NCAA Basketball & Betting Against the Public (November 2010)

Sports Insights’ team of research analysts are pleased to bring you this year’s College Basketball article on “Betting Against the Public.”  In this article, we show that a simple method of using Sports Insights’ “Betting Percentages” and “Number of Bets” to help select underdogs can capture contrarian betting value.

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NCAA College Basketball Data

Sports Insights (SIs) has collected betting data for every major U.S. sport since the 2003.  We collect the opening and closing lines (and “line movement,” for various sportsbooks) as well as final scores — and perhaps most importantly, SIs’ proprietary “betting percentages,”  Our research team also “cleans” our data — to ensure our historical data is useful for our research articles and our Members.  SIs’ historical database for each sport is an important part of our research and value-added for our Members.  It is the backbone for our contrarian sports investing  methods and you can’t find this kind of data and information anywhere else! 

Our database and contrarian methods are backed by tens of thousands of games across every major U.S. sport.  Data is available for seven major US sports — and may be purchased as a group — or for individual sports.  Here are some notes on the Sports Insights NCAA Basketball database:

  • Data for the past seven seasons (November 2003 through April 2010)
  • Includes Sports Insights’ betting percentages from multiple sportsbooks
  • Includes data from conference championships and March Madness
  • Includes data on some 23,000 games!

Note that for the purposes of this article, we used data since the 2008-2009 season because we wanted the cleanest data for the “Number of Bets.”  The results for this article are based on more than 7,000 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.

Sports Insights’ Sports Investing Research and Tools

Over the years, Sports Insights has shown that “Betting Against the Public” can help give you an edge.  Sports Insights 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 (Saturdays!), 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, horse racing, 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” draw 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 Sports Insights’ 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: Focus on Public Games

Based on Sports Insights’ research over the years, we focused on several factors in addition to our key “betting percentages” contrarian indicator:

  • In order to focus on “Public Games,” we used Sports Insights’ “Number of Bets.”  More specifically, we filtered only games that were “more heavily-bet” than average — so we filtered out about half of the games.

  • In several articles, we have targeted the trend of betting on underdogs with some “material level” of point spread.  For the purposes of this article, we used underdogs of 6 points or more (for both home teams and visitors).

   Table 1: College Basketball & Betting Against the Public (on 6-point underdogs or more)

                2008-2010 College Basketball Seasons (Public Games, or Heavier-Bet Games)

Betting Percentage

Winning Percentage

< 50%


< 45%


< 40%


< 35%


< 30%


< 25%


Notes on College Basketball Results

  • Using Sports Insights’ “Number of Bets” helps to improve anti-public results by keying in on more “public games.”
  • Picking underdogs of six points or more — in combination with “betting percentages” has been a good way to add handicapping value.
  • Results improve as betting becomes more lopsided.
  • An additional tidbit: visiting teams appear to be undervalued as compared to home teams.

We hope you will use this information and other Sports Insights tools such as our NEW Line Watcher to help you invest in the sports marketplace.  Our Premium and 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. We do not guarantee our data is error-free. However, we’ve tried our best to make sure every score and percentage is correct.