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College basketball season has tipped off and that creates some opportunities for bettors to get out in front of sportsbooks. Because there are 353 teams in Division I basketball, it's impossible for oddsmakers to have a good read on all of them entering the campaign.
While early season college basketball is one of the few times bettors can gain an edge over sportsbooks, the irony is very few people take advantage of it. College hoops, in general, see a low betting handle unless it's a high-profile matchup like Duke vs. North Carolina. However, the real edge comes in betting the lesser-known conferences and teams.
Here are five mid-major teams that will be profitable for bettors this season.
Harvard finished tied for first with Yale in the Ivy League last season but lost to the Bulldogs in the championship game and had to settle for an NIT bid. This year, the Crimson are by far the class of the Ivy League. Harvard goes 10 deep, led by seniors F Seth Towns and G Bryce Aiken. Towns, the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2017, returns after missing last season with a knee injury, while Aiken averaged 22.2 points in 2018 but was limited to 18 games.
The Crimson have seven seniors that will log big minutes, making them a dangerous team outside of conference play. Games early in the year against Buffalo, Texas A&M, and UMass will be good spots for bettors to ride Harvard.
Last year, the Southern Conference produced a 30-5 Wofford team that almost upset Kentucky to reach the Sweet 16. This season, East Tennessee State is the team to watch. The Buccaneers return seven of their top eight scorers from last year's squad that finished 24-10, led by F Jeromy Rodriguez (11.2 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game), who averaged a double-double in 2018.
ETSU is deep and talented, and the Buccaneers should dominate, even in the competitive SoCon. ETSU travels to Kansas (Nov. 19) and LSU (Dec. 18), where the Buccaneers will be live underdogs with a chance to pull at least one outright upset.
The Eagles, who finished 14th in adjusted tempo last season, play at the kind of frenetic pace that will cause bigger schools headaches come March. Georgia Southern was the highest-scoring team in the Sun Belt and returns nine of its top players, including all-conference G Quan Jackson (14.8 ppg). The Eagles' pressing defense also forced the most turnovers in the Sun Belt last season and the team is even deeper entering 2019.
Georgia Southern's style will lead to easy wins in conference play, while a trip to Georgia on Dec. 23 could produce a pre-Christmas upset. The Eagles already showed they can hang with the big boys, playing tough in an 83-74 loss at Auburn on opening night as 14.5-point underdogs.
The MAC has a few teams talented enough to make an NCAA Tournament run, but one school flying under the radar is Ball State. Although the Cardinals are coming off a 16-17 season and must replace PG Tayler Persons, this may be Ball State's most talented team in over a decade.
Led by F Tahjai Teague (13.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and G K.J. Walton (13.0 ppg), the Cardinals are one of the most experienced teams in the MAC with seven key players either juniors or seniors. Hit Ball State early in conference play before oddsmakers adjust, while a Dec. 18 trip to Georgia Tech is a great spot to take the Cardinals in an underdog role.
Colgate, who is even better this year, reached the NCAA Tournament last season and put a scare into No. 2 seed Tennessee. Colgate returns its top five scorers, including matchup nightmare F Rapolas Ivanauskas (15.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg), and added Bowling Green transfer Nelly Cummings to the mix. The former three-star recruit makes Colgate the overwhelming favorite to repeat as Patriot League champions.
The Raiders face a tough early season schedule with trips to Clemson (Nov. 10), Syracuse (Nov. 13), Auburn (Nov. 18), and Cincinnati (Dec. 18). There will be value backing Colgate as a sizable underdog in all of those matchups, especially against offensively challenged Syracuse.
Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.