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Hardcourt Happenings

   by Matt Fargo - 01/20/2007

Throughout the college basketball season, Matt Fargo will be taking a look at teams that should pique your betting appetite, whether they are good or bad. We all know about Florida, North Carolina and UCLA but with 336 teams in division I college hoops, there are plenty of teams flying under the radar. Today’s session:

Missouri Valley Conference

This isn’t just about one team but an entire conference. The Missouri Valley Conference has eight teams separated by three games as no one team is taking control. Creighton has the best record at 6-2 while one of the preseason favorites, Wichita St., is sitting at 3-5 so there is plenty of time and there are plenty of teams that can win this. The issue for even the top teams is that they cannot win on the road and whichever team can solve that puzzle has the inside track.

Of the top eight teams, seven of them are either undefeated or have just one loss at home. The whole conference itself has a combined record of 80-12 at home with Illinois St. having the worst mark of the bunch at 7-3. The home dominance isn’t overly surprising but the fact that is goes from top to bottom is. Last season, the top 6 teams finished with a combined record of 79-12 at home while the bottom four teams finished 32-28 so the parity this year is much more pronounced.

Going back to the road success shows that only three of the ten teams have a winning mark away from home – Northern Iowa, Missouri St. and Southern Illinois. However, at the same time, eight of the 10 teams have at least three road victories so while no team is taking control on the road, most of the conference shows that it has the ability to win off their home court. As of Friday, the longest winning streak is one game while the longest losing streak is two games.

The parity that is going on is not taking away from the strength of the conference. The MVC is ranked 6th in the latest Sagarin ratings and it is right on the heels of the Big Ten and Big XII for the 4th spot. As far as individual teams, seven squads have an RPI of 62 or higher so if the NCAA Tournament were based on raw rankings alone, they would all make the dance. Obviously, that isn’t the case with the likelihood of the conference getting five teams in very slim.

The big question is how this translates into the betting world. The 10 teams in the conference have a combined ATS record of 89-68 (56.7 percent) broken down as follows:

Indiana St. 11 3

Missouri St. 10 6

Southern Illinois 10 7

Bradley 10 7

Evansville 9 6

Creighton 9 7

Illinois St. 9 7

Northern Iowa 7 7

Drake 8 10

Wichita St. 6 8

Those numbers are very impressive with seven of the 10 teams showing a profit with the Sycamores leading the way. The surprise to many might be the record of Wichita St. but coming in with a lot of high expectations, the Shockers are not only not playing well but they are overvalued in nearly every game they take the floor. The MVC went a combined 51-30 ATS (63 percent) in non-conference action so blindly betting every conference team would have produced 18 Units of profit.

Going forward, we want to see how the home team is faring, especially in conference games since that’s the majority of what is left. In conference home games, the host is 22-16 ATS (57.9 percent) on the season with Indiana St., Missouri St., Evansville and Creighton all leading the way with 3-1 ATS marks:

Indiana St. 3 1

Missouri St. 3 1

Southern Illinois 2 1

Evansville 3 1

Bradley 1 1

Creighton 3 1

Illinois St. 2 3

Northern Iowa 2 2

Drake 1 3

Wichita St. 2 2

The home domination isn’t as strong against the numbers as it is straight up but for the most part, the home team is coming away the winner. What can we take from this? It’s likely the home team will continue this trend based on the overall strength of the conference because underdogs are not going to be shaded very much. There should still be plenty of value in the home teams for the remainder of the season.

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