Yesterday we took a look back at the five best teams against the spread in NCAA Men’s College Basketball this year. Today, we are going to switch it up and take a look at the other side of the cover equation and show you the five worst teams against the spread this season. If you haven’t had a chance to check out yesterday’s article, you can find it here.
As a reminder, we aren’t going to use a strict losing percentage to decide which teams have been the worst against the number this year, as I feel like a team that gas gone 1-8 ATS is worse than a team that might be 0-2. How much these teams are losing by will also be taken into account. Yesterday we decided that Drake is the top team in the nation in terms of covering numbers, and today we will present you with the worst team in the country when it comes to getting bettors paid, the Spartans of San Jose State.
San Jose State Spartans – ATS Record (0-5)
There have been several teams that have been awful against the spread this year, but what has set the Spartans apart from the rest of the pack, as truly being the worst, is not just that they haven’t covered in a single game this year, it is how they are losing. San Jose State leads the nation in the largest average margin of loss to the spread, at an absurd -16.9 points per game.
After knocking off lowly D2 school Fresno Pacific in their opener, it has been all downhill ever since for the Spartans. Five games, five outright losses, and five misses against the spread. The low point has come in conference play for San Jose State, as they played back-to-back games against Utah State to start their league play schedule, and despite getting +19.5 and +22.5 points respectively in the two games, they didn’t come close to covering, getting blown out by an average of 39 points.
Against Boise State in their last game, they were getting +22 points, and it wasn’t nearly enough, as they lost by a whopping 52 points! These losses aren’t anything new for San Jose head coach Jean Prioleau, as he has averaged almost 26 losses a season since taking over the program in 2018.
When you break down the data to try and figure out how a team can be so bad, it really is a full team effort of ineptitude to get such dismal results. The Spartans defense is ranked 319th in the nation, and their offense isn’t much better at 290th. Their shooting stats are particularly ugly, as they are shooting just 33.5% from the field and 23.9% from beyond the arc.
— San Jose State Men’s Basketball (@SanJoseStateMBB) December 28, 2020
Looking forward on the schedule, it’s hard to find many potential wins for San Jose State. The Mountain West Conference isn’t great this year, with San Diego State as the clear front runner and only team that would currently warrant an at-large bid.
But even at the bottom of the league, teams like New Mexico and Air Force are still rated significantly higher on Kenpom than the Spartans. Don’t be shocked if this team doesn’t find another win at any point this season, and if you ever get a chance to fade them at a reasonable price, you are going to want to jump all over it!
Northern Illinois Huskies – ATS Record (0-7)
If San Jose State is the worst team in the country against the spread, then Northern Illinois is a very close second. Unlike the Spartans, who have been underdogs in every game and are just getting blown out, the Huskies have actually been favored several times, failing to cover the spread in every one of their games, whether they have been favored or as underdogs.
The Huskies season started off with three of their first four games coming at home and against some really soft competition. The Huskies were favored in their first two games of the season, against Illinois Chicago and SIU Edwardsville, but found a way to lose both games outright as favorites.
The loss to SIU Edwardsville was particularly punishing, as they were laying -9 points against the 320th ranked Cougars and lost to them on their home floor by 20 points. That might be the single worst performance of any team this season, when all things are considered.
— NIU Men’s Basketball🎄 (@GoHuskiesMBB) December 23, 2020
After the poor performances at home to start the season, the Huskies played their next three games as underdogs against decent competition and got blown out in all three games. Then they hosted Chicago State, who you can argue is the actual legit worst team in the entire country, currently ranked 356th on Kenpom, and even against the worst team in the country, the Huskies couldn’t find a cover.
It doesn’t matter if this team is at home, on the road, favorites, or dogs, they just can’t find a way to cash tickets. The Huskies play one of the slowest tempos in the country, and if you watch them play for too long, your eyes will start to bleed, as they play a particularly ugly brand of basketball. NIU is atrocious from deep, shooting just 21.5% as a team, and their effective field goal percentage is 41.6%, 315th in the nation.
Kenpom doesn’t see this team winning a single game the rest of the way out in the MAC. The Huskies are currently ranked 307th by Pomeroy, more than 50 spots worse than the next closest team in their league, Western Michigan, who rates out at 254th. It is going to be a two-horse race to the bottom between Northern Illinois and San Jose State to decide which teams finishes the season as the worst.
Michigan State Spartans – ATS Record (2-7)
There aren’t many teams that have disappointed as much as the Michigan State Spartans have this season. Sparty started the season ranked 13th in the preseason AP Poll and quickly rose to as high as 4th in the nation. So, to see Tom Izzo’s squad struggle as much as they have, has been surprising. Early in the year, the outright wins were there, as the Spartans started the season out 6-0, with quality victories over Notre Dame and Duke.
Those two games are the only two games that Michigan State has covered this year. In every other game, Sparty has been favored, and they have failed to cover. Big 10 play has been really rough for Michigan State, as they have been favored in all three games and have lost all three outright.
Losses to Minnesota and Northwestern came to teams that nobody expected to compete at the top of the Big 10 this season. The loss to Wisconsin was understandable, as the Badgers are really good this year, but their win in East Lansing was their first since 2004, so it was still hard to see coming.
To: Badger fans
Love: The Badgers pic.twitter.com/r5tnjdelBl
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 25, 2020
You can expect Michigan State to drop out of the top-25 nationally when the new AP Poll is released on Monday, and maybe that will slow down the betting market on them, but don’t count on it. The Spartans have always been a heavily publicly backed team, and in a Big 10 that is so loaded with talented teams, I can see Michigan State laying points against teams that they absolutely should not be.
The hard part about handicapping Michigan State, is that they have as talented of a roster as any team in the league, they just aren’t playing well. Of all of the teams on this list, Michigan State is by far the most talented. Joshua Langford and Rocket Watts should be the best guard combo in the Big 10, but with both guys not playing up to their potential, this team hasn’t been able to live up to theirs.
I am not sold that Michigan State is going to be this bad the rest of the way out, but until the betting market reacts and lowers their value on the Spartans, I have no choice but to keep fading them. They have been favorites in both of their league road games and lost both outright. They are again favored at Nebraska in their next game. The Cornhuskers are bad, but it’s hard not to like them to cover at home with how inconsistent Michigan state has been in conference games.
Arizona State Sun Devils – ATS Record (1-6)
This was supposed to be the year that Bobby Hurley finally took his Sun Devils team to the promised land. They had a senior leader guard in Remy Martin, that was going to challenge to lead the nation in scoring, and they brought in two of the best freshman in the country to surround him. They were the highest-ranked team in the PAC-12 in the preseason, coming in at 18th, and a lot of people saw them as a dark horse Final Four team out west.
But the results just haven’t been there, and with the heavy expectations, the betting market has been tough on ASU. The Sun Devils have been favorites in all but one of their games this season, and their only cover came by less than a bucket at the buzzer against Cal. Things seem to be trending towards getting worse before they get better for the Sun Devils as they have dealt with injuries, schedule changes, and a COVID-19 outbreak on top of their inconsistent play.
SCHEDULE UPDATE: Our game at Washington State has been postponed.https://t.co/GePiBsPnnQ
— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) December 30, 2020
Freshman sensation Marcus Bagley has missed playing time, and in the three games that he hasn’t played, Arizona State is 1-2 straight up and 0-3 ATS. In their last game, ASU hit rock bottom, as they lost outright at home against a bad UTEP team as -13-point favorites, losing 76-63. In that game, Remy Martin, their hopeful national player of the year candidate, scored just 9 points. It was the 3rd time in the last six games that Martin failed to score double digits.
Martin has seen his scoring, rebounding, and assist all drop from last season, and without their best player playing well, this Arizona State team has really struggled. Something tells me that these struggles might be short-lived, though, as ASU has seen their schedule delayed and messed up several times, making it hard to get into a rhythm, and assuming that Bagley can get back on the floor and playing well, this team is going to be better than they have looked recently.
Similar to Michigan State, this ASU team has ample talent, and they at least have some excuses as to why they haven’t been playing well lately as they have been banged up, and their coaching staff has been riddled with COVID-19. Bagley’s injury isn’t as serious as it was once thought, and if he can play at Washington in Arizona State’s next game, where the Sun Devils will again be favorites, they have a shot at getting things turned around in what is just their second league game. I’m not buying any ASU stock right now, but I’m not buying any either.
Memphis Tigers – ATS Record: (2-8)
No team has failed to cover more times than the Memphis Tigers this season. They did find a couple of covers along the way, which has kept them from the top spot on this list, but in terms of the sheer number of losing bets, the Tigers take home the cake. This is a classic case of the media and the public hyping up a team that just isn’t that good. Memphis has been favored in every single one of their games, and they just aren’t that good of a team.
The outright record for Memphis is decent at 6-4, but none of their 6 wins have come against the top-100, and 4 of those wins came against teams outside of the top-200 nationally. In the 4 games that they have played against the top-100, they are 0-4 straight up and 0-4 ATS, having been favored in each game. At this point, the Tigers are basically an auto-fade against any team that is decent.
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) December 22, 2020
The next game for Memphis is on the road at UCF. That is going to be a very tough game for them to win, and if they continue their trend of being favored in every game, I’m not sure how you can’t fade them on the road. At some point, the books are going to have to adjust on Memphis, but if the public keeps backing them, the books are going to keep pricing them above where they should be based on their results.
The Tiger’s losses have all come to teams ranked between 50th-100th nationally, and when you look at the AAC this year, much of the league falls into that category. Particularly away from home, if the Tigers are laying wood against a top-100 team, you need to look to get on the other side. The public really wants Penny Hardaway to lead this team back to glory, but the reality is that despite his strong recruiting efforts, Hardaway is in year 3 at the helm for the Tigers, and they have yet to go dancing.
There are two main ways that a team can be bad against the spread. Either they are just an awful team that books can’t price low enough to stay competitive like San Jose State or Northern Illinois. Or they are a team that the public likes way more than they should, like Arizona State, Michigan State, and Memphis.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why they don’t cover numbers, just that they don’t. Thanks for reading, and make sure that you head over to TheSportsGeek’s college basketball picks page, where we bring you free daily betting picks each and every day!