Virginia, Michigan, Houston. The Coaches’ poll has them ranked #1, #4, and #15 respectively while AP has them #4, #2, #17. Each team that gets a crack at these lone undefeated squads of the 2018-19 season is hoping they can be the one to finally deal them a loss.
History tells us that these elite teams will likely stumble before the big dance. Kentucky was the last team to take an undefeated record into the NCAA tournament back in the 2014-15 season, but that is a feat that has only been accomplished 4 times since the 1970s.
Undefeated teams, on top of being good on the court, are also excellent at generating hype. Having a 0 in the loss column causes the public to be willing to lay astronomical odds on that team, driving up the price. That little 0 causes many to abandon all reason when the numbers clearly say we should stay away.
It’s time to unveil those numbers.
Undefeated Teams in January Games
Here is a look at how teams with unblemished records have fared over the past 12 January’s. Undefeated teams have played just 7 games through the first week and a half of this January.
|Year||ATS %||SU%||Avg Line|
I have 2 takes from this table. 2 money-making strategies, if you will.
Take #1: Undefeated Teams are not Profitable ATS
Not counting this year (because the month of January is still young), undefeated teams have been profitable ATS in January only 2 times since 2006. The winning percentage of 48.9% puts us in no-man’s land, the area from 47.6-52.4% in which it is not profitable to bet either with or against a trend.
We cannot profit from betting against undefeated teams ATS, but we can avoid throwing our money away by fading them.
Take #2: We Can Profit by Betting Against Undefeated Teams SU
This one requires a bit of math (luckily we have that formula, huh?). Since 2006, undefeated teams have put up a 79.4% SU win rate in January. This seems impressive until you realize their average line is -10.5.
My special tool for converting spreads to moneylines is great for the NFL but does not do a good job at calculating college basketball moneylines. I may make my own regression equation for calculating this some day (I’ll put it on the to-do list), but until then I will check some of today’s lines and then estimate what moneyline a 10.5-point would receive.
The best I could figure by browsing my favorite book is that 10.5-point favorites would have a line of about -666.7. This means they would need an 87.0% SU win percentage to break even, which they fall about 7 percentage points short of.
The underdog counterparts to these undefeated teams would have an average moneyline right around +466.7. Using this line, teams would need to win 17.9% SU to profit, which these dogs do with an impressive 20.6% win rate.
Do not throw your money at the passing undefeated-team bandwagon. You will never see that money again.