Vegas Odds: Handicapping the Power Conference Races

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2011

Last week we examined the sixty or so major programs that Vegas feels is worth offering as action to win the 2011-12 national championship. Unsurprisingly, the top several teams in the preseason Coaches Poll — North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Duke, Syracuse — generally mimic the top several teams in terms of the odds Vegas is offering. The one stunning exception to that trend is Connecticut, whom the pollsters have listed among the few teams most likely to cut the nets down in New Orleans next April, but from whom the oddsmakers still aren’t seeing much value (+2000, or a 4.8% chance, as of now).

This week we’ll take a step further into the odds and consider the probabilities that Vegas has assigned to each power conference team to win its regular season championship. These odds are by no means foolproof. In reviewing last year’s preseason tables of the same six leagues, only Pittsburgh in the Big East and Arizona in the Pac-10 were favorites that came into the money by March. The other four league favorites this time last year? Try Duke in the ACC (UNC), Baylor/Kansas State in the Big 12 (Kansas), Michigan State in the Big Ten (Ohio State), and Kentucky in the SEC (Florida). So while all of these favorites looked reasonable one year ago today, keep in mind that college basketball seasons have a tendency to work themselves out differently despite what the oddsmakers and pundits think.

Ed. note: These odds are published on The Greek as of October 27, 2011. If you’re unfamiliar with how futures odds work, +150 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 1.5 times his original wager.  Those few teams sporting a negative odds notation (e.g., -175) represents a situation where someone would have to wager $175 to win back $100. Since the aggregate of futures odds are designed to add up to a figure much larger than 100% (removing the incentive to wager on every team), we’ve added a far right column normalizing the odds to a true 100% value for each conference.    


Quick Thoughts on the ACC:

  • Perhaps the biggest surprise here is Virginia Tech‘s placement ahead of Clemson, Miami and Virginia. With the losses of Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen in Blacksburg, it’s going to be rather tough to see how the Hokies finish in the top third of this league.
  • Would anyone on earth take Boston College or Wake Forest this season to win anything?  Even in what appears to be a top-heavy ACC again, its incomprehensible that either team would have even a 1 in 100 chance.  If they played the coming ACC season for a hundred years in a row with everyone frozen in time, can you visualize any scenario where either team would sneak up and realistically win the league?  Yeah, didn’t think so.
  • North Carolina is the biggest favorite of any power conference race this season, and second only to 2011 Duke (-250) in the last couple of years. The normalized rate of 42.7% actually seems a little low — would have figured the Heels at 50% or greater.

Big East

Quick Thoughts on the Big East:

  • Despite coming off at only 4.8% chance to win the national title again, Connecticut is tied with Syracuse to win the Big East regular season title. Interestingly, Vegas likes Jim Boeheim’s team to win the national championship considerably more (7.7%) than the Huskies.
  • In keeping with the theme of Big East quality of depth among its teams, there are really four co-favorites here, with UConn, SU, Pittsburgh and Louisville each normalizing between a 10%-20% chance of winning this league.
  • The only conference so large that it has a “Field” option, Georgetown, DePaul, South Florida, Providence and Seton Hall are all represented there.  Realizing that the Hoyas have a lot of replacing of talent to do this year, it’s still interesting that they weren’t considered a better choice than Rutgers or St. John’s.

Big Ten

Quick Thoughts on the Big Ten:

  • Ohio State is also a heavy favorite in the Big Ten, but it’s a little surprising that the Buckeyes are so far ahead of the rest of the pack. They return a lot of talent, but it’s not like they lost only scrubs — Jon Diebler and David Lighty were four-year contributors for Thad Matta’s program, and it wouldn’t shock us to see a good-not-great team like Wisconsin or Michigan State rise up and win the regular season Big Ten title.
  • Speaking of Wisconsin, the Badgers return Jordan Taylor, a legitimate NPOY candidate, along with Bo Ryan’s ultra-efficient offense and we’re expected to believe that their odds are on par with a bunch of talented but young Michigan sophomores?
  • Indiana ahead of Purdue will have the Boilermaker fans up in arms, because this essentially becomes a Tom Crean vs. Matt Painter battle, and we’ll take Painter almost every time in that one.

Big 12

Quick Thoughts on the Big 12:

  • Baylor was in the co-favorite position last year but crashed and burned badly, putting together a weak 7-9 conference record on its way to a tie for seventh place in the league standings.  Even with oodles of talent on the roster, caveat emptor.
  • Given Kansas‘ conundrum of attempting to replace numerous talented starters without a tremendous recruiting class to do so, the trio of Texas A&M, Misssouri, or Texas might be poised to make a run at the championship this season.  Still, seven Big 12 titles in a row even makes Vegas hesitant to drop the Jayhawks very far.
  • Lots of unknowns here — how will Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger perform in their first seasons at Texas Tech and Oklahoma?  Can LeBryan Nash have a Kevin Durant effect on Oklahoma State?  What about Frank Haith and Billy Kennedy walking into programs with immediate expectations?


Quick Thoughts on the Pac-12:

  • We’ve seen each of the top four in this league as a predicted champion, but Vegas clearly likes the talent on the rosters at Arizona and UCLA.  The oddsmakers were clearly tuned into Derrick Williams in Tucson before the rest of the country, but who do they like on the Wildcats this season?
  • It’s somewhat surprising to see such a drop-off (from nearly 30% to less than 10%) to California and Washington given that both teams have talented rosters returning. Are Sean Miller and Ben Howland’s teams that much better than the rest of this league?  Consider that Duke and Carolina are roughly equivalent choices to win the ACC as UA and UCLA are to win the Pac-12.  Pretty astonishing given that it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if either of Cal or UW won the title.
  • Poor Utah — the Utes are a long, long way from the Rick Majerus era. The only teams will less of a chance to win their league this year are the ACC duo of stinkiness, Wake and BC (although clearly some of the Big East “Field” teams would have been worse).


Quick Thoughts on the SEC:

  • Vegas always places a lot of faith on pure, unadulterated talent, and the overwhelming choice of Kentucky is representative of that here. Still, with the weird no-division setup which means UK will have to play #2 Florida and #3 Vanderbilt four times, Alabama or Mississippi State could arguably sneak into the top spot by virtue of a weaker schedule and UK’s relative youth.
  • Arkansas is an interesting team because they will bring an entirely new style of play to the SEC with Mike Anderson’s arrival, and it will play a relatively weak schedule as well.
  • The SEC joins the ACC and Pac-12 in that there are a lot of teams that the oddsmakers just don’t think much of.  Seven SEC squad come in at less than a 5% chance on the normalized scale, the same number as the ACC has under that threshold and one less than the Pac-12.  For what it’s worth, the Big 12 only has three of its ten teams fall under that breaking point.
rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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One response to “Vegas Odds: Handicapping the Power Conference Races”

  1. Vanderbilt at +500 to win the SEC looks like good value.

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