NCAA Tournament Picks: "Dome Effect" Creates Final 4 Totals Value

Mark Lathrop

Friday, April 1, 2016 7:29 PM UTC

Friday, Apr. 1, 2016 7:29 PM UTC

Our NCAAB Handicapper explores the "NRG Effect" and how it should influence your Final Four NCAA Basketball Picks!

The Final Four is finally upon us, and it is time to look at the O/U totals for both of the semifinal matchups. But first, some national attention has been placed on the venue, NRG Stadium, and how that huge dome could affect scoring. Even the New York Times has chimed in on the “NRG Effect”, and how teams make almost one 3-pointer less than their season averages while playing at the venue. In total field goal percentages, the completion percentage is about 1% less in domes than in arenas. Overall, the effect on 3-point shooting is nearly -7% for all teams in the NCAA Tournament from 2006-2015, a far greater difference.

Apparently, sportsbooks have noticed this affect as well, i.e. the public will be hammering the under after reading up on the mystery “Dome Effect”. This has been true so far, as SBR consensus has the “under” the popular pick in both semifinal games, with Villanova v Oklahoma sitting at 54% towards the under and Syracuse v North Carolina at 60% leaning under. Sources say that the adjustment by books has been to set the total about 4 points lower than if the game was played at a typical arena. In addition, books are favoring teams with stronger inside games – those that don’t rely on 3-point shooting – in particular, North Carolina.

There is a caveat; however, if you throw out Butler’s 2011 performance in the Final Four where they shot just 3-31 (9.7%) the data gets a little bit more complicated. There is a small difference there of course, it just is slight enough to be absolutely random.

You all probably know where I am going with this.


Villanova Wildcats vs. Oklahoma Sooners (Over 144.5)
All of the above factors: the “NRG Effect”, Vegas adjustments, and public betting, is how we somehow have an O/U total of 144.5 on the NCAA Basketball odds board, even though the average scores of each of these teams on the road add up to 153.5. The line did open at 150 earlier in the week, which is consistent with the 4-point odds adjustment as quoted in the New York Times. The public has taken care of the rest, pushing the line down to 144.5 at books such as Pinnacle. This has of course created superior value in making a contrarian wager near game time, as the line may continue to drop.

These teams did meet earlier this year, with Oklahoma earning a surprising 78-55 win as a 5-point underdog on the road. Villanova shot terribly in this game, going 4-32 from 3-point range (12.5%) and 20-63 from the field (31.7%). The total went under, but the pace at which the game was played should have easily put the score over the listed total – if Villanova wasn’t shooting bricks. This performance won’t happen again for Villanova, and I’m taking Over 144.5 at Pinnacle in this game with confidence.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Over 144.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Syracuse Orange vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (Over 67, 1st Half)
Here we have two teams with even more recent playing history that favors the current O/U total listed. This game opened at 147 across the board, before being bet down to 145 at sites such as 5Dimes. For this game, I like the value presented by the 1st half O/U total of 67 currently found at multiple sites.

This is an offshoot of the lean described above, that the books and public has overshot to the low side in these lines. The last 3 games between these teams have had halftime scores of 72, 66, and 75… and the game with the halftime score of 66 the teams combined for 91 points in the second half. Take advantage of this low line and take Over 67 points for the 1st half as another semifinal NCAA Basketball pick.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Over 67
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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