During the Super Bowl, we unveiled a new feature: the VSiN Help Desk. We got a lot of great questions for Bengals vs. Rams, but we also had some college basketball questions filter in. With the NCAA Tournament here, it's time to fire up the Help Desk again.
We're asking all VSiN listeners and subscribers to submit their March Madness betting questions here. We'll get them answered by one of our experts throughout conference tournaments and March Madness.
Q: I have a UNC future ($20 bet pays $4,020) and I'm trying to determine my best hedge betting approach. I don't want to early cash out for the current $480 offered. Is best approach a Duke ML bet v UNC to at least guarantee a decent payout and if so how big a bet should I make? - Jon Z.
Q: I have a small bet on UNC at 150-1, 5/750. What would you say is the best way to hedge at this point? - Scott M.
Burke: Grouped these together since they're similar. The challenge here is that UNC is an underdog to Kansas in the title game, and probably a slightly bigger one than they are against Duke. As a result, you have to leave something on this future if you need to try hedging again.
The first step is a decision that we cannot make for you. What is the bare minimum dollar amount that you want to try to win out of your position? The second is to figure out if you are liquid enough to make that big of a bet, meaning do you have enough in your bankroll to make that bet?
Let's say you decide to bet on Duke and have the $20 to win $4,020 ticket (adjust the mat for the $5/$750 ticket). Does a Duke bet (using -185) of $740 to win $400 do it for you? Likely not, since you don't want to use the cashout option, which is higher at $480. Keep in mind that any hedge amount affects your futures position for the next round. If you bet $740 to win $400, your UNC ticket is now $760 to win $4020 if they advance, so roughly + 530. To lay a Duke ML cuts into your UNC ticket a lot.
As a result, you can also get a little more creative than a straight Duke ML hedge. You can put a decent bet on Duke to win the title at the best odds you can find (probably around + 160) as both a hedge, but also an independent bet. You can bet a "Name the Finalists" type prop of Duke vs. Kansas or Duke vs. Villanova. You can wait and try to live bet Duke at a better ML or as a spread underdog, depending on how the game starts. UNC has started fast in most of their games.
There is no direct answer with this type of hedge because it depends on so many factors, such as the risk tolerance of the person with the bet and their bankroll size. Once you've determined how much you want to try to win, survey your options and decide the one that you feel most comfortable with.
Q: I have Nova at 15-1 for 1 unit to win the championship. Any effective hedge strategy? - Rob S.
Burke: A similar scenario here to the UNC question. Kansas on the ML is the easiest hedge, but maybe not the most cost effective strategy. Betting Kansas to win the National Championship is another hedging option and one that comes at plus money, as opposed to laying the ML price before the game. (Do you like Kansas vs. Duke or UNC? If so, this is your best option.)
You can also wait and see if a better live betting position presents itself. You can also bet something like "Kansas Over Duke" or "Kansas Over UNC" for an "Exact Result" prop at plus money. The first step is to figure out how much you want to try to win and structure your options accordingly.
Q: I have a 15/1 on Duke and a 9/1 on Kansas. Do I/ how should I hedge? - John B.
Burke: The simplest hedge would be spread bets on UNC and Villanova plus the points. You have the chance at winning one or both of those and still keeping your Duke and Kansas futures alive. You could also bet Villanova and/or UNC at the best odds you can find to win the NCAA Championship and have a piece of everybody, if your Duke and Kansas investments are big enough to make that strategy worthwhile.
Personally, I'd just put bets on UNC and Villanova plus the points and maybe do an 80/20 split with a moneyline sprinkle just to increase your return if an upset or two takes place.
Q: I have a futures bets on Duke at 12-1. What do you suggest as a possible hedge in the upcoming Duke/UNC game and under what parameters would you make the bet? -- Bob
Peterson: This really depends on how you feel about Duke in both this matchup and in a potential title game against Kansas or Villanova. There is no right or wrong way to hedge – it’s simply based on your personal risk tolerance.
If you feel really good about Duke winning the title and think North Carolina stands no chance, I don’t think you are obligated to make much of a hedge if you are secure with your position.
If you think North Carolina has a solid opportunity to win outright and that Duke might be vulnerable, be sure to hedge enough on a North Carolina 4.5 bet that you lock up a profit regardless of who wins the game -- and can potentially both bets to work out and stay live if Duke wins by like 2 or 3 points. This is truly a do-what-you-are-most-comfortable-with situation.
Q: Who or what is Ken Pom? — Joey S.
Adam Burke: Ken Pom is the nickname for Ken Pomeroy, who is more or less the godfather of college basketball statistics. KenPom.com is largely considered the Holy Grail of college basketball information. The sportsbooks extensively use KenPom and so do bettors, as a subscription runs cheap and the info is easily digestible.
As far as some other sources that I personally use, I highly recommend BartTorvik.com, as well as Haslametrics.com. Hoop Math and Shot Quality are some other good places for college basketball analysis.
Q: Is there a profitable approach when betting basketball teasers or should action be kept to both spread and money lines? Thanks. — Steve
Burke: Basketball teasers should be used sparingly, if at all. There are some situations in the NBA where it might make sense. Teams typically stop fouling when they are down by about eight or nine points, so teasing an underdog up from + 5 to + 9 or 10 might have some measure of equity. Similarly, teasing down a favorite in that range may yield some winners that otherwise might have been losers or sweats.
Teasers in college basketball are not a worthwhile endeavor. The games are too high-variance and some teams will foul until the bitter end, which makes the late-game scenarios a little more volatile.
Conditions have to be pretty perfect to tease basketball to get the necessary value out of the points that you are getting and those will be rare occurrences. You’re better off just making straight wagers on sides, totals, moneylines, props, etc.
Q: Are there any March Madness betting tournaments at any Las Vegas sports book? — Michael A.
Dave Tuley: Yes, there are two, but if you’re asking as a tourist coming for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the only one is the Hoops Central Showdown at the Westgate SuperBook.
Over the years, there have been a few attempts at March Madness contests, but they’ve never drawn the thousands of entrants like we’ve seen in the NFL season-long contest at the Westgate’s very own SuperContest and the last three years in the Circa Sports Million (and last two years of Circa Survivor).
The Hoops Central Showdown costs $100 to enter (maximum three entries per person) and you pick 28 first-round games against the contest spread on Thursday and Friday, March 17 and 18. Note: the four Thursday/Friday first-round games involving the winners of the “First Four” play-in games on Tuesday/Wednesday are not included. There is no rake, so whoever picks the most winners collects 50 percent of the prize pool with 30 percent for second and 20 percent for third. Even though this isn’t as big as the football contests, there should still be a couple of hundred entrants with a top prize well over $10,000. The tiebreaker will be to guess the total points scored in a game designated by the SuperBook (game to be determined). If any ties remain, prize money will be divided equally.
Another important rule to know is that the deadline to enter and submit all picks is at 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 16. There will undoubtedly be people showing up on Thursday morning thinking they can still enter, but they’ll be told that the 10 p.m. Wednesday deadline was right there in the rules (note: you wouldn’t want to be in a long line trying to sign up with all the Thursday morning bettors anyway, so be glad the deadline is Wednesday night).
The only other March Madness contest is the Last Man Standing at Station Casinos. This one is more for Las Vegas locals, though tourists can take a shot if they’re able to return the second and third weekends of the NCAA Tournament as all picks must be submitted in person. Last Man Standing costs just $25 to enter (with a promotion that if you buy four, your fifth entry is free, so $100 for five entries) and you have to pick one game against the spread each day of the tournament to advance to the next day. So, yes, you have to return to a Stations property for all four days of the opening weekend; all four days of the Sweet 16 and regional finals on Thursday, March 24, to Sunday, March 27; and then the Final Four on Saturday, April 2, and title game on Monday, April 4, if you make it that far.
Q: How much should ATS records influence your capping in college basketball? For example, St Bonaventure is a -13 fave v Fordham today (question from 2/8). All my numbers show value in betting Fordham as I have them as more of a + 9 dog — a nice edge. But St Bon is 8-0-2 ATS vs Fordham in the last 10 games. That said, St Bon is performing poorly overall ATS at home, and Fordham is performing well on the road this season. I'm laying off this bet because of these ATS trends but is that the right call? — Ed B.
Burke: Bettors have different things that work for them and that they are comfortable doing. Personally, I am not a trends bettor, but do know other people that have great success with them. All information can be beneficial when breaking down a game. I like to get a full picture of everything and then decide what is most important, what is noise and what is of no consequence to me.
With these trends, there are a few things I’d want to consider. First, what do results from 3-5 years ago mean in the present? The players are different over that span. Furthermore, Fordham has a new head coach this season. We don’t have a sample size for him against St. Bonaventure.
Also, a record of 8-0-2 doesn’t give any context. Who was favored? What was the spread? Which way did the line move? Was it an easy cover? A cover at the free throw line late?
It is perfectly reasonable to look at home/road splits from an ATS standpoint in college basketball. It can show if a team is maybe overvalued at home or shoots worse on the road. To me, trends are a guide to go and find out why something is the case. If a team is 8-2 to the Over at home, is it because they’re shooting really well? Is it because of the opposition?
My preference is to look at the stats and try to see how the teams match up in the current season, but if you find that trends work for you, then it is an illustration of the numerous paths to success as a bettor.
Q: If you bet $100 ATS per game, what tournament team was the most profitable this season? — Robert V.
Burke: Of teams that are in the NCAA Tournament for sure, Saint Mary’s has the best Cover% with a record of 18-9-2 ATS (66.7%). Texas Tech is next at 20-11 (64.5%). Middle Tennessee has the best Cover% of any team at 21-7 (75%).
Q: What are some mid to lower seeded NCAA tournament teams that you feel could make a bit of a run or at least win a game or two? What data/analysis/trends perhaps points to these teams doing so? — Tyler S.
Greg Peterson: South Dakota State and Chattanooga are a pair of teams that I have winning at least one game in my bracket. Both are in the top 40 in terms of points scored per possession, with South Dakota State No. 1 in that metric. And both control the tempo to get games at their speed, with Chattanooga slowing the pace (outside of the top 300 in possessions per game) and South Dakota State speeding it up (inside the top 30).
Q: Going back as long as possible, what's the record for double-digit dogs ATS in conference tournaments for just the Power 5 conferences? — Doug F.
Burke: I called upon Steve Makinen for the answer and here's what he came up with (including the Big East as college basketball's "Sixth Power Conference").
Heading into this year, dating back to the 2014 season:
SEC: 1-11 SU & 3-7-2 ATS
Pac 12: 1-16 SU & 9-8 ATS
Big Ten: 3-13 SU & 8-8 ATS
Big East: 2-11 SU & 4-9 ATS
Big 12: 1-7 SU & 5-3 ATS
ACC: 0-14 SU & 4-9-1 ATS
Total: 8-72 SU & 33-44-3 ATS
So far this season (as of Mar. 11, 2 p.m. ET), double-digit underdogs are 4-1 ATS and 1-4 SU (BC over Wake).
Q: On basketball lines, how do you get the estimated line. Also about how much of a difference between the estimate and actual line do you want before making a bet? — Paul
Peterson: The best lines are usually openers. The key is using as many apps and sportsbooks as you can to find multiple-point differences and get the best value. Most bets come in on game day, so there's still a chance to shop around for first-round games.
Q: Burned in the South. I have preflop futures on Houston and Illinois (1 unit each) and UAB (.25 units), and 1 of my favorite Cinderellas is 'Nooga. How do I bet myself out of this mess in Pittsburgh to at least break even? — Diron
Peterson: Just bet games individually and let the chips fall where they may. If there is a team you think can make a run in the South, consider a moneyline rollover instead of a futures bet. Let's say you like Villanova now in the South. In a ML rollover, you'd place a bet on Villanova over Delaware in the first round on the moneyline. Let's say the bet is $50. The first round won’t return much, likely around $53, but now you have more than you started with for Villanova's Round 2 game. In Round 2, you can now bet $53 on Villanova on the moneyline and start stacking your cash. It adds up, and if the team you like ends up with a bad matchup or an injury, you can stop rolling it over and either pocket the winnings or allocate that money to other bets.