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Mid-Major Moneymakers

   by Ben Burns - 01/20/2009


These three teams have been steady producers for bettors this season. But will it last down the stretch?

James Madison (12-7 / 9-4): Underrated

The Dukes should have plenty of value the rest of the season, especially if the public looks only at the score of Saturday’s 71-57 loss to Colonial favorite George Mason.

James Madison played the last five minutes against George Mason without two of its best players, leading scorer and rebounder Juwann James and playmaking point guard Devon Moore.

Without that those two, the Dukes suffered through their worst shooting performance of the season. Their guards combined to go 2 for 22 and the team shot 6 of 26 from three-point range.

"We're 2-for-22," coach Matt Brady told the Daily News Record. "Who can you beat? Who on our schedule can you beat? Who at any level can you beat if your perimeter guys are 2-for-22?"

By looking at those numbers, it’s amazing the Dukes lost by only 14.

Still, this team has proven it can shoot. James Madison is statistically one of the top offensive teams in the conference.

With James and Moore expected to return this week, look for the Dukes to respond with a strong showing in the second half of conference play.

Wisconsin-Green Bay (12-6 SU / 10-4-1 ATS: Overrated

We’ll find out just how legitimate Wis.-Green Bay is on Thursday, when the Phoenix travels to No. 16 Butler.

For the most part, Wis.-Green Bay has been overwhelmed when stepping up a level of competition. The Phoenix lost by 19 to Utah and 20 to Wisconsin.

However, they do seem to be playing their best basketball right now and have covered five of six. But down the stretch, it’s hard to put too much stock in a team that lost to Rollins and managed to beat Houston Baptist by only two.

Texas-El Paso (11-6, 9-4-1): Underrated

Guard-play rules the closer it gets to March.

The Miners have two of the best in Conference USA in Stefon Jackson, the school’s all-time leading scorer and Randy Culpepper, who is averaging 21 points in his last three games.

With Jackson and Culpepper running the show, UTEP has proven that it can match-up talent wise with some of the best teams in the nation. The Miners lost by only three at No. 1 Wake Forest in late November.

In the top-heavy Conference USA, don’t be surprised to see the Miners overwhelm some of the second-tier conference foes like Tulane, Rice and Marshall in February.

Bonus note: The Miners have gone over the total in nine of their 12 lined games.

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