It’s Kentucky Derby Week, my favorite week of the year!
Well, one of my favorites as I know I said the same thing with Week 1 of the NFL season, Breeders’ Cup Week, Super Bowl Week, March Madness and several other times during the year.
But this week is pretty exciting with the Kentucky Derby on Saturday in the midst of the NBA and NHL playoffs, the daily fun of MLB and even the USFL as long as it’s profitable.
So, as has become our custom here, let’s get my “takes” on the spring sports betting landscape.
Tuley’s Takes on the Kentucky Derby
They held the draw for the Derby on Monday, so we have the field of 20 set. As I mentioned last week, I have pieces of tickets on Mo Donegal at 100-1, Simplification at 85-1 and Zandon, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, at 20-1, and they all drew into the field as expected. I also have a ticket on Ethereal Road at 135-1 but haven’t mentioned him here or anywhere as he was far down the points standings and I wasn’t even confident he would make the “also eligible” list, yet he’s in the main field for an extra long shot.
As mentioned above, Zandon is 3-1 and drew post No. 10. Mo Donegal drew the dreaded No. 1 post and is the fourth betting choice on the morning line at 10-1. Simplification drew post No. 13 and is listed at 20-1.
Now, I’m still reserving the right to finalize my Derby picks and betting strategy until my “Team Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” column is posted at VSiN.com on Thursday night for the races on Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday and Derby Day on Saturday.
I’ll be handicapping the Derby without any regard for my future-book plays and just an objective approach to finding the best value on race day for my readers.
Tuley’s Takes on the NBA playoffs
The Bucks started out the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 101-89 upset of the Celtics as five-point road underdogs. Favorites then went on to win the other three series openers but split 2-2 ATS as the Warriors beat the Grizzlies 117-116 but failed to cover as 2.5-point road favorites. The chalk covered both games Monday as the Heat (-7.5) beat the Joel-Embiid-less 76ers 106-92 and the Suns (-6) beat the Mavericks 121-114 and barely covered in another coin-flip result in the Western Conference games.
The 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS start to the second round puts faves at 33-14 SU and 27-20 ATS in the playoffs. So dogs have had tough sledding, though we’ve mostly been trading money at 7-7 ATS, thanks to being selective with our plays in the daily version of this column at VSiN.com.
Tuesday’s games were after the deadline for this piece. As for Wednesday’s games, I’m passing on the 76ers in the zig-zag (aka “loser of the last”) role even though they’re + 8.5 against the Heat. As we saw in Game 1, the 76ers are in a world of trouble without Embiid and, frankly, I can’t trust Doc Rivers to make any decisions. I mean, I’ve heard plenty of people criticize Rivers in the past and even recently with the 76ers blowing leads and being forced to go to a Game 6 after leading the Raptors 3-0, but I always thought the criticism was a little unwarranted. However, after he refused to take any blame for having Embiid in the game and risking injury in the final minute of a blowout, I’m out. I doubt I’ll even be on the 76ers if they’re small home dogs in Games 3 and 4.
I will, however, be on the Mavericks + 6 again in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The Suns are tough, but the Mavs showed they’re going to make a series of this and I expect this game to be even closer.
Check out “Tuley’s Takes Today” for picks on Thursday’s games and through the weekend.
As for totals wagering, we’ve seen Unders cool off a little. They were 27-16 in the first round, or 33-16 (67.3%) if you include the play-in tournament. However, they split 1-1 Sunday and Monday to start the second round. As I usually say in these situations: if you’ve been riding the Unders and are playing with house money, feel free to keep betting them to see if the run continues. However, if you haven’t been betting Unders before, this isn’t the time to jump in as they’re most likely to be around .500 moving forward. If you feel the books have been shading these numbers lower to slow down the Under trend, it might be time to take some Overs.
Tuley’s Takes on the NHL playoffs
The Stanley Cup playoffs started Monday with faves/dogs splitting 2-2 and Over/Unders also splitting 2-2. Personally, I passed as I expected it to be a chalk-fest, so I missed out on the upsets by the Blues (+ 110 in a 4-0 shutout of the Wild) and Kings (+ 170 in a 4-3 win at the Oilers).
I normally don’t use the zig-zag in the NHL playoffs, but I did write the other day that I was expecting to bet the underdog Bruins, Lightning, Blues and Kings at some point in their series. We might have missed our chance on the Blues and Kings, but we’ll probably take the Bruins + 105 at the Hurricanes and the Lightning + 105 at the Maple Leafs in their Game 2s on Wednesday night, especially the two-time defending champion Lightning as they won’t want to fall behind 2-0. I would expect the Wild and Oilers to bounce back and even their series at home.
As for First-Period Overs, I’m passing on them for now. Even in the famous winter/spring of 2019 when 1P Overs were our personal ATM, they were only profitable the first week of the playoffs and then cooled off, so we’re waiting to see if our preferred teams continue to push the pace that leads to early scoring, for both teams, or if everyone is going into defensive-minded playoff mode.
Tuley’s Takes on MLB
Favorites continue to dominate MLB as they were leading 212-124 SU (63.1 percent) through Monday’s game. That’s usually closer to 59 percent, give or take, but it seems there’s a bigger divide between the haves and have-nots. We’ll see if this continues.
We’ve already seen a reversal in the Under trend, at least slightly. Unders had been hitting at right around 60% for multiple reasons, such as the “dead ball,” the increased use of humidors across MLB, etc. But Overs went 41-31-1 during one stretch last week and the Unders’ lead was down to 185-140-15 (56.8%) through Monday’s games.
We’ve had mixed results with our swagger/anti-swagger plays in the young baseball season, though we had a nice score by fading the Marlins on Monday in an anti-swagger role as they just had their seven-game winning streak snapped on Sunday. We cashed with the Diamondbacks + 150.
For those playing streaks, and those looking to make swagger/anti-swagger plays when those streaks end, the Yankees have a 10-game winning streak after beating the Blue Jays 3-2 on Monday in the first game of a key early-season four-game series in the AL East. The Blue Jays were favored in Tuesday’s game, so if they snap the Yankees’ winning streak, I’d bet them to beat them again the next day. No other MLB team had a winning streak of more than three games heading into Tuesday.
As for losing streaks, the Reds had a five-game losing streak heading into Tuesday. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the lowly Reds, an MLB-worst 3-19, just snapped an 11-game losing streak a week ago Sunday. We lost a swagger play on the Reds last Tuesday, so we’ll see if we’re willing to back them again. You definitely have to plug your nose on some of these plays. The Royals and A’s were on four-game losing streaks heading into Tuesday.
Tuley’s Takes on the USFL
We went 3-1 again with USFL Unders that we posted in this space last week. It was tough as the first game of Week 3 (the Bandits’ 27-26 win over the Gamblers) went Over the low total of 39 points, but then the last three games stayed Under. Unders are 8-4 this season.
I haven’t been “playing these blindly,” as some critics have suggested. I truly believe the oddsmakers hadn’t adjusted the totals low enough, so we still saw value.
That time may have passed as I’m no longer recommending all four Unders this week. The totals look pretty solid this week, and the two that are in the 40s (Bandits-Stallions O/U 41.5) and Gamblers-Breakers O/U 41.5) both seem justified as I have them at 43 and 42.5, respectively.
As of this writing, my only Under will be on Stars-Panthers Under 36.5 on Friday night as I have it closer to 32 or 33.
We hit our lone ATS bet in Week 3 with the Generals pick-’em (closed + 2.5) vs. the Stars. In Week 4, the Stars are pick-’em again vs. the Panthers, and I’m looking to fade the Stars again with the Panthers as I have them as a 2- to 3-point favorite.