College Basketball Betting Tip: Back Road Teams That Protect the Ball & Play Elite Defense

College Basketball Betting Tip: Back Road Teams That Protect the Ball & Play Elite Defense article feature image

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Virginia Cavaliers guards Kyle Guy (5), Ty Jerome (11), and Braxton Key (2)

  • College basketball bettors overvalue home court advantage, especially against road teams that excel at limiting turnovers and forcing missed shots.
  • Using Bet Labs, Chris Raybon shows why that's a bad idea and shares a profitable betting system that has produced a win rate of 59% since 2006.

If you have a sports betting theory, it can be tested with Bet Labs.

This is true even of one as simple as backing teams that “protect the ball and play good defense,” which admittedly sounds more like one of those mic’d up cliches we hear from coaches on the sidelines than the makings of a profitable betting strategy.

Defining ‘Protecting the Ball & Playing Elite D’

Offenses that average fewer than 11 turnovers per game can be considered the cream of the crop in terms of ball security. As of this writing, 25 teams, or 7.1% of Division-I schools, have turned the rock over fewer than 11 times per game.

Defenses that hold opponents to a field goal percentage of 39.0% or less can be considered truly elite. As of this writing, 10 teams, or 2.8% of Division I programs, have held opponents to a shooting percentage of 39.0% or below.

The Trend

After using BetLabs to filter for teams that average under 11 turnovers and hold opponents to 39% or less from the field, only two additional filters are needed to create a profitable betting system.

  • The team is the visitor. Home court advantage varies wildly in college basketball and is often overvalued by bettors, and that’s especially true when the home team is hosting an opponent that doesn’t give away the ball and plays suffocating defense.
  • The spread hasn’t moved more than 2 points against the visitor. A line move more than 2 points is a signal that there could be other factors specific to the teams involved, which could offset the broader trend.

Since 2006, this trend has produced a 293-212-12 against-the-spread record — good for a 56.5% win rate and 9.5% return on investment — but where it really shines is conference play:

Conference road teams averaging less than 11 turnovers and holding opponents to a field goal percentage of 39% or below have gone 176-121-7 (59.3%) ATS since 2006, covering by 1.55 points per game.

Following this system and betting $100 on each match would have netted a profit of $4,511 over just 304 games — a lucrative 14.8% ROI.

What makes it work? Since conference games feature two programs familiar with one another, these matchups can often come down to simple execution, and shooting and turnovers are two-thirds of the game.

Upcoming System Matches

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