Betting on Ranked Teams

College Basketball Ranked Teams Often Overvalued

To the casual college basketball fan, or even regular college hoops bettors, AP Top-25 rankings have merit. But nothing could be further from the truth. The rankings change weekly and teams go from top-10 to unranked in a week’s time. Just ask preseason No. 3 Arizona, who lost 3-straight near Thanksgiving to fall out of the rankings, and has since won 10-of-11 to move back into the top-20 and on top of the Pac-12 at 3-1. Rival Arizona State started the season unranked, and then zoomed into the top-5 following a 12-0 start. But in less than two weeks since Dec. 30, the Sun Devils have lost three Pac-12 games and will need a win this weekend over Oregon State to stay in the top-20.

The point is that rankings are often a main talking point for media and TV coverage, but like the hype of big college hoops match-ups, the pundits pontificating these teams and their strengths for the made-for-TV events are overestimating their true value.

As is often the case as we get into early January and conference play, many team’s early-season play and results are not a true barometer of their real strength. Last Saturday, Jan. 6 was a great example of how ranked college basketball teams can be overvalued in the market at the sportsbooks, yet many bettors will follow the ranked ‘hotties’ only to be left without their wallet by the unranked ‘ugly’.

Both top-5 ranked Duke and Xavier lost outright laying 12.5 and 5.5 points respectively on the road, as did No. 11 LSU and No. 14 Arizona each laying more than 6 points on the road. This is another example of home ‘Dogs in conference play that are at least adequate without major flaws or defensive deficiencies being worth wagering consideration against better teams or those ‘perceived’ to be better.

While this may represent just one day, it’s something to note for future seasons at the start of January and conference play, and also something to identify when evaluating match-ups. Power ratings and adjustments need to be made, but evaluating the match-ups, stats and understanding the strength of a team’s field goal defense, rebounding margin and turnover/assist ratio are just some of the stats of interest. Home court, coaching, injuries and eligible players are additional pieces of the puzzle when looking for point spread winners, but understand that the highly ranked teams and brand names are going to be taxed a bit in the market by the bookmaker.

These ranked teams went 1-9-1 ATS vs. unranked opponents on Saturday, Jan. 6. In addition, No. 4 Michigan State (-6.5) was blasted in an 80-64 loss at unranked Ohio State on Sunday, Jan. 7.

Rank Team Line ATS Result Score Opponent
1 Villanova -16 Lost 100-90 Marquette
2 Duke -12.5 Lost 85-96 NC State
5 Xavier -5.5 Lost 71-82 Providence
11 Texas A&M -6.5 Lost 68-69 LSU
13 Purdue -20.5 Lost 74-62 Nebraska
14 Arizona -9 Lost 77-80 Colorado
18 Texas Tech -9.5 Won 74-58 Kansas State
19 Gonzaga -19.5 Lost 85-66 Loyola Marymount
21 Seton Hall -3 Push 90-87 Butler
22 Arkansas 4.5 Lost 88-77 Auburn
25 Clemson -6.5 Lost 74-69 OT Louisville

Also, in a marquee ACC match-up, talented by overhyped No. 12 North Carolina with over-rated coach Roy Williams was shutdown by superior coach Tony Bennett and No. 8 Virginia 61-49. Defense, discipline and coaching clearly matters.

I’ll provide some additional statistical parameters to use in your college basketball handicapping in the weeks ahead, but here is a look ahead to the weekend games of January 13 with current ranked vs. unranked contests and additional marquee match-ups. Before you bet on these ranked ‘hotties’, be sure you peel back some of the makeup and take a closer look at the figures before you hug that hottie and get your pocket picked with another turnover in a losing effort to chase an overhyped hottie.

Saturday, Jan. 13
#1 Villanova at St. Johns
Michigan at #4 Michigan State
#5 Wichita State at Tulsa
#5 Purdue at Minnesota
Wake Forest at #7 Duke
Oregon State at #11 Arizona State
Kansas State at #12 Kansas
Georgetown at #13 Seton Hall
#14 Cincinnati at South Florida
#15 Gonzaga at San Francisco
Oregon at #17 Arizona
#20 North Carolina at Notre Dame
#21 Kentucky at Vanderbilt
#22 Auburn at Mississippi State
Syracuse at #23 Florida State
Texas A&M at #24 Tennessee

Ranked vs. Ranked
#2 West Virginia at #8 Texas Tech
#16 TCU at #9 Oklahoma
#18 Miami at #19 Clemson

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Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay