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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 1:00 PM

It’s fitting that I begin my winter series of College Basketball Futures articles on the day after #1 Kansas and #3 Maryland both lost high profile games. There just aren’t any truly great teams this season. There are a lot of very good ones…which means that March Madness could be WILD during this wide open race for the 2016 National Championship.

I’ve spent some time gathering up Futures prices from various places in Nevada and offshore. Though, you could say that these are really “loose” right now because there’s so little consensus about who might step forward from the list of contenders. Also, this is a sport where public perception can play a bigger role than sharp betting, particularly in the Futures. Casual fans want to bet Kentucky even if the Wildcats look to have taken a step backward this season. The traditional schools are getting respect for that tradition rather than this year’s rosters in some cases.

Let’s start at the top.

 

“LOOSE” COMPOSITE ODDS TO WIN MARCH MADNESS

North Carolina +800

Kansas +1000

Kentucky +1000

Duke +1000

Maryland +1000

Oklahoma +1100

Michigan State +1100

Again, if you look around, you’re going to see a variety of numbers for those teams. That’s about how the averages stack up. If you’re looking to bet your favorite program, shop around to get the biggest return. Just remember that it’s likely no stores are offering “true odds” on the big name programs in such a wide open season. Heck…this year…it’s possible that most or all of those teams could get knocked off before the Final Four. North Carolina’s already fallen to Northern Iowa and Texas in regular season play. All the top programs have a weakness or two that could be exploited in the Dance. (PS: be sure to watch when those elites play each other!)

At least we have a clear separation between that group and “the rest.” This next hunk of potential darkhorses could provide some betting value if you see real championship potential before the rest of the market does.

 

NCAA QUALITY DARKHORSES

Virginia +1700

Villanova +1800

Iowa State +2200

Arizona +2500

Gonzaga +3000

California +3300

Xavier +3300

Miami +3500

Louisville +4000

Purdue +4000

Those are the 10 most prominent teams after the top seven in the first group. Some very good teams here…but also programs that are in danger of playing badly for 40 minutes at the drop of a hat. Virginia showed little life in a recent loss at Georgia Tech. Arizona disappointed while getting swept as 3-point favorites at UCLA and USC last week.

It wouldn’t be a shocker at all if one team from that group crashed the Final Four. And, some prominent bettor or industry personality will be talking about the great ticket they purchased on the team back in January! But, generally…these are still squads that you might take a flyer on for fun rather than as a serious investment. (Though, I am hearing some sharp rumblings about Louisville at the moment).

You longtime followers know that college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap and bet. It was my favorite sport to book during my days behind the counter here in Las Vegas. I’ll mostly be following the markets for you here on these pages the next few months. Today, I’m going to give you a few quick tips for your own handicapping in this sport.

 

*Make your own Power Ratings!

You should have a number in mind for any matchup before anything goes on the board. Don’t be one of those guys who waits to see a number then tries to bet a gut reaction. Make good numbers, and bet the meaningful differences you see.

 

*Adjust your Power Ratings based on results

You’re going to make some mistakes. If teams just aren’t playing to your estimates, make better estimates! Don’t be stubborn about a team because you expect them to get better eventually. Assume they’re not going to get better, and then re-adjust if they do. The worst thing you can do is go 0-5 or 0-6 with a team because you refuse to believe what’s happening on the scoreboard. Try to find who the market is being stubborn about so you can go 5-0 or 6-0 until the line adjusts.

 

*Try to Follow some Out-of-the-Way Conferences

If you sign up for my service you’ll see many releases from minor conferences. My personal experience here in Vegas tells me that sportsbooks, sharps, and even the public are pretty well versed in the main TV leagues. You’re rarely going to see a truly horrible number in the ACC, Big 10, or Big 12. But, you just might in the Metro-Atlantic, the Colonial, or wherever. Lines are generally softer in lower profile leagues. Pay attention to those results and try to make good numbers. While your buddies are losing with Kentucky (6-10 ATS) and Wisconsin (6-12 ATS) who they remember from last year’s Final Four, you can win with Oakland (10-3 ATS) or Long Beach State (10-3-2 ATS).

You can purchase my top basketball selections right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

I picked Wednesday for my college hoops reports because that’s such a busy night on the schedule. I’ll use Thursday’s for some NBA notes to get you ready for the TNT doubleheader each week. Here’s what’s on tap the next few days…

Thursday: NBA “Best and Worst” Pointspread Discussion

Friday: NFL Divisional Round “Sharps” Report

Tuesday: NFL Super Bowl Futures heading into the Conference Championship games

Next Wednesday: A College Hoops update

January is an exciting month here in Las Vegas because there’s plenty of excitement left in the NFL just as everyone really starts to focus on basketball. A lot of buzz in the sportsbooks almost around the clock. I’ll keep you posted as best I can. Thanks for reading!

 

Be sure to follow:

Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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