These next six weeks are the games every serious college basketball bettor loves because sometimes it takes the bookmakers a while to catch up to teams that might be under the radar.
By the time conference schedules start, the sports books have got a pretty good read on each time and the spreads start to level out. But in these first few weeks, there are rapid adjustments on the ratings of teams that started out with cold numbers.
What makes it even harder for the books to offer a proper line is the smaller schools can sometimes be way underrated against the big time schools. College football is the same to a degree, but more so in basketball because a small school returning four or five starters going should have somewhat of an edge early on against the big school with one starter returning and bunch of freshman.
Take a school like Kentucky, for example. They replaced five starters from last season’s championship team. Coach John Calipari showed he can take five blue chippers and win a title, but it took months for the rating to actually catch up them. The bookmakers had the Wildcats over-inflated early on and they rarely covered the number, despite winning just about every game.
In Kentucky’s first game last Friday played in Brooklyn, N.Y., the cold number was Kentucky -10½ against Maryland. They’re not exactly the small school we initially began talking about, but it’s the same principle, because the Terps returned four key players from last year’s squad and also had two transfers who will make an immediate impact.
Kentucky, meanwhile, doesn’t have one player who logged any significant time during last year’s run to the championship.
Kentucky’s talent ended up prevailing in the end with a 72-69 victory, but Maryland got the money and it can be attributed to the Terps having more chemistry and maturity than the Cats. By February, that reasoning won’t apply, but the next six weeks it will.
At this juncture, the entire rating for each team is based on returning players and coaching. And if there are a lot of transfers or freshman, the number is based on their recruiting charts – where they ranked nationally as a high school player – and their skill set.
Right now, those numbers are about as weak as anything being offered in the sports books. They’re just numbers waiting to be pushed one way or another by sharp money. And if one of those bettors the bookmaker respects makes a play on a side, they make a mental note of it for both teams thinking, “Either he’s betting on Team A because my rating is off, or he’s betting against team B for the same reason.”
It doesn’t even matter if the bettor’s team wins or loses, because usually there are about three to five sharp bettors each book has whose opinions the books completely respect to the point they help them iron out numbers. It would be foolish of a book not to take notice of a group that is showing you part of their hand on a team or conference they may have spent a lot more time researching than the book or their paid consultant.
The next time either of those teams plays, the mental note signals an adjustment to be made before opening, thanks to the sharps.
There are simply too many college basketball teams out there to be correct on every rating, which is why those who really do their homework love this time of year. They’re ahead of the game while the sports books play catch up.
Sorry, we’re maxed out
College basketball season is in full swing causing the Las Vegas sports books a bit of a dilemma with how they present their current odds to the public. For 49 weeks of the year, there is no problem because most books have enough board space or monitors to display every game playing, but during a three week window – that started over the weekend – when the college basketball schedule meets college football, the books simply run out of room.
So your normal process of walking into a book, grabbing a sheet and updating the current lines might be delayed a little bit as you have to catch up to the rolling screens. In order to show all games being played on the day for basketball or for the week in football, the books have to utilize their board panels or monitors as best they can. That means cramming an entire college hoops schedule onto one of the panels, which can sometimes scroll to three different screens.
If for some reason you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to catch up to the screens, just go to your favorite ticket writer and ask them to print you out a schedule for a particular sport. It will have all the current lines listed for you to take. There’s no charge and not many know about this, but make sure to do it.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].