by A.J. Coltrane
I’m back, and recovered, from Vegas. I can talk like a normal person again. I went 29-19 this year (60.4%), betting almost every game. That figure includes money lines that I won, which raised my “effective percentage” to 63.7%. That’s pretty good, though it’s about on par with how I’ve done each of the last two years. I’d estimate I’m now “effectively” winning about 65% over the last three years.
To avoid TL;DR, here are a few bullet points about what worked, what didn’t, and some other general observations and thoughts.
1. I got in the neighborhood of “paying for the trip” this year. To actually succeed in paying for the vacation I’m going to need to lay off the stuff I don’t have a strong opinion on, and (probably) increase the size of the bets somewhat. I feel comfortable with the idea of increased bet size, though I’m not sure that everyone that I travel with shares that opinion. I may have to make little bets on the “unsure” pile, since I’m not in Vegas *not* to gamble.
2. While watching the games we usually play video poker at the bar. One of our traveling companions was dealt a Royal Flush. Dealt! No “holding” cards.. just lots of hearts. She said she just saw “heart, heart, heart, heart, heart” and held them all. At that point she realized she had a Royal Flush and had won $1000! I’ve seen people hit Royals before, but never someone we traveled with. According to at least one “odds” site, the probability of being dealt a Royal Flush (without a re-deal) is one in 649,740. I’ll need to wait several lifetimes to see it again.
3. The betting public had no idea what to do with VCU all weekend, and *that* turned into absolute no-brainer profit on both games. Here’s why: VCU’s entire offense and defense is/was predicated upon creating turnovers and scoring off of turnovers. In the first game they played Akron. The line had VCU favored by about 8. Akron’s problem is that their star point guard had been arrested (and suspended) for trafficking (5 pounds(!)) of marijuana. For whatever reason, the public didn’t notice, or didn’t react strongly enough — VCU forced 21 turnovers, gave up 5, led 50-25 at the half en route to winning 88-42.
In the next game VCU was a slight underdog against Michigan. Michigan had the lowest turnover percentage in the country this year. Final: Michigan 78, VCU 53. Thank you VCU!
4. I took the Oregon money line at +160 against St Louis. There were a couple of Vegas natives sitting to our right betting the games as well. When I told one I had the Oregon money line he gave me the “You’re smoking crack” hand gesture. Final score Oregon 74, St Louis 57. That one felt pretty good. (Nice guys, actually.)
5. The worst losses are the close losses. Temple started well against Indiana. Temple looked “longer”, quicker, and skilled enough to play with Indiana. The halftime score was Temple by three. The sportsbook published a second-half line of Temple +8.5. I couldn’t believe it — Temple didn’t even have to win, they just had to lose by less than 6 (or win)! It seemed too good to be true, though it also looked really really strange. I paced back and forth a few times from the book to the bar, and eventually asked our bartender what he thought of that bet. He said that if it were him, he couldn’t make that bet fast enough. I went ahead with it…
Indiana trailed by four with 2:56 to go. That means I was “10 points up” on that bet with less than three minutes to go. Indiana outscored Temple 10-0 the rest of the game, and I lost by 1/2 point. Temple did literally everything wrong, and Indiana did everything right. What a crusher.
6. I thought Colorado State would be able to take care of the ball against Louisville and keep it competitive. Colorado State had a low turnover rate this year… Wrong, wrong, wrong. Louisville 82, Colorado State 56.
7. Creighton met their “better” doppleganger in Duke. Creighton had been a great 3-point shooting team all year, but they went 2-19 against Duke and lost 50-66. The line was 6, so that was an easy one to pick. After the tournament ends I’m going to do a post about the heavily 3-dependent teams and what happened to them.
Syracuse-Indiana post-game thought: Cody Zeller does not have a strong lower body. It showed against Temple, and it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Syracuse swallowed him up. He got his shot blocked about six times against Syracuse. (He finished 4-10 against Temple and 3-10 against Syracuse, though he shot 62.3% during the season.) I think he may struggle at the NBA level, unless he gets a *lot* stronger.
In a not-unrelated note: Kelly Olynyk went 8-22 while losing to Wichita State. (Though he did score 26 points.) Olynyk made 62.9% of his shots during the season.