Vegas Odds to Win It All: Season Opener Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2013

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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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Morning Five: 05.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s now been nearly two days since the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes was won by Bill Self and Kansas. Reactions have run the gamut and we ran down a number of the better ones in yesterday’s M5. One we missed was this fantastic piece by Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star, who writes that everyone in the media and greater college basketball community needs to be very careful with the hyperbole when discussing Wiggins next season as the “Best High School Prospect Since Lebron.” Mellinger breaks down each of the best prep players in the last 10 years since Lebron, and the truth is that most of them can’t even sniff an NBA All-Star Game at this point. Some guys continue to progress, while others level off, and it’s a lesson worth remembering. Then he finishes things off with a fantastic anecdote about the humility of prep Lebron. Well worth a read.
  2. Once the ACC raided the Big East to lock up prized programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it appeared inevitable that the league would eventually move its showcase event — the ACC Tournament — to Gotham in short order. Those premonitions seem to be coming true, as ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the league is “thoroughly investigating” a move to the World’s Most Famous Arena at some point in the next several years. The ACC Tournament is scheduled to be in Greensboro in 2014 and 2015, but the options are open afterward, while the new Big East has contractually obligated MSG to hold its postseason tournament there until 2026. The crux of the matter is that the Big East will need to meet certain benchmarks to keep its deal with The Garden alive, and given just how shaky the league has become in the interim, many ACC insiders believe that the “legal ramifications” to move its own event will get worked out as a matter of course. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also an option too, of course, but make no mistake, the ACC Tournament will eventually reside at least part-time in NYC.
  3. While on the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week and SI.com‘s Andy Staples caught up with commissioner John Swofford to get the inside scoop on how he pulled off “the most chaotic reorganization in the history of major college sports.” It’s somewhat wonky and process-oriented, but it gives a true insider’s perspective on the importance of the Maryland defection and how the perceived likelihood that the Big Ten would seek to continue moving south (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) had Swofford failed to get his schools to agree to the media grant of rights deal in April. Although conference realignment has been disastrous to college basketball in some ways, we’re hoping like everyone else who loves the sport that this particular initiative holds steady and removes the incentive for continued raids for a good long while.
  4. Yesterday was a busy day on the transfer wire, as quite a few prominent names announced that they are on the move. The most surprising name was perhaps Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, who was projected to be a key cog in the Nittany Lions’ resurgence next season but has instead decided to leave school to pursue professional options. The least surprising decision was that Arizona State’s Evan Gordon announced that he is headed to Indiana, where as a graduate transfer he will be eligible to play immediately for Tom Crean. A few other notables: Minnesota’s Joe Coleman is leaving the Gophers; Tulane’s Josh Davis will land at San Diego State; and, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze will resurface at Charlotte. Davis will be eligible to play immediately at SDSU under the graduate transfer exception.
  5. Perhaps seeing a bit too much of Rick Pitino in the media lately, Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his own press conference yesterday to discuss the state of his program. And since we’ve already addressed the subject of hyperbole above, why not let Coach Cal bring us full circle: “We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game.” The perfection he refers to of course is the elusive-since-1976 undefeated season by a Division I men’s basketball team. Since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers ran the table 37 years ago, no team has won the national title with fewer than two losses (including Calipari’s 38-2 championship squad in 2011-12). Look, we’re never going to say never because as soon as you do something like that, a Florida Gulf Coast goes to the Sweet Sixteen. But there have been an awful lot of great teams pass through the years without a sniff of a perfect season, and the concept that a team led by a bunch of freshmen — even freshmen as good as UK’s group will be — can bring the noise every single night for up to 40 games next year is nothing more than fantasy. Still, the players don’t know that, so it’s another great marketing/strategic ploy from the master salesman living in Lexington. For what it’s worth, the Wildcats sit as a 4:1 (20%) or 5:1 (17%) favorite in Vegas to win next year’s title.
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Vegas Odds: Considering the NCAA Tournament Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

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 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 TheGreek.com.

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 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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Vegas Odds to Win It All: Quarterly Review

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2010

Now that we’re a solid month-plus into the season, we have a much better idea about which teams have the best chance to cut down the nets in Houston next April.  Whether measuring statistically through the Pomeroy ratings or the traditional way through our own two eyes, it doesn’t take much to know that, as an example, Connecticut is a lot better than everyone expected and North Carolina is a lot worse.  At least at this point in the season.  Luckily, Vegas has been keeping its watchful eye on the college basketball season as well, and the bookmakers have adjusted their futures lines accordingly.  Some of the results may surprise you.

We’ve presented the schools who have risen and fallen the most (greater than 1% since preseason) below, but if you’re interested in the entire list and our thoughts on these changes, click for it after the jump. 

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2010-11 RTC Season Preview: Complete Overview

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2010

Some of you may have noticed that we at RTC have been pretty busy getting lately. For those of you who have been keeping up to date on everything happening at RTC we would like to thank you. For those slackers who like to procrastinate in getting ready for the season (and you know who you are), we have put together this not-so-brief but comprehensive guide to get you ready for the season.

The RTC Top 25: Hard to pick against Duke this year, as all five of our voters were in agreement that Coach K’s Blue Devils are the team to beat.

Tweeting the Preview: Those of you who follow us on Twitter (@rushthecourt) are familiar with this feature, but for the past two weeks we have been Tweeting our rankings counting down every single Division I team in reverse order.

Preseason Bracketology: In conjunction with our run-down of the top 345 teams in Division 1 we also bring you the first of many installments of RTC Bracketology. [Ed. Note: If the seed doesn't correlate with rankings just remember that just because a team has a higher seed doesn't mean that they are better just that they have a better resume.]

RTC Conference Primers: Our countdown of every conference in Division I basketball with a breakdown of each (top players, teams, and what to watch for).

  1. Big 10
  2. Big East
  3. Big 12
  4. ACC
  5. SEC
  6. Pac-10
  7. Atlantic 10
  8. Mountain West
  9. Conference USA
  10. Missouri Valley
  11. Colonial
  12. WCC
  13. Horizon
  14. WAC
  15. MAAC
  16. Southern
  17. Big West
  18. Big Sky
  19. MAC
  20. OVC
  21. Sun Belt
  22. Atlantic Sun
  23. Southland
  24. Ivy
  25. America East
  26. Summit
  27. Northeast
  28. Patriot
  29. Big South
  30. MEAC
  31. SWAC

Where 2010-11 Happens: Our countdown of 30 things (via YouTube) to get us even more pumped up for the upcoming season.

  • It’s easiest to view all thirty clips in one place here.  And if you’re not excited about the season after watching that, well, you probably need to stick with arguing about the BCS.

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Morning Five: 05.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 27th, 2010

  1. A group in the Kansas athletic department has allegedly been bilking the university by an estimated $1-$3 million dollars in tickets to KU basketball and football games over the past half-decade as a result of a “blind spot” in the school’s auditing processes.  Over 17,000 basketball tickets and 2,000 football tickets were used in ways that included selling choice seats to brokers and offering freebies to neighbors.  This LA Times article about the two prominent SoCal ticket brokers who may have been involved in the scheme said other schools (unnamed) were also involved. Athletic Director Lew Perkins was not named in any of the allegations, but he is accepting responsibility for what transpired for happening on his watch.  It really hasn’t been a very good academic year in Lawrence, has it?
  2. The best part of this Gary Parrish article about loyalty (or lack thereof) among players and coaches?  John Brady and the word “coach” in the same sentence (three times).
  3. Big East consultant and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said yesterday that the conference is trying to be proactive with respect to dealing with expansion, if or when it comes to pass in the Big Ten.  He believes that the future success of the league ultimately will begin with the Big East’s long-standing relationship with ESPN.  We certainly don’t have the talent or experience to call his strategy into question, but at what point does ESPN reach saturation point with its multiple contracts with various leagues?
  4. We haven’t discussed the Ed O’Bannon ‘likeness’ case against the NCAA in a while, but it is moving forward in Oakland and some prognosticators say that several more big names will be joining the lawsuit soon.  Fanhouse asks if this case could end up becoming the NCAA’s Erin Brockovich, and they paint a compelling picture as to how it might come to pass.
  5. You know we love Vegas odds around here, so here are the very early lines you can get at Sportsbook.com as of now.  K-State, Georgetown, Missouri and Washington all look like good values.
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Vegas Odds at the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2010

We thought it would be interesting to see how the bookmakers in Vegas and beyond see the final sixteen teams of this year’s NCAA Tournament.  We’ll take a fairly simplistic look at this with some brief analysis after the jump, but we suggest that if you really want to delve into a greater detail of analysis behind these odds, you head over to Vegas Watch who will be breaking down each region throughout the week.  Here’s how the people who do this for a living handicap the remaining teams in the field.  We’ve broken it down into three categories (from left to right): percentage chance of making the Final Four, the Championship Game and winning the national title.

(ed. note: this was calculated prior to Truck Bryant’s injury for West Virginia)

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In Search of the Perfect Bracket…

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2010

Meet Alex Herrmann, a 17-year old Chicago-area kid who loves college basketball.  He is not to be confused with the late, great Alex Herrmann, a world-famous magician in the nineteenth century.

Herrmann the Magician, Part II (courtesy: Deadspin)

You would be forgiven if you were a little confused, though, as Herrmann the Younger is conjuring up a good amount of magic himself when it comes to filling out this year’s NCAA Tournament brackets.  An NBC Chicago report that came out today introduced the world to the teen who is making the seemingly impossible claim that he picked the entire first two rounds correctly (48-0) on his bracket.  The odds of doing that are approximately 13.5 million to one, which means that the autistic teenager needs to get Tom Cruise on the batphone to scoop him up and make a beeline for Vegas, stat.

His explanation for his incredible prescience (which we’ve never seen nor heard of before, ever).  “I’m good at math.  I’m kind of good at math and at stats I see on TV during the game.”  He’s either one lucky SOB or he has a crystal ball in that head of his because if his national champion pick of Purdue comes through then we’ll be taking the ’49 Buick Roadmaster by his house ourselves to get his picks for next year.  Here he is discussing his strategery.

Here’s the best part.  He entered his picks into the only CBS Sportsline game that doesn’t offer any prizes.  The other two CBS bracket games offer as much as $5,000 per perfect round while Yahoo! and others offer millions for a completely perfect card.  Right.  He may be a brilliant bracket-filler, but he could use a little work in the gaming department.  For a nominal fee, we’ll be happy to help him out with that.  Here’s his bracket.

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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.

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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)
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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.
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