While we continue to enjoy the full sports betting menu this time of year here at the Tuley’s Takes home office, college basketball keeps taking up an increasing amount of our handicapping and viewing time.
With the calendar flipping to March, college hoops is only going to take up more of our time, though it’s worth it if it keeps providing a steady income stream, right? We hope you’ve been following along with our plays on unranked home teams vs. Top 25 road teams, especially when the ranked teams are favored. Our suggested plays in “Point Spread Weekly” went 10-4 ATS two weeks ago and then 7-4-1 ATS last week, or 6-3-1 ATS if you passed like me on the two unranked teams that went off as home favorites — Marquette losing as a three-point home fave vs. No. 13 Seton Hall on Saturday and Stanford winning as a 2.5-point home fave vs. No. 21 Colorado on Sunday.
The bad news is the well is running dry soon as we move to mostly neutral sites in conference tournaments and March Madness. But the good news is we still have 10 potential plays left this week as the major conferences wrap up their regular seasons before next week’s tournaments.
— Wednesday: Rhode Island vs. No. 3 Dayton, Miami vs. No. 22 Virginia.
— Thursday: UConn vs. No. 21 Houston.
— Saturday: Georgetown vs. No. 14 Villanova, Tennessee vs. No. 17 Auburn, Indiana vs. No. 24 Wisconsin, West Virginia vs. No. 4 Baylor, Florida vs. No. 6 Kentucky, Texas Tech vs. No. 1 Kansas, Northwestern vs. No. 20 Penn State.
Meanwhile, we have 10 smaller conferences starting their tournaments this week. I’ve had a lot of success over the years with these tourneys as the upsets, or at least covers by underdogs, happen quite often. Most of my plays come from finding regular-season also-rans that get hot at the right time and make deep runs knowing that winning the conference tournament is their only way to get into the Big Dance.
(Some might be thinking: “Wait a minute! We’ve heard you preach against betting teams in must-win situations, saying they’re not reliable because if they were good enough to flip the switch, they would have done it in earlier games and wouldn’t be in this predicament.” Yes, that’s true. The difference is that those other cases are usually when everyone knows the team has to win, so the oddsmakers often will make them favored or really overadjust the odds. But in the cases we’re talking about, we’re usually still getting plenty of points to take these teams against ranked teams.)
Now, as VSiN colleague Jeff Fogle has pointed out, this week’s smaller conference tourneys offer fewer opportunities to fade the top teams because many are in one-bid leagues and can’t afford to risk getting snubbed if they don’t win their tourney. However, we still might have some opportunities this weekend.
The most obvious one is Friday night in the Mountain West Conference at the Thomas & Mack Center here in Las Vegas. In fact, it’s so obvious that I fear it will be a dreaded public dog, and the line might come up short. Assuming UNLV takes care of Boise State on Thursday night, the Rebels would face top seed and potential NCAA No. 1 seed San Diego State on Friday. UNLV upset SDSU 66-63 as a 14-point road underdog Feb. 22 to give the Aztecs their first loss of the season and would be a live dog, this time at home. The Rebels covered as seven-point home dogs in a 71-67 loss in the first meeting at Thomas & Mack, so expect the spread to be closer to that number or a little shorter based on the two results.
San Diego State has also had tough tests vs. Colorado State and Nevada this week, so I’d still be looking to take the points with either of those teams against the Aztecs if they were to meet in Saturday’s conference title game. If No. 2 seed Utah State faces SDSU, I’d probably pass as they’d likely both have secured at-large NCAA bids.
Here are the other matchups I’m looking to bet if they come to fruition:
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa is 25-5 and already showing up on Cinderella lists for the NCAA tournament. But I’d be willing to fade the Panthers on Friday if they face Illinois State, which is 10-20 but beat UNI once and covered in the other meeting; on Saturday if they face Southern Illinois, which also split the regular-season meetings, or on Sunday if they face Loyola Chicago or Indiana State. Yes, Loyola’s Sister Jean is still alive. She turned 100 in August.
Ohio Valley: Belmont is the prohibitive favorite, but I’ll be looking to take the points with Murray State or Austin Peay, both of which split with Belmont in the regular season, in the title game Saturday night.
West Coast: Gonzaga and BYU are solidly in the NCAA field regardless of what happens in Vegas next week, but what about Saint Mary’s? If we see some bids being stolen over the weekend, I’d be more inclined to take Saint Mary’s vs. BYU on Monday in the West Coast semis.
Tuley’s Takes on XFL
Despite wall-to-wall basketball on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s still nice to have some football games to watch and wager on with the XFL.
As we’ve been writing, home-field advantage continues to be a thing as home teams are 11-5 SU and 10-6 ATS through four weeks. Favorites are 10-6 SU, but underdogs lead 9-7 ATS after going 3-1 ATS in Week 4. The subset of home dogs is 6-3 ATS after going 2-1 ATS again last week. Unders also continue to dominate after going 3-1 to improve to 11-5 overall. Over/Unders continue to trend downward. In fact, the only Over of Week 4 was the result of the Seattle-St. Louis total closing at 38 before the BattleHawks won 23-16, so it went Over by only one point on a very low total.
We’re also learning more about how the XFL’s rule changes are affecting scoring and final margins. After four weeks, 7 has emerged as the key number, as four of the 16 games have been decided by that number. Three games have been decided by 20 points and two by 12, and the latter makes sense as teams struggle with conversion plays. In traditional college and pro football, we’re used to seeing 3 as the most common margin, but we just had our first 3 land Saturday in New York’s 17-14 win over Los Angeles.
Here’s my breakdown of the Week 5 matchups. Lines are from the consensus XFL lines at vsin.com/odds as of Tuesday afternoon.
Seattle Dragons (O/U 46) @ Houston Roughnecks (-13)
Tuley’s Take: Houston is the XFL’s lone undefeated team at 4-0, but the Roughnecks are not as invincible as they’re being touted. They’re only 2-2 ATS, failing to cover as 7.5-point favorites vs. St. Louis in Week 2 and at Tampa Bay in Week 3. They covered as 2.5-point favorites Sunday at Dallas, but that could have gone either way. And now Houston is laying 13 points vs. Seattle, which covered as a 12.5-point underdog Saturday at St. Louis? Seattle is only 1-3, but the Dragons have been competitive in every game. Besides, while Houston averages a league-leading 31.5 points per game, it also allows 22 points per game, so that gives hope that Brandon Silvers and the Seattle offense can do enough to stay close. I’m not an oddsmaker, as I showed Sunday night on “The Edge” when I thought this line would be closer to 8 or 9. But I’ll happily take the additional points, especially as it’s more than the kinda/sorta key number of 12. Best Bet: Seattle + 13.
New York Guardians (O/U 37) @ Dallas Renegades (-8)
Tuley’s Take: Ask most XFL fans and they’ll point to the New York Guardians or the DC Defenders as the hardest teams to figure out. Both have two impressive wins but two very ugly losses. However, I see them as the two biggest examples of home/road dichotomy; both are 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. That is the only reason I don’t have New York as my biggest best bet of the week. The Guardians have been outscored 56-9 away from home at DC and St. Louis. However, they looked much better last week with AAF retread QB Luis Perez starting in place of Matt McGloin and now visit Dallas, which has lost starting QB Landry Jones for at least a few weeks. I don’t understand how the Renegades are favored by more than a touchdown. My numbers have this line at Dallas -3 even before counting the downgrade at QB to Philip Nelson. Best Bet: New York + 8.
St. Louis BattleHawks (-4) @ DC Defenders (O/U 39)
Tuley’s Take: I was off on my point-spread projection on “The Edge” with this game too. I thought the oddsmakers and betting public would have St. Louis favored by more than a touchdown with a 3-1 SU and ATS record, while DC is coming off back-to-back losses in which the Defenders didn’t do much defending in getting outscored 64-9. The only saving grace for DC is that it’s 2-0 SU and ATS at home. However, I just can’t fire away with this line so short. I just hope I’m not kicking myself Sunday for passing on the lone home dog of the week. Best Bet: Pass.
Tampa Bay Vipers (O/U 40.5) @ Los Angeles Wildcats (-1)
Tuley’s Take: This is a battle of 1-3 teams, but I see it as important because the loser will be 1-4 and pretty much have to run the table to have a chance at the playoffs while the winner will be in much better shape. I knew Tampa was better than its 0-3 record, and it showed Sunday in a 25-0 shutout of DC. Taylor Cornelius looks like he has emerged from a three-way QB battle. The Vipers also had two 100-yard backs last week in Jacques Patrick (keep an eye on him as a potential breakout star) and De’Veon Smith. I had this game around pick-’em, and that’s what we’ve seen. Both were favored at different books early in the week, but L.A. put in a dud at New York last week, and I’ll take the team with more momentum. Best Bet: Tampa Bay + 1.