Vegas Odds to Win It All: Season Opener Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2013


It’s opening week and we’ve already gotten a taste of what’s to come through the first weekend of college basketball. As we head into the start of the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon tonight, culminating in tomorrow night’s top-five double-header at the Champions Classic, it’s time to take a look at how oddsmakers view the upcoming season. As we mentioned last week upon the release of the RTC Preseason Top 25, there appears to be a consensus top five (Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke and Kansas), followed by a second-tier group of six more teams (Arizona, Florida, Ohio State, Syracuse, Oklahoma State and Michigan). Although the order might be a little different, that is also more or less how Las Vegas is viewing the 2013-14 national championship race. Keeping in mind that unlike those of us who can make any ridiculous prediction we can think of without an appreciable fear of repercussion, oddsmakers stake their livelihoods on this practice. Therefore, they generally have a good idea of what they’re doing.

Let’s first take a look at the odds below (NCAA basketball lines taken from a prominent international sportsbook, where the listed odds are not much different from those in Vegas), then we’ll analyze some takeaways after the jump below. (ed. note: for those unfamiliar with futures odds, +380 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 3.8 times his original wager.)

2013-14 vegas odds

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Vegas Odds: Considering the NCAA Tournament Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2013


The Madness is just around the corner and through nearly 48 hours post-reveal of the bracket, there’s been no shortage of number-crunching, analysis, and commentary about what is going to happen over the next three weeks. Betting markets are often a good benchmark indicator in terms of the overall public perception of the quality of teams, so every year we always like to make it a point to review what Las Vegas thinks about each region — each region’s odds have been normalized to 100% to show a truer snapshot of each team’s odds. This year, we’ve also added another couple of columns showing what the advance metrics of KenPom and HSAC have to say — there are some notable differences among some of these teams, so that’s certainly worth tracking as well.  (note: all Vegas odds were derived on Tuesday afternoon from The Greek.)

We’ll provide each region’s snapshot view below, followed by some light commentary, starting with the East Region…

east region ncaa odds

No surprise that Tom Crean’s top-seeded Hoosiers are the favorite here, with #2 Miami (FL) and #4 Syracuse to follow. #3 Marquette is not a Vegas favorite, but they’re clearly valued more highly by the advanced metrics of HSAC and KenPom. By the same token, #6 Butler, with its recent Final Four history in tow, is given a much better chance among the oddsmakers than the metrics guys. With a separation between the top seven teams and the rest of the field, the East Region feels a bit more open in the middle, but don’t forget that #1 Indiana is the biggest favorite in both Vegas and KenPom of any of the four regions.

south region ncaa odds

The South Region has six teams breaking the five percent threshold in Vegas, but all three views show really only four teams in this race. The advanced metrics folks really like #3 Florida, which makes sense as they’ve been very high in efficiency statistics all season. Vegas agrees, but not quite as much, giving the Gators a slightly-better-than-quarter chance of winning this region, while #1 Kansas, #2 Georgetown and #4 Michigan are all relatively good picks as well. Public perception of #8 North Carolina is quite a bit higher than what the metrics suggest, but that’s really the only other team where such a disparity exists.

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Vegas Odds: Conference Tourneys – SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2013

Yesterday we ran through the current Vegas odds for four of the major conference tournaments getting under way early in the week. Today we’ll take a brief look at the remainder — the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, and SEC. The SEC tips off tonight with the rest lacing them up on Thursday afternoon. As usual, there are some disparities between overall public perception and the mathematics that Vegas assigns to these teams — we’ll note some of those differences below (all oddreported from on Tuesday night).

sec tourney 13 odds

It’s no surprise that the Gators are a heavy favorite in Nashville this week, but #6 seed Missouri coming in with the next highest odds might be. The Tigers would have to win four games in four days, which is always difficult but not impossible. Vegas has little faith in #3 seed Ole Miss and #4 seed Alabama, as exhibited by their relatively low odds. The bottom line is that this tournament is Florida’s to lose, but after that it’s pretty wide open.

acc tourney 13 odds

#1 seed Miami (FL) may have won the regular season by a game in the ACC standings, but that doesn’t mean Vegas has to oblige with the notion that the Hurricanes are better than #2 seed Duke. The Blue Devils are a significant favorite over the rest of the field in Greensboro, and the odds realistically only give the top half of this league any kind of a chance. One team to watch is #5 seed NC State, who will have to win four games in four days — Vegas is still relatively high on the Wolfpack despite an incredibly inconsistent season.

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Vegas Odds: Conference Tourneys – Big East, Mountain West, Big 12, Pac-12

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2013

The six power conferences along with the elite mids begin their league tournaments this week, with the Big East and Mountain West tipping off tonight. On Wednesday, the Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC will get under way, while Thursday will bring us the Atlantic 10, the ACC and the Big Ten. All of us have our own opinions about the favorites to win each conference tournament, but Las Vegas makes its business out of it. Today, we’ll examine the current odds for the leagues that begin Tuesday and Wednesday (excluding the SEC) — tomorrow, we’ll look at the remainder. There are some interesting disparities between general perception and the odds, and we’ll make note of those below (all odds reported from on Monday night).

BE Tourney 13 odds

The Big East Tournament is especially interesting in how it views top-seeded Georgetown. Not only does it give #2 seed Louisville nearly a three times greater chance of winning this tournament, but #4 seed Pittsburgh and #5 seed Syracuse are both considered better choices. Marquette, the #3 seed that tied for first place at 14-4 with the Hoyas and Cardinals, is not considered a significant threat to win this tournament with a less than 10 percent chance.

MW Tourney Odds 13

Home court advantage dominates here, as #3 seed UNLV is far and away the favorite to win the Mountain West championship this week. The rest of the odds pretty much fall in line with the seeds, as New Mexico, Colorado State, San Diego State and Boise State have a progressively worse chance to win this competitive league before the drop-off hits at #6 seed Air Force.

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Vegas Odds Update: Duke and Indiana Up, UCLA and Louisville Down…

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2012

We’re now five full weeks into the 2012-13 college basketball season, plenty of time to get a read on some of the teams that everyone thought was better or worse than their preseason projections. So how does Las Vegas view it? Check the following list, which shows a number of popular schools with three correlated columns: each school’s preseason odds to win the national title (“Preseason”); its current odds to win the national title (“1st Qtr”); and the plus/minus in the interim. Note that we’ve normalized these odds to add up to 100% so that you’re viewing true odds relative to all of the other teams vying for the title this year. All odds were taken from

One other editing note is that these odds were taken and calculated prior to Saturday’s action (i.e., Butler’s upset win over Indiana and Arizona’s win over Florida).

vegas odds 12.15.12

 Some QnD analysis…

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Vegas Odds: March Madness Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2012

We’re in the middle of Championship Week and roughly 80 hours away from learning the names of the 68 teams that will compete in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Most of the elite teams have yet to suit up in their conference tourneys so we thought it would be a good time to take another look at how Vegas bookmakers are viewing the best teams heading into this final weekend prior to the bracket release on Sunday. We ran through this exercise in both the preseason and again in December before conference season got under way, so it’s always instructive to see how the perception of teams has changed in the eyes of those who make their livelihoods from knowing such things. Although there’s been a good amount of movement among the top 10 teams on our list, the top two have remained Kentucky and North Carolina with a bullet, far above the rest of the field all season long. As the season has progressed, Vegas has gotten even more in these two teams’ corners, at this point suggesting that combined (and normalized to 100% total among all teams) the Wildcats and Tar Heels have a 33.7% chance of cutting down the nets in New Orleans. One in three — not bad at all.

*The remaining listed schools were too numerous to name, but they included most of the remainder of the power conference teams.

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Vegas Odds Update #1: UNC No Longer the Title Favorite

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2011

We’re a little over a month into the 2011-12 season and most teams have played somewhere in the range of eight to ten games. That’s enough time to get a decent sense as to teams’ potential for the rest of the season, rather than relying on little more than preseason guesswork and conjecture. At the end of October, we went through an exercise analyzing Vegas futures odds and came to the conclusion that North Carolina and Kentucky were the odds-on favorites to cut down the nets next April (a normalized combined total chance of 20%). As of December 15, Vegas still thinks similarly, although with two key differences — first, Kentucky, at +300 and a 14.6% normalized chance to win the title, has moved ahead of North Carolina, who still sits at +350 and now has a 13.0% chance. Secondly, the two favorites have a combined 27.6% chance to win it all according to the oddsmakers, which basically means that if you played the NCAA Tournament four times, either UNC or UK would win it once.

Here are your preseason odds for the sake of reference. Note that these odds came from The Greek and this discussion is for entertainment purposes only. The table below provides the futures odds (e.g., +300), which converts to a percentage chance to win (e.g., 25.0%), but also a normalized change to win if all chances added up to 100%. We also provide a simple up (blue)/down (gray)/even (white) stock measurement based on whether a team’s odds profile has risen or fallen since October. We provide some analysis of this table after the jump.

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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:

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Vegas Odds to Win It All: Preseason Review

Posted 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.)

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Vegas Odds to Win the National Title

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2011

Sixteen teams with visions of glory dancing through their heads.  But only one can be left standing twelve days from now at around 11:30 pm ET on the hardwood court at Reliant Stadium in Houston.  Everyone has their own opinions on which teams will remain after this coming weekend and those most likely to ultimately cut the nets down, but we here at RTC are always interested in knowing what the people who make it their job to set gambling markets have to say. 

Everybody’s Angling to Play Here on Monday Night

To that end, here’s what one online sportsbook has to say about the odds for each of the sixteen remaining teams to win the national title.  We’ll have a few brief comments after the table (note: the arrows represent how the odds are trending, where up is more of a favorite, down is less of one).

Some QnD Thoughts:

  • We’ve been tracking the odds this week and it’s interesting that Duke is dropping even with the news that Kyrie Irving will play significant minutes and there’s a reasonable expectation that he could make the Blue Devils a much more dangerous team quickly.  The oddsmakers are also boffo on Florida State this week, as they’ve risen a full percentage point over the past couple of days (that may not seem like much, but in the world of futures, it’s a significant increase). 
  • The top three teams are #1 seeds and obvious favorites, but things start to break down a little bit after the first two #2 seeds, SDSU and FloridaNorth Carolina is behind a couple of #4 seeds, Kentucky and Wisconsin, while #3 BYU is getting worse odds than #10 Florida State!  Did the Seminoles just sign Sam Cassell or something over the last couple of days?
  • It’s somewhat surprising to see #8 Butler so low after knocking off #1 Pittsburgh and of course the distinct memory of how close the Bulldogs came last year to cutting the nets down.  Last year isn’t this year, of course, but many of the same players are there, and so is Brad Stevens; furthermore, with games against #4 Wisconsin and/or #2 Florida/#3 BYU, there’s nobody in that region with the ability to simply overwhelm BU.
  • We think #12 Richmond at the bottom of the odds may in fact be a better team than #11 Marquette and #11 VCU, but those two teams don’t have to play top-seed Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen.  This indicates that there’s probably as much weight given to the path in front of a team as there is to its actual record, seeding and historical performance from this season.
  • Speaking of which, #5 Arizona is the third-lowest team on this list, and not all that much higher than Richmond!  This must have a lot to do with the fact that, according to the odds, three of the six most likely teams to win the title are located in the West Region along with the Wildcats.
  • If you normalize the odds to equal 100%, then according to the oddsmakers, the three #1 seeds have a roughly 61% chance to win it all.  The rest of the field correspondingly has a 39% chance.  We’re just not sure that the #1 seeds are that much better than the rest of the field this year.  If you’re looking for value, it might be worth a look at those #2-#4 seeds. 
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