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.


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:


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. 

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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…



  • 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.

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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…



  • 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.   
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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:

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)

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