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In search of sharp plays in first round of bowls

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

December 12, 2017 11:19 PM

In honor of the new VSiN Bowl Guide that hit our shelves today (already included in Point Spread Weekly subscriptions, just $19.99 for non-subscribers), we have a “Market Watch” for this Saturday’s bowl quintet. That plus an NFL teaser refresher right now in VSiN City. 

College Football Bowls: “Market Watch” as VSiN Bowl Guide is unveiled
If you’re a paid subscriber to Point Spread Weekly, you’ve probably already glanced through the Bowl Guide that was digitally published and emailed today. If not, be aware that this 102-page college football colossus includes stats and trends for every team, selections from our staff experts, plus articles that will help you consider handicapping from outside the box. It’s just $19.99. Click here to purchase so you can start your handicapping work immediately.

Five games kick off the 2017-18 bowl slate this Saturday. Here’s how the money’s come in so far…

New Orleans Bowl
Opening Line: Troy -7 over North Texas, total of 60.5
Current Line: Troy -6.5 over North Texas, total of 62

We know that the sharps don’t like the favorite yet. We’ve dropped from the key number of seven down a half-a-point. When the line is on the seven, informed influences take the points. Maybe we’d see more interest on Troy at -6. This won’t be a heavily bet game by the public because of the low-profile teams involved and the 10 a.m. start time in Las Vegas. To the degree there’s a “sharp side” early, it’s North Texas plus 7. You’ll see that the Over/Unders in all five Saturday games have risen a bit. 

Cure Bowl
Opening Line: W. Kentucky -4.5 over Georgia State, total of 50.5
Current Line: W. Kentucky -6 over Georgia State, total of 51.5

We’re up to a “minor” key number at six. Favored Western Kentucky received early sharp support that dried up once this point was reached. No buy back on Georgia State yet. Though, sharps thinking about the dog might wait to see if the public will drive the game higher. Western Kentucky has the higher TV profile of the two programs, and kickoff is closer to lunch time in Las Vegas. As you’ve often heard the South Point and Gaughan Gaming odd makers say on broadcasts, sharps bet numbers rather than teams. At -4.5, -5, or -5.5, the favorite is getting support. We might have to wait until Saturday to see what triggers underdog interest.  

Las Vegas Bowl
Opening Line: Oregon -7.5 over Boise State, total of 59
Current Line: Oregon -7.5 over Boise State, total of 59.5

Whenever a line settles for an extended period a half-point above or below a key number, an important story is being told. Sharps DIDN’T bet Boise State with the hook even though a meaningful percentage of games land right on the seven…which means Oregon is seen as a team that has a good chance of winning by 10 or more (8 and 9 are relatively dead numbers in sports betting). This game is obviously in Las Vegas…and fans of both teams will have a chance Friday when they arrive, and Saturday before kickoff to support their teams at local sports books. It’s expected more public money will come in on the favorite from the larger conference. Maybe a number higher than 7.5 will inspire informed dog interest. 

New Mexico Bowl
Opening Line: Colorado State -5 over Marshall, total of 56
Current Line: Colorado State -5.5 over Marshall, total of 58

Marshall doesn’t have much of a betting constituency or TV following. Some early interest has shown on CSU, but not enough to mean much. If sharps LOVED this favorite, we’d already be at the six. For now, either sharps aren’t interested in getting involved…or have gradings on the dog and they’re hoping to get at least plus 6 after the public has a chance to invest this weekend. 

Camellia Bowl
Opening Line: Arkansas State -3.5 over MTSU, total of 60.5
Current Line: Arkansas State -3.5 over MTSU, total of 62.5

Another game a half-point above a key number that hasn’t moved, which means that sharps aren’t enthused about the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State. The hook is still there. The Over took respected money out of the gate. 

More “Market Watch” analysis later this month as we work through the schedule. 

NFL News: Aaron Rodgers medically cleared to play Sunday
News broke Tuesday evening that Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers had been medically cleared to play this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. The game was still off the board at many locales Tuesday at publication deadlines. By the time you read this, a fresh point spread should be up in Packers/Panthers. The line had been sitting around Carolina -6 earlier in the day, suggesting a potential delay in getting that clearance. The Panthers aren’t expected to be that big a favorite if Rodgers is a confirmed starter. Be sure you watch VSiN programming Wednesday for the very latest. 

NFL Teaser Refresher: Don’t tease NFL totals!
This past summer, we included tutorials on our Wednesday reports because the schedule usually created some room. Definitely the case this week with the bowls not starting for a few more days. The reduction of college football on the weekend schedule may be tempting many of you to expand the action you play on Sundays in the NFL. That means “teasers” are on your radar more than they used to be. 

Teasers are bets where you get to move the line a certain number of points on multiple games. But then you have to sweep ALL of the picks to cash that ticket. A very common bet under this umbrella is the two-team, six-point teaser. You get to move the line six points in your favor in two different games (or on the side and total in the same game). You have to win at BOTH of the new lines to celebrate. (At some sports books, a win and a push is counted as a push and your bet is refunded. At others, like the South Point, a loss and a push is also counted as a push, which is favorable to the player.). Some bettors also like going for a jackpot by including as many as four, five, six, or more options that offer bigger payoffs. Those are harder to hit than they seem.

As we discussed earlier this season here in VSiN City, and in an expanded article in Point Spread Weekly, sharps will almost EXCLUSIVELY only tease team sides that cross BOTH the 3 and the 7 in one fell swoop. That means taking favorites of -7.5, -8, and -8.5 down to -1.5, -2, and -2.5…or taking underdogs of plus 1.5, plus 2, and plus 2.5 up to plus 7.5, plus 8, and plus 8.5. Long term studies have shown that those are moneymakers over the long haul. Though, the recent NFL rules changes involving the distance of extra points might ultimately influence the math.

What sharps DON’T do:
Tease favorites of -7 or below “down” so the favorite “only has to win the game”
Tease across the 0, for example, from -3 to plus 3
Tease Over/Unders
Tease college football

By definition, those are bad bets based on the low value of the points you’re “buying.” If you see somebody has a teaser that includes Over/Unders…you automatically know they’ve made a bad bet. If anyone is complimenting themselves for moving a favorite from -3 “to make them an underdog” at plus 3, you know they haven’t done much research on the value of numbers.  

Now, we’re not saying that any bets including the wrong strategies will automatically lose. Sometimes bad bets win. A guy who “feels lucky” at the blackjack table and hits on 16 might get a low card and get rewarded. Poor poker strategy sometimes gets rewarded on the river. Over the long haul, you’ll lose money placing bad bets. 

The worst reason you’ll hear for ill-advised teaser bets is:

“The line was too high, but I didn’t mind laying the smaller number.”

This is very common for casual bettors, or those who play for fun rather than as an investment. They see a point spread of -9.5 that’s just too high to lay. But they’re only comfortable betting favorites…so they try to invent a reason to back the superior team. Taking that favorite down to -3.5 seems like a steal. It isn’t. The NFL is a league of parity, and it’s tougher to SWEEP bets even at adjusted lines than people realize. Sure, -3.5 is better than -9.5, but not if you have to hit that AND another game to win your bet. 

Here’s a great example of how hard it is to sweep in the most popular “public” teaser options. This past Sunday had three games lined within a half-point of -6.

Pittsburgh -5.5 vs. Baltimore (won 39-38 to cover teasers)
LA Chargers -6 vs. Washington (won 30-13 to cover teasers)
Cincinnati -6 vs. Chicago (lost 33-7, missing by a mile)

Two of the three hit at teased lines…but linking those options in teasers would have been an overall loser.

Pittsburgh and LA Chargers…WINS
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati…loses
LA Chargers and Cincinnati…loses

Pittsburgh and LA Chargers and Cincinnati to sweep…loses because of the Bengals

If you’re not getting your usual football fix this weekend and want to add action to your portfolio (which is a bad reason to make bets!), don’t fall into a teaser trap. They’re called “teasers” because they tease people into making bad bets. Focus on options that cross the key numbers of 3 and 7. Or, leave teasers alone entirely because late season play can be so erratic. 

College Basketball: Michigan upsets Texas in battle of likely Dance entries
We’re still in a relative lull in the college basketball schedule. Interesting matchup Tuesday of likely Dance teams down in Austin. 

Michigan (plus 6) 59, Texas 52
Two-Point Pct: Michigan 44% Texas 44%
Three Pointers: Michigan 6/19, Texas 5/20
Free Throws: Michigan 9/12, Texas 9/15
Rebounds: Michigan 40, Texas 31
Turnovers: Michigan 10, Texas 10
Kenpom/Sagarin/BPI Rankings: Michigan 41-37-38, Texas 26-23-34

Texas was missing its leading scorer Andrew Jones, who will be out for a few weeks with a wrist facture. The offense sputtered badly in his absence, scoring just 20 points in the first half, and disappearing during crunch time of the second half. It’s hard to find the difference-maker in the boxscore until you get to rebounds. Michigan owned the boards, which allowed them to make two more of those two-pointers that both teams hit at a 44% rate. 

The computer assessments of Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and ESPN’s BPI currently have both teams clearly in the NCAA Field. Though, Texas may not be a top 30 team without Jones given their form this evening. This isn’t a team that can be trusted to make treys even when he’s healthy. Tough to come-from-behind if you’re not making much from long range. 

As we’re talkin’ college basketball, we wanted to add a quick note on Arizona State. An undefeated start, including a win at Kansas, has them up to #5 in the AP poll. Some are suggesting the Sun Devils are the “real” #1 because of some early quality wins. The main analytics rankings aren’t as optimistic. Using that same Kenpom/Sagarin/BPI ranking index from the boxscore, Arizona State would clock in at 35-13-23. 

Definitely a team to watch for continued betting value. ASU has covered eight straight, with non-home victories as underdogs over Kansas (road), Xavier (neutral), Kansas State (neutral), and a home blowout of respected San Diego State (who lost some of that respect by losing at home to Cal this past weekend). 

The betting markets are analytics driven. Perhaps too much weight was put on the computer ratings out of the gate by important betting influences. For now, the market is still chasing Arizona State. 

NBA: Free Basketball in the Garden Tuesday as Lakers and Knicks went overtime 
Even though neither the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are likely to matter much this season, it’s great to see such enthusiasm in those cities for these young teams. They played a thriller Tuesday night on ESPN. New York got the win and cover in overtime.

New York (-3) 113, LA Lakers 109 (in overtime)
Two-Point Pct: Lakers 43% New York 49%
Three Pointers: Lakers 13/35, New York 9/22
Free Throws: Lakers 12/15, New York 8/11
Rebounds: Lakers 52, New York 49
Turnovers: Lakers 16, New York 14

Kristaps Porzingis continued to excite Gotham with 37 points and 11 rebounds. The large Latvian was 5 for 8 on treys, which was 5 for 7 if you don’t count a long, guarded heave at the end of regulation. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 24 for the Lakers.  Scoring inside the arc proved to be the difference maker. Knicks won two-point baskets by a count of 39-29.

New York moves above the .500 mark at 14-13. Worth noting that Porzingis missed four games this season, and the Knicks lost all four of them. So, that’s 14-9 when he didn’t take a zero in minutes played (also 14-9 ATS in those games, though they needed extra time Tuesday to get there). New York is now 13-5 ATS at home this season, compared to 2-7 ATS on the road. That very favorable 18/9 split in the early home/road breakdown is part of the reason the team feels like it’s off to a surprisingly good start. Can the Knicks get some wins in the nine additional road games that await? They’re just 1-8 straight up in their first nine away. The Lakers fall to 10-16 as they continue to build for the future. 

Also in the NBA Tuesday:
Cleveland (-12) beat Atlanta 123-114 (non-cover leaves Cavs 2-12-1 ATS at home)
Denver (plus 7) won at Detroit 103-84 (Nuggets 10-4-1 ATS on the road)
Brooklyn (plus 3) beat Washington 103-98 (Nets 17-9 ATS this season)
Dallas (plus 4) beat San Antonio 95-89 (Kawhi Leonard only played 16 minutes in return)
Philadelphia (plus 5) beat Minnesota 118-112 (Sixers now 16-10-1 ATS)

That’s it for Wednesday. Back with you Thursday to preview Denver/Indianapolis in the NFL prime-time game. We’ll also get caught up with our estimated “market” Power Ratings in the NBA.

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