It seems every year, a mid-major takes college basketball betting by storm, especially during March Madness.
Just last year, No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic reached the Final Four, and No. 15 seed Princeton made the Sweet 16.
Rob Dauster, founder of The Field of 68, which has recently partnered with BetMGM, believes a mid-major will make a run in March again this season.
“It’s going to happen again. I feel confident saying that,” he said.
Dauster added: “I think the top of the sport is really, really good – Kansas, Duke, Purdue, UConn, Marquette and Creighton are some of the teams at the very top of the sport, which is as good as it’s been in a very long time.
“But if you look at the mid-major programs, there’s a lot of really good guards and really good teams.”
Dauster ranked his top five mid-majors for the 2023-24 season.
James Madison wasted no time making their case to be on this list, with a 79-76 win over No. 4-ranked Michigan State on the first night of the college basketball season.
Dauster noted it was the first time since 2001 that a preseason top-5 team lost their first game of the season at home to an unranked team.
“Terrence Edwards, T.J. Bickerstaff, Michael Green, they were the big three going into the season and they combined for 58 points and 22 rebounds,” Dauster said.
The Dukes went 21-10 straight up a year ago, but were 19-9 against the spread.
Drake won the Missouri Valley conference title a year ago and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but fell to Miami in the first round.
Dauster believes they have a good chance of getting back to the Big Dance again.
“They are the favorites to win the Missouri Valley this year,” he said. “Tucker DeVries, who is the coach’s son, won the Missouri Valley Player of the Year last year, and then they brought in a couple of good transfers – Kyron Gibson, Ethan Roberts and Carlos Rosario.
“They are going to have some really, really good guards on that team. I think Drake once again is going to be the class of that league.”
A year ago, Drake was 24-7 overall but 13-16-1 ATS.
“Everyone is going to remember Princeton went to the Sweet 16 last season, but Yale was actually the team that won the Ivy League regular-season title,” Dauster said. “They lost in the final of the Ivy League tournament.
“Matt Knowling is back, who is the preseason Ivy League Player of the Year. This is a really good Yale team, who can really defend.”
The Bulldogs went 20-7 overall a year ago and 16-8-1 ATS.
South Dakota State
South Dakota State went 18-12 last season and did not make the NCAA Tournament, but Dauster believes things may go a little differently this year.
“Zeke Mayo is the best mid-major guard in college basketball this year,” he said. “Luke Appel is going to be a guy who I think is a mid-major breakout guy. He is a big body at the 5 for them. They are always run-and-gun, up-and-down.
“Eric Henderson is always someone that gets put in the top-five hottest [coaches list]. They are really good and fun to watch.”
The Jackrabbits went 14-14 ATS in 2022-23.
Grand Canyon won the Western Athletic Conference tournament a year ago, but lost to Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Antelopes have a solid chance of doing it again, because of the players they brought in via the transfer portal.
“They have a bunch of high-major forwards who transferred in – Sydney Curry, Duke Brennan and Gabe McGlothan,” Dauster said. “And they have some good guards they are bringing back in Ray Harrison and Jovan Blacksher.”
Bryce Drew’s squad went 12-17 ATS last season.
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