Betting College Hoops Non-Conference Action

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by - 11/25/2008 11:05 AM Share

The college basketball season has started with most teams already having played three or more games. For some sports bettors, the beginning of the college season presents as many challenges and unknowns as making heads or tails of who is going to win a match in the Czech Gambrinus Soccer League between FK Jablonec and AC Sparta Prague.

In traditional handicapping of college hoops, you first have to determine the players who have graduated and what they meant to their team, how many points, rebounds, etc. were they good for? Were they a leader, perhaps a defensive stopper? Did the offense revolve around them or did they create the offense themselves? Then you have to take into account the many freshmen, transfers, any change of coaches, injuries, and academic casualties a team has. How difficult was the travel for the visiting team? Is it as easy to travel to and from Valparaiso (wherever that is!) as it is to get to Duke?
The point is the average Joe the Bettor, let alone even many a professional handicapper, just doesn't have the time to invest the due diligence required to have a good fundamental background on many NCAA basketball teams or leagues. Instead of trying to let you know about the highly touted freshman point guard at SMU who is teaming up with a quality front line, let's take a look at some basic stuff that doesn't require tremendous research and hopefully will help you be on the right side of more wagers than not.
There always is the pervasive belief that betting on underdogs is a higher percentage wager than betting on favorites. Well, not in non-conference college hoops overall. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, in over 3600 lined games, the favorite has covered the spread 51.6% of the time. Single-point favs did better than double-digit favorites beating the number in 52.8% of the games. Small favorites from pick'em to -2.5 were best at 53.9%.
Another common belief is to bet on home dogs and you can't lose. In that same time frame, home teams getting points in non-conference games only cashed a ticket 46.4% of the time. So now that you have the facts, you don't have to listen to "bookie crusher Bob" or that know-it-all bartender tell you that dogs cover 55% of the time. You can also throw the fact to them that away favorites of 3 to 9.5 points in non-con games since 2005 have topped the point spread at a 55.1% clip.
Okay, is there a way we can improve upon these poor winning percentages? Let's add a qualifier or two into the equation. How do teams that won their last game and also beat the point spread do in their next match against a non-conference opponent? It is human nature to believe that a team in this situation would be a good bet in their next game. After all, they beat the linesmakers' expectations, surely they must be a better team than people thought they were, aren't they?
I've stopped using the now-ubiquitous phrase coined by ESPN college football analyst, Lee Corso, ever since a four-year old at my son's pre-school barked at me "not so fast my friend" when I asked him if it was okay for Jim Jr. to play with his Hot Wheels Turbo Cars. So, just take my word, you should take a closer look before betting on a team off of a win and point-spread cover when they are playing a non-conference game.
The reason for taking a closer look is over the past three years teams put as a home dog in that situation are only 62-92 ATS, 40.3%. And, to tighten the trend down further, if that win and point spread cover came at home, the home dogs are only beating the number 36.8% of the time, 35-60. As a side note, those games are going Under the total 55.9% of the time.
You don't run across many spots where you can find a blind 62.5% winning record that takes as much brain power to follow as it does to name who is buried in Grant's Tomb. Well, maybe that is a trick question. Grant is in a mausoleum, and no one is buried in a mausoleum, the bodies are above ground. So let's just get to the answer: Teams that won and covered the point spread on the road in non-conference action only cover the spread in their next game 37.5% of the time if they are pick'em to a 2.5 point dog. Since the line is so low, regardless if they are home or on the road, the chances are they are playing an equally talented team.
As a general rule of thumb, I like to keep track of how individual conferences do in a gambling perspective during non-conference action. Certain biases exist amongst the public on what conferences are stronger and do well against other conferences. This in turn helps shape the linesmakers' opinions on where to make the number and where the number actually moves to.
There are some conferences where the results just flatly state what the quality of the conference is. The Ohio Valley Conference is the perfect example. Overall, in non-conference action, the OVC is 92-141 ATS, 39.5%. As an underdog it is slightly worse, 60-100, 37.5%. The not-so-sweet spot for OVC teams is as a 10 to 20.5 dog, 20-45 ATS, 30.8%. The point being, you better have a very good reason to bet on an Ohio Valley Conference team in non-league play unless you don't mind helping your bookie make his mortgage payment.
Everybody likes the Big 10. The news of the day is you shouldn't like them as a non-conference away underdog, 33-45, 42.3%. And if the line is pick'em to +2.5, how does 3-14 ATS sound? It's not much better in that upper-range single digit dog, 5-14, getting 7 to 9.5 points.
How about a conference that does well, as a favorite or a dog, when they are playing out of their own neighborhood? Try the Missouri Valley Conference, 145-108 all non-con games. They actually do better as a favorite, 67-47, 58.8%, than as a dog. The MVC's sweet spot is at home at pick'em to laying up to 2.5 points, 10-1 ATS since 2005.
And you always have to look at the wacky WAC for something out of the ordinary. Over the past three seasons, the Western Athletic Conference is a sad 46-67 ATS when installed as a home favorite playing teams not from the WAC. It gets worse if they are favored by 3 to 13.5 points, 29-50, 36.7%.
Follow these guidelines listed above and you should improve your winning percentage in college hoops non-conference action. Oh, incidentally, Josef, my friend from the Czech Republic told me to put my money on AC Sparta Prague. However, I don't know if they won their previous match or how they do out of conference.


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