Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 | 2 a.m.
A month from now, bettors will fill sports books over their capacity around the clock firing wagers on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
By my completely unscientific estimation, about 55 percent of the gamblers won’t have wagered on college basketball virtually at all earlier in the year. Only a maximum of 15 percent will have bet religiously since the start of the regular season in November.
The other 30 percent begin right about now. With the Super Bowl having concluded to leave football season in the past, it’s college basketball’s time to rule the sports betting world.
There’s a lot to catch up on, which is why Talking Points has produced 50 college basketball betting nuggets to help cram.
Check them out below and together let’s ease the sting of the end of football by cashing on basketball.
1. There’s no true favorite to win the NCAA Tournament this year. Surveying the future odds of three major sports books brings three different teams at the top of betting boards.
2. Station Casinos lists Oklahoma at the lowest odds to win the title at 5-to-1.
3. Michigan State tops the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook’s futures at 6-to-1.
4. William Hill sports books side with North Carolina at 7-to-1.
5. None of those choices are ranked among the top three in Ken Pomeroy’s preeminent set of college basketball power rankings. Villanova, Virginia and Iowa lead the Pomeroy Ratings.
6. Here’s where to get the best available prices to win the national championship on those teams: Villanova is 14-to-1 at Stations, Virginia is 22-to-1 at CG Technology and Iowa is 25-to-1 at the Superbook.
7. Since we’ve established the championship is wide open, the best value right now might come from buying in on a long shot. Why not take 80-to-1 on Wichita State at the Superbook? The Shockers, which reached the Final Four three years ago, are artificially deflated because of some early-season injury woes. They also have one of the best pairs of seniors in the nation, point guard Fred VanVleet and wing Rob Baker, that came back expressly for the shot at getting back there.
8. One of the teams posted inside the top 10 of future odds a week ago officially has no chance to win. Louisville was 15-to-1 before announcing a self-imposed ban on postseason play for committing NCAA violations.
9. Before dismissing Louisville as having held little chance of winning it all anyway because of its sometime anemic offense, think back to 2013. The Cardinals were a near identical 12-to-1 around this time after losing four of seven games. Behind Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, they didn’t lose the rest of the year en route to the title.
10. The Big 12 is generally regarded as the top conference this season, but oddsmakers see little separation between it and the ACC. In a proposition wager at CG Technology asking which conference will win the championship, the Big 12 and ACC are co-favorites at a price of 2-to-1.
11. In 19 years since the Big 12’s inception, the conference has only produced one champion — Kansas in 2008. During the same span, six ACC teams have cut down the nets including Duke last year.
12. Of the 19 teams posted at 50-to-1 or less at the Superbook, the Big 12 and ACC house four each. The former has Kansas at 7-to-1, Oklahoma at 10-to-1, West Virginia at 30-to-1 and West Virginia at 50-to-1. The latter combats with North Carolina at 7-to-1, Duke at 10-to-1, Virginia at 20-to-1 and Miami at 20-to-1.
13. The Big Ten and Big East make up the middle of the aforementioned CG Technology prop at odds of 7-to-2 and 5-to-1, respectively.
14. The long shots among the major conferences are the Pac-12 at 7-to-1 and the SEC at 9-to-1.
15. While it’s not necessarily a down year per se for either the Pac-12 or SEC, the two conferences’ depth is stronger than their top teams. Only three teams combined in the two conferences are less than 50-to-1 at the Superbook — Kentucky at 15-to-1, Arizona at 30-to-1 and Texas A&M at 30-to-1.
16. Look offshore for one of the more popular and unconventional props involving Selection Sunday. 5Dimes asks bettors whether ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi will correctly predict all 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament field with the “yes” at plus-700 and the “no” at minus-1500.
17. Adjusting for hold percentage, the wager implies an 8 percent chance Lunardi achieves perfection.
18. In the five tournaments since the NCAA expanded to 68 teams, Lunardi has identified the whole field once — in 2013.
19. Lunardi’s current No. 1 seeds? Oklahoma, Villanova, Kansas and Iowa.
20. Go ahead and throw in another source with a different favorite. TeamRankings generated an algorithm based on Lunardi’s bracketology, and came out with Kansas as the most likely champion with a probability of 9.4 percent.
21. The Jayhawks could move up in other places if they prevail in an 11 a.m. tipoff in Norman, Okla., today in the most anticipated game of the season. Many including Dick Vitale called Kansas’ 109-106 double-overtime victory over Oklahoma as 7-point favorites last month the best college basketball game they’d witnessed.
22. Kansas sits as a 5-point underdog against Oklahoma. It’s the most points the Jayhawks have taken in a conference game since a 2009 trip to Missouri, which resulted in a 62-60 loss.
23. Talk about streaky. Kansas has covered four straight to rest with the Big 12’s best against the spread record at 14-8. But it had previously dropped five straight versus the number.
24. Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield scored 46 points, going 8-for-15 from beyond the arc, against Kansas in the first meeting. The Bahamian was a near minus-200 favorite to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award the last time odds were updated offshore.
25. LSU freshman Ben Simmons, the surefire No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick, was the closest behind Hield at odds of 4-to-1.
26. Simmons is averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists per game, but his presence has made the Tigers overvalued all season. At 8-16 against the spread, they’re one of the six worst major-conference teams from a betting perspective.
27. And yet, the season has gone smoothly as of late for bubble-sitting LSU compared to Saturday’s opponent. Texas A&M has dropped three straight and four of five both straight-up and against the spread.
28. If LSU can overcome Texas A&M’s senior duo of Danuel House and Jalen Jones to win a pick’em game this afternoon, it will be in a two-way tie for the SEC lead with the winner of another basic pick’em game. Kentucky is as low as a 1.5-point favorite at South Carolina in a game set to tip off this morning.
29. The Gamecocks are the most profitable major-conference team in the nation at 16-5 against the spread, putting the program in position for its first winning betting season since 2007.
30. But few teams have played better than Kentucky over the last three weeks, as it has won and covered in five of seven with a point differential of plus-14 per game. And one of the defeats was a bad-beat 90-84 overtime loss at Kansas as a 5.5-point underdog.
31. South Carolina hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in 43 years, the longest drought of any team from a power conference.
32. Kentucky has won 93 tournament games in that span.
33. The Wildcats’ tournament prowess is worth remembering come a month from now. Under coach John Calipari the last six years, they are 22-4 straight-up and 16-10 against the spread.
34. The current No. 1 team in the polls hasn’t established the same postseason success. Under coach Jay Wright, Villanova is 13-10 straight-up and 9-14 against the spread during March Madness.
35. Good news for Villanova is it’s likely to keep the current elevated standing. The Wildcats are projected as favorites in each of their seven remaining regular-season games, with the only remotely close call a Feb. 24 road game at Xavier.
36. Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and the Wildcats are the biggest favorite on the board today, laying 27.5 points at home to lowly Saint John’s.
37. The team Villanova is nipping in the rankings, Maryland, doesn’t have it as easy the rest of the way. Although the Terrapins are giving 9 points at home against Wisconsin today, they still must travel to Purdue and Indiana where they’d currently enter as underdogs.
38. Indiana is the team that’s really lucked out. The Hoosiers are locked in a three-way tie with Maryland and Iowa atop the Big Ten largely due to the least difficult conference schedule, per the Pomeroy Ratings.
39. Those three teams are a combined 40-0 straight-up, 23-13 against the spread on their home floors. The discrepancy in totals is because not all games were lined.
40. Iowa was the unforeseen force in all of this, as the Superbook had the Hawkeyes at 200-to-1 to win the title going into the season.
41. They were still 200-to-1 in late December before trimming tenfold to 20-to-1 in just more than two weeks. The move was triggered by two outright victories over Michigan State despite relative off-days from their best player and leading scorer Jarrod Uthoff.
42. Michigan State is three games back despite having the conference’s best against the spread record at 15-9, the conference’s Player of the Year frontrunner in Denzel Valentine and the nation’s second-best scoring margin at 15.8 points per game.
43. Ineligible Louisville, of all teams, has the point differential in the nation at plus-18 per game.
44. With four teams between 3-to-2 and 5-to-1 at the start of the season, oddsmakers labeled the ACC as the hardest conference to call. It’s only gotten tougher as five teams — North Carolina, Virginia Miami, Louisville and Notre Dame — now sit within 1.5 games of first place.
45. Preseason favorites Tar Heels remain in first by a half-game, but bettors must pay an ill-advised premium to back them. North Carolina is an ACC-worst 9-14-1 against the spread, including 2-6 on the road.
46. Miami is actually the only profitable bet among the six ACC contenders — including Duke, which are only two back from North Carolina — at 13-8-1 against the spread.
47. Oddsmakers haven’t been as quick to condemn Duke as the pollsters, which dropped the defending champions out of the top 25 for the first time in nine years. The Blue Devils are still unanimously among the country’s top 20 in future odds across Las Vegas.
Getting to know the Monmouth bench mob
48. Washington plays with the youngest roster and the fastest pace of any major-conference team, and it’s translating as expected in sports books. Fifteen of 22 lined contests involving the Huskies have gone over the point total.
49. Don’t be surprised if bettors begin recreating some of the Monmouth bench mob celebrations in sports books. The Hawks’ sudden notoriety has made them somewhat of a popular bet, and they’ve paid it off by going 16-7 against the spread including covering in five straight.
50. Want a sport that appears more settled? Sports books have the UConn women’s team at minus-600 to win its fourth straight national championship. The undefeated and No. 1 ranked Huskies are coming off of a 66-54 victory at No. 2 South Carolina, where they failed to cover a 13-point spread.