Tuley's Takes: Be selective in NBA's 'zig-zag' season

April 19, 2022 10:09 PM
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We expect to be working 24/7 in the Tuley’s Takes home office during football season and then during March Madness, but we can’t believe it’s April and we’re busier than ever.

With MLB’s lockout averted, baseball is a daily duty along with the NHL regular season winding down. And, of course, we have the NBA playoffs off and running, while adding the revival of the USFL into the mix. 

It just goes to show that this sports betting activity we all love is a year-long lifestyle, and it’s at the core of why VSiN was created. We’re glad you’ve found us here and hope we’re part of your daily routine. I imagine most of my readers either start or end their day mapping out the next slate of games they’re betting on and planning to watch, or do so at their day job.

Let’s get to this week’s takes.

Tuley’s Takes on the NBA playoffs

The traditional opening of the NBA postseason tournament (not counting the gimmicky play-in tournament, which I guess is here to stay) is one of the unsung sports highlights of the year as we get four first-round series openers on Saturday and then the other four first-round series on Sunday.

This year, the favorites went 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS in the openers with the Grizzlies the only favorite to lose outright in a surprising 130-117 win by the Timberwolves as 6.5-point road underdogs. We also had two games in which the point spreads came into play as the Nets (+ 4) and Bulls (+ 10.5) lost to the Celtics and Bucks but covered the spread.

Still, faves dominated as they were 13-1 SU and 10-4 ATS if you include the play-in tournament.

Unders cooled off as they were 6-0 in the play-in games but split 4-4 in Game 1s.

With the openers behind us, we turned to our annual discussion of the “zig-zag theory” on “The Lookahead Show” with my VSiN colleague Scott Seidenberg on Sunday night (10:15 p.m. ET/7:15 p.m. PT) and in the daily version of this column at VSiN.com.

For the uninitiated, the zig-zag is also known as the “loser of the last” as it says to bet the previous game’s SU loser against the spread in the next game. The Gold Sheet is given credit for discovering the trend, and it was gold for years but has cooled off in recent years. However, I still believe it’s valuable to at least incorporate it into your own handicapping. Note that the books will often shade the lines toward the team in the zig-zag role as they know plenty of people are still betting this way. Be selective in when to follow it and when to ignore it. We don’t want anyone to think we recommended betting the zig-zag blindly anymore.

For instance, on Monday, the zig-zag teams (losers of Game 1) were the Raptors + 7.5 at the 76ers, the Mavericks + 5.5 vs. the Jazz and the Nuggets + 7 at the Warriors. I made the Mavericks my Best Bet of the day in my “Tuley’s Takes Today” column (improving to 42-22-1 ATS, 65.6 percent, the past 65 days) but recommended passing on the Raptors and Nuggets. The Mavericks beat the Jazz outright 110-104 to even their series while the Raptors and Nuggets both failed to cover again, so the zig-zag went 1-2 ATS, but we still made money by being selective.

Looking ahead after Point Spread Weekly is in your hands, the Game 2 zig-zag teams on Wednesday are the Nets + 3.5 at the Celtics, the Bulls + 10 at the Bucks and the Raptors as 1.5-point home underdogs in Game 3. We won with the Nets and Bulls getting the points in their Game 1s on Sunday, so I see no reason not to back them again. I’ll personally pass on the Raptors returning home with the number being so short, though I know a lot of people like teams to bounce back when going home down 2-0.

On Thursday, the zig-zag plays would be the Mavericks + 7.5 at the Jazz (I’ll take that) and the Nuggets + 1.5 vs. the Warriors (I’ll pass, same reasons as the Raptors). 

Tuley’s Takes on MLB

The early betting trends in baseball have been interesting.

Through Monday, favorites are 88-60 (59.5 percent), right around the longtime historical average of 59 percent faves/41 percent dogs. 

As we’ve seen in most sports, home-field advantage was again virtually nonexistent to start the season as road teams were leading 65-63 through Saturday’s games. However, home teams went 10-4 on Sunday and 7-1 on Monday for a combined 17-5 to take an 80-70 lead heading into Tuesday.

Unders have dominated early season totals wagering at 81-59-10 (57.9 percent) heading into Tuesday. This isn’t uncommon in the spring, though this year the conventional wisdom was that starting pitchers were at more of a disadvantage with the shortened spring training and that bullpens might also get overworked, leading to more Overs. But that hasn’t been the case. By the way, the Orioles are off to a 9-0-1 start with the Under.

For those playing streaks or waiting for streaks to end for our swagger/anti-swagger plays, the Dodgers have the longest winning streak at seven games heading into Tuesday’s games with their division rival, the Giants, next at five. The Reds have the longest losing streak at seven games heading into Tuesday.

Read “Tuley’s Takes Today” every day at VSiN.com as we’ll continue to track these. 

Tuley’s Takes on the NHL

I’m glad I mostly avoid betting underdogs in the NHL as chalk has been on a major roll lately.

Faves went 14-0 on Saturday and were 20-0 with two pick-’ems over the weekend from Friday through Sunday. There’s definitely a separation between the haves and the have-nots.

We’ve largely backed off our NHL First-Period Over plays as they’ve been cooling off. It appears that teams battling for playoff spots or seeding are playing a little more defense.

Though anecdotally, there seem to be a lot more pucks clanging off the posts as I watch in frustration — but maybe I’m just biased.

Tuley’s Takes on the USFL

There’s a huge difference of opinion about whether we should have another spring football league after all the previous failures, but as long as it’s organized football and I think I can find an edge, I’m going to watch and wager on it.

We had a successful opening weekend as we went 3-1 with the Unders as we basically just bet blindly based on how the Unders had been the way to go in the recent XFL and AAF seasons. The Generals and Stallions both scored early TDs in the Saturday night opener and it looked like maybe we would have more wide-open scoring, but then things settled into what we’ve come to expect in these leagues. It probably would have finished Under the earlier betting total of 42.5, except that it ended up being tied 21-21, thus guaranteeing an Over. The Stallions went on to win 28-24 in the most exciting finish of the weekend and also covered as 3.5-point favorites.

The other three games all stayed Under and none really threatened going Over.

Quarterback play was OK, though unspectacular, except for the few highlights, so I’m not expecting an explosion of offense, especially as a lot of coaches seem intent on establishing the run old-school style.

I’m looking to bet all four Unders again this week and see how we do. Honestly, I feared that all the oddsmakers would have adjusted more from the Week 1 results and dropped all the totals into the 30s, but it looks like we have some fair Unders to cheer for this weekend:

— Panthers-Generals Under 41.5

— Maulers-Stars Under 37

— Stallions-Gamblers Under 42

— Breakers-Bandits Under 42

As for sides, favorites went 3-1 SU and ATS on opening weekend with the only upset in the Gamblers’ 17-12 win as 3.5-point underdogs over the Panthers, the preseason future-book favorite.

It’s also interesting to note that all eight teams are tied for first place in their respective divisions. As the late, great Norm Macdonald would say, “Wait! What?”

But it’s true as the teams in the South Division — Birmingham, Houston, New Orleans and Tampa Bay — all won their games and are 1-0 while all the teams in the North — New Jersey, Michigan, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — lost and are tied at 0-1. I agree with the detractors that this is silly as none of these teams practice or play in those cities as all of them practice and play in the hubble (combination of hub and bubble) in Birmingham, Ala. But it is what it is.

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