Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 1:00 PM
One thing I've noticed in recent college basketball seasons, particularly this year, is that the market is slow to react to changes in team performance once everyone's Power Ratings feel "locked in." How a team played in November and December determines how they'll be rated for weeks, even if it's not deserved.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are a great example of this. They were one of the big surprise of the 2017-18 season out of the gate. They were undefeated in non-conference action, including an upset of Kansas in Lawrence. You HAVE to be for real if you win there! Or, so everybody thought.
But, since conference play has begun, Arizona State is just 2-4 straight up in the Pac 12 even though they've been favored in five of the six games. The Sun Devils are 0-4-2 ATS after Wednesday night's loss at Stanford (a winner on my service). So, not a single pointspread cover in league action after the team was 10-2 ATS out of the gate. ASU rose as high as #4 in the AP poll. They've been priced like a top five or top 10 team ever since even though it hasn't been deserved.
You see, the market got "locked in" on that 12-0 straight up, 10-2 ATS version of ASU that had won at Kansas. Once the wheels started falling off (a mix of shooting cooling down and a soft defense getting exposed by motivated opponents who wanted to beat the new hot team), the market hasn't been able to keep "down" with the slump. ASU's spread misses in Pac 12 action have been by 5.5, 10, 11, and 18 points (though the 18-point miss was really 9 in regulation at Colorado, before the Sun Devils ran out of gas in OT at altitude). It's not a bucket or two here and there. It's about six points per game in regulation. Difference between a Big Dance berth and an NIT nod.
There are other teams who have changed form of late in a way the market has trailed. Michigan State's been playing poorly after seeming like a #1 Dance seed for a couple of months. On the other side of the coin, Ohio State has picked up its play in a way that's covering spreads consistently. If you're placing more weight on recent form, you're likely to be a couple of steps ahead of the slow changing market.
What's going on? I believe these are the key factors.
*The market is very much driven by statheads and quants these days. If they have a 10-12 game sample size of quality play, followed by 1-2 games going the other direction, all the calculations are still going to show a great team rather than a vulnerable one. If the offshore oddsmakers are using math models, and the most prominent sharp syndicates are doing the same…this is bound to happen. Those are the most important market influences in early and mid-January.
*Sports books don't move off their openers unless there's a financial reason to do so. The general public is just now starting to bet college hoops. And, they're likely to bet based on full season records rather than recent form. That's particularly true if they see what's supposed to be a "great" team in a "bounce back" position. Michigan State was supposed to bounce back off bad games when they took the floor against Rutgers and Michigan. Didn't happen. Arizona State's been in bounce-back mode most of the way through Pac 12 play.
*Also, sports books don't mind taking a position against the public anyway. If squares DID start betting recent form, the lines would STILL be slow to move because oddsmakers would think they were getting the best of it against the public.
All this has added up to an overall market that doesn't see much change from the opening lines (unless there's big injury news, like we saw Wednesday night with Alabama facing Auburn), AND is slow to react when previously hot teams fall back to earth, or previously mediocre teams finally put the pieces together. This creates an opening for smart handicappers (like YOU) to sneak in and pick up some easy winners.
I've taken the hint myself to not get too locked into old perceptions. What used to be "sharps vs. squares" in nightly college basketball betting may have turned into "new realities vs. old perceptions." Adjust your strategies and portfolio accordingly.
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Thanks for reading. I'll be back around lunchtime Friday to review how sharps have been betting Jacksonville/New England and Minnesota/Philadelphia in the NFL conference championship games scheduled for Sunday. Championship Weekend is always very busy here in Las Vegas!