Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, February 9, 2018 at 4:00 PM
The general rule in sports betting has always been that the public (squares) love to bet favorites, while professional bettors (sharps) prefer underdogs…particularly after the line has been driven up by public betting on favorites!
That dynamic isn’t quite as strong right now in college basketball because the public won’t be heavily involved until tournament time. And, because sports books are less likely to move lines based on public action. A mindset years ago of “move the lines to help balance the books” has been replaced by “it’s okay to be one-sided on a game as long as you’re opposite the public.” Sports books accept positions against mis-informed money because taking bad bets with the 11/10 already in your favor can be really profitable.
Imagine it’s 2010, and a 6-point favorite is getting bet hard by the public. Back then, the line would rise to -7, maybe -7.5. Now, it stays on the six, or barely budges to -6.5 as sports books accept a position against the public. Sharps in 2018 aren’t able to take +7 or +7.5 because it’s not being offered.
What’s been perceived as “sharps love betting underdogs” is more accurately phrased as “sharps love value.” It wasn’t so much a love of underdogs driving their betting, but the realization that those free points being given to them after square betting were worth money. Now sports books are trying to keep that money for themselves.
(Sometimes, this backfires! We saw that with the Over/Under in the Super Bowl. The public was pounding the Over. Instead of lifting the number up to 50 or 51 to bring in sharp action on the Under, sportsbooks accepted a position on the Under themselves, and lost big when the game flew Over.)
College basketball betting this month isn’t likely to see much of a sharp/square dynamic. Square action will become much more relevant next month with the conference tournaments and the NCAA’s. For now, sharps just bet the openers based on their own gradings (whether it be Power Ratings or computer projections). They can just as easily be on the favorite as the dog. It may strike you that sharps are betting more favorites than usual. That’s because there’s no benefit for waiting out square line moves that don’t happen any more.
Those of you who want to “think like a sharp and bet like a sharp” may want to adjust your own strategies as well. Here are standard rules of thumb you can use. Some apply to betting year-round. Some, just to this month.
*If you like the favorite, bet early…particularly if it’s a big TV game
*If you like the dog, you can also bet early…unless it’s a big TV game and you think public betting could be so heavy that waiting will get you an extra half-point or point. This is important in all the mid-major conferences that don’t have much TV exposure.
*Betting early is REALLY important on Over/Unders…because you’re mostly battling other sharps here who have aggressive computer models. Quants gobble up most or all Over/Under value in the first hour as a general rule. One change you’ll notice about sharp betting in this sport. You used to hear “you know that guy’s a sharp because he bets a lot of underdogs.” Now, it’s “You know that guy’s sharp because he bets a lot of totals.”
*Keep an eye out for late-day line moves that might help you out. Just accept that these will be less common than during football season. It’s not like sharps turn off their monitors and go play golf in the hours before tipoff. They understand it’s a time for patience and take what they can get.
*Watch the newswires for injury reports. The single biggest factor driving game day line moves in college basketball right now is injuries. You will still see lines move 2-3 points if a key player is scratched (or added back to the lineup after a return). If you know the news before everyone else, you can jump in quickly to take advantage.
*Use your extra attention to map out point spreads for upcoming days. Probably the biggest difference between you and the sharps is that they know in advance what numbers they’re looking for, while you have a “see the line, bet the line” mentality. Since it’s okay to now bet favorites or dogs early…you need to be ready early.
You regulars know that college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap and bet. Hope you were with me when I bounced back with a 2-0 performance (Louisville over Georgia Tech and Wisconsin-Green Bay over Wright State). You can purchase my nightly BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155. I have very affordable rates for basketball through March Madness or the NBA Championships.
Back with you next week to talk more basketball. February is a great month to bet college hoops because so many teams are racing in different directions. Some are getting hot as they try to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Some are cooling off because they’re resting on their laurels too soon. And, the nature of conference rematches creates all sorts of advantages because of revenge or matchup advantages that were exposed the first time around. That’s why it pays to watch so many games on TV. You never know when you’ll learn something that will help you pick a few winners later in the season.
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!