Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 26, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Another winning week in the NCAA Tournament for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK, keyed by a recognition that the betting markets were still overpricing favorites. In fact, this year, that might have been more dramatic than ever because it was so obviously wrong!
This was a year of PARITY in college basketball, with very little separating those at the top of the computer ratings and those in the next 40 spots below them. A couple of buckets here and there, and anybody could beat anybody! Yet, oddsmakers kept pricing like it was the old days because the public still wants to bet the favorites in every game on the board.
Hey, that worked with Villanova! Credit to the best team left in the tournament for continuing to play at such a very high level. Villanova went 2-0 ATS in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. All other favorites were a combined 1-9 ATS. Only Michigan covered as a favorite over Texas A&M last Thursday. Favorites overall went 3-9 ATS for 25% success. Favorites not named Villanova only covered 10% of the time.
Lost Outright: Kentucky, Gonzaga, Nevada, Purdue, Kansas State, and Duke
Won But Didn’t Cover: Kansas (over Clemson), Duke (over Syracuse), and Michigan (over Florida State).
Why have underdogs been such virtual locks except when playing Villanova? We’ve talked about some of the key reasons in recent weeks (parity, everybody has three-point shooters). Also in play…
*Trailing teams know how to finish games much better than they did before. Many drive right at the rim to take a free layup rather than stopping 25 feet away to launch a prayer. If you watched college basketball several years ago, you’ll remember that favorites often pulled away late because the losing team would miss a long trey then immediately foul…and repeat that process 4-5 times over. Now, the trailing team makes a layup and the leading team has to make its free throws. That shrinks margins instead of expanding them.
*Some trailing teams (though not all) give up earlier than they used to. It’s become a gentleman’s agreement that there’s no need to foul once a catch-up is impossible. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton took that too far by giving up down just four points with nine seconds to go. But, you will see underdogs of 8-10 points give up at six…which helps shade money toward more underdogs. Nothing’s better than watching a team dribble out the clock on your big betting victory!
*Referees have cut way back on the number of fouls they call on blocked shots. It used to be automatic. If a tall defender made a great block, he’d get called for a “body” foul. The sport realized this was killing the game because star players had to sit with foul trouble. Now, good defense is rewarded. That keeps point totals closer together, making it harder for a favorite to win. Favorites are more likely to cover games with 150 to 160 points than they are with 130 points. There’s still a lot to complain about regarding referees! But, changes that have been made encourage more competitive basketball…and therefore betting on underdogs.
*Finally, it can’t be emphasized enough that public ignorance fueled by media storylines still plays a large role. Everybody hears all season about how great Duke is…so Duke is favored by 3.5 points over a Kansas team that’s dead even with them in reality…or by 11.5 over Syracuse in what’s going to be a slow, defensive game. Loyola is treated like some human-interest story from nowhere that keeps getting lucky rather than a fundamentally sound team that executes well on both sides of the floor. The nun isn’t making any treys for them! Too many public bettors kept thinking “there’s no way this team can keep getting lucky.” They weren’t getting lucky on the floor, they were outplaying overrated opponents.
Will dogs keep covering in the Final Four? We’ll talk more about that at the end of the week when we preview Villanova-Kansas and Michigan-Loyola. Bucking red-hot Villanova may not be a wise choice. But, you have to admit Kansas sure is a talented underdog that’s peaked at just the right time. Can Loyola slow down Michigan, in what represents a huge jump in class from Kansas State and Nevada last week?
Each game presents its own handicapping challenge. JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK was created to get the best of those challenges. We leave no stone unturned to make sure you get BIG, JUICY WINNERS.
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Between now and the NCAA Final Four, we’ll attack the Final Four of the NIT Tuesday (semifinals) and Thursday (championship) from Madison Square Garden. Our New York sources will be all over that event, complementing what we learn from our stat handicappers, our computer programmers, and our sources behind the line in Las Vegas and offshore. Plus, of course, Major League baseball will help us build additional bankroll Thursday and Friday.
Whatever the sport…whatever the month, you’re going to GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!