College Basketball Betting: Effectively Tracking the Market
Three years ago I was betting college basketball blind. I was merely guessing which way the market was going to move. With a few teams it was fairly simple, but if I’m being honest I got more wrong than right. Eric Waz finally convinced me that there was value in tracking the way each team is bet in the market. So, I started tracking the market every day and it was immediately effective. I use a database very similar to my betting model that weighs heavily toward the last five games and less heavily toward the last ten games. Anything past 10 games I ignore because the market has proven to be very fickle. The results have been very rewarding. No longer am I guessing when to bet. Most of the time I get the best number I could possibly get. Sometimes it even sets up juicy middle opportunities. Let’s take a look at the current teams that the market loves and one in particular that the market hates.
Number one on the list is the Hampton Pirates. I know they’re an extra team and less money is necessary to move the market on them, but they are at the top of my list. The reason is simple: Jermaine Marrow. The 6-0 senior point guard may be Hampton’s all-time best player. On December 3rd he was listed out 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb. The Pirates went 1-4 without him. He was inserted back in the lineup on December 28 and the market took notice. Since then Hampton has not been faded in the market one time, moving an average of 2 ppg to lead the nation. Marrow has been ridiculously good, with three 30-plus point outbursts and bettors have been treated to a 6-2 ATS record in that span.
It may surprise you that the second team the market loves is the roller coaster ride called the UCLA Bruins. I assume this is just an opinion that Mick Cronin plus talent will win out in the long run. Maybe it will, but in the short term UCLA has gone 4-8 ATS since December 1. Personally, I think the issue is team chemistry. It’s tough for a coach to inherit a group of players another coach has recruited. Cronin likes players who are physical, hard-nosed defenders and he only has a few. The majority of his bunch looks like they’re allergic to defense or playing hard in general. We can expect Tyger Campbell, Jake Kyman and Jaime Jaquez to have a permanent spot in UCLA lineups for the foreseeable future as they are Cronin type players. Don’t be surprised to see a mass exodus at the end of the season and UCLA to “start over” next year. Maybe the results will be better. Maybe they’ll defend and play hard. Maybe he’ll get fired before he gets the chance. That’s life in Westwood as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins.
In its last seven games, Virginia’s number has moved 12.5 points in their favor. Yet this is not a typical Tony Bennet team. There are no NBA stars in this mix. With such lofty market expectations, the Cavaliers have disappointed, going 3-4 straight up and ATS in their last seven. Bennett has been a master of beating more talented teams with KenPom’s #1 defense. The obvious problem is they can’t score. The Wahoos dreadful #256 KenPom rating is by far the worst in his 11-year tenure in Charlottesville. Not surprisingly, KenPom also rates UVA last in the nation in tempo.
Utah State was ranked in every top 25 in the preseason and rightly so. They only lost one important piece from a surprising 28-7 team. A 7-0 start to the season fit right in with expectations, even without rim protector Neemias Queta. A loss at Saint Mary’s and another in Salt Lake City to BYU wasn’t that alarming. However, 2020 started and the wheels fell off with a three game losing streak. Bettors didn’t flinch, moving the Aggies 6.5 points over the next five games. The confidence in Craig Smith’s squad was rewarded at a 4-1 ATS record in that span. This is an experienced team that has been through all the wars and you can expect the market to keep backing them. If you want on board you better bet them promptly because they’ll continue to attract betting action after the recent streak.
Let’s stay in the Mountain West conference and look at the opposite end of the spectrum. What a mess in Las Cruces, which Andrew Lange pointed out late last season. Besides that article, Andrew has been talking about the problems at New Mexico every chance he gets on the BettorIQ Podcast. The glaring issue is that they recruit too many kids that have a history of issues. Putting that many troubled kids together, with a coach that seems to have constant conflicts with players, is a powder keg no matter the talent level. When the issue finally came to a boil, it started with Carlton Bragg being dismissed from the team. Injuries to Vance Jackson and Jaquan Lyle further complicated things. Since losing Bragg, the Aggies have been faded in the market 9.5 points in five games. That’s almost 2 ppg which leads the nation. New Mexico has gone 1-4 ATS in that period, with the four losses by an average of 24 points! Don’t expect a turnaround anytime soon. In fact, if there was a parimutuel pool of which college basketball coach is next to get fired, Paul Weir would be the favorite.