#1 Duke Giving Oddsmakers Headaches


As I've mentioned often in the past, one of the biggest possible headaches an oddsmaker can suffer is when a great team is playing so well that you can't put a fair price on them.

*Squares (the general public) love betting on great teams, and they don't care about the price. If the great teams are winning huge, squares are winning their bets.

*Sharps (professional wagerers) usually have enough sense to not stand in front of a runaway train once it's clear that a powerhouse is hitting on all cylinders. If sharps AREN'T betting on opposing underdogs, then the balance sheets get very one-sided with square money.

*Oddsmakers try to inflate the odds to discourage squares from betting. Try discouraging a square on a hot run from betting!

We're seeing this right now in college basketball with the top ranked Duke Blue Devils as they head into a high profile TV game Wednesday Night against #6 Michigan State.

*Duke (-23) opened the season with a 97-60 annihilation of Princeton. Princeton is a respected name in basketball even if the program isn't what it used to be...so there was some dog money to offset support for Duke here.

*Duke (-28) obliterated Miami of Ohio 79-45 in a game they already lead by 21 at halftime. You can see that oddsmakers were posting big scary numbers to start the season off. Duke flew past those to get the money by 14 and 6 points.

*Duke beat Colgate 110-58 in a non-board game....which is great because the line probably wouldn't have been 52!

*Duke (-12) only beat Marquette 82-77 in a neutral court tournament game, giving oddsmakers some hope that squares would start losing money on the Blue Devils. And, it gave them some confidence that Duke wasn't too high in their Power Ratings. If you start a team at #1, and they're STILL covering spreads, you get worried quickly. This confidence was only temporary though.

*Duke (-5) was very impressive in an 82-68 win over talented Kansas State. It was technically a neutral site game...but the opponents had a huge home crowd edge in Kansas City. Many sharps and 'in the know' handicappers liked the live dog here. They lost. Squares who bet Duke at any price won.

*Duke (-19) crushed Oregon 98-71 this past Saturday, beating the high spread by eight points. On the road.

Should oddsmakers just make Duke -35 in their home games vs. unranked teams, and -25 on the road? They'd still have a winning record against those numbers. As the existing numbers, Duke has been an 80% cover team so far.

Luckily, square action isn't as heavy now as it will be once college football ends. There's still time to find the right number. And, we're all aware that top teams are prone to fall back to earth quickly. The New England Patriots did that a few years ago after a historic first half to the season. The last time I talked about headaches with a great team on these pages, it was the Miami Heat back in Week Two of this NBA season when they were blowing out lesser lights. That's not an issue any more, is it?

by Las Vegas linesmaker Nick Bogdanovich


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