 7 at home, but dropped corresponding 5 of last 6 vs. vs. spread away. Loyola-Chicago...Ramblers have been streaky, with 4-game cover streak followed by 4-game losing streak vs. line prior to Wednesday’s win at Cleveland State. Milwaukee...Rob Jeter’s Panthers are 6-11-1 vs. line this season; they’re also “under” 7-3 their last ten. Valparaiso...Bryce Drew’s Crusaders have covered 5 of their last 6, and 7 of their last 9 after Wednesday’s win over Green Bay; they’re also “over” their last five. Wright State...Even after Wednesday’s loss at Youngstown, the Raiders are 8-2 vs. the line their last ten (and six straight covers at home in the Nutter Center). Youngstown State...Penguins just 3-8-1 last 11 on board despite Wednesday’s win over Wright State.

Next issue: Part II College team Trends By Conference

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