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Last week I wrote about the teams sure to be overrated and underrated in the NCAA tournament, using Four Factors data as the basis for my analysis. Here’s what I wrote in that piece:
The fact that Ken Pom’s predicted margin of victory and the betting market are so closely aligned is very interesting given what goes into the AdjEm metric. Again, it’s just offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency, and then you can adjust the game for pace of play and projected number of possessions. That means that there are a ton of metrics not factored into the spread — the most famous of them being the Four Factors. These four metrics have shown to be incredibly important to team success:
- Shooting: eFG%
- Turnover rate
- Rebounding (O vs. D)
- Free-throw rate
Not all teams playing today in their respective conference tourneys are going to make the big dance, but we can still use Four Factors and offensive/defensive data to find edges in the spreads. Yesterday, I identified four potential edges and ended up going just 1-3. I thought the analysis was solid, but things just didn’t work out: Duquesne, for example, had a massive advantage over Richmond on the offensive glass, but for some reason didn’t exploit that last night. The Dukes grabbed just six offensive boards, and the Spiders outrebounded them 33-23. You win some; you lose some — but today we’re getting back on the horse.
Here are three games that stand out as having potential edges with Four Factors data.
Mississippi St. (+6) vs. Tennessee
5 p.m. ET
These teams played just last week, and Tennessee ended up putting up a monstrous second half to win by 22 on the road. Four Factors data suggests Mississippi St. should play better in this spot. In that game, the Volunteers hit just four 3-pointers and took only 11. That’s consistent with their season-long 3-point rate; they rank 225th in that regard. What’s odd is they don’t take shots at the rim, either: They rank 326th in percentage of shots there this season. They aren’t a big transition team, so there’s really only one thing left: Mid-rangers. Some nights they go down, but the Volunteers rank 176th in effective field goal percentage for a reason. With Mississippi State ranking top-50 in defense. I’m banking on some shooting regression for Tennessee in this game.
Duke (-4) vs. North Carolina
7:30 p.m. ET
North Carolina covered the spread last night against Miami, pulling away late in the second half after Miami went cold. Things will be much more difficult against their rival Blue Devils, who — don’t look now — somehow rank 10th defensively and 11th in effective field goal percentage allowed. Duke’s weakness this season was always on that end, but it seems like they’ve figured things out, and they have the look of a Final Four contender. The Heels are not a Four Factors disaster all-around: They have significant strengths, like on the offensive glass, where they rank second in the nation (to Duke). But the weaknesses are profound, and that can come back to bite them on any night. They rank 333rd in the nation in 3-point percentage allowed, and the Blue Devils got hot in the second half of their most recent meeting. Gary Trent got free for three of them, and Duke can even improve more on its 36.0 percent 3-point mark that night. Carolina has the talent to cover, and anything can happen in a rivalry game, but Duke getting hot from behind the arc is a real concern here.
Texas Tech (+2) vs. West Virginia
7:30 p.m. ET
The Red Raiders have squeaked out two straight wins after losing four straight, and they sit as two-point dogs to the Mountaineers tonight. These teams split the regular season, with West Virginia taking the most recent affair 84-74 at home. That’s a ton of points to give up for a Tech defense that ranks fourth in the nation, especially considering it doesn’t have a ton of weaknesses. The Red Raiders rank 13th in effective field goal percentage, 25th in rim defense, 36th in 3-point defense, and seventh in transition defense. They have some potential issues on offense themselves: The Mountaineers’ aggressive defense ranks second in turnover rate, and the Red Raiders coughed it up 13 times in that loss. But if they stay slow and steady on offense, their defense should keep this one close. This is a fascinating game with strong strengths and weak weaknesses, but I think Tech is a bit undervalued right now because of recency bias. I’d have it more like a pick ’em.
I’ll quickly add that two other advantages today are with UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine and Wichita State vs. Temple. Both former teams have significant Four Factors edges, but I’m afraid the betting market has already adjusted. Ken Pom has UCSB as a one-point favorite, but it’s already moved to -2.5. There’s even less meat on the bone with the Shockers, who are 11-point favorites despite Ken Pom having it as an eight-point game.
Editor’s note: The opinion on these games is from the individual writer and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights
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