College Basketball Betting Tip: Free Throw Luck Creates Value in Ohio-Western Michigan


Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Preston #0 of the Ohio Bobcats

  • Free throw luck can impact a college basketball team’s straight-up and against the spread record.
  • Using Bet Lab, we explain how gamblers can take advantage of teams with bad free throw luck.

Teams have limited control over opponent’s free throw percentage, since players attempt free throws while the opposing team just watches and can’t play defense.

With little influence on an opponent’s performance from the charity stripe, some teams can benefit when opponents miss an unusually high number of free throws. The opposite can also be true, as some teams have the misfortune of facing teams that make more free throws than expected.

Knowing opponent free throw percentage is mostly luck, savvy bettors can profit by targeting games featuring teams with bad defensive free throw percentages when they face an opponent with good defensive free throw percentages. Regression usually doesn’t take a season off.

We define bad luck defensive free throw percentage as opponents that make 76% or more of free throws — this is equivalent of facing a Top 25 free throw shooting team each game. Teams with good defensive free throw luck have had opponents make less than 70% of attempts – roughly a bottom third free throw shooting team.

Since 2005, it has been profitable to bet teams with bad defensive free throw luck against opponents with good defensive free throw luck. According to Bet Labs, these programs are +12.33 units. It is not much, but it does suggest free throw luck can create a betting opportunity.

The optimal situation to wager on these teams is when they face an opponent with good free throw luck that are also bad free throw shooters, and teams that have a winning against the spread record.

Since 2005, gamblers following this system have gone 387-297-19 (57%) ATS. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $7,001.

Free throw luck can impact a team’s straight up and against the spread record, which in turn influences how bettors wager on squads. This system looks to exploit this tendency and take advantage of artificially inflated lines that could be impacted by free throw luck.

On Tuesday, Ohio (-5.5) hosts Western Michigan in a MAC showdown (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+). The Bobcats have been unlucky, as opponents have made 77.6% of their free throws against them. The Broncos have been luckier with opposing teams making just 68.1% of attempts.

Ohio is a match for this system. History suggests with a little bit of free throw regression, the Bobcats are a good bet to cover.

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