College Basketball and Betting Against the Public (November 2009)

We are pleased to bring you this year’s College Basketball article on “Betting Against the Public.”  SportsInsights’ research analysts took a closer look at several parameters and ideas that we have mentioned previously.  For example, in our College Football “Bet Against the Public” article, we studied why results may have been better for our Square Plays versus plain vanilla “betting percentages.”  Below, we show that a simple method of using “Number of Bets” can help to “key in on Public games” and improve contrarian results.

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College Basketball Data

The SportsInsights NCAA Basketball database now includes six complete season’s worth of data:

  • Data for the past six seasons (November 2003 through April 2009)
  • Includes data from conference championships and March Madness
  • Includes data on almost 20,000 games!

Note that for the purposes of this article, we used data for only the 2008-2009 season because we wanted the cleanest data for the “Number of Bets.”  The results for this article are  based on almost 3,500 games.

Thoughts on College Basketball

College basketball is a unique sport and presents both problems and opportunities for sports bettors and sportsbooks.  For instance:

There are tons of games on Saturday.  With so many games concentrated in just a few hours on Saturday’s (especially with college football going on), there is a lot of risk for sportsbooks to manage.  This also means that there are also many potential opportunities for sports investors.  Just remember to limit your plays because it’s hard to beat the “vig” that sportsbooks collect.

To manage risk, sportsbooks will need to move “point spreads” to balance their book.

“Smart money” methods work fairly well in College hoops.  That is, follow line moves — especially when they are opposite the direction of the Public’s betting.

Using the “Number of Bets” can help you to hone in on the games that are most “heavily-bet” and can potentially yield more value for contrarian sports investors.

SportsInsights’ Sports Investing Research and Tools

Over the years, SportsInsights has shown that “Betting Against the Public” can help give you an edge.  SportsInsights has also created innovative tools for its Members to track “Smart Money” as well as “Steam Moves.”  With so many games concentrated in such a short amount of time (Saturday’s!), it is good to use all the tools at your disposal to narrow the number of potential sports investing values down.  Please visit our recap of academic studies on sports betting on the NHL and other sports as well as on football.   Here are some other thoughts on betting system development:

Historically, games with a national “focus” or “audience” draws more interest from the general betting public — and provides more of an edge for “value” sports investors.

Fewer parameters are better than more parameters.  However, if there is a logical reason behind a method, it could improve the information in your systems and ultimately, its results in the future.

The overriding theme of SportsInsights’ philosophy is to find contrarian value.  If we can focus on “Public games” where we can “Bet Against the Public,” research shows that we can improve our contrarian results.

Betting Against the Public — Public Games

In order to focus on games that interest the Public more, we used SportsInsights’ “Number of Bets.”  More specifically, we used only games that were “more heavily-bet” than average — so we filtered out about half of the games.  We split the results up by Home and Visiting selections.

Table 1: NCAA BB and Betting Against the Public (Home Team is Contrarian Pick)

Betting % on Home Team Pick Home Team based on Betting % Only Pick Home Team based on Betting % and Number of Bets Pick Home Dog of 3 Pts or more based on Betting %, Number of Bets
< 40% 47.8% 49.7% 48.6%
< 35% 48.3% 50.3% 49.2%
< 30% 48.1% 50.0% 51.8%
< 25% 49.5% 51.9% 53.9%

Some Notes on the Results

  • As you can see, using the “Number of Bets,” as a filter, helps to improve results for our “Betting Percentages.”
  • In addition, betting only on underdogs of +3 or better improved results further.
  • At the 25% “bet against” level for home teams, using these parameters yielded 53.9% last year.

Table 2: NCAA BB and Betting Against the Public (Visiting Team is Contrarian Pick)

Betting % on Home Team Pick Visiting Team based on Betting % Only Pick Visiting Team based on Betting % and Number of Bets Pick Visiting Dog of 3 Pts or more based on Betting %, Number of Bets
> 60% 50.2% 52.6% 51.9%
> 65% 49.1% 52.0% 51.6%
> 70% 48.7% 52.2% 52.5%
> 75% 51.7% 55.6% 56.0%

Visiting Team Undervalued, Again

Again, results improve with the use of “Number of Bets” and selecting dogs > 3 points.  Interestingly, Visiting teams seem undervalued as compared to Home teams.  This has been the case in several sports (for example, the NBA) we have studied — where we have broken out results for Home and Visiting teams.

We hope you will use this information and other SportsInsights tools to help you invest in the sports marketplace.  Our Premium and Premium Pro Members can access even more tools to help improve your sports investing performance.

We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist. It is impossible to predict the future. Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear over time. Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself.