Vegas Odds to Win It All: Preseason Check-In

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2010

We’re now formally into the dog days of practice around the country, which means that we’re under three weeks away from the first games of the season in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (beginning Nov. 8 at Pitt, Texas, Maryland and Illinois).  Our excitement is tempered somewhat by the fact that it’s still almost 80 degrees outside and it certainly doesn’t feel like the start of the season should be so close.  Yet it is.  Speaking of places that are hot, one entity that never sleeps on college basketball especially when there’s money to be made, is Las Vegas.  The sports books offer futures lines pretty much year-round, and although there’s only limited conclusions that should be drawn when analyzing these odds, keep in mind that the desert oasis didn’t arise from sand because they were in the business of losing money.  More often than not, they have a keen general awareness of the teams to hold and the teams to fold heading into the season.

Below are the current odds listed on The Greek as of Tuesday, October 19.  Some brief analysis follows the list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 3

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

Could it really be that, as of this coming weekend, we are only five weeks from Selection Sunday? That means we’re only four weeks from putting crowns on the heads of conference tournament champions and even closer than that to anointing some regular season champs. It doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. I think this also means the Ivy League announces its tournament representative, like, what, tomorrow?!? OK, maybe not that quickly. But it’ll all be here pretty darn soon.

After much cunning, good timing, and top-flite negotiation, the boys and I have made the Vegas hotel reservations (deals abound like you wouldn’t believe) and locked in our flights (deals aren’t as great as ya might be hearing) for the annual Vegas excursion for the first two rounds. The Vegas-related e-mail chatter has increased. Ah, how I love it. And since I’m here in the RTC Midwestern Compound, all this Vegas talk provides a wonderful antidote, a perfect bridge from now to the first tip in March, over what we hope are the last strains of what’s been one hell of a winter.

gpsmagazine.com)
The RTC MW Compound is nice, but does not have a view like this. (credit: gpsmagazine.com)

That said, let’s take another peek inside the collective head of the Vegas oddsmakers and see what they’re thinking. Most of you probably know, but for the untrained, the way the money line works is that if you see a team with, say, +1000 beside them then that means if you bet $100 on them, you get $1000 back, plus your bet. The lower the x is in +(x), the bigger the favorite. If you should ever see a team with a negative (-1000) that means you have to bet $1000 on them to win $100. That doesn’t apply to this list, though.

The last time we checked this was early January…here’s the latest from The Greek:

vegas-odds-2009-season-edition-vol-31

Yep, it’s still Carolina. They’ve given up another $30 since the last time we checked, going from +220 to +250. But it looks like someone in Sin City has found something to like about the oft-bewildering Connecticut Huskies, since their value has been cut in half from +1000 to +500. Odd that Vegas would basically feel twice as good about UConn, seeing as how the Huskies seem to lose focus so easily at times. It can’t just be about the #1 ranking, because the last time we looked at this, UNC had just taken their first loss and actually extended their lead as favorite over the next-closest contender. Connecticut is a fine team and undoubtedly a title contender, but that’s a big move. I wonder what else it’s based on?

Mr. Calhoun cant explain it, either.  But he aint arguing.
Mr. Calhoun can’t explain it, either. But he ain’t arguing. (credit: daylife.com)

Call me crazy, but I still think Louisville is an attractive option at +1800 even though they’ve been “demoted” a couple hundred bucks since last time and they have the occasional problem staying focused, as well. The chance to win 18x your money isn’t a bad value for the current #5 team in the country, eh? I also think UCLA is playing better recently than the mere $200 bump Vegas has allotted them (+2000 to +1800). Heck, even Memphis (+2000 from +3000), a very athletic bunch playing very well of late, can’t be ignored; come on, like you wouldn’t plop down a little dough for the chance to win twenty times your cash on that team. But as far as I’m concerned, along with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, I think the best bet on the board comes in the form of the Oklahoma Sooners (+1500), a current #2-ranked team that Vegas will give you fifteen times your money for if they take it all. Not a bad deal for a team that has who I consider the national POY (in spite of, uh, THIS) surrounded by an incredibly athletic and hungry surrounding cast. The only thing in the college basketball world bigger than the value you can get for the Sooners and Cardinals is perhaps Andy Kennedy’s head.

Another interesting matter is the continued presence of Gonzaga and an unranked Georgetown team high on the list. I was all about Gonzaga earlier this year — and why not? They have a good coach, exceptional guard play, solid inside game, what we thought was a budding star in Austin Daye…and yet they can barely stay afloat in the Top 25. Everyone thought this was going to be the year Gonzaga, as a program, took that next step into adulthood…what happened? True, the season’s far from over but all the evidence we have up to now has to make you wonder why they’re ranked 19th in the AP poll but still sit as the 9th favorite according to Vegas. And for some reason here sits Georgetown, careening downward like an Acula class submarine, GONE from the Top 25 but still perched here as Vegas’ 12th choice. These oddsmakers usually know their stuff — I wonder what they still see in the Zags and Hoyas?

One final thing I definitely have to mention…even with all of the lines up there that it seems strange that they’d even mention (Georgia at +50000? Texas Tech at +17500?), maaaaan…to just throw more dirt on Indiana like that, actually bothering to list them at +99999?!? That’s got to be classified as cruel and unusual!! Haven’t they endured enough for one year?

Coach Crean says “WTF, VEGAS?!?!?” (credit: ancestry.com)

The next time we check this will probably be in a month, as we take a final look right before the tournament starts. My hombres and I have our suite waiting and our sportsbook seats reserved, and we’ll be touching down the night of the play-in game…so hey, if you see something on the odds board you like, feel free to send us some dough, and we’ll put it in play for you, ya know? Come on…you can trust us!

chinadaily.com)
Mr. Stevens promises your money will not be used for…tips. (credit: chinadaily.com)
Share this story

Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 2

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

The college basketball world is still dumping the cooler on Boston College after the Eagles’ improbable victory over North Carolina on Sunday night.  So, things have changed, right?  It looks like the Tar Heels have come back to the pack, yes?  The season is a true competition again.  Anyone can win.  It’s a level playing field. 
 
Sure it is.
 
Charlotte Observer

You'd Think Losing to BC Would Tighten the Vegas Odds (photo credit: AP/Gerry Broome)

But wait…that win by B.C. meant a lot; it got the Eagles their first Top 25 ranking in about two years.  It means that even if UNC wins out, they still can’t be considered for membership into the Greatest Teams Of All Time pantheon.  They started their ACC campaign with a big fat ‘L.’  It showed every college basketball team in the nation that the Heels are indeed mortal, that the almost holy image they’d accrued was not valid.  Everyone everywhere is talking about how much this Boston College victory was worth. 
 
You know what it was worth in Las Vegas45 bucks. 
 
In terms of winning the national championship, that is.  If you’re “daring” enough to put your money on North Carolina now that they’ve suffered a loss, compared with those who put their money down before Sunday, you’d win exactly $45 more. 
I’m not taking anything away from Boston College’s achievement.  The Dean Dome — especially this year — has been considered a virtual venus fly-trap for any team presumptuous enough to actually show up for a game against UNC; Boston College knew that and still went in and got the job done.  It’s true, they really did knock this imposing edition of the Tar Heels right out of the running for admission among the greatest college basketball teams of all time (a fact I’m sure UNC fans are tired of hearing about by now), a spectre that had indeed been following them around since Hansbrough, et al, told the NBA draft to stick it last year.  B.C. deserves major props, make no mistake.
 
But I’m looking at this through Vegas’ eyes.  And from their viewpoint, this still isn’t even a race. 
 
If we observe the latest odds (refer to the first edition of the odds watch if you forgot how the money line works; in short, the +(x) means you get back $(x + $100) on a $100 bet), we’ll see that even after this home loss, UNC is still at +220, a change of only $45 from the previous +175.  The next contender?  Connecticut at +1000, and Big East brother Pittsburgh at +1200.  But look at the margins between UNC and the closest competitor before AND after the loss.  Before the B.C. game, they were $625 ahead of the next team on the list.  Now?  After this supposedly devastating loss?  $780 ahead of UConn.  In other words, compared to before the Boston College game, they’re even farther ahead of the closest team(s) in their rearview mirror. 
vegas-odds-vol-2 
I began thinking about how this could possibly be the case, but it didn’t take much reflection to figure it out.  As noted above, UNC has been given a steady diet of “one-of-the-best-of-all-time” talk for about six months now.  I don’t know how the coaching staff has handled this — maybe they embraced it and wanted their players to be cocky, or maybe they tried to keep their players more focused on immediate (i.e. game-to-game) goals, who knows.  Either way, the players have still been aware of it, no question.  But now it’s gone.  They’re not playing for immortality.  They’re not playing for as big a piece of history as before, but playing for an ACC title, a Final Four, and a national championship is still playing for history.  The 2008-09 Tar Heels are parallel to a pitcher who threw four perfect innings with a big lead but just had their perfect game/no-hitter broken up with two out in the fifth.  You threw a good first half, but now just worry about getting the win.  If you can keep from doing something stupid, you’ll probably get it.  If I were a UNC basketball player, I’d be pissed that my team won’t go undefeated and that I probably won’t be on one of those “all-time” teams.  But now I can concentrate on the real task at hand, and that’s winning a national title.  All that other stuff’s gone.  And before the comments pile up accusing me of being too pro-Heel, I’m not.  I don’t come from there and I have nothing to do with that program.  But I don’t see any other way to look at it.  Sometimes a loss like this can bring some clarity.  And I think the folks making the odds in Vegas agree.
 
I’ve got to point out some other values on the new list, though.  I still think winning $1200 on a $100 bet is a pretty good deal for the current #1 team in the nation, Pittsburgh.  Hell, Vegas will still basically triple your money if you bet on the Tar Heels and they win it.  I’m pretty damn surprised that Duke (+1600) hasn’t pulled ahead of Tennessee, Gonzaga, and the freaking FIELD (+1400, +1500, and +1500, respectively).  Wake Forest is still extremely attractive at +3300 (previously +5000), and about the farthest I’d go down on this list is Syracuse (+4000, previously +3000), but as I’ve said, I have a Syracuse affliction this year.  I can’t put my finger on it, but every time I watch them, I get the feeling that they’re about three seconds away from reeling off about 20 straight wins.  I’ll understand if others don’t get that, because I can’t explain it myself.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if they got bounced in the first round.  I’m still trying to figure that team out.
 
But the lesson here is at the top, my friends.  Boston College (+6000)  is to be applauded for going into such a vaunted place and defeating a team that was being groomed for legend.  They deserve their shiny new ranking.  And sure, they reminded us that anything can certainly happen in a single-elimination scenario.  But through the eyes of the Vegas oddsmakers, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to get excited.  This is still like Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont.  They’re not just better than the competition — even despite a loss, they’re widening the lead.
Share this story

Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 1

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2008

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns appear on Tuesdays throughout the season. 

It seems like we’re still feeling things out, getting our bearings, and getting to know some teams in this college basketball season, but believe it or not we are one-third through the 2008-09 campaign.  Pretty soon it’ll be the Christmas-time tournaments and then conference play, at which point the season seems to accelerate until we get to those beautiful, life-affirming days of the conference tournaments, Championship Week, and the NCAA Tournament.  I was browsing through some of the pre-season columns here on RTC and came across this one that talked about how the fair, wonderful, and beautiful people in Las Vegas saw the season shaping up.  Specifically, there’s a pretty sweet table listing every Division One squad with even the most remote chance of winning the 2009 title, and the money line they were offering for each team.

The Lemmings Survey the Cliff

The Lemmings Survey the Cliff

(Note:  My sentiments above regarding the gambling gods in Las Vegas have nothing to do with the fact that the yearly RTC Vegas field trip is coming up in March.  I think those things are true, no matter what.  Wonderful, good-looking people they are, all of them.  Every one.  God bless them.  Seriously…)

Now, in case you don’t know how a money line works, here’s the deal.  Let’s say you go to a casino in Las Vegas and look up at the big board at the sportsbook and you see something that says North Carolina +300.  This means that if you think UNC will win the title in 2009, you walk up to the incredibly nice man at the front of the sportsbook and tell him you want to make that bet.  +300 means that if you bet $100 and UNC wins, the man will give you back $400, meaning the $300 offered in the money line, and your $100 bet (minus a small commission).  Often, you’ll see a negative number next to a team, like (and I’m just throwing this name out) Fordham –200.  This means that if you bet $200 to win (money lines can be applied to single games, conference titles, national championships, whatever) on Fordham, and Fordham wins, the nice man will hand you back $300 – the $200 you bet, and the $100 offered on that money line.  A positive number means that’s how much you’ll win if you bet $100.  A negative number means that’s what you have to bet in order to WIN $100.  And of course you can bet as much as you want up to the maximum, i.e. with UNC above, you can bet $10 and win $30, or you can bet $500 and win $1500.

vegas-sportsbook-3

The original article covered pretty much everything noteworthy about the accompanying preseason table, but a couple of other items stood out to me.  First of all, the very top.  Everyone knew how great UNC was going to be, but here’s Vegas, telling us that they’re willing to give us FOUR TIMES our money if we have the so-called guts to put some cash down on what might end up being one of the all-time great college teams.  Yeah, that sound you’re hearing right now?  That’s me kicking myself.  And without recapping the whole original article – who wouldn’t take a shot on Louisville and Connecticut (+1200 and 1400?!?)?  I also literally get dizzy and have to sit down when I see Pitt (+2000), Oklahoma (+3500), Gonzaga (+4000!!), and a pretty doggone hot and versatile Wake Forest team (offered at an abominable +8000).  Hey, Cincinnati readers, you looking for XavierThey’re not even listed.  You’d have to have your bet cheapened by taking the entire field at +1200.

But of course this is all with benefit of hindsight.  I had this information in the preseason just like everyone else and I just sat on it.  So the question becomes, where are we now?  What is Vegas offering?  Is there any value comparable to what we could have had in the preseason?  Well, wonder no more, my friends.  Here’s the latest:

thegreek.com

source: thegreek.com

Vegas is still willing to almost triple your money with a bet on UNC, offering +175, claiming there’s a 36.4% chance that they’ll be raising the trophy in early April.  It looks like they’ve woke up to Gonzaga and Tennessee as well, despite recent losses, but certainly not enough to put anyone off such a wager.  But look at Louisville – true, they have a couple of things to iron out but that loss to Western Kentucky is far enough back in the rearview mirror, and since his days at Providence Rick Pitino has been the best in the business as far as 1) “learning” about his team from losses, and 2) getting his teams, and specifically the defense they play, to peak in March.  Are you telling me that if one of your friends came up to you right now and said, “Give me $10 right now.  If Louisville wins the title, I’ll hand you back $150,” you wouldn’t take that bet? 

Obviously the story here is that, because of the sheer dominance of North Carolina and the way they’ve just eclipsed the entire college basketball landscape, most of the tremendous value that was on the board back in November is still there even a third of the way into the season.  For some teams it’s come back a little (UConn, Oklahoma) but it’s still pretty inviting.  For other squads you can get even better deals than back in November (Louisville, Texas, Kansas, Pitt), and you have the Tar Heels to thank for that.  I mean, come on — they still don’t even bother to list #7 Xavier.  Vegas is telling us here that any bet against UNC is basically a sucker bet.  They might be right.  But they’re certainly willing to reward you like crazy if you feel adventurous enough to bet against the Tar Heels, should they falter. 

Share this story

Vegas Odds – Preseason Check-In

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2008

You may recall that during the summer – after the NBA Draft was completed and team rosters were essentially set - we did a quick check-in with Vegas futures odds on the winner of the 2009 National Championship.  There were no surprises – Carolina was a clear #1, but now that we’re in the preseason and season start is just over a week away, we thought it would make sense to do another check-in to determine if the futures market has seen fit to make any changes.  Comments after the table…

Source:  TheGreek.com

Thoughts.

  • As you can see, the AP Poll and the futures market don’t seem to correlate much outside of the #1 Tar Heels.  If you believe the pollsters know what they’re doing (a fair argument given last year’s top four teams making the F4), then there is tremendous value in grabbing UConn, Louisville, UCLA, Pitt, and a few other top teams.  In fact, if you leave UNC off your card, and instead you take the AP #2 through #15 teams plus the field, you would have a great shot at winning something back if the Heels should falter along the way. 
  • Only 14 of the 59 teams listed sustained a change since July 29, which may represent a market inefficiency or a general lack of interest during the offseason, we’re not sure which.  Of the 14, only four (UNC, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Marquette) showed an uptick.  The other ten, which includes UConn, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio St., Notre Dame, Arizona St., BC, Kansas St. and Stanford, all fell in value. 
  • Are SEC East brethren Florida and Tennessee really getting that much action to justify their odds at +1200?  Unranked Ohio St. at +1500?  Team Turmoil Arizona at +3000?  Can we short these numbers?  On the other end, Gonzaga at +4000, Baylor and Washington at +6000, Wake Forest at +8000?  With the talent on those teams, why not take a bender on any or all of them?
  • One bet we sure wouldn’t take – Indiana, even if you gave us a million to one odds.  Isiah Thomas and Quinn Buckner aren’t walking through that door for Tom Crean and Kyle Taber.
  • If we were filling out a card, we might be intrigued by UConn, Notre Dame, Michigan St., Gonzaga and Wake Forest at those numbers.  Just sayin…

We’ll continue tracking this table throughout the season.

Share this story

Vegas Odds Check-In – Summer Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 29th, 2008

We’re quite sure Vegas Watch can analyze this much better than we can, but we stumbled across the idea on his site last week and decided to throw up this post showing what the current Vegas odds are for winning next April’s national championship.  Analysis to follow table…

Source:  TheGreek.com

Thoughts. 

  • It’s a LOCK!!  Given the unpredictable nature of the NCAA Tournament (much less the regular season), getting +350 on a team like North Carolina is as close to a lock as it gets.  We wish we had access to the summer 2001 Duke and summer 2006 Florida numbers to see if they were higher than UNC’s.  Regardless, we still think this bet is a little high; if it were in the +400 to +500 range, we’d like it a lot better. 
  • Overvalued.   Unless Coach K has figured out how to bring Dwight Howard with him from Beijing to Durham next season, we don’t see how Duke can be +800.  Same with Florida at +1000 – is there any skilled size whatsoever on these two teams?  Kentucky at +1500????  Patrick Patterson and whose army?    
  • Undervalued.  Because only UNC, Duke and Florida are currently higher than the Field (+1200), we see quite a few undervalued teams out there right now.   Let’s start with UConn and Louisville at +1200 each.  These two teams are probably the most well-suited to challenge the Carolina juggernaut next year with their size, strength and athleticism.   How about Tennessee and good grief have we learned nothing yet about Ben Howland – UCLA!!! – at +1500?  There is a ton of talent remaining on those two squads.  Mid-majors Davidson at +2500 and Gonzaga at +4000 also seem like decent values – both teams should be stacked next year… and if Carolina falters somewhere along the way, who knows?
  • Indiana.  Wow, for only $1, you can win $500 if Tom Crean, Kyle Taber and company manage to pull off the most miraculous sporting turnaround in the history of organized sports.  Pass. 
  • Your Team Isn’t Good Enough to Post Odds.  55 of the listed 59 teams are from BCS conferences.  Other luminaries such as Colorado, Virginia, Iowa St., Rutgers, Depaul, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Penn St., Auburn, South Carolina and Oregon St. were missing from the list.  Actually, we would have loved to have seen what odds Oregon St. would have gotten (0-18 in the Pac-10 last year).  Ok, so we’re joking about the above schools being included, but no Xavier? - they’re usually solid.   
Share this story

Vegas Odds: Check-In

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2007

Now that the all the recruits in the Class of 2007 have been tidily gift-wrapped for their respective schools (Patrick Patterson, the lone remaining unsigned star of the class, announced for Kentucky today), we can take a look to see how that impacts the public (read: Vegas) perception of how good teams will be in 2007-08. Granted, we won’t have a true snapshot until the early entry withdrawal deadline has passed next month (June 18), but this should give us a bit of insight into how each team is being evaluated in light of their existing losses and incoming classes (for entertainment purposes only, of course).

05.16.07 Vegas Odds Source: sportsbook.com

Undervalued – with the two best bets at 11:2, it’s obvious that Vegas doesn’t believe there is a prohibitive favorite at this point. Still, getting those odds on UCLA or North Carolina seems like a solid play – we’d expect both of those to go lower as the season progresses next year. If you’re willing to bet that Hibbert & Green return to Georgetown next year, getting the Hoyas at 20:1 is a steal. Tennessee, with a maturing trio of stud sophomores (R. Smith, J. Smith, Chism) and everyone else – ahem, Chris Lofton, returning, is a joke at 40:1. Same with Oregon at 45:1 – yes, they lost Aaron Brooks, but the core of this elite eight team with Hairston, Leunen and Porter, is back. Texas at 60:1 is another steal – they lost Durant, but they keep a young and very talented nucleus of Augustin, Abrams and James in Austin. A couple of SEC schools – Arkansas and Alabama – also jump out at us at 100:1 because they each return a lot of young talent.

Overvalued - what was first noticeable was Ohio St. at 35:1, even allowing for the possibility that Daequan Cook returns to Columbus. Cook + Lewis and Lighty, even with another top five (but clearly lesser) recruiting class coming in, simply isn’t enough to substantiate odds this low. Duke and UConn at 40:1? Seriously? Yes, they’re both returning a lot and Duke at least has an excellent recruiting class incoming, but did anyone watch these teams this year? – this is a “name” pick all the way. We don’t mean to pick on the Big Ten, but Wisconsin loses several of its starters, including its all-american Tucker, and it’s at 75:1? Sell that one if you can. Same with Florida at 75:1 – no way on earth Billy’s kids make a run next year, but check back in 2009. Virginia Tech lost its best two players and its top recruit – 100:1 seems kind here. Another ACC squad – NC State – Vegas realizes this team was 5-11 in the conference last year, and loses its best player (Atsur), right? Maybe they got confused and were putting odds for NCSU winning the NIT, although I didn’t see South Carolina on the list. And everyone knows that no NIT list is complete without the Cocks. (correction: South Carolina is listed at 200:1 odds for the NCAA, not NIT, championship)

Share this story