We hope everyone had a great time in an incredibly jam-packed sports weekend, especially here in Las Vegas. We hope you have been following our unranked college basketball home teams vs. Top 25 teams, as they kept us profitable despite trading money in the XFL and losing our 20/1 flier on a Wilder-Fury draw in their heavyweight title fight here Saturday night.
I also had an unpublished 300/1 flier on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Pennzoil 400 on Sunday. He was in it at the end, finishing third. I really need to start my petition to institute win-place-show betting in auto racing and golf. It stinks to have a live long shot like that and get nothing.
Anyway, we’ve been thinking a lot lately here at the Tuley’s Takes home office about how February used to be a dead time in Vegas between the Super Bowl and March Madness. But it’s great to have all these betting options at our fingertips.
Before getting back to college basketball, I want to take a deeper dive into the XFL. We haven’t had quite the success we had last year with the AAF, but it’s still a viable betting product. We’re learning more about these teams, and it still gets its share of our attention on Saturdays and Sundays.
In last week’s “PSW,” I said my leans were on the three home underdogs. They went 2-1 ATS, with the Tampa Bay Vipers covering vs. the closing number of +7.5 in their 34-27 loss to the Houston Roughnecks. If you took the Vipers before it got to +7, you took a loss, so line shopping and the timing of your bets is as important in the XFL as it is in all sports. Full disclosure: In my “Tuley’s Takes Extra!” column Saturday at VSiN.com, I dropped the Vipers as a play and added the New York Guardians at the St. Louis BattleHawks. St. Louis closed -10 and won 29-9, so my Extra! plays went 1-2 ATS. Personally, I bet all four XFL dogs on the weekend and went 2-2 ATS.
Overall, XFL favorites are 8-4 SU and 6-6 ATS through three weeks. Home teams are 8-4 SU and ATS as home-field advantage has started strong. Unders are 8-4, though I’m glad I warned readers about jumping on the Under trend after it was 6-2 through two weeks. Oddsmakers have adjusted downward with the lower-than-expected scoring, and I expect totals to be right around .500 in the future.
I also want to share something I pointed out Sunday night on “The Edge.” Regular readers and viewers will recall that Circa Sports put up the first totals before XFL Week 1 and made the Over/Under 40.5 on all four games. The universal reaction was that those totals were way too low. Other books posted totals in the mid-40s, and they were steamed into the low 50s, with Week 1 totals closing at an average of 52 points. Unders went 3-1 that first week. Totals were adjusted to the middle to upper 40s and went 3-1 again before splitting 2-2 last weekend. After three weeks, 485 points have been scored in 12 games, or an average of 40.4 points. That means Circa Sports was spot on. In fact, if all 12 games had a generic Over/Under of 40.5, they would have split 6-6.
So if you’re looking to bet totals, a good rule of thumb would be not to go Over totals higher than 40.5 or Under totals lower than 40.5.
We’ve had a lot of discussion about whether key numbers exist in the XFL, especially with its one-, two- and three-point conversions with no kicking. I know it’s just through 12 games, but two games have been decided by seven points and two others by 12. The most common margin, with three instances, has been 20 points, though we’re not calling that a key number as we haven’t seen any spreads that high. Here are the other final margins if you want to keep track to see if any come up more often: 4, 6, 8, 27, 30.
Anyway, it is interesting that we do have one game this week with a spread of 7 and another with a spread of 12. Here are my takes on this weekend’s four XFL matchups.
Los Angeles Wildcats (-7) @ New York Guardians (O/U 41)
Tuley’s Take: As I discussed Sunday night on “The Edge” with Matt Youmans, I figured out the average points for and against for all eight teams and came up with the projected scores for this week’s matchups. The numbers came out to Wildcats 22-17, or Wildcats -5 with an Over/Under of 39. Even though that’s lower then the current line of 7, I’m going to pass on the Guardians after their lackluster performances the last two weeks. The Wildcats, on whom I was high entering the season, lost their first two games but improved a lot from Week 1 to Week 2 as Josh Johnson made his debut in a 25-18 loss to preseason title favorite Dallas. The Wildcats then routed the DC Defenders 39-9 in Week 3, so I would need a lot more points to back New York here. The Over/Under is right around league average, so no thanks on that either. Best Bet: Pass.
Seattle Dragons (O/U 38.5) at St. Louis BattleHawks (-12)
Tuley’s Take: St. Louis was expected to be among the worst teams in the league, but the BattleHawks are 2-1 SU and a league-best 3-0 ATS. In this game, they’re the biggest favorite of the season so far. However, I have to believe this line is adjusted too high after their 29-9 rout of New York. The average stats have this as St. Louis winning 22-15.5, or St. Louis -6.5 with an Over/Under of 37.5. That’s very close on the total, but we’re getting a 5.5-point edge with the Dragons %plussign. Seattle has been competitive even in its losses, and as much as St. Louis has overachieved, the BattleHawks’ offense is averaging just 22.7 points per game. So if we can get Seattle to score close to its 16-ppg average, we can get the cover. Best Bet: Seattle Dragons %plussign.
Houston Roughnecks (-1) @ Dallas Renegades (O/U 50)
Tuley’s Take: This is the marquee matchup of Week 4, with undefeated Houston visiting Dallas. The Renegades were the preseason favorites before losing to St. Louis in Week 1, but now they have won two straight since Landry Jones returned to the lineup. Houston, led by MVP front-runner P.J. Walker, is the highest-scoring team in the league at 33 points per game. But Dallas has the top defense, allowing just 15 points per game. The average stats put this as a Houston 24-21 win, or Houston -3 with a total of 45. I gave out Dallas as my strongest early lean when I did “The Edge” before the lines came out. I was bummed when books actually made Dallas a short home fave, but now I’m glad the public has bet Houston to favoritism, so I can keep the Renegades as my best bet of the week. Remember, even though Houston is 3-0, the Roughnecks are 1-2 ATS and have failed to cover their last two games, including their first road test last week at Tampa Bay. Best Bet: Dallas Renegades +1 or better.
DC Defenders (-1) at Tampa Bay Vipers (O/U 44.5)
Tuley’s Take: I also said on “The Edge” that I liked Tampa Bay as a home dog in this matchup. However, that was based on the average stats having this as DC winning 23.5-16, or DC -7.5 with an Over/Under of 39.5, plus the hope that Aaron Murray would return for the Vipers. I was actually stunned when some books opened Tampa Bay as a short home fave, even though DC was blown out 39-9 by Los Angeles and the Vipers covered in their 34-27 loss to Houston. Even though I think Tampa Bay is better than its 0-3 record, I didn’t think that performance would have them favored over a DC team that was looking like one of the best teams in the XFL before it stumbled last week. Even though I’m glad to see the Vipers back to the underdog role, this is still a TD short of where I think the line should be. Best Bet: Pass.
Takes on NCAA
While we’ve been catching up on college basketball leading up to March Madness, we’ve been thrilled at the continuing success of simply betting unranked home underdogs vs. Top 25 road teams, as we’ve mentioned several times in “Point Spread Weekly” and on Twitter @ViewFromVegas. These have been gold all year with the parity in college basketball, and the unranked teams I listed in last week’s issue went 10-4 ATS.
However, I do have a “let the bettor beware” warning I shared Monday on VSiN’s “Betting Across America.” I fear that oddsmakers have caught up to this trend and it won’t last forever, as we keep seeing lower spreads on these ranked favorites. In fact, many times the oddsmakers are making the unranked home teams short faves. Those were 2-1 ATS last week, but it does obviously lessen our chances.
Also, we have only a week and a half left before the major-conference tournaments at neutral sites take away home-court advantage, except in rare cases. But here are this week’s potential plays:
Wednesday: Minnesota vs. No. 9 Maryland.
Thursday: California vs. No. 21 Colorado; Nebraska vs. No. 23 Ohio State.
Saturday: Kansas State vs. No. 1 Kansas; TCU vs. No. 2 Baylor; Clemson vs. No. 6 Florida State; Marquette vs. No. 13 Seton Hall; Virginia vs. No. 7 Duke; Pepperdine vs. No. 17 BYU; Nevada vs. No. 5 San Diego State.
Sunday: St. John’s vs. No. 10 Creighton; Stanford vs. No. 21 Colorado.
Tuesday: Rutgers vs. No. 9 Maryland; Iowa State vs. No. 20 West Virginia.