Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, February 10, 2017 at 7:00 AM
The surprising fade of the Kentucky Wildcats is causing headaches for oddsmakers here in Nevada and offshore. It’s not a disaster for the bottom line because the public tends to bet Kentucky year-after-year. But, how is the market supposed to price a team that’s suddenly playing nowhere near expectations?
If you’ve been watching TV games now that the nation’s sports betting attention is on college hoops after the Super Bowl…you surely know that Kentucky’s struggling. But, did you realize that they’ve just missed the spread by DOUBLE DIGITS at the end of regulation for FIVE GAMES IN A ROW?!
Kentucky (-25) only beat pathetic LSU 82-75 (missing by 18 points)
Kentucky (+1.5) got crushed at Florida 88-66 (missing by 20.5 points)
Kentucky (-15.5) had to go OT vs. Georgia (missing by 15.5 in regulation)
Kentucky (-7) lost at home to Kansas 79-73 (missing by 13 points)
Kentucky (-10.5) lost at Tennessee 82-80 (missing by 12.5 points)
That’s five straight disasters. And, all of those were prominent ESPN telecasts…so it’s not like nobody’s paying attention!
*The Kentucky/Kansas game was hyped for a week
*The Kentucky/Tennessee game was part of that hype because it was a few days earlier
*The Kentucky/Georgia game was Brent Musburger’s last game for ESPN (before he moved to VSIN here in Las Vegas!)
*The Kentucky/Florida game was a Saturday evening special that got full blown GameDay coverage from ESPN
*Even that LSU game was on TV, and head coach John Calipari made headlines in a post-game interview about how hard practice was going to be the next day off the embarrassing effort.
You can’t drop Kentucky by 10-15 points in your Power Ratings regardless of what the recent scoreboards are showing. How far should you drop them? What’s the right line RIGHT NOW if Kentucky hosts Kansas or visits Florida? How do oddsmakers and sportsbooks keep encouraging squares to bet Kentucky without giving too much value to sharps?
How about this…should Kentucky even be discussed as a serious National Championship threat? The William Hill books in Nevada have them listed with several teams at 17/2 on the Futures prices as I write this…
Odds to Win the NCAA Championship
17/2: Kentucky, Gonzaga, Villanova, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA
By the way, UCLA’s defense is so bad that there’s no way they should be listed that high! But, everyone has weaknesses this year. What are the true odds that Kentucky can get things figured out and make a deep run in March? Frankly, the team that’s taken the floor the past two weeks is more like a #8 or #9 seed at best. The Wildcats have long stretches where they look like an NIT team.
I’m going to be watching this situation very closely in the coming days. If the public keeps supporting Kentucky at exorbitant prices, you might as well take those free points! But, what if the line starts falling just as Calipari gets his players back on the same page? Then value could swing the other direction. That could turn “fade or pass” into “pass or play.”
Here’s how I’d handle it as a bettor:
*Price Kentucky like a #8 to #9 seed for now…but then come back about halfway to the market to account for the possibility that things settle down. Use those differences to guide your money management decisions. (Sharps measure their edge and bet based on its size.)
*If Kentucky starts playing like a power again, go back to pricing them like a power.
*Don’t consider investing in Kentucky until you’ve seen a few consecutive games of consistent quality. Remember, college sports powers are almost always priced like they’re going to play perfectly. Value comes from fading them in the spots where that’s most likely not to happen. (Gonzaga is a different story this year because they just keep running up the score and the market hasn’t been able to get high enough yet!)
Personally, I’m skeptical that Kentucky is going to get things figured out. Among the reasons:
*The offense has no flow late in close games, which makes it very difficult for a team to build chemistry and confidence. This kind of team has almost no chance to win consistently in neutral court tournament style basketball.
*The defense is having too many lapses because players are getting mad at each other and not helping out. There’s just no way a pathetic team like LSU should score 85 points on the road against a good defense. Florida scored at will when it was time to slam the door shut last Saturday.
*Calipari recruits young superstars…and young superstars have usually established by now whether or not they’re going to play as a team. This group is making it clear that they want to make highlight reels rather than win a championship.
Maybe Calipari’s threats will find their targets. I’ll have to see it on the floor before I put these guys back in the championship mix.
Thanks for reading. Best of luck to you this weekend. Don’t forget that you can purchase my top daily releases in college hoops and the NBA right here at the website with your credit card. See you again next week!