Studying CBB transition to league play

December 28, 2021 09:27 PM
makinencbb

The turn of the calendar to a new year usually means the transition to full-time conference play in college basketball. The first month and a half typically is marked by unfamiliar opponents, neutral-court contests and tournament play, with unusual rest periods between games. For the rest of the season, the schedule is far more stable as teams play known conference foes in familiar environments with regular scheduling. Most teams won’t face many — or, in some cases, any — nonconference opponents again until the postseason. All of this presents a great opportunity for bettors to study the data that analyzes how teams fare once they get to conference play to find out which teams transition best and worst.

Over the last few years, certain teams have consistently overperformed in conference play as compared with nonconference games, and vice versa. Some teams’ pace of play is also affected greatly by the transition to league competition.

I have logged results of all games with betting lines for all 358 Division I teams for the last 4 1/2 seasons, or since the start of the 2017-18 campaign. I have compared the numbers between conference and nonconference play, zeroing in on some of the best- and worst-performing teams in various location and line situations of conference play. Hopefully these findings will help you get your 2022 college basketball betting off to a great start.

Top 10 Teams Whose Outright Win Percentage Improves Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Prairie View A&M: + 75.9 percent

2. North Carolina A&T: + 56.3 percent

3. Jackson State: + 52.8 percent

4. North Carolina Central: + 52.6 percent

5. Florida A&M: + 50.1 percent

6. Radford: + 47.5 percent

7. Texas Southern: + 46.9 percent

8. Bellarmine: + 46.4 percent

9. Northwestern State: + 43.6 percent

10. Eastern Washington: + 42.7 percent

Top 10 Teams Whose Outright Win Percentage Declines Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. DePaul: -53.0 percent

2. Minnesota: -49.6 percent

3. Wake Forest: -47.7 percent

4. TCU: -45.4 percent

5. Iowa State: -44.8 percent

6. St. John’s: -43.8 percent

7. Pittsburgh: -42.3 percent

8. Vanderbilt: -41.9 percent

9. East Carolina: -41.9 percent

10. Northwestern: -41.5 percent

Naturally, all the teams on the improve list are from lower-level midmajor conferences. They have endured the rigors of tougher nonconference games and will see their schedules lighten up from here on out. The decline list features power-conference teams whose conference schedule proves to be much tougher, although East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference is worthy of note. For bettors, neither list provides a lot of actionable analysis. I’ve provided them merely to set the table for the following lists specific to point spreads.

Top 10 Teams Whose ATS Win Percentage Improves Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Kansas State: + 24.5 percent

2. Pacific: + 22.2 percent

3. Charleston Southern: + 21.5 percent

4. Colgate: + 20.9 percent

5. Hampton: + 20.6 percent

6. North Dakota: + 19.8 percent

7. Tennessee Tech: + 17.2 percent

8. Louisiana: + 17.1 percent

9. Louisville: + 16.9 percent

10. Southeastern Louisiana: + 16.8 percent

Top 10 Teams Whose ATS Win Percentage Declines Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. UTEP: -24.9 percent

2. Virginia Tech: -22.0 percent

3. Texas Southern: -21.7 percent

4. Abilene Christian: -21.6 percent

5. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: -20.1 percent

6. Pittsburgh: -19.6 percent

7. USC Upstate: -18.9 percent

8. Iowa: -18.2 percent

9. UC Santa Barbara: -18.0 percent

10. Liberty: -17.7 percent

This list contains some interesting findings. Kansas State, which has struggled to a 20-38 ATS record over the last 4 1/2 seasons in nonconference play, improves rapidly for bettors once Big 12 games start. Keep that in mind as you analyze the Wildcats’ 8-3 SU and 6-4-1 ATS start in 2021. Are they potential sleepers in their conference? We’ll see. Louisville is another team that seems to turn it up for Atlantic Coast Conference play. On the opposite side of the coin, Iowa is an interesting case in that the Hawkeyes’ frenetic style doesn’t seem to benefit them as much against Big Ten foes as it does in nonleague action. Also note that Virginia Tech is off to an 8-3 SU and ATS start in nonconference games but has already lost twice in ACC play.

Top 10 Teams Whose Differential Vs. Point Spread Improves Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Charleston Southern: + 5.9

2. Northwestern State: + 5.0

3. Colgate: + 4.7

4. Elon: + 4.6

5. American: + 4.5

6. Texas-San Antonio: + 4.3

7. Fairleigh Dickinson: + 4.3

8. North Carolina: + 4.3

9. Long Beach State: + 4.1

10. Providence: + 4.1

Top 10 Teams Whose Differential Vs. Point Spread Declines Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Virginia Tech: -5.6

2. Texas Southern: -5.6

3. North Texas: -4.7

4. Western Illinois: -4.6

5. Minnesota: -4.1

6. Fresno State: -4.1

7. UTEP: -3.9

8. Florida International: -3.8

9. McNeese: -3.5

10. Wagner: -3.5

These lists are gauges of the extent to which teams outplay oddsmakers’ expectations. They compare how much teams beat point spreads in nonconference games as compared with conference games. So for teams like Charleston Southern, Elon, North Carolina and Providence, conference play brings out the best in competitive performance. Just the opposite for Virginia Tech, Texas Southern, UTEP and others.

Top 10 Teams Whose Scoring Improves Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Bethune-Cookman: + 12.2

2. Norfolk State: + 11.7

3. Northwestern State: + 11.4

4. Fairleigh Dickinson: + 11.2

5. New Orleans: + 10.3

6. Sam Houston State: + 10.3

7. Alcorn State: + 9.7

8. North Carolina A&T: + 9.6

9. Montana: + 9.5

10. Lamar: + 8.9

Top 10 Teams Whose Scoring Declines Most From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Northwestern: -13.2

2. Michigan State: -11

3. Virginia Tech: -10.5

4. Minnesota: -10.4

5. SMU: -10.3

6. Indiana: -10

7. Iowa: -9.5

8. DePaul: -9.5

9. Nebraska: -9.2

10. Purdue: -9.1

These lists seem to be a function of strength of conference. The top teams in scoring improvement are from lesser conferences. The teams whose scoring declines are from power conferences. Seven of the 10 teams on the decline list come from the Big Ten, a testament to that league’s depth and strength year in and year out. As you’ll soon see, oddsmakers will adjust their totals for conference play accordingly.

Top 10 Teams Whose Totals Trend Most Over From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. UC San Diego: + 38.1 percent

2. Hampton: + 26.0 percent

3. South Florida: + 25.2 percent

4. North Dakota State: + 23.3 percent

5. New Orleans: + 23.0 percent

6. LSU: + 21.9 percent

7. Oklahoma State: + 21.5 percent

8. Arkansas State: + 21.4 percent

9. Norfolk State: + 21.1 percent

10. Butler: + 20.6 percent

Top 10 Teams Whose Totals Trend Most Under From Nonconference To Conference Play

1. Alabama A&M: + 25.8 percent

2. St. Francis (Pa.): + 25.8 percent

3. Wisconsin: + 23.9 percent

4. Stony Brook: + 23.0 percent

5. Louisiana Tech: + 22.5 percent

6. Bucknell: + 22.5 percent

7. Mercer: + 22.0 percent

8. Coastal Carolina: + 21.9 percent

9. Sacred Heart: + 21.5 percent

10. SMU: + 20.2 percent

LSU seems to be falling into the same pattern that it has in many recent seasons. The Tigers currently are 10-2 Under the total. This figures to be reflected in their early Southeastern Conference games, which historically have trended Over. The opposite would apply to a team like Wisconsin, which is 6-3 Over in nonconference action thus far but 2-0 Under against Big Ten foes. This follows the Badgers’ usual pattern.

The rest of the lists don’t compare conference and nonconference play but rather measure which are the best and worst teams in various conference-only situations since the start of the 2017 season.

Best Outright Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. Gonzaga: 95.9 percent

2. Prairie View A&M: 88.1 percent

3. Liberty: 86.0 percent

4. New Mexico State: 85.2 percent

5. Belmont: 84.3 percent

6. Virginia: 82.7 percent

7. Vermont: 82.1 percent

8. South Dakota State: 81.4 percent

9. Abilene Christian: 80.7 percent

10. Houston: 80.0 percent

Worst Outright Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. Chicago State: 0.0 percent

2. Portland: 7.7 percent

3. Kennesaw State: 10.0 percent

4. San Jose State: 10.8 percent

5. Fordham: 16.9 percent

6. Mississippi Valley State: 17.0 percent

7. Vanderbilt: 17.3 percent

8. Delaware State: 17.6 percent

9. Cal Poly-SLO: 17.9 percent

10. Tulane: 18.9 percent

Best ATS Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. Cleveland State: 63.4 percent

2. Michigan: 62.8 percent

3. Merrimack: 61.1 percent

4. Kansas City: 60.9 percent

5. Colgate: 60.9 percent

6. North Florida: 60.8 percent

7. Houston: 60.8 percent

8. Northwestern State: 60.7 percent

9. Southeastern Louisiana: 60.0 percent

10. Louisville: 60.0 percent

Worst ATS Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. Kennesaw State: 34.7 percent

2. Chicago State: 35.5 percent

3. Samford: 35.9 percent

4. UTEP: 36.6 percent

5. Cal Poly-SLO: 37.5 percent

6. SMU: 37.7 percent

7. Northwestern: 38.3 percent

8. Ball State: 38.7 percent

9. Arizona State: 38.7 percent

10. Tennessee State: 39.2 percent

Best Differential Vs. Point Spread In Conference Play

1. Houston: + 4.4

2. Colgate: + 3.7

3. Tarleton State: + 3.6

4. Abilene Christian: + 3.2

5. Hartford: + 2.9

6. Bellarmine: + 2.9

7. Norfolk State: + 2.8

8. Alabama: + 2.6

9. Buffalo: + 2.5

10. Gonzaga: + 2.4

Worst Differential Vs. Point Spread In Conference Play

1. Chicago State: -4.4

2. Samford: -3.3

3. SMU: -3.1

4. Portland: -2.9

5. UTEP: -2.7

6. San Jose State: -2.7

7. Dixie State: -2.7

8. Kennesaw State: -2.6

9. Western Illinois: -2.6

10. TCU: -2.5

Best Home ATS Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. UC San Diego: 77.8 percent

2. Abilene Christian: 68.6 percent

3. Texas-San Antonio: 68.1 percent

4. Belmont: 67.9 percent

5. Merrimack: 66.7 percent

6. Southern U.: 66.7 percent

7. Drake: 66.1 percent

8. UC Irvine: 65.9 percent

9. South Dakota State: 64.7 percent

10. North Florida: 64.5 percent

Worst Home ATS Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. Holy Cross: 28.9 percent

2. Howard: 29.6 percent

3. Houston Baptist: 33.3 percent

4. Boston U.: 34.1 percent

5. Cal Poly-SLO: 34.1 percent

6. Central Connecticut State: 34.4 percent

7. Morgan State: 34.5 percent

8. Portland: 34.5 percent

9. Idaho: 34.7 percent

10. NJIT: 35.1 percent

Best Road ATS Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. Virginia: 66.7 percent

2. Chattanooga: 65.1 percent

3. Hofstra: 65.0 percent

4. UC Davis: 63.8 percent

5. Northern Colorado: 63.8 percent

6. Baylor: 63.4 percent

7. Lafayette: 63.4 percent

8. Georgia Tech: 62.2 percent

9. Buffalo: 62.0 percent

10. Loyola Marymount: 62.0 percent

Worst Road ATS Win Percentage Vs. Conference Opponents

1. UC San Diego: 30.8 percent

2. Delaware State: 32.6 percent

3. Colorado: 33.3 percent

4. George Washington: 33.3 percent

5. Minnesota: 34.0 percent

6. North Dakota: 34.3 percent

7. San Jose State: 34.6 percent

8. Illinois State: 34.7 percent

9. Kennesaw State: 34.8 percent

10. Iowa State: 34.9 percent

Finally, here are some of the top current line and location trends for conference play.

— Abilene Christian is on a 15-4 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Belmont is on a 22-7 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Charlotte is on a 9-0 ATS run as a home underdog.

— Cleveland State is on a 13-3 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Denver is on an 8-0 ATS run as a home underdog.

— Eastern Illinois is on a 3-14 ATS skid as a home favorite.

— Florida State is on a 13-3 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Georgia Tech is on a 14-3 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Jacksonville is on an 0-10 ATS skid as a home favorite.

— James Madison is on an 0-9 ATS skid as a home underdog.

— Lipscomb is on a 1-10 ATS skid as a road favorite.

— Louisiana Tech is on a 23-6 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Missouri State is on a 9-0 ATS run as a home favorite.

— San Diego State is on a 12-2 ATS run as a road favorite.

— San Jose State is on a 5-19 ATS skid as a road underdog.

— Southern U. is on a 16-4 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Tennessee State is on a 5-19 ATS skid as a road underdog.

— Tennessee Martin is on a 6-19 ATS skid as a road underdog.

— Tulane is on an 0-9 ATS skid as a home favorite.

— Tulsa is on a 13-2 ATS run as a home underdog.

— Texas-San Antonio is on a 13-3 ATS run as a home favorite.

— Youngstown State is on a 9-0 ATS run as a home underdog.

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