In this era of expanded national sportsbooks, such as DraftKings and BetMGM, bettors of all interests have more readily available options to choose from when making wagers. Leagues and sports that at one time were difficult to acquire lines for are now regularly offered alongside the NFL or NBA.
College baseball is one of those sports on the rise from a gambling perspective. Daily wagers are easy to make and its College World Series futures board offers the same attractive odds we just had for March Madness.
An expanded college baseball market at this point in the spring is a welcome addition for many bettors who are turned off by the length of the MLB season and the grind required to handicap it on a regular basis.
So here is some information to help bettors get involved with college baseball and an eye toward the futures board.
From a media and betting standpoint, college baseball is still a niche sport. That could be advantageous for information-minded bettors who can occasionally find themselves ahead of the books, which are focused on other sports. The reason is information, data and statistics for college baseball are less prevalent than they are for other sports. So bettors must first start the handicapping process by actively acquiring information from the key content providers.
Bookmark the site D1baseball.com. It is by far the best source of college baseball information. While ESPN.com and CBSSports.com are sometimes slow in updating college baseball scores, this site has them all broken down by conference. The same with detailed team and player statistics available on one platform. Also, its rankings are generally accepted as the most accurate and the one used by the other sports networks.
On Twitter, every college baseball bettor must follow @11point7. This account is strong at tracking trends in both the large and smaller conferences.
While on Twittter, consider creating another account just to follow the pages of as many DI teams as possible. Schools tweet out information first and then put it on their websites.
Team Twitter pages are the go-to news source for lineup changes and injury updates. A Twitter account devoted just to this information will make it a convenient, one-stop location for bettors to get timely college baseball information because it won’t be tweeted by the other major sports networks they usually rely on.
A final media note, betting on college baseball has grown in popularity because games are a major programming component for the ESPN+ , SEC, ACC and Big Ten networks.
For those not familiar with college baseball, teams in those aforementioned power conferences that have their own networks tend to be the best programs and the ones that merit the most attention for both daily wagers and CWS futures. Just like with football, handicapping a national championship winner starts in the SEC.
Because of the season Tennessee is putting together, there’s no debate about the leading CWS contender. The Volunteers are 31-1 and 12-0 in the SEC. Their odds (+ 600 BetMGM; + 450 DraftKings) are a fraction of what they were just a month ago, but it will be hard for college baseball bettors not to have at least a piece of the Vols in their futures portfolio.
Tennessee isn’t as good as Gonzaga basketball at the top of the futures board, but the Vols are good enough to blow through the best conference in the country.
What makes college baseball different is that lower-profile programs are still in play. This season Southern Mississippi, Dallas Baptist, Gonzaga and Texas State aren’t just the “little guys” like they would be called in basketball. All are legitimate contenders because of their combination of pitching and offense.
Favoring the favorites
After handicapping and betting college baseball for the last few years, my daily wagering process is much different than how I approach other sports. My attention — and usually my units — goes first toward the favorite.
Overwhelmingly, the team listed as a favorite has a clear advantage in pitching, both for starters and relievers. That creates an issue, though, as it relates to return on investment. Teams tend to play three-game series, and that one loss by the favorite could easily wipe out the thin profit made in the two wins.
Since betting underdogs and emphasizing value is difficult with this sport, I recommend keeping your bets to smaller-unit plays to avoid unneeded exposure. Consider a goal of having enough profit over the course of the regular season to use during the early rounds of the tournament and the CWS when handicapping changes because teams will be using their top pitchers consistently. During the regular season, there are times even the best teams basically punt on some games in order to save pitching.
That doesn’t happen during the tournament.
A time to look at dogs is during midweek nonconference matchups. Even during the heart of the conference schedule, where we are now, teams occasionally play squads outside their conference before big weekend series. The favorite could be saving its better pitchers for the weekend and not prioritizing the midweek game.
Don’t blindly bet the dog here because the stronger teams tend to schedule weaker ones during the week. It is just one of the better times to consider the dog by looking to see if the favored team is pitching someone who doesn’t normally start.
In college baseball, the best commodity a team possesses is the depth and availability of its bullpen.
Another point to mention as it relates to daily wagers for college baseball and why the money flows toward the favorite is books like DraftKings and BetMGM rarely, if ever, offer run lines. The game offerings are totals and moneylines.
Friday night lights
Friday night games are the showcase of the college baseball week, and it tends to be a battle of No. 1. pitchers. That’s another reason the favorites are often the best betting option.
The stronger team tends to have an advantage at the top of the rotation.
When betting Friday night games, the focus should be on the No. 1’s recent performance and history against the opposing team. Also, look at how many innings the top starter tends to go in games. The longer it is should indicate how much the manager prioritizes a win in those games.
There is another important reason to examine the pitching matchups for the start of a weekend series. Some managers have been going contrarian with the Friday night matchup and moving their top starter to the Sunday game instead. This move is often done by the dog, which is looking to avoid a sweep and trying to guarantee at least one win in the series.
If a bettor sees a team’s normal No. 1 not pitching on a Friday, look at that side for a Sunday game bet. Place that bet as early as possible Sunday morning.
Another angle to consider is to back the team that has already lost the first two games of a series. This team tends to be desperate to avoid a sweep and keep its place in the conference standings. There is more motivation for the manager to rely on key pitchers compared with the other team, which already achieved its intended goal of winning a series.
League standings in late April are important to analyze because many conferences include just a select amount of teams in the postseason tournament.
Just a quick tutorial on how the NCAA tournament works. It begins with 64 teams (30 automatic bids, 34 at-large). Those teams are broken down into 16 regionals of four schools that play a double-elimination format. Those regional champs move on to a best-of-three series in the super regionals to determine the eight squads that go to Omaha for the CWS.
The top eight teams in the selection process will host a super regional site if they advance past the opening round. This is important because eight of the last 10 CWS winners have hosted a super regional.
Ultimately the eight CWS teams will be dominated by the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12. Because of this trend, schools in these conferences should dominate your futures plays.
Coastal Carolina, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton made it to Omaha over the past five tournaments, but the power conferences mentioned above have produced 11 of the last 12 winners (Coastal Carolina won it all in 2016).
There really isn’t a place for sleepers, Cinderellas or under-the-radar teams in the CWS. It is heavily skewed toward favorites from tournament start to finish.
There is still time to get involved with this dominant Tennessee team because odds on the Vols are likely to drop in May and into June before the CWS.
Last year, Vanderbilt entered the CWS as the favorite at + 275.
Don’t go all in on Tennessee just because of what it is doing now. Since 1999, the top-seeded team in the tournament failed to win the title. Still, it would be difficult from a betting standpoint to bypass the Vols in the futures market.
Vanderbilt (+ 1500 DraftKings; + 2500 BetMGM) is once again one of the top choices this season, but the pricing seems to indicate some brand-name bias. Vandy has dropped three straight conference series as the Commodores struggle to score runs.
Vanderbilt’s presence still high on the odds board has created value for others. Oregon State (+ 1000 DraftKings and BetMGM) is second on the board and should contend for another CWS title. Another top-of-the-board option worth a play is Arkansas (+ 1200 DraftKings; + 1000 BetMGM). The Razorbacks return a number of players from last year’s squad that sat atop the rankings for most of the season before losing a decisive Game 3 in the super regionals.
Miami has quickly moved up the rankings, and oddsmakers are just catching up with the Hurricanes. The + 2500 at both DraftKings and BetMGM is a good price and one worth taking now. At the start of the week, the Hurricanes were even better at + 4000. Take that as a sign that there is plenty of value on this odds board for those who follow the sport closely.
Oddsmakers have also been somewhat slow in recognizing the success of Oklahoma State (+ 1800 DraftKings and BetMGM) and Texas Tech (+ 2000 DraftKings; + 1600 BetMGM). Value remains on these two squads.
A final CWS value play is Virginia (+ 2000 DraftKings; + 1400 BetMGM). The Cavs lost three straight to surging Miami and can be bought on the dip.
Treat the CWS futures like the college basketball tournament odds board. Get a ticket on a few teams with good value that can be used for hedging purposes along the way.
Then once the NCAA tournament begins, supplement these futures with daily wagers on the different series.