LAS VEGAS — I took last week off but spent most of my staycation catching up on sports besides football.
In case you missed our early takes on next year’s Super Bowl, I advised followers to bet the Colts at 30/1 ASAP if they thought Indianapolis would sign Carson Wentz. I got 35/1 at Circa Sports here in Las Vegas before the trade with the Eagles was announced. The Colts are now down to 25/1 at a lot of books and even 22/1 at Circa. (No, I didn’t bet that much, so hopefully that means some of you did get in early.)
So this week let’s run through the rest of the major sports.
Before I get to my dark-horse pick for the NCAA Tournament, I’d like to disclose that one of my gambling partners, Seth Shankle, talked me into joining the “Baylor or Gonzaga win the men’s basketball championship — Yes or No” prop at William Hill. Yes, it’s the squarest, chalkiest way to bet the Big Dance, but we believe we got the best price on “Yes” at +120.
“I like to joke that I watch more college basketball than Jay Bilas,” said Shankle, a 40-year-old software engineer from the Cincinnati area. “Never in recent memory have I been convinced of two teams’ superiority over the rest of the field. Also, both of their adjusted efficiency rankings on kenpom.com are the highest since 2015.”
When we made the bet Feb. 16, Gonzaga was only as high as 5/2 in Las Vegas to cut down the nets and Baylor was at a high of 4/1, but we were unable to generate a return of +120 by betting each team individually as it was closer to +105. For those interested, +105 is exactly where the price was Tuesday in the William Hill prop.
While I’m now pulling for those certain No. 1 seeds to survive, advance and hopefully meet in the title game to remove any temptation of hedging, I do have a wager on Illinois at 16/1. Even more than some of the other top contenders — including Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State in the Illini’s own conference — I respect the outside-inside combo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn (this bet was made before Dosunmu suffered a broken nose against Michigan State on Tuesday that will sideline him indefinitely). In addition, Illinois is the only team besides Gonzaga and Baylor to rank in the top 10 both offensively and defensively at kenpom.com.
As for single-game betting, I’ll continue looking for live underdogs and could even be taking teams facing some of these teams that I like to win outright but not needing them to cover their inflated lines ATS. We’ll see if we can come up with specific matchups in the conference tourneys and March Madness.
Per usual, I’ve made no futures-book bets in the NBA. We’ve seen over the years that the top teams usually advance in the playoff series, so it’s often much better to pick your spots with the underdogs — such as stealing Game 1 or winning Game 3 at home when trailing 2-0 — instead of tying up money in futures you’ll probably hedge against when you see their run end.
As for individual game betting in the regular season, everyone’s talking about the Jazz’s hot streak and the Cavaliers’ cold streak. My advice is if you haven’t been riding the Jazz train or fading the Cavs, this isn’t the right time to jump in. The oddsmakers are making those followers pay a premium, and we should start seeing a reversal of fortune soon, at least when it comes to ATS betting.
The only other games I’ve been betting have been overreactions when star players are out. The oddsmakers usually adjust a few points and then the public usually pushes these lines further, and it’s profitable to fade such moves.
The Stanley Cup futures are the most wide-open of any American sport. At the Westgate SuperBook, the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Bruins were co-favorites at the uncharacteristically high odds of 6/1, with the defending champion Lightning at 7/1. Those are nice prices if you can find the winner, and I found the Golden Knights +750, at Circa. They let me down last year, but I still love the goalie combo of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.
I wish I had been betting more ’dogs in the NHL this season, as I’m reminded most nights. Most of my bets this season have been First-Period Overs, but after a fast start the first two days of the season, they dried up quickly. I’ve jumped in and out when I’ve thought I’ve found a group of games to round-robin, usually when multiple games have had Over/Under totals of 6 or 6.5 goals with the First-Period Over still offered at 1.5. But those have run hot and cold and nowhere near the consistency we saw in the winter and spring of 2019. Oh, how we miss that golden age.