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Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/14/2007 03:13:00 PM

Tapping into Vegas' Expertise

Vegas considers Jessie Sapp (left), Pat Ewing Jr. and the Hoyas to be the top No. 2 seed.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In the Blog's ongoing efforts to attack this Bracket Math business from as many angles as possible -- efficiency profiles, as well as hotness "trendlines" have already been covered -- we're turning to the gamblers for Wednesday's post. Friend of the blog Jacob N. Wheatley-Schaller, a student at Emory University, used futures odds from four online sportsbooks to compute the percentage chances oddmakers are giving teams to win their regions. The chart appears below:

Las Vegas Percentages for Each Team to Win its Region
(Futures odds taken from bodog.com, betus.com, sportsbetting.com, and vip.com)
East South Midwest West
UNC 37.2% Ohio St 37.5% Florida 43.7% Kansas 36.0%
Gtown 31.1% TA&M 20.4% Wisc 17.4% UCLA 25.1%
Texas 10.6% Memphis 15.4% Oreg 10.1% Pitt 8.7%
Wash St 4.3% Louisv 5.3% Maryland 8.7% SIU 6.5%
SC 3.0% Virginia 3.9% Butler 3.3% Duke 6.5%
Mich St 2.7% Tenn 3.8% ND 4.5% Va Tech 3.7%
Vandy 2.4% Creighton 3.4% UNLV 2.3% Gonzaga 2.4%
BC 1.9% Nevada 3.2% Arizona 2.3% Villanova 2.4%
Marq 1.8% Xavier 1.9% Purdue 1.3% Indiana 2.2%
TT 1.4% BYU 1.8% G Tech 2.5% Kentucky 2.0%
Ark 1.2% Stanford 1.7% Winthrop 1.3% Illinois 1.6%
GW 1.1% LBSU 0.7% OD 1.3% VCU 1.6%
Jacob N. Wheatley-Schaller

If Vegas really is smarter than the rest of us at assessing teams, then here's what you should take away from Wheatley-Schaller's data:

• I consider Kansas-UCLA (in the West) to be the biggest 1-vs.-2 toss-up situation, and while the Jayhawks are the No. 1 with the lowest Vegas percentage, the smallest gap between a 1 and a 2 seed in the chart is in the East Region. There's only a 6.1-percent difference between UNC and Georgetown, and then a huge 20.5-percent drop between the Hoyas and Texas. There's a significant amount of bettor confidence in Georgetown.

• The oddsmakers really like Texas A&M's Final Four chances. The Aggies are by far the highest No. 3 seed -- 17.1 percent above Washington State, 11.7 percent above Pitt, and 10.3 percent above Oregon -- and also come in well ahead of South Region two-seed Memphis.

• Vegas' two biggest gaps in 8-9 games are Arizona (a No. 8 seed) over Purdue by 1.0 percent and Michigan State (a No. 9 seed) over Marquette by 0.9 percent. The other two 8-9s (BYU-Xavier and Kentucky-Villanova) are toss-ups.

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posted by Luke Winn | View comments |


Posted: March 14, 2007 4:51 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Luke, it is good to see that you have jumped on the A&M bandwagon this year! WTAW!!!!

Interesting call on the part of Vegas. Looks like a good time to bet against Florida (at least to win it all; Final Four appearance is still plausible).

In my other posts, I've already noted that Florida hasn't played very many good teams this year (3-1 vs. top 25 in 2007, 6-4 vs. top 25 in 2006; makes the 5 losses look more worrisome).

I've also noted that it looks like there's a lot more parity this year than last among the top 10. And that the top 10 look stronger overall, relative to the rest of the field than before.

What does this mean for Florida?

Well, partly that depends on Florida itself. How does Florida rate statistically from last year to this year?

There's no reason to suppose the statistics would differ, so let's look up the numbers. Is this team better or worse?

According to kenpom.com, Florida is posting better numbers than last year. But so are everyone else. Florida's offensive rating was 119.4 in 2006 (which placed it #2, but would only rate #9 this year). Florida's defensive rating was 87.2 in 2006 (which placed it #5, but would only rate #19 this year).

Florida has improved 3.2 points on offense to 122.6 and improved 0.7 points on defense to 86.5 but has dropped 1 ranking on offense and 6 rankings on defense. If I go back to your table on the O and D ratings of champions, Florida today looks a lot like a Texas (2006), Illinois (2005), or Oklahoma State (2004), none of which quite made it over the top.

On my improvised scale of adding the O and D rankings, discussed in other posts, Florida now rates a 14, which is 2nd and in a close race with two teams tied for 3rd at 15, instead of being well out in front in 1st as it was last year.

It's important to note that Florida's opponents' O and D ratings are identical from 2006 to 2007 (106.7 v. 106.8; 98.3 v. 98.5), so that hasn't impacted the change.

Another interesting indicator of the shift in relative strength toward the top: in last year's rankings, neither the #1 offense nor the #1 defense were in the top 10 overall. This year, both are.
Posted: March 14, 2007 9:19 PM   by Anonymous Shane Kenney
Hey Luke, it's that me- that kid that sat next to you at the Gary-Southshore RailCats game last summer. I just wanted to tell you that Georgetown is winning it all. But don't sleep on Notre Dame. Go RailCats!!!
Posted: March 14, 2007 10:06 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Psh, they don't even have Weber State on there. Everyone knows that they're going to win:p
Posted: March 14, 2007 11:29 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Buckeyes. I know everyone loves Texas A&M for the south, but that's based upon the youth of the Buckeyes. Actually, they are starting to play and lead like seniors. Bucks are playing great D and have great depth. I see the Buckeyes over A&M in a close one. Also, you mention that Vegas loves TA&M, but they actually favor the Buckeyes heavily for the final four. TA&M is not even the strongest 2 in the stats in your article!
Posted: March 15, 2007 8:12 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Nice work, Luke. It would be interesting to see a similar chart of odds from LAST YEAR's tourney teams. What were George Mason's odds?

Posted: March 15, 2007 8:29 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
TAMU is a 3 - no surpise that it's favored over Memphis, the 2 in the same region.
Boy! The Memphis Tigers are really going to p*** some people off this tourney. Hee Hee!
Posted: March 15, 2007 8:59 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
KU getting no love as a 1 seed.
There depth, ability to play any type of game, and there 5-8 NBA prospects(over the next 3-4 years) will win the title.
Posted: March 15, 2007 10:45 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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