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Big Ten champ Michigan still working to get betting market's respect

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

Michigan's Moritz Wagner gets to the ball ahead of Purdue's Carsen Edwards in the Big Ten title game.
© USA Today Sports Images

Michigan’s magical grand finale brings down the curtain for the Big Ten on Broadway. Plus, a statement win for dangerous Cincinnati and more basketball as Championship Week begins in VSiN City.

Big Ten Tournament: Michigan makes it 4 wins in 4 days to claim championship crown
That was one of the most dominant major conference postseason tournaments we’ve seen in a while. And it came from a #5 seed that had to survive a four-game gauntlet in four days to cut down the nets.

Sure, the opener against Iowa was a bit shaky. After that, a rout of previously red-hot Nebraska…no contest against #1 tournament seed and potential #1 Dance seed Michigan State, and then another party against #3 tournament seed Purdue, who also had a shot to earn a #1 Dance seed. Michigan was on a whole other level with sharp offensive execution that continued to find easy buckets inside. After shooting 55% from inside the arc against Michigan State with only 9 turnovers, check out what the Wolverines pulled off Sunday. 

#15 Michigan (plus 4) 75, #8 Purdue 66
Two-point Pct: Michigan 62%, Purdue 55% 
Three Pointers: Michigan 8/23, Purdue 4/17
Free Throws: Michigan 15/25, Purdue 12/17
Rebounds: Michigan 26, Purdue 38
Turnovers: Michigan 5, Purdue 11
Estimated Possessions: Michigan 65, Purdue 65
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Michigan 9-13-14, Purdue 5-4-3
Market Watch: For the second straight day, the opening line from oddsmakers gave Michigan credit for improved recent play. For the second straight day, “the market” wasn’t buying it and jumped in on the opponent. An opener of Purdue -3.5 was bet up quickly to -4.5, and even -5 for awhile in some spots. Late dog money came in before tipoff to drop the line back to four. Hard to say which elements played a role in the temporary rise from Purdue -3.5 to Purdue -5. Some quants being stubborn about perceived talent levels…the public loving to bet highly ranked favorites that “seem” cheap…and the guess from some that Michigan would hit a wall in its 4-in-4 scenario.  

Michigan shot 18 of 29 inside the arc, with many buckets coming in the form of dunks or layups off textbook pick-and-rolls. And only five giveaways under the spotlight when fatigue should have been turning into an issue. 

You can make the case that fatigue WAS an issue in Michigan’s prior “defense and rebounding” strengths. The Wolverines were also victimized for some easy baskets, and got crushed on the boards. Didn’t matter. Purdue fell back to earth from long range (4 of 17 here, after nailing 11 of 21 vs. Penn State). 

Even with great straight up records, both Michigan State and Purdue had shown vulnerabilities in recent action. We’ve been saying variations of “there are no superpowers” for weeks. Might be time to consider Michigan as a late super-surger super power just in time for the Big Dance. Using our “market” Power Ratings scale, Michigan just played about 20 points better than a team in the mid 70’s (Nebraska), then about 10 points better per day than two teams in the mid 80’s (championship caliber on our scale). That’s mid-90’s “level of play” performances on three consecutive days. 

Big Ten estimated “market” Power Ratings: Purdue 86, Michigan State 86, Michigan 82, Ohio State 82, Penn State 78, Maryland 76, Nebraska 76, Indiana 76, Wisconsin 76, Iowa 74, Northwestern 74, Illinois 73, Minnesota 71, Rutgers 68.

Will be awhile before we see how much respect Michigan gets in the Dance. It’s conceivable that they’re the best team in the conference “right now” but the market won’t price it that way. Years of “experts” saying “don’t fall pretty to recency bias” might allow this Michigan point spread run to continue. Nine straight wins for the Wolverines, 8-1 against market prices. The covers (going backward from Sunday) were by 13, 16, 14, 23, 13, 8.5, 3.5, and 5.5 points. The non-cover was in the overtime win over Iowa that started Michigan’s New York adventure. 

Purdue is a less than awesome 5-4 straight up its last nine games, and 1-11-2 against inflated spreads its last 14 games (or 1-12-1 ATS if you use the late Saturday closing line of -8.5 vs. Penn State). 

Let’s stack it this way:
Michigan is 8-1 ATS its last nine
Michigan State is 2-8-2 ATS its last 12
Purdue is 1-12-1 ATS its last 14

Given that Michigan just throttled the others on a neutral court, it’s fairly reasonable to think that Michigan is the real “85 or 86” in Power Ratings, while Michigan State and Purdue are just 81-82 in a world of market stubbornness. 

American Athletic Basketball: #10 Cincinnati overcomes #11 Wichita State and loud crowd to earn #1 seed in AAC tournament 
Truly a statement win for the Bearcats, who pulled off a small upset while playing inside what sounded like an airplane engine. Wichita State fans showed up loud and proud for the CBS decibel meter. Made for a great show. But it was also the most recent flunked test for the Shockers after their offseason upgrade of conferences. 
#10 Cincinnati (plus 3) 62 #11 Wichita State 61
Two-point Pct: Cincinnati 46%, Wichita State 52%
Three Pointers: Cincinnati 6/21, Wichita State 6/23
Free Throws: Cincinnati 10/15, Wichita State 11/15
Rebounds: Cincinnati 35, Wichita State 37
Turnovers: Cincinnati 5, Wichita State 9
Estimated Possession: Cincinnati 60, Wichita State 62
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Cincinnati 4-6-5, Wichita State 17-12-11
Market Watch: A lot of movement here. Wichita State opened at only -1.5, with oddsmakers apparently respecting the computer rankings and Cincinnati’s revenge angle. Bettors bet like it was a gift…quickly driving the line to WSU -3 and -3.5. Sharp Cincinnati money did come in late bringing us back to the three…with a few closers out there at Cincy plus 2.5. 

The computers had it right in terms of superiority. Cincinnati enjoyed riding time even though it had to sweat the ending. Evenly matched performances…with turnovers being the key difference. And, if you didn’t watch…only giving the ball away FIVE times in such an important game in front of THAT boisterous crowd was quite an accomplishment. Shooting wasn’t as sharp as Michigan/Purdue. But, this was arguably the more entertaining game of the two because of that home crowd intensity. Tough to duplicate at neutral sites, or in the Final Four in spacious domes. 

We mentioned Wichita State has been flunking tests. The Shockers closed the season 8-13 ATS over their last 21 games. Two of the eight covers came against East Carolina and South Florida, who are horrible this season. So, 6-13 ATS the last 19 against teams who could walk and chew gum. Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati was their third at home this season…a site where the Shockers used to be virtually unbeatable. 

There’s a lot to like about Cincinnati heading into the tournaments. We’re not going to compare one win (that only avenged a home loss to the same team) with what Michigan did in New York. But, bettors should be aware that the Bearcats were a unanimous top six team in respected computers before going to Wichita and winning outright. Not a Dance dark horse, a legitimate championship contender. 

Also Sunday in the American Athletic Conference:
South Florida (plus 8) upset free-falling SMU 65-54
Memphis (-13.5) beat East Carolina 90-70
Tulsa (-1.5) beat Temple 76-58
Houston (-15) only beat Connecticut 81-71
Central Florida (-7) beat Tulane 60-51

American Athletic estimated “market” Power Ratings: Wichita State 83, Cincinnati 83, Houston 78, Temple 72, Central Florida 70, Tulsa 70, SMU 69, Memphis 68, Connecticut 66, Tulane 66, East Carolina 58, South Florida 58.

You saw in our “market watch” that offshore oddsmakers considered Cincinnati as the superior side before “the market” bet the game toward neutral court equality. Might be a sign that Cincinnati will be priced more like an 84 next week and beyond, or that Wichita State will be more like an 82. Houston is also headed to the NCAA’s. Anybody else would need a miracle week in the league tournament. 

Pac 12 Basketball: Could only two teams get Dance invites from this storied conference? 
We ran out of space in Saturday’s expanded bonus issue. Decided to save the Pac 12 for a Monday recap to make sure we could get estimated “market” Power Ratings to you from all the “major” conferences in advance of your tournament handicapping. First, the results from Saturday…

Stanford (plus 8.5) upset Arizona State 84-83
Arizona (-17.5) only beat California 66-54
Oregon State (-3.5) won at Washington State 92-67
Oregon (-3) won at Washington 72-64
UCLA (plus 5) upset USC 83-72
Utah (-9) beat Colorado 64-54

Now, our estimated Ratings. 

Pac 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: Arizona 82, Arizona State 79, USC 79 at home…78 on the road, UCLA 78 at home…77 on the road, Oregon 78, Utah 78 at home…77 on the road, Stanford 74, Colorado 73 at home…72 on the road, Washington 72, Oregon State 74, Washington State 67, California 67.

Nobody below Arizona is making much of a case lately for inclusion in the Dance. Arizona State peaked before the New Year (1-4 straight up and ATS its last five, 4-12-2 ATS its last 18). USC lost its finale as a home favorite to archrival UCLA. A bunch of bubble teams need to impress this week at the P12 tourney in Las Vegas. Should make for some exciting “NIT” caliber games at the very least, with Bill Walton trying to tell you they’re epics for the history books. 

College Basketball: Estimating Power Ratings for the auto-bids 
You regulars know we’ve been focusing on the major TV conferences here in VSiN City. Our estimated “market” Power Ratings should be within a bucket for everyone given the work put in. Teams like Murray State or Lipscomb? Off our radar!

We want you to have as complete a set as possible of estimates heading into Selection Sunday. Ideally, you can ballpark a point spread as soon as you see each matchup announced. With that in mind, we’re going to do our best to estimate where those lesser known auto-bid teams would fall on the scale. To do that, a quick glance at the closest major conference teams to each entry…along with some back channel chats with sharp investors. 

Loyola-Chicago 75 (the best from the Missouri Valley after Arch Madness)
Murray State 72 (upset Belmont from a dangerous conference to advance)
Lipscomb 65 (upset Florida Gulf Coast)
Radford 64 (in off a buzzer-beater)

We’ll update the list as more teams join the brackets. Loyola is likely to be a dangerous floater (as Missouri Valley teams often are) in a 12-5 or 11-6 type matchup. 

NBA: Even without Brandon Ingram, the Lakers stayed hot with a weekend win in San Antonio
Didn’t have a chance to get to this developing story in our Sunday report either. We started compiling a list after the Lakers routed Atlanta. They finished out the road trip with outright victories over much more impressive opponents. 

LAL Since the ASB
Lakers (-4) beat Dallas 124-102
Lakers (-1.5) beat Sacramento 113-108
Lakers (-2) won at Atlanta 123-104
Lakers (plus 5) won at Miami 131-113
Lakers (plus 4) won at San Antonio 116-112

That’s 5-0 straight up and ATS, beating the market by 18, 3.5, 17, 23, and 8 points. Brandon Ingram missed the Spurs game, but the Lakers still rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to get the win. 

This week…
Monday: Portland at the LA Lakers
Wednesday: Orlando at the LA Lakers
Friday: LA Lakers at Denver
Sunday: Cleveland at the LA Lakers

That matchup with the Cavs could be really fun because the Lakers have been blowing past soft defenses. 

Sunday NBA: Bucks come back from way down to stun Sixers 
Wow! Two recent stories collided here…as Philadelphia’s continuing climb up the Power Ratings (keyed by a 9-2 record the last 11 games, 7-3-1 ATS) ran into what seemed to be a recent Milwaukee collapse (four straight losses, 1-6 ATS the last seven). Philadelphia scored 43 in the first quarter Sunday night, 72 in the first half. At 81-62 with 10:15 to go in the third quarter, this summary was going to write itself. 

BOOM! Milwaukee would win the rest of the third quarter 31-5 to take command. The shell-shocked Sixers never regained their footing. 

Milwaukee (plus 1) 118, Philadelphia 110 
Two-point Pct: Philadelphia 60%, Milwaukee 51%
Three Pointers: Philadelphia 14/28, Milwaukee 10/23
Free Throws: Philadelphia 18/22, Milwaukee 14/22
Rebounds: Philadelphia 32, Milwaukee 38
Turnovers: Philadelphia 26, Milwaukee 13
Estimated Possessions: Philadelphia 101, Milwaukee 103

Twenty-six turnovers! Wild, fun game to watch outside of that slop. It’s like…both teams know they’re playoff caliber, and want to bring that kind of intensity to this kind of game. Yet, the actual pressure of the playoffs isn’t there yet. It’s okay to gamble, and try to do amazing things. That leads to scoring sprints and electric sequences worthy of an all-star game. Philly shot 60% on deuces and 50% on treys when they weren’t turning the ball over. 

Philadelphia must work on fundamentals if it wants to play to its recent Power Rating come playoff time. 

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 85, Philadelphia 83, Cleveland 82, Boston 82, Washington 80, Miami 79, Indiana 79, Milwaukee 79, Charlotte 79, Detroit 78, New York 75, Orlando 74, Brooklyn 73, Atlanta 72, Chicago 71.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 90, Houston 88, Oklahoma City 83, Portland 82, San Antonio 81, Utah 81, New Orleans 81, Denver 81 at home…80 on the road, Minnesota 80, LA Lakers 77, LA Clippers 77, Dallas 75, Memphis 73, Phoenix 73, Sacramento 71. 

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