Texas Tech-Virginia Betting Tip: Smarter to Take the Spread or Moneyline?

Texas Tech-Virginia Betting Tip: Smarter to Take the Spread or Moneyline? article feature image
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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Davide Moretti

  • A majority of bets are on Texas Tech (+1) against Virginia in tonight's National Championship Game (9:20 p.m. ET, CBS).
  • Using Bet Labs, we determine if it is more profitable to bet the moneyline or spread in college basketball games with small odds.

At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook the spread for the National Championship Game is Virginia -1 (9:20 p.m. ET, CBS). Texas Tech is the popular play with a majority of moneyline and spread tickets on Chris Beard’s team.

With the odds suggesting this game is close to a coin flip, shouldn’t Texas Tech supporters bet the moneyline and not the spread since the return would be greater?

To find out, I used the Bet Labs database to evaluate the most profitable approach for wagering on small lines in college basketball games.

Before we look at the data, let’s discuss the potential return for each wager type. A $100 bettor with a Red Raiders (+105) moneyline ticket would win $105 if Texas Tech cuts down the nets. That same bettor would need to risk $110 to win $100 on Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney and Co. at +1.

Spread bettors also cash their tickets if Texas Tech wins with the added benefit of a potential push should Virginia win by exactly one point.

Since both moneyline and spread bettors need Texas Tech to win in order to get paid, it makes sense to wager on the moneyline. But the data says it has been more profitable (less costly, actually) to bet the spread.

In all NCAA Tournament games since 2005, an underdog of exactly 1-point has gone 26-38 (40.6%) straight up, losing $1,197 for a $100 bettor. A $100 bettor taking every 1-point underdog on the spread during that time has gone 26-34-4 (43.3%) ATS, losing $946.

It has not been profitable to bet a 1-point underdog in the tournament regardless of how you do so with the moneyline being costlier. This is a small sample but the results are the same when we look at all one-possession games.

Since 2005, all underdogs of 3 or fewer points in the NCAA Tournament have gone 123-167 (42.4%) straight up, costing a $100 bettor $2,078. A bettor backing each of these underdogs on the spread has gone 137-138-15 (49.8%) ATS. While close to a 50/50 split, a $100 gambler would be down $783.

What the data tells us is that favorites tend to win games that are expected to be close more often than casual fans might expect. While a bettor can win more money wagering on the money at plus-odds, it has been costlier than betting the spread in these games.

The betting market has moved to Virginia -1.5 at other sportsbooks despite a majority of tickets being on Texas Tech. The Action Network’s power rankings make UVA a 3.5-point favorite.

Instead wagering on the Red Raiders moneyline or spread, gamblers would be better off laying the points with the Cavaliers.

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