Thursday, March 15, 2012 | midnight
k As the NCAA tournament progresses, pay close attention to teams that have demonstrated the ability to cover the point spread in games played away from their home court. For basketball bettors, a team’s propensity to cover the spread on the road can serve as a “buy sign” in analyzing its chances in an event like the NCAA tournament. In nearly every case, a tournament game will have many, if not all, of the characteristics of a road game—most notably, unfamiliar environs and an element of travel.
Certainly it’s not the job of a college basketball coach or his players to cover the point spread. Examining a team’s record against the spread (ATS) in road games, however, can be useful in gauging how well it lived up to expectations when playing away from the friendly confines of its own arena. The inverse holds true as well. Keep an eye on NCAA tournament teams that have performed poorly against the number in away games and look to “fade,” or bet against them as the tournament goes on.
I have identified a handful of teams that fit into one category or the other, and that I have a desire to take a position on at the betting windows.
(Minor discrepancies can show up in ATS records depending on how road games are defined. I use common sense. For example, I counted the November 19 Vanderbilt-North Carolina State game at East Rutherford, New Jersey, as an away game for both teams, even though the box score will likely indicate one of them had been designated the “home” team for official scoring purposes.)
I’m bullish on …
North Carolina State: Competing in its first NCAA tournament since 2006, the Wolfpack went 12-3 ATS this season in away games, including a 9-2 ATS mark as a road underdog. It’s worth noting that N.C. State opened as a 1-point underdog in its first tournament game Friday against San Diego State at the Wynn Las Vegas sports book, but was bet up to a favorite of 1 to 1.5 points on Selection Sunday.
New Mexico: The Lobos tended to reward their backers at the betting windows no matter where they were playing, going 22-8 ATS this season, including 12-2 in their most recent 14 games—and, perhaps more significantly, 12-5 ATS away from home. In their first tournament game against Long Beach State, New Mexico opened as low as a 3.5-point favorite at Cal Neva sports books Sunday, but was quickly bet up to as high as a 5-point favorite in Las Vegas. As long as the Lobos are alive, I’ll probably be looking to back them.
I’m bearish on …
UNLV: The Rebels were 2-10 ATS away from Las Vegas. Early support showed up for their first opponent, Colorado, driving the line at Wynn down from 5 to 4.5 on Sunday. By midweek, however, the line stood at 5 or 5.5 at most Las Vegas books.