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With Gronk back at practice, will Patriots' money show up, too?

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

January 29, 2018 12:06 AM

USATSI_10561903
Rob Gronkowski was seen at practice for the New England Patriots as he awaits clearance from concussion protocol.
© USA Today Sports Images

Less than a week to Super Bowl 52! Market updates plus major developments from a busy basketball weekend. Is this the beginning of the end for West Virginia and Oklahoma? Back to work in VSiN City.

Super Bowl 52: “Market Watch” suggests Patriots money may be on the way
The first week of Super Bowl betting involved BIG BETS on the Philadelphia Eagles. Word broke late in the week that the source behind the $500,000 money line bet on the Eagles at the South Point was the same man who won big during the World Series. That added some context, as we can now confirm it wasn’t a sharp syndicate betting based on price…but an opinionated bettor who was less concerned about pure value than he was about betting big on the team he thought would win outright. 

Worked great for him during the World Series! 

This past weekend, Rob Gronkowski was seen at practice for the New England Patriots as he awaits clearance from concussion protocol. Betting constituencies interested in laying the points are hoping he gets cleared soon. The general public loves betting the Patriots as affordable favorites, and would likely lay anything up to -6 based on the market’s opening line if the star receiver is able to play. 

It’s clear that sharp dog lovers took some positions at plus 6 and at plus 5.5 last week. Plenty of drama waiting to unfold. Here’s where we stand…
 
Super Bowl 52: New England Patriots vs. the Philadelphia Eagles
Opening Line: New England -6, total of 47.5
First Move: New England -5.5, total of 48
Late Week 1: New England -4.5, total of 48
Early Week 2: New England New England -4.5, total of 48

To the degree things have changed from late last week…some outlier sports books had tested New England -4 with extra vigorish at -120. Questions arose at the time about whether or not the full market would gradually work its way down to four. Now, outliers are showing New England -5. Nobody’s thinking about four any more. Gronkowski’s practice appearance may have created a baseline. 

Be sure you keep watching VSiN programming throughout the week for the latest Super Bowl betting news from both sides of the counter. 

Saturday College Basketball: SEC Impresses in cross-conference challenge against Big 12
Though, it wasn’t necessarily a dominating performance, the SEC sure impressed this past Saturday in its annual challenge against the Big 12. It managed a 6-4 record straight up and ATS despite being seen as the lesser of the two leagues entering the event.

*The Big 12 had four teams ranked above anyone from the SEC (#5 Kansas, #7 West Virginia, #12 Oklahoma, and #14 Texas Tech), and six teams in the top 30 of AP vote-getters (TCU at #28 and Kansas State at #30).

*The SEC only had two teams in the AP top 20…#19 Auburn and #20 Florida…with Auburn not even invited to the event because of the 14-10 difference in membership rosters. The SEC went 6-4 without its highest ranked team playing! Kentucky is also in the top 30 of AP vote getters. 

Top 15: Big 12 4, SEC 0
Top 25: Big 12 4, SEC 2
Top 30: Big 12 6, SEC 3

Let’s quickly run through the results. Because VSiN is CNBC for sports bettors, we’ll categorize them by point spread covers. 

SEC Betting Wins (ranked by size of cover)
Tennessee (-2.5) won at Iowa State 68-45 (20.5 points)
Kentucky (plus 10) won at West Virginia 83-76 (17 points)
Florida (-7) beat Baylor 81-60 (14 points)
Alabama (pick-em) beat Oklahoma 80-73 (7 points)
Vanderbilt (plus 3) beat TCU 81-78 (6 points)
Georgia (plus 6.5) lost at Kansas State 56-51 (1.5 points)

Six covers by a combined 66 points. Everyone will remember Kentucky rallying from way behind to stun West Virginia. Tennessee technically had the most impressive market performance of the week against an apparently disinterested Iowa State squad. Alabama over Oklahoma was very important in terms of possibly foreshadowing the future of those teams. The Tide is dangerous when healthy. Oklahoma is quickly falling off the national championship radar. 

Big 12 Betting Wins (ranked by size of cover)
Texas (-6) beat Mississippi 85-72 (7 points)
Texas Tech (-3) won at South Carolina 70-63 (4 points)
Oklahoma State (plus 7.5) lost at Arkansas 66-65 (6.5 points)
Kansas (-9) beat Texas A&M 79-68 (2 points)

Four covers by a combined 19.5 points. That means the SEC’s total edge vs. the market was 46.5 points over 10 games, which is 4.65 points per game. So, the league was more underrated by the market than just a 6-4 ATS mark would have suggested. Three double digit covers for the SEC, while the biggest Big 12 advantage was the seven-point mark from Texas. This may not matter again until the postseason when interconference action becomes the norm. For now, early evidence that the SEC’s depth might provide profit potential, while a few respected Big 12 entries might not be as good as early-season results had suggested. 

Let’s quickly run the numbers from the two most impactful results in the national picture…

Kentucky (plus 10) 83, #7 West Virginia 76
Two-point Pct: Kentucky 45%, W. Virginia 39% 
Three Pointers: Kentucky 8/18, W. Virginia 10/24
Free Throws: Kentucky 23/29, W. Virginia 12/18
Rebounds: Kentucky 49, W. Virginia 34
Turnovers: Kentucky 16, W. Virginia 6
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Kentucky 25-13-30, W. Virginia 15-10-11

Great sign for Kentucky fans that its young talent gained composure in the second half and stormed to victory. If this is a confidence builder, there’s still time for the Wildcats to become a relevant force in March. Also, a reminder that it’s possible to figure out how to break WV’s press in a half of basketball, which is another reason why you should be skeptical of the Mountaineers moving forward this season. They’ll crush teams with lousy guards (like Texas). They’re nothing special against teams who can break their press. Kentucky won the second half 50-28! TCU won the second half 47-40 in Forth Worth. Kansas won the second half 43-25 in it’s recent win on this court. In Lubbock, Texas Tech was up 41-28 in second half scoring with six seconds to go until the Mountaineers scored some very late points to force a one-point full-game loss. 

Frankly, West Virginia has looked more like the #40 team in the nation the past few weeks outside of the blowout of Texas’ poor guards. So, this result doesn’t necessarily mean Kentucky is scary again. Just that West Virginia’s balloon popped. 

Alabama (pick-em) 80, #12 Oklahoma 73
Two-point Pct: Oklahoma 48%, Alabama 63% 
Three Pointers: Oklahoma 8/27, Alabama 8/19
Free Throws: Oklahoma 7/9, Alabama 12/22
Rebounds: Oklahoma 38, Alabama 37
Turnovers: Oklahoma 13, Alabama 17
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Oklahoma 22-20-27, Alabama 55-48-52

Trae Moore went back to forcing things…2 of 8 on two-point shots and some horrendous passes into traffic. Thus, Oklahoma went back to losing after that one-game respite vs. Kansas. You can see that OU’s defense was very soft inside. Though, forcing 17 turnovers helped. Interesting that Alabama is coached by Avery Johnson, who has extensive NBA experience. You may have noticed that Moore was constantly bothered by Alabama’s length, and that OU wasn’t getting enough really good looks from long range. Future opponents will learn from Alabama's defensive tactics here.

The respected computer ratings we follow now have Oklahoma outside the top 20 in composite. Like West Virginia, the Sooners may have peaked early with an approach that can be countered with some thought and patience. And, anyone thinking of backing Trae Moore for “Player of the Year” honors needs to consider the impact his negatives have on the game when OU is facing quality. “Stat accumulator vs. the soft part of the schedule” shouldn’t be what that award celebrates. 

Big 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: West Virginia 86 at home…84 on the road, Kansas 86 at home…85 on the road, Texas Tech 84 at home…83 on the road, Oklahoma 82, TCU 80, Texas 78, Baylor 78, Kansas State 78 at home…77 on the road, Oklahoma State 76, Iowa State 74.

SEC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Florida 82, Auburn 82, Kentucky 80, Tennessee 80 at home…79 on the road, Arkansas 80, Alabama 79, Texas A&M 79, Missouri 77, South Carolina 77, Mississippi State 76, Georgia 75, LSU 75, Ole Miss 75, Vanderbilt 74.
 
ACC Basketball: #2 Virginia upsets #4 Duke, though it might not be an upset next time!
The biggest game of the weekend was, of course, the Virginia-Duke battle Saturday that featured two of the top four teams in the AP poll and all the respected computers. Virginia scored the short upset (market upset, rather than a ranking upset), and did so despite not thriving in many statistical categories. 

#2 Virginia (plus 3.5) 65, #4 Duke 63
Two-point Pct: Virginia 45%, Duke 56% 
Three Pointers: Virginia 6/22, Duke 4/15
Free Throws: Virginia 7/9, Duke 5/11
Rebounds: Virginia 31, Duke 44
Turnovers: Virginia 5, Duke 16
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Virginia 2-3-3, Duke 4-4-4

Virginia didn’t shoot lights out from long range…got outclassed in two-point shooting…and lost the rebounding category by a wide margin. Yet, they were on top much of the afternoon despite playing in Cameron Indoor in Durham? What happened?

Virginia winning the turnover category by double digits trumped everything else. Duke could score IF they got the ball inside…but lost the ball so often that the Blue Devils couldn’t ever feel comfortable. Virginia treasured possessions, even if the Cavaliers couldn’t hit their normal percentage of shots. 

It can be weird to analyze games based on what didn’t happen. But, as you consider the possibilities in any postseason rematches on neutral courts…remember that Virginia is likely to shoot more accurately from long range while having a better chance of foul equality (18 fouls called on Virginia, just 14 on Duke). The Cavaliers didn’t have to play over their heads to win at Duke. The computers all agree that Virginia is slightly superior. This style will always put a ceiling on what Virginia can accomplish as clear favorites over quality teams. But, it always gives them a chance to win even if they’re not hitting on all cylinders. You have to be a special team to earn a “workmanlike” win at Duke that wasn’t keyed by outliers. 

NC State (plus 12) 95, #10 North Carolina 91 (in overtime)
Regulation Score: NC State 83, North Carolina 83
Two-point Pct: NC State 41%, North Carolina 64% 
Three Pointers: NC State 15/30, North Carolina 4/19
Free Throws: NC State 12/18, North Carolina 11/20
Rebounds: NC State 34, North Carolina 48
Turnovers: NC State 9, North Carolina 14
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: NC State 62-59-61, North Carolina 13-12-12

This result was keyed by an outlier. Wanted to include this other Saturday ACC boxscore because it involved an upset of a ranked team. A lot of media buzz after this early result regarding the inconsistency of both teams. You can’t trust North Carolina vs. anybody (the Tar Heels also lost to Wofford). North Carolina State can lose ugly on day but look like world beaters the next. Jump right to three-point shooting before you get too excited about the Wolfpack. The visitors shot lights out from long range, or otherwise would have been crushed. NC State was plus 33 points on bombs in a game it only won by four points. More respected North Carolina won scoring on “1’s and 2’s” by a count of 79-50, with huge edges on two-point percentage and rebounding. Most of the categories are reflective of the computer mismatch (and the point spread) rather than the final score.  

This result tells you less about these teams, and more about the general nature of college basketball. The three-point category can be so volatile, that elite teams can’t overcome an opponent shooting lights out. Bubble teams can look like Elite Eight teams for a day. The important thing for sports bettors is to focus on the stats that express skill sets rather than getting swayed by hot or cold mini-stretches on three-pointers. 

ACC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Virginia 86, North Carolina 83, Clemson 81 at home…80 on the road, Louisville 81 at home…79 on the road, Florida State 80, Virginia Tech 78, Miami 78, Syracuse 77, Notre Dame 77, NC State 75, Wake Forest 74, Georgia Tech 74, Boston College 72, Pittsburgh 64.

Sunday College Basketball: Powers Villanova, Purdue, and Michigan State dodge road traps, but can’t cover
Three key games on Sunday garnered most of the media attention. Let’s see what bettors can learn from the final boxscores…

#1 Villanova (-6.5) 85, Marquette 82
Two-point Pct: Villanova 60%, Marquette 53% 
Three Pointers: Villanova 8/23, Marquette 11/23
Free Throws: Villanova 19/24, Marquette 9/12
Rebounds: Villanova 31, Marquette 31
Turnovers: Villanova 10, Marquette 13
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Villanova 1-1-1, Marquette 42-45-42

If you didn’t watch…most of the game featured Villanova building a lead up to around 8-9 points only to see Marquette come back to make it interesting. Cycle after cycle. It was never closer than three points in the final six minutes. And, Marquette had to hit a layup at the buzzer for it to finish that close. Mostly good news in the boxscore for the road favorite. But, the margin for error even with elite teams is tight if the opposing dog is making treys. Villanova won scoring on 1’s and 2’s by a count of 61-49, with an aggressive style of play that earned twice as many free throw attempts despite playing on the road. 

Big East estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 87 at home…86 on the road, Xavier 80, Creighton 79, Butler 78, Seton Hall 78, Marquette 76, Providence 76, St. John’s 72, Georgetown 70, DePaul 69.

#3 Purdue (-8.5) 74, Indiana 67
Two-point Pct: Purdue 58%, Indiana 63% 
Three Pointers: Purdue 5/18, Indiana 3/16
Free Throws: Purdue 15/18, Indiana 10/17
Rebounds: Purdue 30, Indiana 31
Turnovers: Purdue 7, Indiana 10
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Purdue 3-2-2, Indiana 89-70-91

Indiana never trailed in the first half. It was nip-and-tuck the whole second half…65-64 Purdue with just under three minutes to go…69-66 with less than a minute. Purdue would make five of six free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. Much more intense than the final score would suggest. And, that’s a strike against Purdue given Indiana’s poor computer ratings. For the second straight game, Purdue played awful inside defense against a team that was taking them to the wire. If Indiana could have bought a trey, we would have seen an upset. Purdue is still well-respected by the computers and the media because it runs away and hides from bad opponents when things are going well. This week seemed more like a big red flag waving regarding March hopes. It’s one thing to allow 56% inside the arc to the size and talent of Duke (as Virginia did). Allowing 63% at Indiana? Who’s down around #80 nationally in the computer composite? 

#6 Michigan State (-6) 74, Maryland 68
Two-point Pct: Michigan State 48%, Maryland 44% 
Three Pointers: Michigan State 5/21, Maryland 7/17
Free Throws: Michigan State 19/23, Maryland 13/19
Rebounds: Michigan State 46, Maryland 29
Turnovers: Michigan State 10, Maryland 8
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Michigan State 5-5-5, Maryland 39-37-36

Maryland blew a 37-24 halftime lead. And, the Terps blew it fast! Michigan State led 42-41 before five minutes had elapsed in the second half. Sparty was in position to win, but not cover much of the final 20 minutes. MSU would make 11 of 12 free throws in the game’s last 52 seconds for the push. Definitely a tournament feel to this one given those computer rankings. Ultimately rebounding and the ability to make clutch free throws pulled Sparty through. Nothing major here for handicappers, which isn’t unusual when a game lands right on the number. Though, remembering that MSU can make late free throws could come in handy in this price range in the Big Ten tournament and afterward. 

Big Ten estimated “market” Power Ratings: Purdue 86, Michigan State 86, Ohio State 82, Michigan 80, Penn State 78, Maryland 77, Nebraska 75, Northwestern 75, Indiana 74, Wisconsin 73, Iowa 73, Illinois 71, Rutgers 71, Minnesota (in flux).

Before we wrap up the day, college basketball commentary from Greg Peterson…

College Basketball: “Running the Floor with Greg Peterson”
Two Saturdays ago on “March to Madness,” I predicted that Nebraska would upset Ohio State…and go on to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. This past Saturday, my “Slam Dunk” prediction, was that only four teams from the Big Ten would make the Dance. With Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan as virtual locks, that would obviously leave out Nebraska. What changed? 

My pick on Nebraska reaching the NCAA’s was dependent on a win against Ohio State. I not only thought Nebraska would cover the game, but win outright. Suffering that loss leaves the Cornhuskers with just one win against teams with a top 70 RPI and without any chances to pick up a top 50 win until the Big Ten Tournament.

Nebraska has been a nice surprise this season. Bettors that have backed this team have been rewarded with a 16-6 record against the spread, winning 12 of the last 13. This is a testament not only to how much Nebraska has exceeded its preseason projection, but shows that this team continues to be underestimated.

Though Nebraska is playing at a high level, the Cornhuskers face an uphill battle in terms of improving their resume against their remaining schedule. There are no games left against locks for the NCAA’s. And, the Big Ten has the worst conference RPI of the power five. In order, Nebraska will play on the road against Minnesota and Wisconsin, at home against Rutgers and Maryland, on the road versus Illinois, and wrap up conference play at home against Indiana and Penn State. The close call against Ohio State will likely be what keeps Nebraska out of the Big Dance. 

Nebraska also has itself to blame because its non-conference schedule (ranked only #281 nationally) did not put the Cornhuskers in position for success. Their lone quality non-conference win came against Boston College, a distant also-ran in the ACC. 

To call Nebraska dead and off the NCAA Tournament bubble would be an overstatement, but the Cornhuskers will likely have to get a win over one of the top four teams in the Big Ten in the conference tournament in order to feel good about their chances of making the field of 68.

For bettors, while Nebraska’s recent 12-1 run against the spread has been very profitable, the Cornhuskers are due to regress back to the team that only started the season 4-5 ATS. It will be tougher to cover spreads as favorite now that market expectations have risen.

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Back with you Tuesday to recap Notre Dame/Duke and Kansas/Kansas State from ESPN’s Big Monday.

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