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Handicapping power conferences for final 2 weeks

By Steve Makinen  () 

Do the best college basketball teams in the country tend to play their best down the stretch? The best teams in the NFL typically play well in December. Shouldn’t it be the same for college hoops? Especially with so many league titles yet to be determined and the seeding for postseason tournaments not sorted out? Power conference teams have a ton to play for in the final two weeks of the regular season. And with so much on the line, the handicapping strategy should change a bit. Oddsmakers often will sway their lines slightly to reflect teams’ must-win mentality in key spots. Alternatively, they may shade teams that are playing out the string, already looking forward to the offseason.

The point spread is the great equalizer for bookmakers, and with so much known about teams by now, bettors looking to cash tickets in the final two weeks should be aware of some extra trends and systems that have produced strong results in recent years. Part of that should include late-season performance, especially when coaching situations remain consistent.

I will break down the results of the final two weeks of the regular season for the power conferences, looking for spots in which we might be able to profit. I got a ton of great feedback on a similar report last year after the three top teams I uncovered — Oregon, Villanova and Virginia — combined to go 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS down the stretch, while the bottom teams — DePaul, Georgetown, Rutgers and TCU — went 3-12 SU and 6-8-1 ATS.

You’ll see some definitive angles to use over the next couple of weeks, primarily as they pertain to home-court advantage, pace of play and recent results between teams. Also, certain teams have thrived and others have tanked at this time of the year.

The results shown cover games dating back to 2015, or the last five seasons. The final two weeks of this year’s regular season would include games between Feb. 24 and March 8, so “Point Spread Weekly” readers will have 12 days to take advantage of the findings.

Top teams

A “top 10” of power conference teams have won 70% or more of their games in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years. They have combined to go 110-73-5 against the spread (60.1%) as well. They are:

— Kansas: 16-4 SU and 9-11 ATS

— Kentucky: 17-3 SU and 10-9-1 ATS

— Michigan State: 14-5 SU and 13-6 ATS

— Oregon: 17-1 SU and 14-3-1 ATS

— Purdue: 14-5 SU and 9-9-1 ATS

— Seton Hall: 13-5 SU and 12-5-1 ATS

— Utah: 12-4 SU and 9-6-1 ATS

— Villanova: 14-4 SU and 10-8 ATS

— Virginia: 17-3 SU and 12-8 ATS

— West Virginia: 14-6 SU and 12-8 ATS

Three teams have gone 70% or better ATS in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years:

— Oregon: 14-3 ATS

— Seton Hall: 12-5 ATS

— Virginia Tech: 14-5 ATS

Bottom teams

Eleven power conference teams have won 30% or fewer of their games in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years, and their combined ATS record is an ugly 82-118-5 (41%). Those teams are:

— Alabama: 5-15 SU and 6-14 ATS

— Boston College: 5-15 SU and 9-9-2 ATS

— DePaul: 5-14 SU and 9-10 ATS

— Georgetown: 5-13 SU and 7-11 ATS

— Missouri 6-14 SU and 9-11 ATS

— Nebraska: 4-13 SU and 5-11-1 ATS

— Pittsburgh: 3-16 SU and 5-14 ATS

— Rutgers: 4-13 SU and 7-9-1 ATS

— St. John’s: 5-13 SU and 5-12-1 ATS

— TCU: 5-15 SU and 9-10-1 ATS

— Washington State: 5-13 SU but 11-7 ATS

Four teams have gone worse than 30% ATS in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years:

— Pittsburgh: 5-14 ATS

— St. John’s: 5-12 ATS

— UCLA: 5-12 ATS

— Washington: 3-15 ATS

Best home teams

In addition to four other teams that are better than 90% outright at home in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years, six teams have gone undefeated at home in that span. They have combined to go 34-20-1 against the spread (63%) as well. They are:

— Kansas: 10-0 SU but 3-7 ATS

— Kentucky: 10-0 SU and 7-3 ATS

— Oklahoma: 10-0 SU and 7-3 ATS

— Oregon: 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS

— Purdue: 9-0 SU and 4-4-1 ATS

— West Virginia: 10-0 SU and 8-2 ATS

Worst home teams

Most of the teams on the bottom list above have enjoyed little to no home-court advantage late in the season. Six power conference teams have failed to win 40% of their home games outright in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years. Their combined ATS record is a miserable 18-36-1 (33%).

— Alabama: 3-7 SU and 2-8 ATS

— Georgetown: 3-6 SU and 2-7 ATS

— Oregon State: 3-5 SU and 2-6 ATS

— Pittsburgh: 3-6 SU and 3-6 ATS

— Rutgers: 3-6 SU and 4-4-1 ATS

— TCU: 3-7 SU and 5-5 ATS

Best road teams

The ability to win on the road late in the season is typically a strong trait for the best teams across all sports. Same goes for college basketball. Four power conference teams have won at least 70% of their road games in the final two weeks of the regular season since 2015:

— Kentucky: 7-3 SU but 3-6-1 ATS

— North Carolina: 8-3 SU and 6-4-1 ATS

— Oregon: 11-1 SU and 9-2 ATS

— Virginia: 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS

Worst road teams

Ten teams have won one or no games on the road in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years. That is a pretty sorry resume. The combined ATS record of these teams is also not pretty at 26-63-2 (29.2%).

— Boston College: 1-9 SU and 4-4-2 ATS

— DePaul: 1-8 SU and 3-6 ATS

— Mississippi State: 1-9 SU and 4-5 ATS

— Nebraska: 0-9 SU and 1-8 ATS

— Northwestern: 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS

— Oklahoma 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS

— Pittsburgh: 0-10 SU and 2-8 ATS

— Rutgers: 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS

— St. John’s: 1-9 SU and 2-8 ATS

— Stanford: 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS

Best revenge teams

An angle I looked into more deeply this season was revenge, or how a team responded after losing the first game against a conference opponent earlier in the season. These three teams performed best in the final two weeks of the regular season since 2015 when playing with revenge motivation:

— Florida State: 3-0 SU and 2-0-1 ATS

— Kansas: 5-1 SU and 3-3 ATS

— Oregon: 3-0 SU and 3-0 ATS

Worst revenge teams

Alternatively, revenge hasn’t been a good motivating factor for these teams:

— Pittsburgh: 0-3 SU and 0-3 ATS

— Stanford: 0-6 SU and 3-3 ATS

— TCU: 1-11 SU and 5-6-1 ATS

— USC: 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS

— Wake Forest: 1-7 SU and 4-4 ATS

On totals: Over and Under teams

Six power conference teams have gone Over the total in at least 70% of their games in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years:

— Michigan: 12-5 Over

— Oregon State: 14-4 Over

— Rutgers: 12-5 Over

— Texas Tech: 14-5 Over

— Villanova: 13-5 Over

— Xavier: 11-4 Over

Six teams have gone Under the total in at least 70% of their games in the final two weeks of the regular season over the last five years:

— Alabama: 15-5 Under

— Duke: 15-5 Under

— Notre Dame: 13-3 Under

— Oklahoma: 13-5 Under

— Pittsburgh: 16-3 Under

— Tennessee: 14-6 Under

Home-court advantage by conference

All six power conferences show results indicating that home-court advantage is quite important in the latter part of the season. In fact, over the last five years, the only conference that hasn’t shown home teams to be a profitable wager has been the SEC at 49.6% ATS. Each of the other five is at least 53.1%. Last year I suggested that, in the absence of other key information, simply betting the home team in these games would have been a sound strategy. Bettors who heeded that advice would have gone 91-47 SU and 83-52-3 ATS, good for 61.5% and a profit of $2,580 on $100 wagers! Here are the home records for each conference in order of ATS success:

— Big Ten home teams: 83-48 SU and 74-52 ATS (58.7%)

— Pac-12 home teams: 70-36 SU and 59-45 ATS (56.7%)

— Big East home teams: 56-35 SU and 50-39 ATS (56.2%)

— ACC home teams: 91-49 SU and 73-62 ATS (54.1%)

— Big 12 home teams: 71-27 SU and 51-45 ATS (53.1%)

— SEC home teams: 85-55 SU and 68-69 ATS (49.6%)

Some definitive trends also have formed on the scoring totals for each conference in late- season games. Here are the conferences in order of highest percentage of Over-the-total games:

— Big East: 53-37 Over (58.9%)

— Big Ten: 77-54 Over (58.8%)

— Big 12: 51-46 Over (52.6%)

— Pac-12: 56-50 Under (52.8%)

— SEC: 76-64 Under (54.3%)

— ACC: 85-52 Under (62%)

After I called attention to this ACC tendency last year, the games of 2019 down the stretch were 16-11-1 Under the total, 59.3%. This has remained a consistent trend.

Trends by line range

Some conference trends have developed specific to line range. Take a look:

— A definitive line point in ACC betting has been six points. ACC home teams in the -6 to + 6 range are 55-31 SU and 48-27-1 ATS (64%), a sign that home-court advantage can be the deciding factor in expectedly tight games. ACC hosts favored by more than six points have gone 45-5 SU but 20-26-4 ATS (43.5%), while those playing as underdogs of more than six points are an ugly 1-13 SU and 5-9 ATS (35.7%). On that latter trend, Under the total is also 12-2.

— Home favorites of more than 11 points in Big 12’s last two weeks’ games are 14-0 SU but just 2-12 ATS (14.3%). The best line range to play Big 12 home favorites has been in the -4.5 to -11 range, as they are 34-3 SU and 27-10 ATS (72.9%).

— Big East games with teams favored by double digits in the last two weeks of the regular season are on a 14-2 Over stretch heading into the 2020 games.

— Contrary to popular belief, laying a lot of points with hosts in the Big Ten has been a rewarding strategy, as those favored by seven points or more are on an amazing 29-3 SU and 26-5-1 ATS (83.8%) run since 2015.

— Sketchy SEC home teams, or those in the -1.5 to + 4.5 line range, have really struggled, going 9-23 SU and ATS (28.1%). Essentially, if the better team is the road team, don’t count on any home-court advantage tipping the scales.

Trends based on earlier-season matchups

Some noteworthy trends have formed in two power conferences hinging on the result of earlier games that season between two teams. Take a look:

— Big East home teams that lost the first game against an opponent by 15 points or more are on a 9-7 SU and 12-4 ATS (75%) run playing with this revenge motivation in the final two weeks of the regular season. Over the total is also 12-4 in these games.

— Big East home teams that won by six points or more in an earlier road game respond favorably as well, going 20-4 SU and 17-6-1 ATS (73.9%).

— Big Ten hosts that lost by more than 10 points in an earlier-season game have gone just 8-15 SU and 7-15-1 ATS (31.8%) in the rematch in the last two weeks of the regular season since 2015.

— Big Ten home teams going for regular-season sweeps have been a phenomenal wager in the last two weeks of the season, boasting a record of 25-6 SU and 22-7-2 ATS (75.8%) since 2015.

Use this information for the rest of the 2020 regular season for all the power conference teams to reap big rewards.

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