Bracket Buster Handicapping
by Robert Ferringo - 02/22/2008
Thursday was an off day from selections, but there's no rest for the weary. I spent most of my day analyzing the Bracket Buster matchups on Saturday's card and I have several juicy situations circled. But before we get to this year's hyper-inflated version of the annual mid-major hoops orgy, we should take a look backwards to see if we can glean any useful information from past Bracket Buster weekends.
I've analyzed the last three years of this mid-February competition and have come up with some interesting findings. I haven't had enough time to concoct any useful systems based on conference vs. conference matchups or production vs. previous games' performance, but that's what I'm working on today. In the meantime, I've typed up some basics that might help you in your own capping of this weekend's action.
I didn't break down every single "official" Bracket Buster game, but I stuck to the primary ones and had an overwhelming majority of them covered. The conferences that I focused on were the Ohio Valley, Big West, Horizon, Missouri Valley, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Colonial, and Western Athletic. These are the key players and they constitute the key players in the BB.
Here's what I found:
- Over the past three years the favorites in these matchups are just 51-62 against the spread. That's a 45.2-percent clip.
- As you might suspect, given that the favorites have performed so poorly ATS, home teams have been atrocious 43-70 ATS (38 percent). That's a 62 percent success rate for road clubs over the past three seasons, and a 64 percent rate over the past two seasons. You might have your own theory on why the visitors have performed well above expectations, but the bottom line is that oddsmakers are severely overrating the home court advantage in favor of other factors.
- Building on the home-court disadvantage, teams that had an unusually long travel have performed exceptionally well against the number. My version of "unusually long travel" was very subjective. I tried to stick to teams that crossed multiple time zones but that was a bit restrictive. Basically, going from Ohio to Virginia wasn't considered unusual, while heading from Chicago to Utah was. Clearly, cross-country situations (like Cal-Northridge traveling to Fairfield or Albany heading to Boise State) were thrown in. The results: teams heading from the East to the West went 13-6 ATS, while clubs traveling West to East were 7-2.
This year I would consider E2W as Rider at CS-Northridge, Siena at Boise State, and Kent State at St. Mary's, with Wichita State at Northern Arizona and Samford at Louisiana Tech kind of on the fence.
I would consider W2E as UC-Davis at Loyola-Maryland and Nevada at Southern Illinois.
- Over the last three years the number has only come into play in 21.2 percent of the games. The straight up winners went 88-24 SU, so ride the teams you think are going to win and don't bet a dog unless you are convinced the can go in and get an outright W.
Also, 41 of the 113 games saw an underdog win straight up, and of the 62 puppies that covered a whopping 66.1 percent of the dogs won outright. So if you're thinking about backing a puppy make sure to slap a little something extra on the money line.
- Road favorites are the ticket. They are a spectacular 7-1 ATS. Also, visitors that were posted between a 'Pick' and +1.5 went 6-0 ATS. That puts any teams that fall in that range (road teams between +1.5 to -12) as an automatic play.
- Double-digit favorites have struggled, notching a 7-9 overall ATS mark. However, the thick chalk managed a 4-2 ATS run last season.
- Here are the three-year overall conference records for the principals:
OVC: 5-17 ATS
Big West: 5-8 ATS
Horizon: 18-8 ATS
Missouri Valley: 14-15 ATS
Metro: 10-11 ATS
MAC: 18-17 ATS
Colonial: 15-8 ATS
WAC: 12-7 ATS
It's interesting to note that the WAC has gone 10-3 ATS over the past two seasons.
So there you have it, some Bracket Buster Basics. I still think it's more important to focus on the individual matchups in these games, but some of these numbers and the betting strategy that they preclude can't be ignored. Including a couple of conference games that I think we'll get decent numbers on, I'll likely break out between 7-11 rated plays on Saturday. Personally, I'm going to be playing a ton of these BB games as well. I just love the setups and it brings me back to the nonconference portion of the schedule, which I dominate. We will see if it translates.
Carpe diem, my friends. And good luck.
To learn more about Robert's member college basketball picks, click here.