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When Good Teams Go Bad

   by Scott Spreitzer - 02/05/2007

You often hear that the oddsmakers are very quick to react to developments in college basketball. If a team gets hot, they know about it. If there's an injury, they know about it. If a kid gets food poisoning from eating in the dorm, they know about it.

If that's true, how can you explain what's going on lately with teams like Arizona, Connecticut, and Illinois?

This past Saturday, those three teams combined to go 1-2 against the Las Vegas spread. Arizona ended a long non-cover streak against Washington . The other two teams won their games, but couldn't cover tall Vegas expectations.

That's been happening a lot this year. Big name programs have tall expectations every time they take the floor. If they take a step backward one year, it can literally take weeks for the line to adjust. And, it takes weeks even though these struggles are often televised nationally night after night!

*Since conference play began in the Big Ten, Illinois is just 3-7 against the spread. This team didn't impress early in the season, and has rarely put together a solid 40-minute spurt. Despite this, they continue to be highly regarded by the oddsmakers and the public. We're not talking about a slump that ended a couple of weeks ago where the numbers just don't show it yet. An ugly low scoring win against a poor Minnesota team Saturday shows the Illini still don't have things figured out.

*Since conference play began in the Big East, Connecticut is 2-9 against the spread. They are currently on a six-game non-cover streak after an embarrassing overtime win over Rutgers on Saturday. I say embarrassing because UCONN was favored by 16 points! Even though their slump has been a TV event for weeks, they still can't get close to expectations. However, the line may be adjusting - see Monday's Syracuse game. Check the line reaction to that game's results.

*Since conference play began in the Pac 10, Arizona is 4-8 against the spread. Two of the covers came against a Washington team that Arizona matches up very well against (same style, but a much worse defense in Washington). That means Arizona is 2-8 ATS when not playing Washington since conference action started!

If you add up the records, you get 9-24 against the spread. Now, I'm not saying we should have been mind-readers at the beginning of conference play. Sometimes you hear about great trends and you say to yourself, "Sure, the numbers look great now, but who would have thought to bet that at the beginning?"

*Illinois played poorly before conference play began. Their woes aren't a surprise. They're just a continuation of what had already been happening.

*UConn has a lot of new starters this year. They were protected early by a soft home schedule. It shouldn't have surprised anybody that they would have some trouble once they were tested by real opposition. However, being taken to OT by a banged-up Rutgers squad was alarming.

*Arizona had some good early results, but they suddenly looked very mortal once league play began. They weren't suffering unlucky results. They really were playing worse than all the teams they lost to.

Should everyone have seen this coming? With the first two teams listed, nobody should have been surprised. But even if you were coming into conference play completely blind, how long should it have taken to notice? We're talking about a 9-24 ATS trend for teams that went 1-2 ATS this past weekend. The slump is still going on. If it took you a week to notice, you'd still have a great record. If it took you two weeks to notice, same thing.

The oddsmakers didn't. Well, they did make some minor adjustments. The big culprit is the public. They just kept betting on these big name teams figuring they'd bounce back from their last bad game. That kept the lines from moving down to where they should have been. Oddsmakers were slow to react, the public even slower.

Is it too late for you to react? Because the slumps still appear to be going on (unless Arizona suddenly schedules a few more games with Washington ), you should stay on top of developments. If you start to see some 2-1 ATS days for the trio, you can probably assume the lines have finally caught up. Until you see those, assume the lines haven't caught up!

Handicappers and Las Vegas gamblers have been waiting for these three teams to get their acts together. They're still waiting. Don't let anything that's happened in past years fool you. What we're seeing right now with Illinois, Connecticut, and Arizona is just the latest evidence that you can make big money in any sport WHEN GOOD TEAMS GO BAD!

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