College Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Might be Time to Jump Ship on Villanova
by Robert Ferringo - 12/1/2015
Villanova is a godless killing machine.
The Wildcats are currently 6-0 and ranked in the Top 10 of both major college basketball polls. They are currently the No. 1-rated team according to Ken Pomeroy. However, I feel confident that if you ask any square bettor or even any decent college hoops fan to name the best teams in the country the would likely run through a dozen or so teams before they got to the boys from Philly.
But bettors should be taking note of the Wildcats because they are once again among the best bets in the sport and are already 4-1 against the spread on this young season. But to put that in a much broader perspective, the Wildcats have been, without question, the best bet in college basketball over the last three years, and they are a remarkable 50-20 against the spread in their last 70 games.
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How is it possible that a perennial Top-10 team - they finished the regular season No. 6 in 2013-14 and No. 2 last year - and a traditional hoops power can be so dominant at the window?
Everyone knows that the sportsbooks make bettors pay a premium for betting on the best teams in the country. Oddsmakers will routinely add points to a line featuring any ranked team, especially ones in the Top 10. Maybe oddsmakers aren't inflating Villanova lines. Maybe they are not inflating them enough. Or maybe the Wildcats are just so goddamn unstoppable that they will beat any spread you put in front of them.
There are several reasons why the betting market has underappreciated Villanova. The first is that they now play in a conference that is off the national radar. For 30 years the Big East was one of - if not THE - premier college basketball conference in the country. But the Big East was left as a broken shell of itself after The Great Conference Re-Alignment Of 2013. All of the football schools bailed, and the Big East consolidated as a basketball-only league, led by the "Catholic 7" schools: Villanova, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John's and Providence.
By doing so, the Big East lost its contract with ESPN and essentially fell out of the national consciousness. As a result, the dominant team in that league, Nova, fell off the radar, relegated to evening tip-offs on CBS Sports. Their national appearances dwindled, and the general public basically missed out on what was some of the best basketball being played anywhere in the country.
Villanova went 62-7 over the past two years, earning a No. 2 seed in the 2014 tournament and a No. 1 seed in last year's Big Dance. However, they failed to make it out of the opening weekend in both tournaments, upset in their second game each time, and I think that has actually helped to keep this team under the radar. Had Villanova made a Final Four run in either of the past two seasons then guys like Ryan Arcidiacono, and Josh Hart would be household names.
I suppose the "why" and the "how" of Villanova's ridiculous 71.4 percent ATS run aren't important now, though. The more functional question is will it continue?
I have been betting that it cannot. I have already lost three wagers against the Wildcats this season. But that is due to my firm belief (and experience) that the sportsbooks catch up with every team eventually and that it is always better to be the first person off a team's bandwagon rather than the last.
But again, that's the point: there is no Villanova bandwagon!
The Wildcats will spend the season among the Top-10 or Top-15 teams in the country. I think that the gap between them and the other quality teams in the Big East has shrunk a bit as Butler and Xavier creep up on the Cats. But when I look at this Villanova team I don't see a clear weakness. They have a four-year starter at the point in Arcidiaono, one of the best and most underrated players in the game. They also have a pair of junior wings with pro potential in Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Throw in one of the best freshmen in the nation, Jalen Brunson (son of former Temple standout Rick Brunson), a seasoned big man (Daniel Ochefu) and an excellent coach, and the Wildcats are stacked.
Villanova is playing at St. Joseph's tonight. The spread opened at Villanova -8.5 and was quickly bet up to 11.5. As of 1 p.m. EST it was already up to 13, and I expect that number to climb even further before tip-off.
And why wouldn't it? Villanova beat their Big Five rival by 28 points against a 19-point spread last season. It was even worse in their December 2013 meeting when Villanova won by 30 against just a 4.5-point spread.
Despite the fact that Villanova is, in fact, a godless killing machine, "only" 70 percent of the wagers in this game are coming down on the Wildcats. That means that 30 percent of the public - myself included - are idiots and are actually betting against what has been the No. 1 cash cow in college basketball the last several years.
At some point the books will catch up to Villanova. It may be tonight. It may be in conference play. It may be next year. But no Top-10 team can cover the spread over 70 percent of the time for three years and stay unnoticed. The trick will be determining how long to hold on to this money train and when to jump off, preferably right before Villanova finds Jesus.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has an unmatched streak of nine straight winning nonconference seasons and nine straight winning regular seasons. Robert's $100-per-Unit clients have banked $5,000 in profit with his service this season alone and he has raked in a remarkable $65,600 in the last 10 years with his nonconference picks (November and December) alone. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing season.
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