Tournament's Numbers Support Madness and Unpredictability

ncaa hoops

Doug Upstone

Monday, March 19, 2018 5:48 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 19, 2018 5:48 PM UTC

With only seven of the original top 16 seeds remaining, college basketball bettors and fans have seen the NCAA Tournament directly reflect the kind of season it has been -- unpredictable.

NCAA Tournament Madness

For the first time, a No. 16 seed wins with Maryland-Baltimore County's vanquishing of Virginia. Defensive-minded Cincinnati could not hold a 22-point lead with 11 minutes to play and fell victim to Nevada, who engineered the second-greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history.

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Most felt Syracuse did not belong in the tournament, but they have proved their worth by winning three games in five days to advance. To make their situation more surreal, they entered the tourney 2-8 SU as an underdog and assembled three straight wins in that role.

For just the fourth time in 30 years, a 5-seed did not lose to a 12-seed in the opening round and three of the four are in the Sweet 16. And remember last week when John Calipari was whining about Kentucky being shipped out to Boise for a variety of reasons? Well, nobody has heard a word from Coach Cal now that his Wildcats are playing in Atlanta and are strong favorites to reach the Final Four, matched up against seeds that are ninth and either No. 7 or No. 11.

With all the craziness, let's look back at what the numbers reflected, starting with sides action, based on the closing lines.

Higher Seeds: 33-15 SU and 21-26-1 ATS

Favorites: 36-15 SU and 24-26-1 ATS

Favorites of 1 to 4.5 points: 12-8 SU and 8-12 ATS

Favorites of 5 to 9.5 points: 7-4 SU and 5-5-1 ATS

Favorites of 10 to 14.5 points: 11-2 SU and 7-6 ATS

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

(One game was listed as Pick)

In spite of everything that shocked us, most of the results when matched against the college basketball odds are within normal postseason parameters. We saw a few more upsets than usual, but what has made this seem so unusual is who some of the teams were and how some of these squads lost.

Real Betting Story Is In Totals

For those making college basketball picks on totals, this is the true story of the tournament and college hoops in general.

Total Unders: 31

Total Overs: 20 (1 Push)

129.5 or Fewer Points: 3-1 Under

130 to 139.5 Points: 10-4 Under

140 to 149.5 Points: 9-8-1 Under

150+ Points: 9-7 Under

These numbers point out a couple things. First, is the obvious pace of the game being slower. But what oddsmakers cannot account for -- at least not directly -- is that when teams play zone (and do so aggressively), players freeze up and start taking contested threes. The lack of player movement against the zone is astonishing. The ball is just passed around the perimeter, the defense does not have to move that much and the ball is heaved as the shot clock is winding down. Blame the coaches for not doing a better job and the players for being satisfied to just launch shots.

The other reason for "unders" being so dominant is the term we heard all four days: defense travels. While true, it seems coaches are no longer demanding players run plays with precision, which makes defense easier to play. Also, players 6-foot-10 or larger no longer want to play in the paint. And with defenses increasingly more aggressive guarding the parameter, having a player such as Purdue center Isaac Haas, who can score inside 7 feet from the basket, is a great option to have (used as an example; Haas is injured).

Let's move on to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 action!

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