1. #1
    Point Blank
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    PB (1/31): For the Patriots Great "SOP" Has Been Standard Operating Procedure


    For the Patriots Great SOP Has Been Standard Operating Procedure…When Tacko Fall fell, so did the UCF defense…Colorado State just isn’t Ram tough right now…


    Point Blank – January 31, 2018

    As the countdown to Super Bowl 52 continues the focus here turns towards one of the most important dynamics of all for the sustained excellence the Patriots have put together, yet one of the most under-appreciated because it does not jump out of the box scores. And in breaking down the Wednesday hoops board, there is are some prototype cases to put into play about how numbers simply must be filtered for key injuries, or the handicapper is left with a pile of rubbish.

    As we prepare for yet one more New England Super Bowl appearance the jukebox theme for this week has been on the music that has come out of the Boston area. And if the handicapping discussion today is to be about key aspects of sports that don’t have clearly-set categories, let’s bring in the music of the Pixies, who also defied classification. This one is from their reunion tour in 2004:





    Item: For the Patriots great SOP has been Standard Operating Procedure

    In the first edition of WP after the Super Bowl matchup was set I decided to focus on a prime handicapping take that crosses two dimensions – A. Understanding the specifics of how the Patriots have achieved their lofty status; and B. Being prepared to deal with two weeks of the Sports Mediaverse telling the tale from a different viewpoint. It became an interesting talking point because it goes against a grain – while you will continue to hear much about Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia creating game-plan headaches for Nick Foles and the Philadelphia offense, in truth the New England defense has not been anything special for a long time.

    If you did not read through the first time, or are short on time now, the crux of the matter is that the average New England defensive rating from the Football Outsiders over the past decade was #19. It was the offense at #3 and special teams at #4 that have keyed their success, and to properly prepare not just for this Sunday, but for all NFL games, it is an opportune moment to note just how much those other elements play a part in preventing points from being scored, something attributed overwhelmingly to defense across the Sports Mediaverse.

    Welcome to a stat that is an important part of our internal football charting but one you likely won’t hear at all in the pre-game shows: SOP, for “Start of Possession”. Today I am going to narrow the focus a bit to the last six New England seasons, those of Patricia as the DC, because soon after the Vince Lombardi Trophy gets hoisted on Sunday, we begin charting Patricia as the Detroit Lions HC.



    Patricia got that position despite the Patriots defense rating #20, #12, #12, #16 and #31 across that cycle. Was he given too much credit for what other parts of the organization have done so well? Let’s go to work.

    What makes New England special is the attention to detail from Belichick and his staff in every aspect of the game. Yes, that would mean wanting to put the best possible defense out there. But it also brings the understanding that before the defense ever takes the field, a combination of the offense not turning the ball over, and the special teams being first-rate, which has given that defense a major advantage – it forces the opposition to go long distances in order to score. Let’s look at the impact those other elements have had:

    SOP Off Def NFL avg TO/Drive
    2017 27.7 (17) 24.6 (1) 28.2 .072 (2)
    2016 30.7 (2) 24.9 (1) 28.1 .046 (1)
    2015 30.4 (3) 23.7 (2) 27.3 .060 (1)
    2014 30.3 (2) 25.3 (1) 27.6 .075 (3)
    2013 29.7 (4) 24.2 (2) 27.9 .11 (10)
    2012 28.4 (12) 25.6 (6) 27.5 .083 (5)

    The Patriots gave the defense good field position in 2012; since then it has been great. I detailed the special teams in last Monday’s take, but this time added the offensive turnovers-per-drive as well, because that plays a critical role – Tom Brady & Co. don’t give the ball up much, so their own defense is rarely taking the field with their backs against the wall.

    The AFC Championship game vs. Jacksonville was a classic example of SOP impact. As noted above, the starting field position across the NFL this season was 28.2, but the average of the 12 Jaguar drives began at their 20.8. To better appreciate what that means, there were 88.8 yards added to what that Jax offense had to maneuver compared to starting in average field position. That is a lot to overcome.

    This is an unsung part of the Patriot success because it does not jump out of the box scores, but in power rating the team it is essential to build it in – they have done this so well for so long that it is not hot dice, but rather a skill set.

    Why did the offense suffer from below average field position this season, the only time it has happened over the past decade? It was largely because the defense did not do their job all that well – New England was dead last in the NFL in yards allowed per drive at 35.3. Yet that was enough to get Patricia promoted to being the HC in Detroit.

    Now time to bet some baskets...


    Item: How badly has the UCF defense fallen without Fall

    Notions of isolating statistics based on injuries is a running theme here, and there is a prime example that can be brought into play with Central Florida, and the post-Tacko Fall cycle. I believe a case could be made that the 7-6 Fall is the single most important defensive player in the nation, and arguably may impact his overall team’s power rating as much as any other. No, he isn’t Trae Young, but he certainly is unique.

    If you look at the national ratings today, UCF is #4 in the nation in defensive efficiency, and #3 at guarding 2-point shots. Those numbers mean next-to-nothing in terms of understanding the current defense, without that intimidating presence of Fall in the middle.



    The best way to break it down is to isolate conference only numbers to build in an integrity, and view what the AAC-only projections would have been for the UCF defense the past two games, vs. South Florida and Wichita State (the projection generated by applying UCF points-per-possession defense vs. the PPP of those offenses):

    Projection Actual
    USF 0.88 1.08
    Wichita St 1.02 1.17

    That is significant, and those two games reflect the reality of the current defense. There is also something that we can call the intimidation factor that has also changed greatly – AAC opponents had been averaging 34 2-point shots per game when Fall was in the starting lineup, over the last two games that count has elevated to 42.

    The markets are naturally trying to adjust, but may lag a bit behind – the first two games without Fall have played 28 points above the projected Total. Now there is another wild card in the mix tonight, Connecticut getting second-leading scorer Terry Larrier (14.8 PPG) back in the lineup after he missed three games. Combine Larrier’s presence with USF guard B.J. Taylor now back in playing shape after missing most of the season, and there are a lot of stale statistics anchoring the markets, enough to play some #762 UCF/Connecticut Over (9:00 Eastern) at 123 or less.

    This won’t be pretty to watch, with both teams still in search of identity as their rotations shift, but it isn’t difficult to project the losing team in the game to score into the 60’s.

    Their identity issues are nothing compared to what Larry Eustachy is having to deal with at Colorado State.


    In the Sights, Wednesday NCAA...

    I think Colorado State is a mess right now. This was already set to be a tough transition season for the Rams, losing mainstays Gian Clavell (MWC Player of the Year) and Emmanuel Omogbo (First Team all-MWC), and now they are having to go at it without their two best weapons from this year’s squad, Prentiss Nixon and J.D. Paige. Even with Paige playing most of the way they lost contact at San Diego State, falling down by as many as 27 points before the Aztecs backed off, and the defense was once again dismal in Saturday’s 80-65 loss at New Mexico.

    Yet despite the foundation having crumbled I don’t see major market adjustments. The KenPom projection is Wyoming by 4, which just happens to be where the morning trading has been, so I will have #769 Wyoming (9:00 Eastern) in pocket as long as -5 or less holds up.

    The key is that the Cowboys will bring no sympathies to this one whatsoever, in a border rivalry in which the schools are only an hour apart. CSU pulled the upset 78-73 in Laramie earlier, Nixon/Paige combining for 30 points. At 14-7, and 5-3 in MWC play, Wyoming has genuine post-season aspirations, and I believe there will be a special focus for the rematch, something that may well have caught the Cowboys napping when they got taken to overtime at San Jose State on Saturday.

    The trip to San Jose was a classic trap, Wyoming off of a major conference home win over Nevada and with this revenge setting on deck, and while back-to-backs OT’s would bother me with other teams one of the keys to this matchup is how deep of a rotation Allen Edwards has – the starters only played 141 of the 225 floor minutes on Saturday.

    That depth matters tonight. The Cowboys are among the best teams in the nation at getting to the FT line (#5 in FTA/FGA), and they convert when they get there, at 75.3 percent. Colorado State is paper-thin and has few fouls to give, and in those last two defeats the Rams allowed an alarming 37-53 of two-point shots to be made by San Diego State & New Mexico. The better and deeper team, playing with a chip on their shoulder, can take control of this one, and confidence at Moby Arena will not be an issue – the current Wyoming cast has gone 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS on the last three of these short bus rides.


    If you want to know when PB is ready to go each day, as well as following along for some of the most important Sports Betting news as in unfolds, make @Vegaspointblank a part of your routine.
    Last edited by Point Blank; 01-31-18 at 06:26 PM.

  2. #2
    pappahoops
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    Valpo seems to be slipping on a steep and slippery slope

    Good Morning David:

    Taking a look at this Valpo team. 10 of their top 12 players in minutes played are sophomores or freshman and only 4 of them were with the team last year. They have now lost 5 consecutive conference games including 2 double digit losses at home. Indiana State comes into town tonight and while not flush with an upper-class, 6 (snrs and jnrs) of their top 10 bring the experience needed to win on the road. As their 4-1 ATS conference road record indicates.

    Both Brad Powers and Jef Sagarin have Indiana State rated above Valparaiso. The metrics we calculate here at matchupcenter suggest a ticket on Indiana State +2.5 should get into one's pocket.

    What do your metrics suggest?

  3. #3
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by pappahoops View Post
    Good Morning David:

    Taking a look at this Valpo team. 10 of their top 12 players in minutes played are sophomores or freshman and only 4 of them were with the team last year. They have now lost 5 consecutive conference games including 2 double digit losses at home. Indiana State comes into town tonight and while not flush with an upper-class, 6 (snrs and jnrs) of their top 10 bring the experience needed to win on the road. As their 4-1 ATS conference road record indicates.

    Both Brad Powers and Jef Sagarin have Indiana State rated above Valparaiso. The metrics we calculate here at matchupcenter suggest a ticket on Indiana State +2.5 should get into one's pocket.

    What do your metrics suggest?
    Unfortunately, in the Missouri Valley, my metrics bring nothing to the table - only basic grading so that I can evaluate teams from other conferences when they play them. It is one of those enough hours in the day issues across the NCAA hardwoods, the decision made a while back that it was better time management for me to know a lot about a few conferences, rather than a little about all of them. Because of the lack of television coverage I only see the MVC teams "on paper" for the most part, so I turn my focus towards the leagues where I can get a better view, and see things that don't always translate properly into the box scores.

  4. #4
    benjy21
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    Hey Dave,

    Boston College is at home tonight against Virginia Tech, and inspite of them playing really well at home, they are getting 2 1/2 points. BC is 3-1 SU & 4-0 ATS in conference at home this season, with the only outright loss to Clemson by 4. The Hokies are 2-2 SU & ATS on the road in conference this season. Can the Eagles do enough to pull the upset in this spot?

  5. #5
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by benjy21 View Post
    Hey Dave,

    Boston College is at home tonight against Virginia Tech, and inspite of them playing really well at home, they are getting 2 1/2 points. BC is 3-1 SU & 4-0 ATS in conference at home this season, with the only outright loss to Clemson by 4. The Hokies are 2-2 SU & ATS on the road in conference this season. Can the Eagles do enough to pull the upset in this spot?
    BC has been a quiet meal ticket in those home ACC games - as noted in a lead topic a while back, their lack of depth will become a crushing factor later, but on the first pass through league play it means a higher chemistry than most opponents. But there is a potential issue for that chemistry tonight - they lost contact at Syracuse last Wednesday when Steffon Mitchell had to leave early with a concussion, and as of now there is still no official word as to whether he has passed the concussion protocol. That may not be known until the pre-game warmups. The bell rings at +2 if Mitchell is a go.

    How do serious bettors spend their day? By sorting things like this. But if you go through that video there is only one inconclusive glimpse of Mitchell (#41), which unfortunately doesn't really tell us anything.

  6. #6
    Point Blank
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    Let me throw something else out there for the Wednesday board, because it brings another example of how stale numbers can be taken advantage of. There is some Over money for 76ers/Nets that has pushed the Total to 213, and that has opened up a 102.5 for the New Jersey Team Total. Given how short-handed the Nets are without Levert and Hollis-Jefferson, calling for them to get much on the scoreboard isn't easy. Let's look at how the flows have been changing for these teams to set a better perspective, now that January is coming to a close:

    Season Jan
    Phi Pace 102.1 (4) 98.3 (23)
    Brk Pace 101.6 (5) 98.9 (18)
    Phi D 103.1 (4) 101.0 (3)
    Brk O 102.5 (26) 99.1 (30)

    The Philadelphia defense has been improving all season, a natural progression as the new faces learn to play together, and the 76ers are also slowing things down as winning begins to become a habit. Meanwhile necessity also has the Nets playing much slower these days. So in a game in which neither side will be pushing the pace, and the league's worst offense over the past month takes on one of the best defenses, it looks like Brooklyn is being called on to score more than the current realities would suggest.

  7. #7
    nri77
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    Hey Dave,
    Any thoughts on backing Texas +7.5 on the road facing Texas Tech?

    Tech seems a bit overrated to me after their hot start with the market slow to react to their recent 1-5 ATS skid. Texas is a great defensive team (#6 in the country per KenPom), and they seem to be playing much better the last few weeks. Mo Bamba has really improved since the start of the season, and Shaka has expanded the rotation from 7 to 9 players to help him stay fresh throughout the whole game. Also, Roach has really settled into his role as an off-ball scorer and Davis is excelling as a 6th man. My only hesitation is we haven't seen this Texas team come through on the road to get a big win yet this season, but I think their chances of pulling this game out are higher than what the market is giving them credit for.

  8. #8
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by nri77 View Post
    Hey Dave,
    Any thoughts on backing Texas +7.5 on the road facing Texas Tech?

    Tech seems a bit overrated to me after their hot start with the market slow to react to their recent 1-5 ATS skid. Texas is a great defensive team (#6 in the country per KenPom), and they seem to be playing much better the last few weeks. Mo Bamba has really improved since the start of the season, and Shaka has expanded the rotation from 7 to 9 players to help him stay fresh throughout the whole game. Also, Roach has really settled into his role as an off-ball scorer and Davis is excelling as a 6th man. My only hesitation is we haven't seen this Texas team come through on the road to get a big win yet this season, but I think their chances of pulling this game out are higher than what the market is giving them credit for.
    This looks close, a physical grinder of a game in which there aren't going to be many easy baskets found. For Tech to get separation the Raiders have to be knocking down perimeter shots but that isn't their forte, rating dead lasting the Big 12 in 3-point%. They have been scoring by getting to the offensive boards and the FT line, but Texas does a good job under Shaka Smart of playing tough defense without fouling. The Longhorns don't have the scoring punch to chase, which is why things got completely away at WVU in the only league game they lost contact in, but I don't think this one ever gets too far away. Note that a shopper can get +8 at some key precincts now, and that is when comes begin to ring.

  9. #9
    The Gooch
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    Hey Dave - I have been limiting my questions to the games you have put under the microscope so we have a baseline to work from. I do have a strong inclination to play Florida St this evening at a fair price. The free-throw line seems to loom large when considering the end-game and their lack of success on the road.

  10. #10
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gooch View Post
    Hey Dave - I have been limiting my questions to the games you have put under the microscope so we have a baseline to work from. I do have a strong inclination to play Florida St this evening at a fair price. The free-throw line seems to loom large when considering the end-game and their lack of success on the road.
    I have been fascinated by the markets in that one, a push from FSU -2.5 to -4.5 and Under 157.5 to 155.5 seemingly being an endorsement of the Seminole defense, which has been the worst I can recall in the Leonard Hamilton era (#15 in ACC-only play, allowing 1.11 PPP). Is someone anticipating regression? I am also not thrilled with them hitting the road after a revenge OT win (vs. Miami on Saturday), but fortunately I don't have Wake chimes until +6, so I don't have to root for them to play defense either.

  11. #11
    The Gooch
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    Thank you for the feedback. I was going to draw parallels between their defense and West Virginia based I what I watched early on. Perhaps a case of what happened to the Chiefs who began the year with their two best performances.

  12. #12
    BirdMaster
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    Let me throw something else out there for the Wednesday board, because it brings another example of how stale numbers can be taken advantage of. There is some Over money for 76ers/Nets that has pushed the Total to 213, and that has opened up a 102.5 for the New Jersey Team Total. Given how short-handed the Nets are without Levert and Hollis-Jefferson, calling for them to get much on the scoreboard isn't easy.
    Available to me is 103 -113 and 1H 51.5 -113 for the under on the Brooklyn team total. I like your reasoning and would like to play here. Should I make a play on both, neither, or only one? I know the 103 number is good but what about the -113?

  13. #13
    The Gooch
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    That said I am holding an FSU ticket at -4.5. They will resurrect the defense if not the Seminole people.

  14. #14
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by BirdMaster View Post
    Available to me is 103 -113 and 1H 51.5 -113 for the under on the Brooklyn team total. I like your reasoning and would like to play here. Should I make a play on both, neither, or only one? I know the 103 number is good but what about the -113?
    If you 102.5 was at -110, then an extra 3 cents to grab the 103 is the proper move. I only went full-game, not first half, since part of the handicap is an underdog struggling to score may not chase well in the latter stages.

  15. #15
    ligastar
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    I guess Mitchell will be a go??? This just posted on the official B.C. twitter:



    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    BC has been a quiet meal ticket in those home ACC games - as noted in a lead topic a while back, their lack of depth will become a crushing factor later, but on the first pass through league play it means a higher chemistry than most opponents. But there is a potential issue for that chemistry tonight - they lost contact at Syracuse last Wednesday when Steffon Mitchell had to leave early with a concussion, and as of now there is still no official word as to whether he has passed the concussion protocol. That may not be known until the pre-game warmups. The bell rings at +2 if Mitchell is a go.

    How do serious bettors spend their day? By sorting things like this. But if you go through that video there is only one inconclusive glimpse of Mitchell (#41), which unfortunately doesn't really tell us anything.

  16. #16
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by ligastar View Post
    I guess Mitchell will be a go??? This just posted on the official B.C. twitter:

    I started thinking he was a go when someone cleaned out all of the +2 a little while ago, with whomever did that not offering to share any of it with me. Some folks in the markets are like that...

  17. #17
    puffkit
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    if md keeps this first half w/i single digits (3 and some change left) i can see a good play on purdue 2H. maryland has already turned the ball over 10 times and is only in this game b/c purdue is shooting poorly this first half. maryland is playing w/o their 7 foot center which has really handicapped them....

  18. #18
    puffkit
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    grabbed purdue -5.5....was expecting 7 or 8......

  19. #19
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by puffkit View Post
    grabbed purdue -5.5....was expecting 7 or 8......
    The Terrapins just don't have the depth to chase on the road this season; that makes a lot of sense.

  20. #20
    puffkit
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    not looking like this 2H is going to cash.......purdue looks fairly disinterested in this game.....they are a step slower than md and md has shot well considering their lineup. haas has played some horrible interior D allowing the terp freshman fernando to get a double double with 8 of 12 shooting

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