Vegas Odds to Win It All: Preseason ReviewPosted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2011
Practices are in full effect, we’re halfway through our preseason conference primers, and real game action begins just over 18 days from now. The so-called experts among us believe that North Carolina, Kentucky and Connecticut comprise the top tier of teams in America; with Syracuse, Ohio State, Duke and Louisville generally considered the next tier of challengers. But none of us — not Goodman, not Parrish, not Decourcy, not Winn, not Davis, not Katz, not O’Neil, and certainly none of the AP, Coaches’, or RTC pollsters, are in danger of losing our jobs if we’re wrong. Such do-or-die pressure to be right isn’t a necessary condition of this profession, but that’s definitely not true with Vegas oddsmakers. For those guys, all it takes is one particularly terrible line and your head could be on the chopping block as a result. As we’ve said before, sports books typically aren’t in the business of losing money, so even though you should read through these odds with a healthy dose of salt, it’s always interesting to see how they’re thinking.
First the odds (taken from The Greek as of October 19, 2011), then our analysis after the jump: (ed. note: for those unfamiliar with futures odds, +350 represents the amount of money a potential gambler would receive back if he placed a $100 wager on that team and it won. He would, in other words, win back 3.5 times his original wager.)
We’ve invited a friend from a site that specializes in college basketball handicapping, Jordan, to give us some of his educated thoughts interspersed with ours below:
- North Carolina is the favorite at 22.2%, with Kentucky not far behind the Tar Heels at 16.7% at this point in time (their normalized figures if all options added up to 100% are 11.4% for UNC and 8.6% for UK) . They’re pretty much the consensus top two teams on most everyone’s list, and the oddsmakers agree. It would be difficult to envision a scenario where either of these two teams fall off the the top couple of lines of this list. By comparison, when Roy Williams’ team entered the 2008-09 season as the consensus #1 team in America, the Heels were listed at +300, or with a 25% chance to win it all.
- The next tier has Duke, Louisville and Ohio State within it, and Syracuse not too far behind that trio. But there’s one team missing… where are the defending national champions? Connecticut brings back everyone important except Kemba Walker and they add one of the most enticing big men in America in the form of Andre Drummond. Vegas isn’t hearing it — the Huskies are tied for #13 overall at a mere 3.8%, even below the field (4.8%).
- A few teams higher than expected are UCLA (#8 at 5.3%), Texas (#9 at 4.8%), Michigan State (#13 at 3.8%), and Georgetown (#16 at 3.2%). The real surprise of this group is Georgetown, a team who when we last saw them got obliterated by VCU in the Second Round of the NCAAs, lost Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, and is arguably not an NCAA team next March. Jordan: “UCLA is overrated. If the Wear twins could play SG they’d have a chance. They have five PFs and 0 PGs).”
- Other than UConn, a few highly-ranked teams lower than expected are Vanderbilt (#16 at 3.2%), Wisconsin (#23 at 2.2%), and Marquette (#42 at 1.0%). Maybe Vegas has something against the Badger State (heavy losses on the Packers and Brewers this year?), but those three stood out as members of the no-respect crowd.
- It’s too bad you can’t play odds on teams to not win the national title — if we could, we’d be all over the likes of Notre Dame (#21 at 2.4%), Indiana (#24 at 2.0%), and NC State (#35 at 1.2%). None of these three have any kind of realistic shot to cut down the nets this season. Jordan: “Indiana should be +5000 to win the Big Ten. Adding Cody Zeller is supposed to catapult you this high?”
- Your value teams this year are plentiful. You could buy Baylor (#16 at 3.2%), Butler (#24 at 2.0%), Washington (#24 at 2.0%), California (#42 at 1.0%), Xavier (#42 at 1.0%), AND the field (#12 at 4.8%) for less than the price of one Kentucky (16.7% vs. 14.0%). Your field this year would include Temple, VCU, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Creighton, Wichita State and everyone’s mid-major darlings this season, Belmont and Harvard. Jordan: “Baylor — maybe the most athletic team in the nation; Xavier — Tu, balanced attack around a superstar; Butler — pretty self-explanatory; Cal — our favorite in the Pac-12.”
- If anyone on earth puts money on Wake Forest at +25,000 on the “off” chance that the Demon Deacons will turn it around and win it all this season, please send us your name. Seriously.
- How much is all of this worth? Consider that last season Jim Calhoun’s team entered the 2010-11 season with 60:1 odds (a 1.6% chance), so you never know. Ok, we do know about Wake Forest — but the rest of the teams on this list, perhaps not.