Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 7:00 AM
I’ve touched on this topic often during the season. Now seemed like a good time to make it a formal entry in our coursework. Many of you will be betting exclusively on college basketball after this Sunday’s Super Bowl (which I’ll discuss in our weekend report). Students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping need to understand what mistakes are being made by computer-types and how to avoid them.
I first want to say that this isn’t going to be a screed against “nerds” who don’t understand how “heart,” “guts,” or “intestinal fortitude” are all that matters in sports. I’m not talking about that. The analytics field actually has a lot of guys who watch games all day and all night. Many played basketball as teenagers and love the sport. This isn’t “old school scouts” vs. “new school geniuses” like they try to portray in movies or magazine articles. I’m talking about the mistakes that smart quants are making within their own process.
*First, they give too much weight to home blowouts. This has been happening for years in the publicly available computer rankings. Teams who run up the score at home consistently underachieve straight up and ATS on the road during conference play and then on neutral courts in the tournaments. I can’t believe they haven’t fixed this! But, oddsmakers who used the computers to make their numbers…and then “sharp” quants who bet are all overrating this type of team. Florida was like this during the Billy Donovan years. Others are falling into the category this season (I’m looking at you ARIZONA!). If you want to know how good a team really is…and how well they’re likely to play in March…focus on what happens in their toughest road tests.
I should clarify here that “home blowout” talks not only about exploiting home court…but also exploiting weak opposition. Guess what happens in the tournaments? You don’t run into weak opposition any more! Let’s say that a known power wins its home games vs. cupcakes by 20-30 points because they don’t call off the dogs. Let’s say that a respected tweener only wins those same type of games by 8-12 points because they have a classy coach, or they let scrubs play the last five minutes. When “known power” faces “respected tweener,” the quants will overestimate the advantages of the power because of points scored in garbage time. Don’t YOU make that mistake.
*Secondly, they give too much credit to offense, and not enough to defense. I’m still stunned that quants treat those as equal even though they’re obviously not equal in big games or in the tournaments. Top defenses shut down most offenses. They become an equalizer in that sense. Think about it as a bad weather game in football. PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS can’t do anything in the mud. The best college basketball defenses make opposing offenses play in mud. The quants haven’t figured out how to quantify this yet.
Also, quants don’t penalize bad defenses enough on good teams. In a tournament, smart opponents will expose your weakest link. If that weakest link involves an inability to guard the rim…then it means trouble. The market consistently overrates “name” teams who can’t hide their soft defenses in their most important games.
*Thirdly, quants typically weigh all games the same rather than adjusting for recent form. We talked about this back when UNLV changed head coaches. What had happened before the coaching change was largely irrelevant to what happened after the coaching change. This can also be true for injury situations, or the gradual improvement that teams can show during a season. Sorry, but you HAVE to weigh recent games more heavily. And, you have to be aware of injury dynamics or chemistry developments that can have a big role in determining a game’s outcome. The quants are literally BLIND to chemistry! (And, many other influences for THE MOTIVATION FACTOR.)
Please keep all of this in mind as you handicap college basketball going forward. I don’t have homework per se for you this week. It’s vital you keep today’s discussion in mind during ALL the homework you do in this sport moving forward. It’s really going to matter to those of you who use computer ratings as an important part of your process. Don’t fall into the traps those are setting!
If you’d like some help finding the best basketball bets on the board every day, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
Our next class get together will be Friday when I discuss how to handicap Super Bowl 50 involving the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work.
Be sure to follow:
Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters