One of the most enduring sources of good value plays in college basketball is late season games in competitive conferences. The conference portion of the schedule in conferences like the ACC or Big Ten is grueling and teams can quickly find themselves beat down by the high level of competition. The result is that the league standings might show a wide disparity between the top level teams and bottom feeders but the reality is that there’s a lot more parity than the ‘in-conference’ record might suggest. This is even more pronounced in matchups between teams that are lower in the ‘top half’ of the table against teams in the ‘lower half’ of the table. The standings in conference might show that there’s a wide disparity but power ratings and intrinsic quality might reflect a more competitive matchup.
That appears to be the case in the Big Ten at the moment and more specifically tonight’s matchup between Purdue and Indiana. A glance at the Big Ten standings shows the Boilermarkers in third place, 1/2 game behind co-leaders Michigan and Michigan State. The Indiana Hoosiers, meanwhile, are near the bottom of the table with a 4-10 record in conference putting them 7.5 games out of the conference lead and 2 games out of the basement. The result of this disparity is reflected in tonight’s line which has Purdue as a -6 point road favorite.
So is that price justified? We’re of the opinion that it’s not. Purdue has benefited greatly from a tough home court. The Boilermakers are one of only two Big Ten teams with an unbeaten record at home this season at 13-0 (Michigan is the other at 16-0). It’s no big secret that college basketball teams play better at home than on the road which means that it’s not a huge surprise that the Hoosiers have a decent record there as well. Indiana is 10-4 SU at home and just 2-8 SU on the road.
The pointspread records don’t reflect favorably on Indiana in this matchup or really any matchup this year. But that’s why serious handicappers don’t use ATS logs as a simple ‘yay or nay’ referendum on which teams to bet but as a tool for further research. They’re probably most valuable as a tool to determine which teams have been over and under valued by the betting public. They can thank Bobby Knight for a lot of this, but year in and year out Indiana is one of the most ‘public’ basketball teams on the board. Their lines are often inflated and frequently completely unjustified. That has been the case for most of this season–particularly most of this conference season which is why they’re 3-11 ATS in conference. An important thing to understand about pointspread performance in any sport–it’s like a pendulum. Teams that have a horrible ATS record today will likely see a reversal in their ATS performance due as much to bookmaker ‘shading’ and public valuation more than anything else.
This is a dangerous time for Purdue both SU and particularly against the pointspread. Their ‘hard work’ is done for the Big Ten regular season and they don’t really have a game to get ‘up’ for until the tournament begins. They’ve got six remaining games against uninspiring opponents with four on the road. None of their remaining opponents have a above .500 record in Big Ten play–starting at Indiana tonight followed by at Nebraska, home against Illinois and Ohio State and back on the road against Minnesota and Northwestern to conclude the season. Not exactly a setup for a team to cover big pointspreads–and Purdue should be the favorite in all of these games. Our current premise is to go against poor traveling Purdue the rest of the way and expect them to win a bunch of close games. That starts tonight taking six big points with Indiana.