Many were surprised when Saint Mary's knocked off #1 Gonzaga this past Saturday. But I had a play on the Gaels, as a 10.5-point underdog. Part of the rationale for my selection was that Saint Mary's was undefeated at home this season. The Gaels were 15-0 SU, yet were getting double-digits. Even better: it was the final home game of the season for Saint Mary's. And this "Last Home Game" is traditionally when schools celebrate their Senior class, so it's always an emotional game for the home team.
As a sports handicapper, we can take advantage of this emotion. Of course, I don't play all the teams in a haphazard manner. Instead, I will focus on the "best of the best."
Let's take a look now at how teams -- like Saint Mary's -- that are undefeated at home perform on Senior Day.
Since 1990, our unbeaten home teams have gone 174-141-8 ATS, for a solid 55%. And, most interestingly, until Saint Mary's played #1-ranked Gonzaga, no team with an unbeaten home record had been an underdog of more than 5 points on Senior Day (yet the Gaels were catching 10.5 points)!
Now, even though there's nothing wrong with 55%, we always look to improve our numbers by zeroing in on the stronger subsets.
One clear strategy is to filter out the games with big point spreads above -11 points. Home teams can play with much emotion, but still not cover a huge point spread. To wit: those high-priced home favorites have burned money on Senior Day, with a 67-77-3 ATS record. So, with this parameter in place, our Last Home Game system moves to 107-64-5, 62.5% ATS.
This season, we've had three plays already, and the angle has gone a perfect 3-0 ATS.
The winners were Murray St. -3.5 over Belmont; Middle Tennessee St. -1.5 over W. Kentucky; and Saint Mary's +10.5 over Gonzaga.
Looking ahead to the month of March, the following teams currently have unbeaten home records (but most will be favored by more than 11 on their Senior Day).
Two teams that surely will not be favored by double-digits will be Tennessee, when it hosts Arkansas, and Wyoming, when it welcomes Fresno State -- both on March 5. Likewise, SMU may be favorably priced when it plays Tulane, on March 6.
Keep an eye out this week for these games.
Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.