Several years ago we introduced our free March Madness bracket simulator tool — a unique product which allows customers to simulate the entire NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and view the projected winning percentages for every potential matchup. Although the initial intention was to help bettors create a more accurate bracket, we quickly realized this information could be utilized in a myriad of ways.
The bracket simulator combines information from our historical database along with data from well-respected basketball sources including ESPN, Ken Pomeroy, and Jeff Sagarin. It can also be customized to place more weight on specific rating systems or allow for more upsets. Although the actual tournament bracket won’t be released until Selection Sunday on March 12, we are able to use Joe Lunardi’s weekly Bracketology predictions throughout the regular season.
I believed these bracket simulator predictions could be easily used to uncover value in the college basketball futures market, and that was certainly the case last season. Back in February of 2016, I highlighted six teams that were offering value including the eventual champion, Villanova, at +1350. With football season wrapping up and bettors turning their attention from the gridiron to the hardwood, I wanted to see which teams were being undervalued this season.
After importing the predictions from Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, we ran ten thousand simulations to determine the probability for each team to win the national championship (along with their odds of reaching the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four). By comparing these probabilities with the implied odds for each team to win the national championship, I was able to determine which college basketball futures were offering a positive expected value.
By converting the latest odds from 5Dimes and The Greek into an implied probability, I was able to pinpoint several potential value plays.
|Team||Probability||5Dimes||5Dimes Implied||5Dimes Value||Greek||Greek Implied||Greek Value|
|Saint Marys CA||1.20%||6600||1.49%||0.80||8000||1.23%||0.972|
Based on these simulations, there are eleven schools offering value at 5Dimes and nine teams offering value at the Greek. Although most of these value plays were the same at both books, the inconsistent pricing led to two major discrepancies.
*Indicates best price
- Florida (+4000)
- *Louisville (+1700)
- Gonzaga (+900)
- Virginia (+1900)
- Wichita State (+15000)
- Baylor (+2200)
- West Virginia (+1800)
- *Iowa State (+20000)
- *Oklahoma State (+40000)
- Purdue (+3750)
- Cincinnati (+7000)
- Florida (+4000)
- *Virginia (+3000)
- *Baylor (+3500)
- *Gonzaga (+1000)
- *Purdue (+5000)
- *West Virginia (+2000)
- Wichita State (+15000)
- Louisville (+1200)
- *Cincinnati (+8000)
As you can see, all eleven value plays at 5Dimes are also offering value at The Greek with the exception of Iowa State (+20000 vs. +10000) and Oklahoma State (+40000 vs +20000). Both of those teams are listed as long shots to win the National Championship, but the longer odds at 5Dimes make both schools worthwhile bets. This highlights the importance of always shopping for the best line.
We should note that these projections are clearly influenced by the strength of each region. Even though our analysis shows that Virginia would defeat Villanova in 50.4% of their matchups, Villanova actually has the higher probability of winning the national championship. This is largely due to the fact that Virginia would have to face more difficult competition en route to the Final Four.
It’s also worth noting that sportsbooks usually have inflated lines for traditionally public teams. Since casual bettors will take these “brand name” schools regardless of the price, oddsmakers are able to offer bad odds in order to minimize risk. That’s especially true about UCLA, which is tied for the best odds to win the national championship at 5Dimes (+800). Those odds translate to an 11.11% implied probability, but our bracket simulator had the Bruins winning it all in less than 2% of simulations.
Personally, I think bettors should jump on Louisville (+1700) immediately. With all of the talented freshman point guards grabbing the headlines, Donovan Mitchell has been able to fly under the radar. The sophomore guard has an excellent dribble-drive game and has already proven to be a more-than-capable defender. The Cardinals are athletic, deep, experienced, and well coached. A self-imposed ban kept them out of the postseason a year ago, but Louisville will be a tough out in March.
Florida, who defeated Kentucky by 22-points on Saturday, is another vastly undervalued team. The Gators have tremendous depth, but it’s their defensive prowess that separates them from the pack. This is a top-ten team by any metric, so they’re criminally underpriced at 40/1.
Our college basketball Best Bets have gone 149-131 (53.2%) with +6.2 units won this season and 1,018-838 ATS (54.85%) with +94.2 units won since the start of the 2011 season. These picks are exclusively available to our Sportsbook Insider Pro subscribers, so make sure to sign up for a 4-day trial.
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