Betting on the Game Tonight

I’m of mixed minds about tonight’s game.  I read an interesting post about poker and hedging bets in this NCAA madness over at Bet and Win.  It got me thinking about tonight’s game.

I participate in sports betting every now and again.  I’m pretty good at football (non-american), football (american), and college basketball.  For march madness, I have a fairly simple and safe strategy.  In the first round of the NCAAs I’m going to pick the underdog unless I have a good excuse not to. 

For the record, good excuses not to, are when the favorites have a 1 or 2 for a seed.

I think they cover more games than not when a really high seed.  If I perceive someone as vulnerable I’ll pursue the dog in those games too, but rarely.  Used to be the underdogs covered a whopping 70% of first round games (that includes the 1 or 2 seeds) but since that became knowledge the spreads have come back to a more reasonable pay out.

In fact, there have been several times the last few years where the favorites covered more than the dogs.  The gamblers know a good bit more about the smaller programs these days.  On top of that the NCAAs, not this year, but in other recent years, have paired named teams with name teams, and lesser knowns with other lesser knowns.  There is less of an edge.

Why?  Everybody in the NCAA tournament is good.   Teams with lesser names are generally better than the gambler thinks and teams with bigger names but low seeds are generally worse than the gambler thinks.  He reads Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky and it’s a slam dunk Kentucky will cover despite Western Kentucky maybe being the better team THIS year.

The second round typically the action flip-flops.  With the favorites covering more than not.  Here the people now understand how good the dogs are and the pendulum swings too much in their favor.  In the third rounds, dogs are the better bet with the margin even tighter.  By the fourth round the lines are pretty spot on with near 50% on either side. 

When you get to the final four, you better know your teams, and have a good grasp on who’s playing better right now.  Figure out who has a psychological edge, these are college kids afterall, and bet with your gut.

Tonight’s game the psychology favors one team:  Michigan State.  They got blown out and embarrassed earlier in the year by UNC.  However, they had just played 4 games in a short span, were traveling back home, and were missing some key players. 

All they want is redemption against the Heels and to save some public face.  Also, the entire city of Detroit is behind the virtual home team, and so should three quarters of the stadium.  Plus, they have nothing to lose.  The Heels are the heavy favorite and MSU can thrive in the low expectations put on them.  Izzo is a genuis at this and he’s steered the Spartans to victory over big favorites in the elite eight and the final four (Louisville and UConn).

I look for the burden to be too much for the Tar Heels and for Michigan State to shock the world.  Take them on the money line and enjoy the 7.5 points UNC is giving.  Good Luck.

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