And so we're right back where we started from as the North Carolina Tar Heels, the preseason pick for No. 1 in the nation, finished the season just where they started it following their 89-72 win in the title game over Michigan State on Monday. Though the public got the better of the books in the championship contest, the overall betting odds during the 2008-2009 college basketball season were as sharp as ever.
Tom Izzo was right all along.
Going into Monday night’s NCAA Tournament championship game, the buzz was about how much better Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans would fare against the North Carolina Tar Heels than they did in December’s 98-63 blowout loss. The Spartans (+10) didn’t have center Goran Suton in the lineup that day; Izzo told the Associated Press after the carnage that his “real team” with Suton in the paint might have lost by 20 points instead of 35.
And so it came to pass. When the two teams met again at Detroit’s Ford Field, Suton scored 17 points with 11 rebounds, but that wasn’t nearly enough to bridge the gap in what turned out to be an 89-72 final. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 20-point lead less than 10 minutes into the contest and never came close to allowing even a matador cover on the spread of 7½ points. It was North Carolina’s sixth straight double-digit victory of the Tournament at a convincing 6-0 ATS.
The books took a bath on this one. According to the closing market reports for this matchup, nearly two-thirds of bettors were on the very public Tar Heels – although the books got some of that back with almost 70 percent of moneyline bettors taking Michigan State at +290. Monday’s result was a disappointing end to an otherwise highly profitable 21-13-1 ATS season for MSU supporters. Despite their Tournament run, the Heels wrapped things up in the red at 17-19 ATS.
One other key betting fact from Monday night: The over cashed in on the total of 161 points, once again to the benefit of roughly two-thirds the betting public. But don’t expect too many tears to be shed at the books over this one game. Their overall betting odds this year were as sharp as ever: The under finished the season at 1,640-1,638, and favorites were 1,647-1,672-5.
As usual, if you wanted betting value, you were best served looking outside of the six major conferences. Seven of the Top 10 teams against the spread were from the mid-majors and lower – although we do have a power conference representative at the No. 1 spot for the first time since Florida in 2001. The SEC’s Auburn Tigers finished the season at 24-12 SU and an outstanding 21-8 ATS. Weber State was next at 19-7 ATS, followed by the defending champions from Kansas at 20-8-1 ATS.
Auburn’s basketball program only feels like a mid-major. The football-crazed SEC was ranked sixth of the six power conferences in efficiency this year, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics. The Pac-10 finished first on the strength of improved performances from Washington (19-12-1 ATS) and Arizona State (19-12 ATS) that obviously translated well at the pay window.
And this was supposed to be the Big East’s year. Things looked very promising for them on Selection Sunday when they were handed three of the four No. 1 seeds at the Tournament, but Michigan State eliminated two of them: Louisville (22-15 ATS) and Pittsburgh (16-13-1 ATS). Handicappers are more likely to remember this year in the Big East as a fader’s paradise:
- DePaul: 9-17 ATS
- Georgetown: 9-17-1 ATS
- Notre Dame: 11-19 ATS
- Providence: 11-18 ATS
Humbling seasons from Notre Dame and Georgetown dragged the Big East down to third in the efficiency rankings, behind the Atlantic Coast Conference. Although the chalkier clubs at the top of the ACC had trouble cashing in, the conference’s middle class took a big step up in 2009, as teams like Florida State (18-10-1 ATS) and Maryland (16-11-2 ATS) earned invitations to the Big Dance. The biggest ACC breadwinners, though, were the N.C. State Wolfpack at a healthy 15-9-1 ATS.
Before we close the book on the 2008-09 college basketball season, let’s pause to give thanks to the Fordham Rams. They finished last in the Atlantic-10 at 3-25 SU; more importantly for handicappers, the Rams were also the best fade candidates in all of Division I at 6-20 ATS. Hail, men of Fordham, hail.