We’re now a month into what is the wildest, weirdest and most unpredictable college basketball season ever and what we now know about college basketball odds is not what we typically know.
Rob Dauster, a longtime national college basketball writer, and co-founder of the Field of 68 Podcast Network, is here to take a look back at the first month of college basketball odds and pick up on new trends sports bettors might not be used to.
Think about this: We have reporters breaking news the morning of games between two bluebloods that the game will actually be played. We’ve had a showdown of the two best teams in the country get canceled 85 minutes before tip-off. Calling it a roller coaster is selling the season short.
Think about it like this: It’s three days before Christmas, and DePaul has still not played a game.
But I do think that this season has created some spots where we can find value and take advantage of issues with the algorithms that spit out the betting lines.
1. TRACK THE TEAMS GOING INTO AND COMING OUT OF QUARANTINE
This is where I have been the most profitable this season. Tracking which teams are going into a pause, when they are going into that pause and how long they are out of action when they return to the floor matters. It doesn’t take a long time for players that didn’t have a standard offseason or preseason to lose peak conditioning, and when they do, it’s their legs that go first. All of a sudden, those step-back jumpers get just a little bit more difficult to hit.
Fading teams coming out of a pause has been a good way to win some money, but keep in mind that “quarantines” and “shutdowns” differ depending on the school. For example, when Gonzaga and Baylor were paused in December, the players that weren’t positive and weren’t being held out due to contact tracing were able to get workouts in. They weren’t going 5-on-5 and practicing like they usually would, but they still had guys that were able to get in the gym, get on a treadmill, avoid some of the rust that comes with sitting in an apartment for seven straight days.
The one spot where I’ve found this to be particularly profitable is to fade big underdogs on the second half-line when they’re able to keep things close for a half.
2. BUY SMALL ROAD DOGS
I have not noticed much of a change in college basketball odds when it comes to playing on the road vs. playing at home. I don’t have any data to back this up, and I acknowledge that all of this is completely anecdotal, but my process is, every morning, to go through and compare KenPom’s projections with the lines that are put out by Bet Rivers. If there are lines that are off by more than 2.5 points or totals that are off by 3.5 points or more, it’s something that I immediately dig into.
And I haven’t seen much, if any, change from what I would consider being a normal difference. Now, this could mean that KenPom adjusted his formula to adjust for the fact that there are going to be a limited number of fans in the arenas at most, but that doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that he would do without a data point to back it up.
So in general, I advocate putting slightly more value on road teams. But where I think this could be really profitable is by taking small road dogs on the moneyline. During a typical college basketball season, what I try to do is find small home dogs where I think that a home crowd can spur them on to an upset win, and take the moneyline. But without the home-court advantage, I think we need to flip this. Generally speaking, Vegas values a college basketball home court at about three points. So if a team is, say, getting 2.5 points on the road, the bookmakers tend to believe that team is the “better” team.
Since these home court venues don’t really have a typical home-court advantage, we can gain an edge by taking the better team at plus-value to win outright.
3. IT’S HARD TO BEAT A TEAM TWICE IN A ROW
One thing that a number of conferences are doing this season is playing league games on back-to-back days in the same locale. Knock out two games at a time, limit the amount of travel, limit the risk involved with spreading the virus and getting positive tests, keep the games going.
It makes sense.
But it’s hard to beat someone twice in a row, and this has played out a number of times over the course of the first month of the season. It’s been profitable to fade the team that won the first matchup with these teams are playing back-to-back games and the college basketball odds not adjusting for knowledge learned in the first game.
And there is some logic for this, especially when the two teams are relatively equal. The loser is going to make an adjustment to help counteract what the winning team did. The team that won probably isn’t going to change much. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you know?
4. FADE CHICAGO STATE
Chicago State’s coach opted out of the season. They had to cancel a game because they didn’t have enough players to field a team. It’s bad. But we can make some money out of it.