Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Monday, February 20, 2017 at 3:17 PM
Richie Baccellieri: Tough to Beat Vegas "Riding Hot Horses"
Every season there are a relative handful of teams who post excellent records against the Nevada pointspreads. It can be easy for gamblers, after the fact, to start thinking "if only I had been riding those teams since the beginning of the season, I'd have made a fortune."
While technically true, it's virtually impossible to anticipate in advance who those teams are going to be. First, nobody's psychic. Second, oddsmakers and sharps tend to react quickly to teams who consistently play better than expected out of the gate. So, the strategy of "riding a hot horse" through the whole season is even more difficult than it seems. How would you know in advance who the market will be slow to react to?!
Gonzaga's been in the headlines recently for playing undefeated straight up while also posting a great pointspread record. They're likely going to be a #1 seed in the Big Dance. They currently have a 19-5-1 spread record...which obviously would have earned you a lot of cash has you been there from the beginning (or even if you had waited a month!) But, how would you have anticipated betting value?
*Gonzaga was going to be good entering the season, no secret there
*The lines were going to be very high against them generally
*You'd have to think they'd have some flat spots here and there
*You'd keep hearing the media saying Gonzaga gets everyone's best shot
*You'd have to dodge likely February look-aheads once they clinched the conference
*Gonzaga would have to stay healthy
All that...and then you needed a very stubborn market that kept thinking "THERE'S NO WAY THEY'LL KEEP THIS UP" in play for the full season. So, that 19-5-1 ATS mark happened. Calling it in advance would have seemed pretty crazy. In fact, Gonzaga might have been one of the worst choices to put together a run at 80% success because it's so hard to obliterate opponents game-after-game-after-game for a full season.
If you run through the major conference standings, you'll see that it's very hard for college teams to make it past 60% vs. the market. (It's even more difficult in the NBA, where Philadelphia is the only team better than 60% for the season at the All-Star Break...and that's mostly because nobody ever wants to touch the Sixers with a 10-foot pole!). Here's a quick breakdown of the relative handful of teams covering spreads at decent rates in the major conferences.
ACC: Louisville 16-8-1, Notre Dame 14-7-1
Big East: Creighton 17-8, Providence 17-10
Big 10: Purdue 16-7-1, Northwestern 15-9
Big 12: Oklahoma State 13-8-1
Pac 12: Oregon 17-10
SEC: Mississippi State 14-9
Remember, those are mostly HUGE conferences in terms of team count. One or two needles in every conference haystack. Public teams like Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina have trouble covering consistently because they're always priced at perfection. A good chunk of the nation is within arm's reach of the .500 mark because the market does its job. The combination of oddsmakers and sharp money will get the numbers where they need to be in terms of reflecting on-court talent. Only a few surprises sneak through.
Is it easier for a team like Gonzaga to keep it going because they don't play in a major TV conference? Possibly. Here are a few mid-majors that have posted great ATS records: SMU 17-5-1, Middle Tennessee 19-8, Colorado State 15-6. Generally speaking...it's the same story. A few needles in the haystack. Maybe these needles have a better shot at reaching 70% or higher because there's less publicity surrounding the programs.
For those of you who treat sports betting like an investment...it's very hard to make this relatively square strategy work. Hot horses are tough to anticipate before any games are played. Hot horses get noticed (the line adjusts). Hot horses get tired eventually (tough to play at a peak forever). You're much better off trying to spot in-season phenomena where a team starts to put things together in a way that catches the world by surprise. Oklahoma State is a good recent example of that. Then get ready to dismount once the market catches up or the team cools down. You can put together some 4-1 or 5-1 type stretches that way.
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I use a sound, conservative approach to grinding through a season (just like the sharps do). Most of my selections are 1-star or 2-star releases (mostly 1-star). Let the percentages work in our favor as we make smart choices while trying to build profit through the season. This is a great time for you to get started because there's so much exciting basketball ahead through the end of the regular season and the tournaments.
Thanks for reading! Back with you again in a couple of days.