In analyzing NCAA tournament victories by conference, a strategy devised by author Stanford Wong and published in his book “Sharp Sports Betting” has served me well over the years.
According to Wong’s research, in a bracket-style single-elimination event like the college basketball tournament you can use each team’s seed to estimate the number of wins they will amass.
This method comes in handy if you’re planning to invest in betting propositions involving the total number of games that the teams from each conference will win. Sportsbooks in Las Vegas as well as offshore books routinely offer this prop each year, and it is available for bettors on the 2012 NCAA tournament.
As Wong breaks it down, each No. 1 seed can be expected to win 3.7 to 4.2 games, with the total number of victories assigned to No. 1 seeds adding up to 15.8. For this year’s tournament, I attached a projected 4.2 wins to Kentucky, 4.0 wins to North Carolina, 3.9 wins to Michigan State and 3.7 to Syracuse.
Here’s how the rest of the seeds, through No. 16, shake out:
Seed … Estimated number of tournament victories
2 ... 2.7
3 ... 1.9
4 ... 1.3
5 ... 1
6 ... 0.8
7 ... 0.7
8 ... 0.6
9 ... 0.5
10 ... 0.5
11 ... 0.5
12 ... 0.5
13 ... 0.4
14 ... 0.2
15 ... 0.1
16 ... 0.1
Let’s see how this method applies to the 2012 tournament, starting with the Atlantic 10 Conference. The A-10 sent four teams to the big event. Temple is a No. 5 seed, so I assigned the Owls 1.0 wins, followed by No. 9 Saint Louis (0.5 wins), No. 10 Xavier (0.5 wins) and No. 14 St. Bonaventure (0.2 wins).
Adding up those figures yields a total of 2.2 victories for the Atlantic 10. An offshore sports book (thegreek.com) has A-10 victories at over/under 2.5, -140 on the under. So we’re essentially on the same page there.
The Southeastern Conference also sent four teams, led by No. 1 Kentucky (4.2 wins) and followed by No. 5 Vanderbilt (1.0 wins), No. 7 Florida (0.7 wins) and No. 9 Alabama (0.5 wins).
Those figures add up to 6.4 wins for the SEC. The offshore line stands at 7 wins, under -130. In Las Vegas, the LVH sports book has posted the SEC at over/under 6.5 wins, a bit closer to my number, although we’re all in the same general neighborhood.
The Big 12 has six teams in the tournament: No. 2 Missouri and No. 2 Kansas (2.7 wins apiece), No. 3 Baylor (1.9 wins), No. 8 Iowa State and No. 8 Kansas State (0.8 wins apiece) and No. 11 Texas (0.5 wins).
Those figures yield a result of 9.0 wins for the Big 12. The offshore line has the Big 12 at 9.5 wins, under -135. I calculate my edge against that line to be a couple of measly percentage points at best, so I’ll keep looking for a better spot.
Moving on to the Big Ten, we find this conference earned six tournament bids. Michigan State led the way with a No. 1 seed (3.9 wins), followed by No. 2 Ohio State (2.7 wins), three No. 4 seeds — Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin (1.3 wins apiece) — and No. 10 Purdue (0.5 wins).
Adding up those estimates yields a line of 11.0 wins for the Big Ten. The LVH sports book has posted the Big Ten total victories at over/under 10.5, over -130. Again, that line is too close to mine to yield any significant advantage.
The Atlantic Coast Conference was awarded five tournament bids: No. 1 North Carolina (4.0 wins), No. 2 Duke (2.7 wins), No. 3 Florida State (1.9 wins), No. 10 Virginia (0.5 wins) and No. 11 North Carolina State (0.5 wins).
Those figures total 9.6 victories for the ACC. The line at the LVH sports book stands at over/under 7.5 wins, over -160. Even with the heavy premium on the over, I calculate my edge at nearly 20 percent when betting the over. So I’m more bullish than oddsmakers and the betting marketplace on the chances of the ACC in this tournament.
I opted not to calculate win totals for this column for the Big East due to the uncertainty surrounding Syracuse after center Fab Melo was ruled ineligible. I also opted to ignore the Mountain West and the Pacific-12 because they had teams involved in early-round games Tuesday and Wednesday.
I believe this method provides an excellent framework, however, even if you want to make some adjustments based on your own handicapping and analyze those conferences yourself.
Connect online with Jeff Haney at sophisticatedmaniac.com or @yoryboy.