Contrarian bettors, sportsbooks and wiseguys cashed their two biggest college hoops plays yesterday. In the two most heavily bet Sunday games, Ohio State took down Maryland 79-72 as a 3-point favorite and Indiana edged Penn State 68-60 as a 1-point favorite. In both cases, the Buckeyes and Hoosiers received roughly one-third of bets or less but saw sharp reverse line movement in their favor. New bettors should mark down these games and use them as blueprints moving forward when dissecting market movement and looking for pro money.
Remember: betting against the public, also known as "going contrarian," is a sound long-term strategy. Why? Because more often than not, the public loses. Average Joes bet based on gut instinct and bias, largely ignore data analytics and the oddsmakers shade numbers toward the popular public side, providing increased value to go the other way. However, when going contrarian, you have to be selective and only focus on the top tier of the most popular and heavily bet games of the day. The more public betting, the more bias to bet against.
The key is not just going contrarian in heavily bet games, though, you also always want to be with sharp action. This means being with the professional bettors who have a long track record of success, bet with their head, not their heart, and have the respect of the books.
In the first example, Ohio State opened at -2.5 and moved to -3 despite two thirds of bets backing the Terps. Why would the oddsmakers move the line toward the Buckeyes if the public was all over Maryland? Because they took in sharp money on Ohio State. When the betting line moves away from the popular side and toward the unpopular side, it's a dead giveaway that pros caused the move. Also when a line looks too good to be true, it almost always is.
In the Indiana game, Penn State enjoyed a better record and ranking, yet the line opened at Hoosiers -1, drifted to a pick'em but then went back to -1. This all took place with more than two-thirds of bets backing Penn State. Essentially, it was a sharp line freeze on Indiana. Despite all the PSU betting, the line refused to budge, signaling liability on the Hoosiers.
Both Ohio State and Indiana would be classified as sharp contrarian favorites or "fade the trendy dog" matches. Underdogs typically have more value because more often than not the public will bet favorites because they want to back the "better team." When they are unpopular, they have value. However, dogs lose their value when they become popular.
Long story short, when analyzing games across the market, always look for situations that combine both contrarian value and sharp action. That is the best of both worlds as it allows you to simultaneously bet against the public, place yourself on the side of the house and also remain with the pros who win at a high rate.
Also, get ready because conference tournaments and the Big Dance is right around the corner. And if you thought betting against the public was profitable now, just wait until the postseason when the ticket counts skyrocket and the market is flooded with more recreational money.
Monday's action features 13 College Basketball games, 8 NBA games and 1 NHL game. For an updated breakdown of sharp action across the marketplace be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Now let's turn to a pair of Monday games in College Hoops receiving big bets and heavy smart money.
7 p.m. ET: Louisville (23-5, ranked 11th) at Florida State (23-4, ranked 8th)
On a sleepy Monday night with very few games from which to choose, this ACC heavyweight bout takes the cake. Louisville sits atop the conference, just a half-game ahead of Florida State. The Cardinals have won two straight, most recently upending North Carolina 72-55 as 10.5-point favorites. Florida State is riding a three-game win streak, including a 67-61 win over NC State as 1.5-point road favorites. This line opened with the Seminoles listed as a 2.5-point home favorites. The public sees Florida State has a higher ranking on their home court laying a short number and more than two-thirds of bets are laying the points with the Noles. Also, the last time these teams met back on Jan. 4, the public remembers FSU rolling 78-65. Louisville has value as a contrarian conference road dog in the most heavily bet game of the night. Ken Pom has Florida State winning by one point (70-69). The total is set at 140.5. Both of these teams have been profitable to the over, with Louisville 15-12-1 and FSU 16-11.
7 p.m. ET: West Virginia (19-8, ranked 17th) at Texas (16-11)
WVU has been in a tailspin as of late, losing three of its last four games -- including a 67-60 loss to TCU as a 4.5-point favorite in its last time out. Meanwhile, Texas has won two straight, most recently upsetting Kansas State 70-59 as a 5.5-point dog. Despite the teams trending in opposite directions, pros and Joes both expect a bounce-back performance from the Mountaineers and have loaded up on WVU. After opening WVU listed as a 4-point road favorite, the line has swelled to -5.5 behind three-out-of-four bets. Texas has value as a contrarian home conference dog with an inflated line. Ken Pom has WVU winning by 4 points (64-60). The last time these teams played, WVU demolished Texas 97-59 on Jan. 20. The total has risen from 125 to 127 since opening. WVU is 20-7 to the under and Texas is 15-12 to the under.
Remember: the betting market is fluid and lines change as more action comes in. Be sure to visit our free VSiN College Basketball Live Odds Page for the latest numbers.