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Shadow figures know their stuff

To bet on college hoops, follow the pros’ advice: Know lower-level teams before the sportsbooks do.

Alcorn State, with center Lenell Henry, covered the spread in its first six games.
Young Kwak/AP

LAS VEGAS — This is definitely the most wonderful time of the year, but this sweet spot is unrelated to any holiday.

It’s the hectic sports schedule dominated by the NFL, referred to by Golden Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller as “our boy.”

“The sportsbook’s best friend,” he says. “We depend on the NFL.”

With so few games, lines are tight, chiseled throughout the week, difficult to crack. Annual NFL profits pay casinos’ electric bills and many salaries.

The NBA and NHL are thriving. College football’s regular season just culminated, conference title and bowl games about to commence.

In the shadows, there’s college hoops. And we don’t refer to Duke or UCLA, the blue bloods. The Shadows. Games that don’t attract television cameras get our attention.

We are smack in the middle of the six-week sweet spot in which money should be made, bankrolls boosted, via mid-major and lower-rated hoops programs whose daily lines can’t possibly be calibrated accurately.

On these Saturdays, more than 100 college basketball games are on the menu. With proper research, begun months ago, out-of-kilter spreads reveal themselves.

Alcorn State, Cornell and Monmouth each covered their first six games against the spread (ATS). Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois games were a combined 16-1 to Under out of the gate. Illinois State was 5-1 to Over.

Says professional bettor Ron Boyles, “You want to get these teams before the word gets out. That’s how you make money.”

General strengths and weaknesses should be culled, says pro punter Conner Streeter, so they become second nature and can be adjusted, either way, on the fly.

“If you’re trying to learn what teams are good at the same time as the bookmakers, it doesn’t work,” Streeter says. “Know these teams like the back of your hand before the season starts, making it easier to target mismatches.”

Betting limits are low, $3,000 maximum at most shops, for a reason.

“If they allowed the same limits [as college football] and let you bet those overnight,” Streeter says, “there would be blood flowing down the Las Vegas Strip.”

WCC IS RIPE

Boyles, nicknamed “Skinny” for his lean profile long ago by Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro, mostly has operated out of Chester, West Virginia, for the last couple of years.

Forty minutes away is Pennsylvania. Between the two states, he has 15 “outs,” or sportsbook options. He shops for optimal numbers. Risking those maximums, higher when available, is common for Boyles.

He already has plucked value from the West Coast Conference.

“Like Santa Clara,” he says. “The Broncos have been tremendous. I was on them early. In fact, I think the West Coast Conference is the best mid-major league in the country.”

As a 3.5-point underdog, Santa Clara defeated Stanford 88-72. As a two-point dog, it beat Nevada 96-74. Giving 14.5 points, it thrashed Cal Poly by 30. Getting 3.5 points, it pounded TCU 85-66.

“Gonzaga is its well-known brand, but there are a lot of teams in that league that are good,” Boyles says. “Loyola Marymount is good, so are BYU and San Diego. Gonzaga is not going to go undefeated this season in conference play.”

Five of the USD Toreros’ first seven games finished Under. As a slim favorite, BYU covered against Utah and San Diego State. As 4.5-point dogs, the Cougars pummeled Oregon by 32.

Five of San Francisco’s first six games did not hit their totals. The team owns a top-40 defensive efficiency, and Boyles calls senior point guard Jamaree Bouyea a future pro.

On Saturday, the Dons host UNLV, a poor-shooting, low-scoring squad that favors a slow tempo. Metrics guru Ken Pomeroy projects a 136 total, and we are on Under.

AVOID BLUE BLOODS

Pomeroy provides a stellar statistical service, KenPom, with an annual fee of $20. Its invaluable database is a staple for college basketball bettors. In addition, Bart Torvik provides a wealth of information gratis.

Streeter is the alias of an expert source who taps various offshore outlets. His college hoops profits pay his yearly living expenses, and this sweet spot is his wheelhouse window.

He knows no book can commit many staff hours to produce spot-on college basketball lines on every game, every day.

“They are somewhat beholden to KenPom and Torvik’s power ratings,” Streeter says. “As a bettor, you can attack those well in advance of the official line coming out. You should try to work a week ahead of time, because others are not.”

He meant the other side of the counter.

“They work day to day, for the most part, with college basketball.”

Streeter had early edges on Alcorn State (1-5, but 6-0 ATS), Chicago State (2-5, 5-2 ATS) and Oakland (6-2, 6-2 ATS).

He highlights Oakland’s improved perimeter defense, bolstered by forward Jamal Cain, a Marquette transfer. Alcorn State and Chicago State are still bad, just not as poor as both have been in recent seasons.

“It’s going to take multiple games for the market to catch up to that,” Streeter says. “If you are ahead of it, you have five to six games where you needn’t worry.”

Streeter advises dodging supposed “experts” in traditional media.

“Charlatans and carnival barkers who recommend betting Gonzaga, Duke or Kansas, Michigan State,” he says. “The real way to dominate is to learn all 358 teams, get involved where you have edges and clear mismatches.

“Do not go after tough games between blue bloods.”