Feb 3, 2004 3:43 AM


ST. JOSEPH’S (18-0): There may be no stopping the Atlantic 10 leaders, in our book, the nation’s most unappreciated team. The Hawks opened the season with a seven-point win over Gonzaga and haven’t been headed since. St. Joseph’s is 11-6 ATS, including seven straight covers in a weak conference. Except for maybe Rhode Island, you should lay the number with the Hawks against any A-10 opponent.

UTAH STATE (17-1): Another team the national media overlooks because the Big West is virtually unknown. An 11-point loss in early December at Utah as a five-point dog didn’t help, but the Aggies have since reeled off 14 straight victories including an upset of BYU. U-State is 6-3 ATS in the league, having ended a two-game skid with a smashing 84-46 win over Long Beach State as a 22-point favorite. An NCAA sleeper.

NORTHERN IOWA (10-6): The Panthers occupy fifth in a solid Missouri Valley Conference and will probably have to win the league’s tournament to earn an NCAA bid. However, there’s plenty of opportunity to cash in on this cow. UNI covered against hated in-state rivals Iowa and Iowa State. The 7-3 ATS conference mark includes covers against Creighton and SW Missouri State, two teams ahead of UNI in the standings.


PENNSYLVANIA (7-8): The Ivy League isn’t about Penn and Princeton this season. The league has caught up with the Quakers, evidenced by back-to-back non-covers this past weekend against Yale and Brown. And coming up on the radar screen is Cornell, a team we featured last week in our "bet on" list. At 2-2 including a cover against St. Joe’s, Penn could carry value against the Big Five. Look for upcoming trouble, though, against Princeton, Columbia and Dartmouth.