Betting Trends for Bracket Buster Weekend
by Robert Ferringo - 02/18/2009
I've analyzed the last four years of the mid-February mid-major hoops orgy known as Bracket Buster Weekend to see if I could establish any useful betting angles or trends. Instead of working over every single "official" BracketBuster game I squared my focus on the ones that featuring the mid-major conferences that were routinely wagered upon. That includes 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 primary games in the BB.
Here's what I found:
- In the 45 games that I tracked from last year the favorites covered the spread just 44.4 percent of the time. That was actually a shade lower than the previous three years, in which the favorites earned the cash in just 45.2 percent of the games. Over the past four years favorites are just 71-87 in games concerning the eight primary conferences. That's a weak 44.9 percent.
- Not surprisingly, because favorites have been weak wagers when it comes to Bracket Busters, home teams have been just as bad. Last year home teams were a sorry 18-27 ATS (40 percent). Over the last four years the hosts are a stunningly bad 61-97 ATS. That means that by blindly betting the road teams in the Bracket Buster games you would have hit on 61.4 percent of your wagers over the last four seasons. You can posit 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" is a bit subjective but I tried to stick with teams that crossed multiple time zones. And if that was an odd measure the determining factor was whether or not I would be dreading the length of the plane ride. Most of the situations were pretty clear-cut: UC-Davis heading to Loyola, Maryland or Siena traveling to Boise State. Over the last four years teams that underwent "unusually long travel" have been an amazing 24-9 ATS. That's a stellar 72.7 percent success rate. Teams that have had to travel from east to west have gone 16-6 ATS while schools going west to east have gone 8-3 ATS.
Last year the winners were UC-Davis, Rider, Kent State and Siena. The lone loser was Nevada. Samford (won) and Wichita State (loss) were on the fence, but a split didn't really change the numbers.
This year there is really a dearth of these types of situations. We have two obvious E2W situations: VCU at Nevada and Wisconsin-Green Bay at Long Beach State. I'm also going to count George Mason heading to Creighton, and then Cleveland State at Wichita State is really on the fence. But that is really it.
- In 2008 the spread only came into play in six of the 45 games that I tracked. That means that the team that won the game covered the spread 87 percent of the time, which was higher than the 78.8 percent success rate in the three years prior. So, over the last four years the straight up winners in the Bracket Buster games are 128-30 ATS, an 81-percent clip.
Basically, put your money on the team that you think is going to win outright and don't plan on an underdog "keeping it close".
Further, underdogs have won outright in 60 of the 158 games that I tracked over the last four years. That means that 60 of the 87 underdogs that covered the spread (69 percent) won their games outright. It also means that if you like an underdog you definitely need to put some coin on the moneyline for that team as well.
- Oddly enough, road favorites have been a strong Bracket Buster play. Road faves are a spectacular 10-3 ATS over the last four years after a 3-2 ATS performance last season. Also, visitors that have been posted between a 'Pick' and +1.5 have gone 7-1 ATS. That puts any teams that fall in that range (road teams between +1.5 to -12) as an automatic play because they have posted a 17-4 ATS record over the last four seasons.
- Double-digit favorites have struggled, notching a 10-13 overall ATS mark during the last four years. The heavy chalk was just 3-4 ATS last season after posting a 4-2 ATS mark in 2007. (2007 was the only year DD favorites turned a profit.)
- Here are the four-year overall conference records for the principals:
OVC: 10-22 ATS (5-5 ATS last year)
Big West: 10-10 ATS (5-2 ATS last year)
Horizon: 22-13 ATS (4-5 ATS last year)
Missouri Valley: 21-17 ATS (7-2 ATS last year)
Metro: 15-16 ATS (5-5 ATS last year)
MAC: 22-22 ATS (4-5 ATS last year)
Colonial: 21-14 ATS (6-6 ATS last year)
WAC: 13-13 ATS (1-6 ATS last year)
It's interesting to note that the WAC had gone 10-3 ATS in 2006 and 2007 before its collapse last year.
So there you have it, some Bracket Buster Basics. I still think it's very 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.
Carpe diem, my friends. And good luck.