Case Study: How to Hedge College Basketball Futures

How and When to Hedge College Basketball Futures Odds

It’s the great debate. That is, at least in sports books around late March. “Hey, I have XYZ team at 80-1 to win a title. Now that they’re in the Sweet 16, should I start hedging?” said every amateur bettor in this position, ever (even if to himself).

So, what’s the best answer?

Like everything else in 2020-2021, there is no simple answer. However, below is a great case study to help structure our debate…

Futures odds listed in January of 2021 at a William Hill Sports Book.

Best Time to Pick College Basketball Futures Values

Let’s simulate a bettor making futures picks at the start of the season with $100 bucks. Or, in this case, $108 to be exact. In November when these picks are made, there are naturally some good values. For example, the Houston Cougars out of the American Athletic Conference were 50-1. Although they play in a non-power 5 school, Houston would ascend into the AP Top 10 throughout that season. The team’s value increased to 12-1 by February.

So when do you hedge?
Should you sell a ticket that doubled in value on a secondary market, such as PropSwap?
If you had two future tickets like it, and sold one on ProSwap, that would be considered hedging your bet.

When to Hedge College Basketball Futures

Let’s fast forward. Now that games have been played and you can use your eye test to analyze teams, who do you like? In our case study, the longest shot odd of North Texas (above) is having a difficult year. Meanwhile, in its conference, UAB and Western Kentucky are piecing together a quality resume. In fact, it’s within the realm of possibilities that one of those teams get an at-large bid. And so, instead of throwing out the North Texas bet that could win $10,000, we hedge it by also investing in the other in-conference rivals. This way, it becomes a statistically likelihood the bettor will have a Conference USA team in March Madness.

See Western Kentucky and UAB below.

A second round of futures value bets are made with $100 after watching the first half of the season.

You can see that for just $3 dollars and $4 dollars respectively, the odds are probably around 95% at this point that the better will have the Conference USA team among its roster of teams in the actual March Madness bracket. Did we mention this was betting on a budget?

And so at this point the bettor would have 13 teams in play. We are conceding that 2-4 of those teams won’t make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (let’s say two Conference USA teams in addition to one other). So let’s say that 10 teams will be in the tournament and for $200 the bettor can himself to win at least $1,000 in those ten scenarios. And so the next question may be: When would he start hedging if he acknowledges Gonzaga and Baylor look far-and-away like the nation’s best teams (at +350 and 6-1 for their respective futures).

How to Hedge Your Bets on Selection Sunday

Back to reality, on this particular season North Texas did win its conference tournament. And so the bettor brings into the tournament a $10,000 lottery ticket. Should he hedge by immediately taking the opponent of North Texas? Continue reading to review some specific strategies to consider, each with their own nickname, for betting futures on a budget during March Madness.

Don’t Let a Crowded Region Cloud Your Final Four

Let’s say that four of the futures bets made in November land in one region during March. At face value, this could look like a horrible outcome for the budget bettor. However, it you change your mindset as the investor, it could work for you. Let’s say that Texas, Houston, Colorado and West Virginia all entered the same region. Instead of seeing the National Title game, or ever the Final 4 itself, as the climax of the tournament, that person would just have to move up its timeline for the tournament climax. The climax may actually be when all of those teams have an opportunity to cover the spread on the first two days. Or, the climax might be a money line parlay on all of those teams winning outright in the field of 32. Either way, a crowded region should immediately have the bettor move up the finish line in his mind. A textbook parlay in this scenario would be to take the 4 teams to cover a first round spread to win at 10-1. It might also be worth lookin at what factor a money line parlay pays. It can be typed in before canceling the bet on a kiosk. On the flip side, a reverse haymaker wheel could make sense as an insurance policy. For example, two team pairs of underdogs could be bet on in a rotation to hedge two real losses happening for Texas, Houston, Colorado and West Virginia.

Bracketology example from January 22, 2021 courtesy Joe Lunardi/ESPN

In terms of hedging futures, there will likely be a situation where 2 or 3 of the preseason futures teams are in one eighth of a bracket.  In this case it wouldn’t make sense to hedge so that more than three teams are covered.  For example in this eighth of a bracket above, an ideal sweet 16 matchup would be the two futures (Colorado and Houston) against each other in the sweet 16. Chasing both UNC and Texas State on futures here might muddy the water too much with losses.  Perhaps a very small amount on UNC to win a title (because their final 4 odds will likely be in the 6-1 ballpark) and short the high value Texas State single bet as a lone insurance policy.  

Investing in Short, Mid-size, or Long-range College Basketball Futures

With the overview example, this person might have 6 teams in the tournament. Especially if those are high value tickets, the plays has to be hedged in some way: Let’s call it long, single, or mid-sized. In the hypothetical scenario that his North Texas ticket draws Florida State in a 14 seed matched up against a 3, he might go one of three ways. In the long example, he would simply take Florida State as a title contender at 20-1. And so this could become a line in the bracket that he just commits to and invests in, depending on the winner. Betting $100 on Florida State at 20-1 would guarantee that he would have a 1 in 32 shot of winning at least $2,000 for $105 invested ($2,000 if FSU wins title, $10,000 for North Texas). The mid-sized play in this hypothetical would be taking Florida State to win the region. That bet would be roughly one quarter of the title future. So Florida State might be 5-1 to win this region, although they’re more likely to be 4-1. And so betting $25 at 4-1 would pay $100 and, again, guarantee that some investment survives and advances into the field of 32. A short term play would be to just focus on the single game between North Texas and Florida State. It would be easy to just root for North Texas to cover a 13.5 point spread. Another tempting short term play (although one that’s rarely advisable) would be to bet heavy on the chalk. Florida State might be -750ML in this hypothetical, so the bettor would have to put up $150 to win $20 bucks (and profit $15 from his original $5 bet on North Texas).

Standing by to Wait-and-See which Seed Starts Growing in March Madness

There’s no shame is standing by to watch the first two days of the tournament to see who has truly brought their A+ game. We will learn a lot about these teams as we see them live in action. Many of the nagging injuries would be proven a hindrance or a non-factor. If you have high value future bets that have made it to March Madness, that could be an excuse to save money by not betting a single game itself. For example, this bettor might have 6 seed Colorado squaring off against 11 seed Louisville. If Louisville wins the game outright, perhaps it’s time for the bettor to take the Cardinals to win the region or the title. Besides, he bet Colorado because he thinks they’re a good team, so by default he would have to like Louisville if they won this first round matchup.

College Basketball Futures Midseason Movers and Shakers

BY MATT DE SARLE

College Basketball Futures Values Available Midseason

Especially this year, the sports books are currently loaded with people (either in person or online) focused on the NFL Playoffs. This was a historic year where the Super Wildcard Weekend was rolled out for the NFL. It resulted in wall-to-wall football. There were two bonus games this season and fans got their fix. As more casinos slowly welcome more betters to the books for football, the college basketball landscape is quickly coming together. “Bubble teams” are digging bigger holes for themselves. Underdogs for a tournament bid are solidifying their unexpected resumes to get into the dance. And that’s where you can find some amazing values right now while few people are paying attention to these lines.

College basketball betting on a budget

I am your average fan. I own a small business. I am not a high roller throwing around large sums of money at these bets. I am a value player. I enjoy “investing” in the futures preseason and rooting for those teams to make the tournament. By that standard, $100 goes a long way for me. At the start of the season, I broke a hundred bucks into a few teams with a rule of winning at least a thousand dollars. If and when those teams make the tournament, I would re-invest again on their odds to reach a final four. This way, I am set up for the best case scenario (4 of my teams reach the final 4). Also, I can wager a small amount on the worst-case-scenario, and recoup some of my money if I am historically bad.

Watch my picks from early November here on YouTube.

3 midseason college basketball values to invest in

At the start of the season, I took a flyer on Colorado, West Virginia, Houston, Seton Hall, Rutgers and North Texas. Colorado remains the one great value that I see. The Buffs have been spotted in January at anywhere from 75-1 to 175-1. Senior point guard McKinley Wright IV is the most underrated player in America. He should absolutely be on the midseason Wooden Watch for the best player, but is not. Watch how Wright closes games. I love a veteran point guard headed into the tournament with a chip on his shoulder.

The second team I am watching as a possible value is Minnesota. I lament not jumping on them early on. Marcus Carr is one of the country’s best closers. His step back jumper is un-guardable. And in an era where the face of many rosters changes from year to year with one-and-dones, the face of the Gophers has changed with stellar transfer players. Utah transfer Both Gach and Drake big man Liam Robbins are really great compliments to an already talented roster. The Gophers will take their lumps in a historically great Big 10 season. However, I look for them to be a very dangerous value hitting the tournament somewhere in the 25-1 to 40-1 territory. That would break down to a 6-1 or 10-1 futures bet to reach the Final 4. That would be attractive. It would be even more interesting if they end up as a 6 seed, a slot that hasn’t reached the Final 4 since the early 1990s with the Fab Five.

Lastly, a team that I love the value for is UCONN. Barring a total collapse, they have already punched their NCAA Basketball Tournament ticket with the legwork done in (their return to) a mediocre Big East. The Huskies came roaring back from an 18 point deficit at Marquette this winter. They then handled business against Butler and Depaul. The USC win from earlier this season gets better-and-better, as the Trojans are putting together a respectable resume themselves. As of mid-January, UCONN’s only loss was by two points to top 10 team Creighton. Unbelievably, they were spotted at a sports book at 150-1 to win the title.

Movers and shakers in the college basketball futures market

Setting my personal picks aside, there are some interesting lines in the college basketball futures arena. According to Vegas Insider, Drake is 25-1 to win it all. That’s some high level respect for the Missouri Valley Conference team. Let’s see if that’s a misprint. At the same number is Kentucky. The Wildcats are probably the most volatile bet you can make, considering their unreal skid to start the season. A recent performance against the Florida Gators had Kentucky looking like, Kentucky again. They’re 25-1 to win it all as of writing this. Richmond was an early season darling because of its veteran starting 5. They sit at 60-1 if you still like that team after they’ve left the top 25. Oklahoma State has the consensus first overall pick in the NBA draft (Cade Cunningham) and is 100-1. That’s never a bad combo. Gonzaga remains the house favorite at around 3-1 with its challengers like Iowa, Baylor, Villanova, Creighton and Wisconsin all flirting with the single digits (ie 7-1 or 9-1).

Thanks for reading! Learn more about this blog here or join the debate on our Twitter page.

Matty D. of collegebasketballeyetest.com joins The Wallace Way on YouTube.

College Basketball Eye Test Preseason Top 25

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kansas
  3. Wichita State
  4. Kentucky
  5. Gonzaga
  6. Maryland
  7. Duke
  8. Purdue
  9. San Diego State
  10. Virginia
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Wisconsin
  13. SMU
  14. Indiana
  15. Notre Dame
  16. UCLA
  17. Baylor
  18. Michigan State
  19. Florida State
  20. UConn
  21. Texas A&M
  22. Rhode Island
  23. Georgetown
  24. BYU
  25. Old Dominion


For the blue bloods, my eye test evaluation of offseason YouTube videos pins Skal Labissiere atop any of the Duke recruits.

Keeping in the ACC, I think the Louisville “scandal” won’t go away anytime soon. That won’t set a team back as much as losing Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear. Meanwhile, Florida State returns a scary amount of its signature size. Not to mention, Xavier Rathan-Mayes could lead the nation in scoring here in his sophomore season. Notre Dame is also a better team than Louisville when I account for the talent, especially in the post, that it returns.

Don’t discount my entire list because I have Wichita State number three. Hear me out. Ron Baker foregoes the NBA to pursue a championship in his senior season. Running mate and fellow senior guard Fred Van Vleet makes Wichita State the best backcourt in the nation (and they may have been that last season). The Shockers also quietly add Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp, whose range can pose matchup nightmares if the Shockers choose to go three-guard-lineup. The big fella, Shaquille Morris, made strides last season as being a reliable post option.

Speaking of so-called “Mid-Majors,” Gonzaga stands firm in the top five because of the girth it returns.  The Bulldogs return Wiltjer, Sabonis and Karnowski down low.  Gonzaga also makes my top five of under-appreciated seasons from last year.  See the full list as part of my YouTube playlist previewing each team:

In the SEC, all the ink will be about LSU and whether its diaper dandies can out-match Kentucky. However, I am focusing on the most underrated point guard in the nation, Alex Caruso. Texas A&M returns scoring punch with Danuel House and I think it has enough dogs to scrap ahead of the Auburns and LSU’s in the league. (Let’s not discount that Florida will need at least a year adjustment minus Billy Donovan).

Yes, Arizona is left out of my top 25. TJ McConnell was the quarterback of this team for two years. That said, I will give new starting point guard Justin Simon all of the credit in the world if he can lead the Wildcats to a top 25 position.

I think AP voters might make the mistake of leaving Georgetown out of the top 25. We could be looking at the nation’s leading scorer in D’Vauntes Smith-Riviera and a surrounding cast worthy enough for that vote.  Plus, the Hoyas had a trip to Italy this offseason.  How could they not play well with an offseason Tuscan diet?

Oklahoma’s collapse last season still bothers me. The Sooners led by 10 for majority of the first half against Michigan State, but really struggled to score the ball late. However, I can’t deny a backcourt of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins from my top 20. The Big 12’s disappearance from March Madness, in fact, still irks me. But I cannot keep veterans Perry Ellis and Frank Mason Jr. from the top 5 with KU, nor can I keep Baylor from the top 25 with Taurean Prince peaking late last season.

Outside: Utah and Xavier drop from my top 25 for the same reason: they each lose their floor general point guards (Delon Wright, Dee Davis respectively).

For the same reason, Northern Iowa won’t be making my top 25. Losing a leader like Seth Tuttle, I need to wait-and-see whether the Panthers can regroup. Plus, Louisville shellacked them in the tournament and that image is still in my mind.

Rhode Island cracks my top 25 as they showed flashes last season. E. C. Mattthews, the junior from Detroit, averaged 17 points per game last season. The Rams return a nucleus from last season and plays in a wide-open A-10 (with Shaaka leaving VCU). Look out for George Washington in this conference as well!

Old Dominion leap-frogs conference mate UAB to finish my top 25. Senior Trey Freeman is one of my favorite combo guards in the nation. He is silky smooth with his handle and jump shot. Watch for UAB and its returning roster of the squad that shocked Iowa State in the tourney last season.

Fine Matchups Follow First Four

NBA Jam Jayhawks

Do you start your Tuesday by watching Quinnipiac vs. LaSalle?  Are you planning your daily workout around LSU vs. UMass?  Today’s tip off marathon features a grand finale.  Kentucky plays Michigan St. followed by Kansas and Duke.  What’s even better is that these schools have committed a few years to rotate facing one another.  The new tradition is called the “First Four.”  Here are my picks for tonight’s featured games.  I am taking Duke giving 3 1/2, Michigan State  giving 2 1/2, and Florida getting 11 points from Wisconsin (I thought that was a misprint on http://www.vegasinsider.com).

You know how the Tournament Selection Committee picks bubble teams based on how they play against one another?  Well, a lot of those matchup actually happen in November.  Tis the season for out-of-conference tournaments.  Teams that excel can really boost their resume before the punishment of conference play come January and February.  Here are some great games on TV in November to keep an eye on.  They could double as bubble-busters before you fill out your bracket this March.

Tuesday, November 12th

*Florida at Wisconsin

Kansas @ DUKE
Kentucky @ Michigan St.

 

 

Thursday, November 21st – Florida St. @ VCU on ESPN U

 

 

 

*Don’t sleep on this Wisconsin Florida matchup.  Wisconsin debuted a convincing win against an athletic St. John’s team.  Florida welcomes one of the best high school recruits at a much-needed position.  Check out new point guard Kasey Hill.

 

 

This game features two of the most intimidating defenses in recent years.   Florida State’s fearsome defense led by coach Leonard Hamilton has taken a hiatus from the NCAA tourney.  I am looking for a bounce-back year after Hamilton has reshuffled the deck with some younger players.  I’m looking forward to seeing how VCU’s full court havoc defense stacks up to Florida State’s more traditional half-court ball pressure.  I predict VCU is too tough and covers the spread.

 

Monday, November 25th – Marquette at Arizona State

 

 

 

Monday, November 25th – Minnesota vs. Syracuse on ESPN2

Marquette loses Vander Blue while Arizona State gets a year of maturity with speedster point guard Jahii Carson.  I think Marquette will cover this spread, but this would be a huge resume boost for the Sun Devils if they can beat an Elite 8 team from last year.

 

I’m curious to see what Syracuse’s backcourt will look like this year after losing both Carter Williams and Triche.  Enter Andre Hollins.  The Minnesota Gophers shed a lot of baggage from last year’s team.  It will be interesting to see if both Hollins players declare this as their team with a statement win against the Orange.  My prediction is that they won’t, not this early at least.  Take Cuse against the spread.

 

 

 

Matt’s A.T.S. Forecast – First Friday

It’s the first Friday of college hoops.  This blog will show a log of how I do against the spread (A.T.S.).  Hence, Matt’s ATS is born.

Georgetown is giving three points, even though Oregon just suspended starting point guard Dominic Artis for selling apparel.  That would be my first Matty D Guarantee of the season, but I spend those very frugally.  Take Georgetown to the bank.

Wisconsin can go an entire half not scoring 15 points, so laying 5 1/2 is a difficult concept. However, I see their defense giving St. John’s difficulty.  Steve Lavin normally has a raw athletic bunch, so I’ll predict it takes them some weeks before figuring out how to play offense together.  The Wisconsin Badgers understanding defense will outweigh that athleticism.  Give that 5 1/2 and enjoy Jimmy Jackson’s kid play ball.

If you’ve read my blog, the next prediction is not a shocker.  I’m taking Colorado with the six points.  However, I think Baylor will be very good this season with the big man in his sophomore campaign.

Matts ATS – I will update this document throughout the season with my progress.

Teams My pick Final Score 1 if I won 1 if I lost
Colorado                           6
Baylor
Oregon
Georgetown -3
St. John’s
Wisconsin -5.5

Matt’s A.T.S. Forecast – First Friday

It’s the first Friday of college hoops.  This blog will show a log of how I do against the spread (A.T.S.).  Hence, Matt’s ATS is born.

Georgetown is giving three points, even though Oregon just suspended starting point guard Dominic Artis for selling apparel.  That would be my first Matty D Guarantee of the season, but I spend those very frugally.  Take Georgetown to the bank.

Wisconsin can go an entire half not scoring 15 points, so laying 5 1/2 is a difficult concept. However, I see their defense giving St. John’s difficulty.  Steve Lavin normally has a raw athletic bunch, so I’ll predict it takes them some weeks before figuring out how to play offense together.  The Wisconsin Badgers understanding defense will outweigh that athleticism.  Give that 5 1/2 and enjoy Jimmy Jackson’s kid play ball.

If you’ve read my blog, the next prediction is not a shocker.  I’m taking Colorado with the six points.  However, I think Baylor will be very good this season with the big man in his sophomore campaign.

Matts ATS – I will update this document throughout the season with my progress.

Teams My pick Final Score 1 if I won 1 if I lost
Colorado
Baylor 6
Oregon
Georgetown -3
St. John’s
Wisconsin -5.5

Sorry Sequel Squads

Do you remember Speed 2?  Neither do I.  Some sequels should never be made.  Maybe there’s just one actor remaining from the original, but Hollywood forces it on you anyways.  Enter Yogi Farrell on this year’s Indiana team.  The Hoosiers top my flab five of teams destined for a flat showing compared to the 2012-13 campaign:
1.     Indiana
2.     Oregon
3.     New Mexico
4.     Gonzaga
5.     Wichita St.
Oregon was one of the coolest stories last March.  They ran the table in the Pac 12 Championships, were insulted with a 12-seed, then corralled the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  They beat a great St. Louis squad before meeting their match in eventual champion Louisville.  They deserve all the credit in the world, which is what they’re getting with a AP Top 25 ranking pre-season.  However, again, they’ve lost the actors.  Emery, Kazemi and Singler are gone.  They added Mosier from UNLV, but have you checked what success he’s had tournament time with the “Running Rebels?”
I feel the same way about Wichita State.  I was totally drinking the kool-aid last season with the Shockers.  However, they’ve lost a starting point guard in Amstead, the most winningest Shocker in program history with Williams, and a grown man in Hall.  Players matter.

Touring Terre Haute

Touring Terre Haute

“Terre Haute, that’s where Larry Bird is from!” I feverishly snapped a picture out of the Budget Rental Truck as we flew by the isolated exit on an Indiana highway.  I could have told my girlfriend “LeBron James grew up here,” and she would not have batted an eye.  Luckily we needed to get gas.  I fact-checked myself.  Larry Bird is from French Lick, duh.  How could I forget that?


                Jake Odum is from Terre Haute.  Indiana State, Larry Bird’s alma mater, is also in Terra Haute, where Odum plays.  If you check out Bleacher Report’s top 22 point guards nationally, you won’t find Jake Odum.   But I’m giving the 6’4” senior some love right here.  With Creighton leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for greener pastures, the Sycamores have a real opportunity.  Odum is one of those guys who looks like he is playing in slow-motion, but already has the play diagnosed.  Over Odum’s career his conference has sent quality competitors to the big dance with Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa.  All the while, he has put up nearly 450 assists.  Odum scored more in his junior campaign, averaging 13.6 points per game.  Look for he and backcourt mate Manny Arop to drop in on the national conversation come March.

My starting LINE up

I placed this bet last Thanksgiving

I placed this bet last Thanksgiving

I like to start my season by finding some underdog teams that will soon become the darlings of the nation.  Last year around Thanksgiving I put $10 bucks on Wichita State at 150/1.  That was part of my “starting lineup.”  I take $100 bucks.  I identify teams I love from last year with enough remaining pieces.  I spread the $100 dollars among as many teams to win at least $1,000 if I get lucky and pick the champion.  Last March I had many options to hedge my bet when Wichita State was in the final four.  Here’s this year’s “Starting Lineup:”

$30 Oklahoma St.  35/1 = $1,050
$25 VCU 40/1 = $1,000
$17 UCONN 60/1 =  $1,020
$14 St. Louis 75/1 = $1,050
$14 Colorado 75/1 = 1,050
Sorry KU fans, but Oklahoma State tops this list.  Marcus Smart is just a winner.  The Cowboys are slightly undersized, but I’m still shocked to see 35/1 odds at the beginning of the season for them to win a championship.   I think those odds will look more like 15/1 come March.
Shaka Smart and VCU only get better this year.  I expect New Yorker Melvin Johnson to play a bigger role.  VCU is known for havoc on defense, but I think this is the year guys like Johnson get involved in a more diverse scoring attack.
Something special was happening with Kevin Ollie’s UConn Huskies last year.  I expect his team to continue responding to his coaching style with his sophomore campaign.
I went hard wagering behind St. Louis last March.  They ran into a red-hot Oregon team in the tournament and were out the first weekend.  I still expect Jett, Loe and Evans to come back with a vengeance this season.
Finally, Colorado can really ball.  I compare Spencer Dinwittie to Victor Oladipo last season.  He is a great defender who no one is talking about heading into this season.  However, I think he has lottery pick talent.  Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker also made progress scoring last season.  I hope to see you in Vegas come March looking good to win a thousand bucks and more.