Finding the Moneymakers on College, Pro Hardwood

First off, my apologies for my unannounced absence from this space the last several weeks. My explanation: I got called away to a side job in Denver, teaching Peyton Manning how to win the Super Bowl.

For those keeping track at home, after Seattle blasted Denver 43-8, the Super Bowl scoreboard now reads: Me 4 (in a row), Peyton 1. And although my recommendation on the game staying “under” the 47-point total just missed, I did hit six of my seven prop plays, resulting in a nice 7-2 finish to an otherwise lackluster season of NFL prognosticating.

Now as we inch ever closer to the next big event on the sports-betting calendar—March Madness—let’s empty out the basketball notebook:

Shocking Shockers: If Hawaii, Southern California and Las Vegas top the list of most popular American destinations, Wichita, Kansas, has to rank right below dead last. And yet somehow Wichita’s biggest institution of higher learning—no, that’s not an oxymoron—has become a hotbed for hoops. Fresh off its stunning run to last year’s Final Four, Wichita State entered February 19 as one of just two remaining undefeated teams (Syracuse being the other). Not only are the Shockers 27-0, but they’ve been a boon for bettors, going 17-6-1 against the spread, according to That ties Wichita with Villanova (22-3 overall, 17-6 ATS) for the second-best point-spread record out of 322 Division I schools.

The only team ahead of the Shockers: Cleveland State, which is 18-6-1 ATS. Coming in at No. 322? That would be South Alabama, which has cashed just six times in 22 lined contests.

Profitable Rebels: Even the most unabashed UNLV basketball supporter would admit this has been one of the most maddening Rebels seasons in recent memory. How does a team lose badly at home to UC Santa Barbara and Air Force, yet win in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball (New Mexico) and come within an eyelash of topping then-top-ranked Arizona (63-58 road loss)?

One area where the Rebels have been consistent is at the betting window; they’re 15-9-1 ATS, including 14-6 ATS since November 30. Your key to making money on the hometown team: Back them on the road (UNLV is 7-2 ATS on the highway, as opposed to 8-7-1 at the Thomas & Mack Center).

Rising Suns: Expected to be among the many NBA squads taking part in this year’s version of Tankapolooza, the Phoenix Suns instead are running away with Comeback Team of the Year honors. A year after going 25-57—dead last in the Western Conference—the Suns emerged from the All-Star break at 30-21, good for seventh in the West. Additionally, Phoenix’s 33-17-1 ATS mark is tops in the league, ahead of Indiana (32-20) and Toronto (31-20-1).

Conversely, you’d be better off donating your money to charity than betting on the Knicks, Bucks and 76ers, who are a combined 62-96 ATS.

Matt Jacob appears Wednesdays on’s First Preview, which airs 10-11 a.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1100-AM. Jacob also appears on “Vegas Wise Sports” at 9 p.m. Sundays on KDWN 720-AM.