3 Ways College Basketball Bettors Can Exploit Recency Bias

3 Ways College Basketball Bettors Can Exploit Recency Bias article feature image

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Wake Forest Demon Deacons guard Brandon Childress (0) .

  • The college hoops betting market tends to overreact to two-game "trends" due to recency bias.
  • Here, I break down three betting systems that exploit recency bias. Each has produced a win rate of 56% or better since 2005.

Especially when betting on a sport as situational as college basketball, where things like motivation and level of competition can vary wildly from one game to the next, it’s important to keep at bay the natural tendency to put too much weight on the most recent events — also known as recency bias.

But recency bias isn’t just something to avoid yourself as a bettor. You can also look to exploit the collective recency bias of the market.

College hoops in particular has a longstanding history of being profitable to those who fade recency bias when it comes to road underdogs on two-game losing streaks going up against home favorites on two-game winning streaks — both straight up and against the spread.

This works because, in effect, it creates the perfect recency bias cocktail. As is the case with most sports, public college hoops action tends to be lopsided toward favorites — the majority of tickets are on the favorite roughly three quarters of the time, according to our data at BetLabs. Add in the seemingly dire road underdog spot and a double shot of small-sample trends, and bookmakers have no choice but to set their lines accordingly.

Here are three BetLabs systems you can use to profit from this phenomenon.

Road Underdog on 2-Game Straight-Up Losing Streak vs. Home Favorite on 2-Game Straight-Up Winning Streak

This is usually the classic letdown spot: It’s human nature to pick up the urgency to avoid going 0-3 over your last three games, just like it’s human nature to be more satisfied than you’d like to admit with winning two of every three.

Even if the home team’s wins weren’t all that impressive, or if the visitor dropped a couple of tough games, the recency bias devil on your shoulder is whispering “Why chance it? Just lay the points and win some money so you can afford to do something more fun than personifying cognitive biases on The Action Network.”

But fading recency bias and taking the points with the road dogs has netted a 56% winning percentage and 9% ROI since 2005. The trend has been profitable in nine of the past 10 seasons.

Road Underdog on 2-Game ATS Losing Streak vs. Home Favorite on 2-Game ATS Winning Streak

Certainties in life include death, taxes, my dude Paul Lo Duca betting every single college basketball game in the Action App every night, and sports bettors getting caught up in meaningless small-sample ATS trends.

But even at home against an opponent in the midst of a disastrous 0-2 ATS free fall, the favorite’s utterly dominant recent 2-0 mark has been worth only a 44% cover rate and 13.6% ROI.

Meanwhile, the road dogs have on average produced a 56% win rate, 8.4% ROI, and 50% of a dominant two-game stretch of their own.

Road Underdog on 2-Game SU/ATS Losing Streak vs. Home Favorite on 2-Game SU/ATS Winning Streak

Combining these two trends together has produced a 58% win rate, 13% ROI, and 2.16-point cover margin since 2005.

Proceed with caution, though: The trend has gone 0-4 in its last four.


Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network and a co-host of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.

How would you rate this article?