College Basketball Bracket Buster Weekend Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 2/15/2011
I've analyzed the last six 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" Bracket Buster 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 Bracket Buster schedule.
Last year I came up with 48 total Bracket Buster games. That data, incorporated into the previous five years’ info, has given us a baseline of 265 games from which to draw our conclusions. Here are some useful Bracket Buster betting trends that I have found:
- In the 48 games that I tracked from last year the favorites covered the spread just 39.6 percent of the time (19-29). That is way down from the 2009 mark of 47.4 percent of the games (28-31). Over the past six years favorites are now just 118-147 in games considering the primary conferences. That is a weak 44.5 percent cover rate for the chalk.
- 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 pathetic 18-30 ATS (37.5 percent) against the spread. That was actually up a miniscule amount from the 2009 mark of 22-37 (37.2 percent) but that is still a two-year mark of 40-67 ATS (37.4 percent) for the home teams and a three-year record of just 58-94 (38.2 percent).
Over the last six years the hosts are a stunningly bad 101-164 ATS. That means that by blindly betting the road teams in the Bracket Buster games you would have hit on an amazing 61.9 percent of your wagers over the last five 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, road 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 last year were pretty clear-cut: Marist heading out to UC-Irvine, Youngstown State playing at UC-Riverside or Louisiana Tech heading to Northeastern. Over the last six years teams that underwent "unusually long travel" have been an amazing 32-13 ATS. That's a stellar 71.1 percent success rate. Teams that have had to travel from east to west have gone 22-10 ATS while schools going west to east have gone 10-3 ATS.
Last year there were actually eight situations with what I would consider extremely long travel. Drake (at CS-Northridge), SIU-Edwardsville (at CS-Fullerton), Nevada (at Missouri State), Louisiana Tech, Youngstown State and Marist each covered their spread. Wichita State (at Utah State) and Old Dominion (at Northern Iowa) failed to cover.
- In 2010 the spread only came into play in 13 of 48 games that I tracked. That means that teams that won the game covered the spread 72.9 percent of the time, which is actually down from the 76.2 percent in 2009 (35 of 59) and 81 percent rate the four years prior to that.
That means that over the last five years the straight up winners in the Bracket Buster games are 207-58, a 78.1-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". In four of five games the points don’t come into play.
Further, underdogs have won outright in 91 of the 265 games that I tracked over the last six years. That means that 91 of the 147 underdogs that covered the spread (61.9 percent) won their games outright. It also means that if you really like an underdog you definitely need to put some coin on the moneyline as well.
- Oddly enough, road favorites have been a strong Bracket Buster play. Road faves are a spectacular 22-9 ATS over the last six years despite a sputtering 3-3 ATS performance in 2010. Also, visitors that have been posted between a 'pick' and 1.5 have gone 11-4 ATS with two teams (Drake +1.0 and Buffalo +1.0) taking the cash last year.
What those numbers tell me is that any road team that is posted between +1.5 and -12.0 are an automatic play because that subgroup has gone 33-13 ATS over the last five years (71.7 percent).
- Not surprisingly, double-digit favorites have struggled in the Bracket Busters, notching a 15-25 overall ATS mark during the last six years. The heavy chalk was just 4-6 ATS last season after posting a 1-6 ATS mark in 2009 and a 3-4 ATS mark in 2008. That is an 8-16 ATS mark over the last three years and the only season of the six we broke down where DD favorites turned a profit was 2007 when those clubs went 4-2 ATS.
- Here are the six-year overall conference records for the principal leagues:
OVC: 18-34 ATS (4-6 ATS in 2010, 4-6 ATS in 2009, 5-5 ATS in 2008)
Big West: 17-20 ATS (3-5 in 2010, 4-5 in 2009, 5-2 in 2008)
Horizon: 29-23 ATS (3-5 in 2010, 4-5 in 2009; 4-5 in 2008)
Missouri Valley: 34-22 ATS (6-2 in 2010, 7-3 in 2009, 7-2 in 2008)
Metro: 24-25 ATS (4-4 in 2010, 5-5 in 2009, 5-5 in 2008)
MAC: 30-38 ATS (6-6 in 2010, 2-10 in 2009, 4-5 in 2008)
Colonial: 32-24 ATS (3-6 in 2010, 8-4 in 2009, 6-6 in 2008)
WAC: 21-23 ATS (5-4 in 2010, 3-6 in 2009, 1-6 in 2008)
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.
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