Backing Underdogs and Low Scores are Smart Plays in NCAA Tourney


Doug Upstone

Monday, March 26, 2018 6:41 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 26, 2018 6:41 PM UTC

With just three games remaining in this NCAA Tournament, a familiar theme has emerged. Taking the points and backing the "unders" have been the wise choices across the board.

NCAA Tournament: Betting Recap

Here is how all the teams have performed against the college basketball odds thus far in March Madness when considering seeds and favorites:

Higher Seeds: 40-20 SU and 25-34-1 ATS

Favorites: 42-21 SU and 27-35-1 ATS

These figures are not that unusual and I am often asked why this happens this way. It begins with quality teams coming out of quality conferences to start. That does not make all the clubs with double-digit losses top tier; rather, they have shown they are capable of putting together a good record and in any given game can beat a better opponent.

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The #FinalFour is set!

See you in San Antonio! #MarchMadness

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 25, 2018

The rest of the invites had to earn their way in by winning their conference tournaments or having shown how good they were over the entire season by winning the regular-season title. The difference in talent is diminished -- thus the playing field is leveled -- thanks to these players participating in high-end off-season basketball events. Also, desire and effort can overcome talent in any one-game scenario.

Favorites of 1 to 4.5 points: 14-12 SU and 9-17 ATS

Favorites of 5 to 9.5 points: 10-6 SU and 7-8-1 ATS

Favorites of 10 to 14.5 points: 12-2 SU and 7-7 ATS

Favorites of 15 or more points: 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS

(One game was listed as Pick)

Once again, if you disregard smaller favorites, the oddsmakers have done their job, with the action split and having made money on the juice. Short underdogs normally perform well because the talent differences are minimal. The higher seeds are usually favored and they have more pressure on them in the role.

In the past two rounds, the lower seeds were 5-7 SU and 8-4 ATS, and the underdogs were 6-6 SU and a superb 9-3 ATS. As of Monday, both Final Four games were in the 5 to 9.5 range, but Villanova could slide into next group down and is something to watch for your college basketball picks.

Lower Scores Have Led The Way

There has been an abundance of "unders" to this point, and they have occurred in every measurable category.

Total Unders: 36

Total Overs: 27 (1 Push)

129.5 or Fewer Points: 4-2 Under

130 to 139.5 Points: 10-7 Under

140 to 149.5 Points: 12-9-1 Under

150+ Points: 10-9 Under

What has driven this to happen? Three-point shooting and defense. As we have heard over the last several years, the game has changed to the point where two-point shots from mid-range are uncommon. Players stand at the three-point arc for catch-and-shoot opportunities, or they look to beat a defender off the dribble.

Defenses are doing more to guard the three and have at least one rim protector to prevent layups. The intent is to have the opposing player shoot a contested shot from 10 to 18 feet, something few players do anymore and are frequently uncomfortable with. This despite the fact the percentage is higher, but the analytics guys are pushing points per possession, which means three-point attempts.

It is worth noting the "over" was 7-5 this past Thursday thru Sunday, as we had more skilled offensive teams. Seeing two of the three Final Four contests finishing in the same manner should not be a surprise.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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