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Accurately Predicting NCAA BB Spreads Before Vegas Does…and How to Use it to your Advantage

I can predict 90% of major conference college basketball opening spreads to within 1.5 points before Vegas releases them.  For the purposes of this article, I consider the major conferences to be the following: American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, PAC-12, and SEC.

You’re probably saying, “Spectacular, but how can I use this information to my advantage?”  And to a lesser extent you might be wondering “How do you do it?”  I’ll answer the last question first (very briefly) and the first question last.


How do I do it?

Without giving away the full details, the predictions rely on a few different things, the most important of which are: advanced metrics, home court advantage, and injuries.  These are, without a doubt, the same types of things Vegas is considering when they set the opening spreads.  I’m not saying they are following the exact same track I am.  There are certainly variations.  And I’m glad there are because these variations are the key.  They are what we want to focus on to answer the “How can I use this to my advantage?” question, so let’s get to it.


How can I use these predictions to my advantage?

Every person looks at spreads differently to try to get an edge on Vegas.  They answer questions like:

  • What are the teams’ records?
  • Which team is playing better?
  • If the two teams have played before, what was the result?
  • Are there key injuries?
  • Who ranks higher according to NET, BPI, Kenpom, Sagarin, etc.?
  • Are there matchup deficiencies?

…and the list can go on and on.

I’m not going to focus on these questions because these are things Vegas has also considered, and they’ve done it more inclusively and exhaustively than you or me because they have the resources to do so.

So what should we focus on then?  I’ve said I can predict 90% of spreads to within 1.5 points of the opening line.  I sincerely hope I get more than 10% wrong because the ones I get wrong are where the magic happens.  For every spread I’m off by at least 2 points, those are the ones that should catch my eye, that I should be betting the hardest.  It may seem intuitive to bet the side of the line that fits in line with my prediction, but what I’m suggesting is the exact opposite.  Take the Vegas side!  It’s likely not everyone is following what I’m saying, so let’s lay out an example to make this a bit easier to understand.

Hypothetically, let’s say I expect Tennessee to be favored over Kentucky by 3.5 points.  When the opening lines are posted in Vegas, maybe Tennessee is instead favored by 6 points.  Intuitively, I should want to bet Kentucky, right?  I’m saying betting Tennessee will be more fruitful in the long run, and here’s why.

I have done all of my research for this game, research that allows me to predict 90% of lines to within 1.5 points.  Vegas has also done similar, but more extensive and thorough research and, in my example for the Tennessee vs. Kentucky matchup, has arrived at a line that is significantly different than my prediction.  So who do you think has the more complete knowledge, the “insider knowledge” of this matchup?  Me or Vegas?  I’d be flattered if you said me, but you’d be wrong.  It’s undoubtedly Vegas.  While it may be difficult at first to go against our prediction, the other side of the line is most definitely the play.  In this example, you would bet Tennesee -6.

Now, I’m not saying these will hit every time.  It is very difficult to hit a high percentage of spread bets.  Over time, if you average winning 55% of your spread bets, that’s a very good number.  With standard 10% juice, you need to win 52.39% of spread bets to be profitable.

Now, enough about the method and the reasoning.  Let’s see this in practice.  The following are Saturday’s predictions.  The columns from left to right are: away team, home team, my prediction.


Tennessee Auburn Tennessee -1
Syracuse Clemson Clemson -4
Notre Dame Pittsburgh Pittsburgh -2.5
Butler Providence Providence -1.5
Villanova Seton Hall Villanova -1.5
TCU Texas Texas -7
Florida State Wake Forest Florida State -12
Georgia South Carolina South Carolina -7.5
NC State Boston College NC State -3
Texas Tech Iowa State EVEN
Baylor Kansas Kansas -7.5
Florida Kentucky Kentucky -10
Texas A&M Mississippi St Mississippi St -12.5
Georgetown Marquette Marquette -11.5
Purdue Northwestern Purdue -7.5
Oregon St Washington St Oregon St -5
Mississippi Missouri EVEN
Arizona St Arizona Arizona -1.5
UNLV Colorado St Colorado St -3.5
West Virginia Oklahoma St Oklahoma St -4.5
UCF Temple UCF -1.5
Louisville Virginia Virginia -14
USC Colorado Colorado -5
St. John’s Xavier Xavier -3
Alabama Arkansas Arkansas -4.5
Oklahoma Kansas St Kansas St -6
Duke North Carolina North Carolina -3.5
New Mexico Wyoming New Mexico -5.5
Air Force Boise St Boise St -9
San Jose St Fresno St Fresno St -24
UCLA Utah Utah -2.5
DePaul Creighton Creighton -8.5
Michigan Michigan St Michigan St -5
Vanderbilt LSU LSU -17.5
Wichita St Tulane Wichita St -10
Tulsa Memphis Memphis -8
Oregon Washington Washington -5.5
San Diego St Nevada Nevada -15


Come back Friday night for the actual opening lines as well as my picks based on the deviation of prediction vs. actual opening line.


Dana Roller
I'm a sports nut and a numbers guy who likes to write.