2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Betting Analysis: #2 vs. #15

Special thanks to @matteise for compiling the data used in this analysis.

Nowadays, it seems like there’s more and more advanced stats developed everyday. NCAA basketball is no different. You have sites such as KenPom and RPI, among others that crunch data to give insights as to who truly are the best teams in the nation.

Now that Vegas released the spreads and O/U for just about every tournament matchup, let’s take a look at what we believe are the most interesting historical trends that have developed in March Madness from a betting perspective.

After looking at this, we’ll give a prediction of our safest bet of the four first round matchups with these seedings.

The Matchups (Lines Subject to Change)

#2 Michigan vs. #15 Montana

DateSpreadO/U1st Half Spread1st Half O/U
3/21Mich -15130.5Mich -960.5

#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Bradley

DateSpreadO/U1st Half Spread1st Half O/U
3/21MSU -18.5133.5MSU -1061.5

#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Abilene Christian

DateSpreadO/U1st Half Spread1st Half O/U
3/21Kentucky -22.5132Kentucky -1561

#2 Tennessee vs. #15 Colgate

DateSpreadO/U1st Half Spread1st Half O/U
3/22Tenn -17.5148Tenn -1070

Five Interesting Historical Facts On #2 v. #15 Spreads

  1. In the last five years, the #2 team is 10-9-1 ATS, including 3-1 records in 2014 and 2018.
  2. A #2 team with an adjusted tempo rank of 200 or slower & an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of 50 or better (KenPom) is 12-6-1 ATS. Both Michigan (#320/#2) and Kentucky (#265/#11) meet this criteria.
  3. When a #15 team scores 65 or fewer points, the #2 team is 28-15-1 ATS, 24-8 ATS when 60 or fewer points.
  4. The #2 team that has an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of 10 or better is 3-10 ATS. Michigan (#2) and Michigan State (#8) meet this criteria. However, Cincinnati bucked this trend in 2018. With the #1 ADJ DEF EFF ranking, they beat Georgia State 68-53 and also beat the -14 point spread.
  5. In 13 games against a non-#1 Seed, Big Sky teams (Montana) allow 75.5 points per game, while scoring 58.8 points per game. Going back to 2005 tournament, Big Sky teams have scored 60 or more points only three times and are 4-11-1 ATS.

Five Interesting Historical Facts On #2 v. #15 O/U

  1. In the last five years, the O/U record is 7-13, including 0-4 records in 2014 and 2018.
  2. When the O/U is set at 145 points or higher, the O/U is 2-14. In these games, the average points scored is 146.5. Tennessee/Colgate opened at an O/U of 150 but has been trending down.
  3. The average number of points scored by a #2 seed in the first round over the past three years is 81.6. The average number of points scored by a #15 seed in the first round over the past three years is 65.1.
  4. When the #2 seed wins and covers the spread, the O/U is 9-21.
  5. When the #2 seed wins by 15 or more points, the O/U is 14-27.

Our Safest Play – Tennessee vs. Colgate UNDER 148

Here’s a bonus stat that’ll blow your mind. A #2 team with a 2PT FG% ranking of 50 or better AND a 3PT FG% ranking of 150 or better, AND when the #15 Seed has a defensive 2PT FG% ranking of 125 or worse, the #2 team is 13-0 straight up, 10-3 ATS, and the O/U is 3-10.

Tennessee is ranked #18 in 2PT FG% and #89 in 3PT FG%. Colgate is ranked #187 in defensive 2PT FG%.

Now, you may be tempted to bet on Tennessee to cover the spread, and we wouldn’t blame you if you did. However, Colgate has played two teams in the top #100 this season; Syracuse (#31) and Penn State (#54). They lost to Syracuse 77-56 and lost to Penn State 76-65.

Thus, we believe the UNDER is the safest bet out of these matchups.

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