In CBB rematches, first game needs close look

By Adam Burke  ( 

January 30, 2022 08:12 PM

’Tis the season for college basketball rematches. 

The heart of conference play has already featured some head-to-head matchups for a second time, but rematches will increase in frequency as we draw closer to conference tournaments and March Madness. We’re also still seeing some home-and-home series, an adjustment made to accommodate COVID-19 last season that has hung around.

Bettors often make the mistake of simply looking at the final score from the first game and betting the second game based on that outcome. One team just has to be better than the other one, right? There are many nuances to handicapping rematches, and I’ll share some of my thoughts here.

Compare the lines

The first step for me in any rematch is to compare the line from the first game to the second. You obviously have to account for the change of venue, but you’ll want to ask yourself if the line looks right when you do that. This is especially true in a rematch of a pretty recent game, when not a lot tends to change outside of an injury.

If a team was -3 at home and is suddenly -3 on the road a short time later, that raises red flags. It means I not only need to look deeper at the injury report, but I need to see if the games in between present any reason for such a significant adjustment.

You’ll also want to compare the totals. We had a really good example recently between St. John’s and Seton Hall. The teams played on Saturday in the first leg of a home-and-home. The total opened 156 and was bet down to 152.5. The game landed at 126 with Seton Hall’s 66-60 victory. The total for the second game opened 154 and was bet down to 151.5.

We had a total that was first bet down and then fell 30 points shy of the opening line, but the oddsmakers only slapped a two-point adjustment on the next matchup. That should be a sign to find out what happened in the first game. It should also be a sign of how the oddsmakers do not overreact to one data point.

Analyze the first matchup

It is critically important to go back to the first game and see what happened, especially if it fell nowhere near the expectation.

Using that same St. John’s-Seton Hall game, both teams had season lows in points per possession. St. John’s had just .794 points per possession and Seton Hall had .874. The teams combined to shoot 36-of-111 on 2s, including just 27-of-76 on shots at the rim. It was a significant offensive outlier for both teams, especially when you consider the offensive potential of 36 combined offensive rebounds.

Too many bettors are going to look at a 66-60 final in the previous game and auto bet the under in the next game with a total in the 150s. It’s important to apply proper context to the rematch and know what happened in that first game.

That doesn’t just mean looking at shooting stats, either. Was a star player in foul trouble early? Did a star player miss the game altogether? The line might be indicative of the latter, but sportsbooks are just putting up numbers based on their projections and the sources they use, as well as the betting action from the first game. You may be able to get an edge if you do your due diligence.

Revenge angles

I’m not sure I totally buy into the narrative of revenge in college basketball. Every game is important for conference tournament seeding or Selection Sunday profiles. There may be a case of a team that lost as a home favorite having revenge on the brain, but I think those are just narratives we drum up in our minds.

That being said, revenge is something you can consider. I don’t weigh it much. Others weigh it a lot. To me, it’s simply in the eye of the beholder. 

See if you can isolate some of these rematches and you’ll likely find some good betting opportunities.

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