Betting the Big Uglies

Let's hold our noses and talk about the Big Uglies. Those college basketball teams that are so bad, you don't even want to examine the game, let along think about wagering on them. However, this time of year there can be some outstanding line value in ugly dogs. You just need to learn how to hold your breath and get up the courage. Think of it this way: It's not so much a play ON the bad team, as it is AGAINST the overvalued favorite. And that's the key.

In fact, let's look at it backwards, going from a good team to the bad ones. Take a look at a team like Louisville. The Cardinals, a public team, are not a bad squad, winning 16 games. Yet, they have been a favorite 15 times this season and are 4-11 against the number. They are overvalued, with oddsmakers putting up numbers that are more reflective of PAST Rick Pitino teams than this current one, which is young and often struggles to put the biscuit in the basket.

At 0-6 SU, 1-5 ATS as a dog, they haven't been able to cover all season regardless of being chalk or a dog. Look early in the season when Louisville was a double-digit favorite over Richmond, Detroit, Arkansas State, Charleston and Middle Tennessee State. They failed to cover in all five.

Throw in the nagging injuries that have affected the Cardinals depth, and Louisville has been a go-against all season. You can even take this a step further and see WHY they haven't been covering: A lack of offense. Louisville outscores teams by a 69-61 average when a favorite, going 12-2 under the total in those games. They simply don't have the firepower on offense, even against small schools. And when you're a double-digit favorite often, you better be able to score! Therefore, backing the ugly dog is the wiser move.

Other times, a situation can dictate a play on an ugly dog. I found one on Saturday, releasing TCU as a +15 dog against San Diego State. Now, TCU is as ugly a dog as you can find, at 5-21 overall and 0-10 on the road! Yet, as much as I don't like the team, I didn't like even more the situation their opponent was in. San Diego State had just pulled an outright upset Thursday at UNLV, and were sitting pretty with a two-game lead in the Mountain West.

How interested would they be to blow out TCU, a club they had already beaten by 19 points? On deck, the Aztecs have road affairs at BYU and New Mexico. TCU has been an excellent road dog cashing 26 of 41 games. This was an excellent spot to hold your nose and back TCU while SDSU likely went through the motions to just get a win, especially after their all-out effort two nights earlier at UNLV.

There will be more situations like this over the next week as conference races wind down. Teams will be jockeying for seeding and conference regular season crowns, and you can find plenty of look ahead spots. And don't be scared of supporting those big uglies. Cashing ugly money is exactly the same color green as pretty chalk! .

By: Bryan Leonard

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