Miscellany

NCAA Tournament 2nd Round: Why Colorado State and Illinois Are Live Underdogs

Saturday: Colorado State +11 vs. Louisville

When asked for the simplest tips to improve sports betting results, betting underdogs is at the top of my list. Since 2006, college basketball favorites have lost against the spread by an average of .17 points. So when betting favorites, you not only have to overcome laying 11 to win 10, but you have to overcome an average of .17 points per game. You can’t win by blindly betting underdogs, and many Pros bet a fair share of favorites – but the dog side should be the starting point of any handicap.

Keep in mind that this favorite bias in general has decreased over time as the betting market has become relatively more savvy (although one trip to a Vegas sportsbook presents a drunken rebuttal to all the “average bettors are so much smarter today” talk). Also note that different betting events have different participants in the betting market. March Madness has far more novice betters than December college basketball, which means a more pronounced favorite bias offers even stronger value on underdogs this time of year.

Louisville has covered 8 games in a row. Streaks like this are not a theoretical, rather Louisville has won cold hard cash for its backers, and it’s always easier to bet a team that added to your bankroll recently. To compete against Pitino’s pressure defense, you need a veteran team who can take care of the ball and control the glass. Colorado State averages just 11 turnovers a game and is statistically the best rebounding team in the nation. Questions about the health of Colorado State’s backcourt leader Dorian Green were answered on Thursday when he scored a game-high 26 points. Five senior starters. Strong rebounding and backcourt play. Veteran coach. Double Digits. Take it.

Saturday: St Louis -4 over Oregon
The mainstream media controls the conversation. When they latch onto a story, talk radio, TV, twitter, and the blogs repeat it – creating an echo chamber effect. The public cannot helped but be swayed. A big story this week was Oregon being underseeded, and like a Hollywood script, they dominated as an underdog in game one – affirming all of the talk.

When you dig deeper into the boxscore, you see that Oregon turned the ball over 18 times. St. Louis has forced nearly 15 turnovers per game on the season, and its backcourt should be able to control the youthful Oregon attack. More than one professional I’ve talked to believes the Billikens have genuine Final Four potential. Dwayne Evans is a matchup nightmare.

Often times, an ATS winning streak means it’s time to fade a team – but that concept only applies when the betting market is watching. St. Louis is 21-6 ATS in their last 27 overall, but Oregon’s “underrated” narrative is a bigger part of the conversation. The Vegas conversation includes the Ducks covering only five of their last 17 games. I’ll lay the small number with the underrated favorite against the media darling.

Sunday: Illinois +6.5 vs. Miami-Fl
A classic case of perception versus reality in Austin. Miami, 200 to 1 earlier this season at the LVH to win the National title, is coming off an impressive ACC tournament win – placing them among the current NCAA Title favorites. Keep in mind, March Madness bettors remember best what they see most recently – and what bettors saw Friday was Miami annihilating a Pacific team that many thought could be competitive. And don’t forget the general perception that Illinois is simply not very good, especially after allowing a 21-0 run on Friday, squandering a 16-point halftime lead. The fact that the Illini did regroup and win the game should not be ignored (especially when only shooting 13% in the second half), and is a strong statement about the senior leadership of Brandon Paul.

Illinois traveled to Gonzaga in December and won by double digits, and has beaten Butler by 17 and Ohio State by 19. Illinois played the 3rd most difficult schedule in the nation and was in the most difficult conference. The over/under total of 128 assumes a low scoring game, making the points we are getting even more valuable. Speaking of points, Miami opened as a 5-point favorite, but have been bet up to 6.5. We’ll take those extra points. Bettors should never forget the wise words of Lisa Simpson: “You never go broke underestimating the masses.”

RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com. Every time he gets mentioned on BigLeadSports.com, his mom is a little less mad he didn’t go to Law School. Follow RJ on twitter @RJinVegas.

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