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Market Insights: How to identify inflated lines

February 13, 2020 01:50 AM

Contrarian bettors and sportsbooks stayed hot last night as five of the most lopsided and most heavily bet college basketball games all went in favor of the house. 

  • Alabama (+ 8) received only one-of-out-four bets, but was able to cover in a 95-91 overtime loss to Auburn 
  • Georgia Tech pulled off the upset of the night, taking down Louisville 64-58. The Yellow Jackets only received one-out-of-five bets, but saw sharp line movement in their favor + 6.5 to + 6
  • South Florida only received one-out-of-five bets, but moved from + 6 to + 5.5 against Houston. USF lost but covered 62-58
  • Creighton also came up huge for the wiseguys. Only a third of bets took the points with Bluejays, but they fell from + 6 to + 5.5 and beat Seton Hall straight up 87-82 
  • Ohio State only received a third of bets, but moved from -6 to -6.5 and covered as a "fade the trendy dog" favorite against Rutgers 72-66. 

One of the easiest ways to spot sharp action, which we talk a lot about in this space, is through reverse line movement. This is when the line moves away from the popular side and toward the unpopular side. It's a dead giveaway that pros have taken a side. It was present in four of the five examples above (Georgia Tech, South Florida, Creighton, Ohio State). 

Inflated lines, like the Alabama game, are the ultimate "contrarian" play and equally as valuable as reverse line movement, although somewhat rarer. They aren't exactly "sharp" but are still a smart value play. However, you can't find them in any game with a line move. It has to be an extremely heavily bet game loaded with public action. And the line needs to move further toward the lopsided public side, providing additional points to back the unpopular dog. 

For example, Alabama-Auburn was the second most heavily bet game last night behind Kansas-West Virginia. Roughly 75% of tickets laid the points with Auburn, pushing the Tigers from -6.5 to -8. Therefore, lopsided public betting gave brave Alabama bettors an additional 1.5 points of value (+ 6.5 to + 8). Alabama was also a conference road dog, unranked vs ranked. If Auburn covered, the books would get cleaned out. So backing Alabama was a great betting against the public opportunity despite not having "sharp" action in the form of a line freeze or reverse line movement.

Remember: Inflated lines do not work in games with relatively even betting or low-bet games devoid or public action. A 50/50 bet split or even 60/40 bet split with a dog going from + 6.5 to + 8 may not be valuable because the 1.5-point move could be caused by sharps on the favorite. It is only in these extremely heavily bet and lopsided games (70/30, 80/20) that inflated lines have value.

Thursday's action features 2 NBA games, 62 College Basketball games and 11 NHL games. 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.

In the meantime, let's dive into several college hoops games on Thursday receiving early smart money.

7 p.m. ET: Wichita State (17-6) at Central Florida (13-10)

On paper this looks like a layup for Wichita State. They are the bigger name school and have a much better record. However, the Shockers have lost three in a row and are coming off an embarrassing 76-43 loss to Houston as 5-point dogs. Meanwhile, UCF is at home, riding a two-game winning streak and getting points on its home court. But pros aren't out-thinking it. They like Wichita State to bounce back. This line opened at Shockers -2.5. Smart money has steamed Wichita State early, pushing the line up to Shockers -3. 

8 p.m. ET: Iowa (17-7, ranked 21st) at Indiana (15-8)

This Big Ten showdown is on pace to be the most heavily bet game of the night. It also looks way too good to be true for public Iowa backers. The Hawkeyes are the "better" team and Indiana is in a tail spin, losing their last four games in a row. So why on Earth did this line open with Indiana listed as a 1-point home favorite? Sharps smell a rat (and a perfect buy-low opportunity on the Hoosiers). Pro money has pushed the line up to Indiana -1.5. Big Ten home favorites are 54-13 (81%) straight up and 35-28 ATS (56%). This is also a classic value play on a "bad" ATS Indiana team (10-13) against a "good" ATS Iowa team (14-8-2).

9 p.m. ET: Colorado (19-5, ranked 16th) at Oregon (18-6, ranked 17th)

In one of the marquee matchups of the night, the two best teams in the Pac-12 go head-to-head with first place in the conference on the line. Colorado has won three straight while Oregon has lost three straight. This line opened with Oregon listed as a 4-point home favorite. The public can't believe that Colorado has a better record, higher ranking and is getting so many points. But despite a majority of bets backing the Buffs, the line has moved to Ducks -4.5 or even -5 at some shops. This signals sharp reverse line movement with pros fading the trendy dog. This is also a big revenge spot for Oregon. The Ducks lost to Colorado 74-65 in early January. 

11 p.m ET: Arizona State (15-8) at Stanford (16-7)

Sharps will be staying up late to sweat this late Pac-12 showdown. Both teams enter with impressive records, but neither is ranked. They are also trending in opposite directions. Arizona State has won three in a row and five of its last six. Meanwhile, Stanford has lost two straight and dropped five of its last six. This line opened with Stanford listed as a short 3-point home favorite. Wiseguys immediately hit Arizona State + 3, dropping the line down to 2.5. The Sun Devils have value as conference road dogs with a line move in their favor. 

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